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Otto Life Stories: Julius

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To celebrate the diversity of the Otto family, we shine a spotlight on one driver’s cultural background in this series of occasional interviews. 

Today, Julius Cobotas reveals how summer boat parties helped to prepare him for PCO driving, where to get the best dumplings in London and why he no longer looks at riders’ phones. 

How long have you been a PCO driver?

Since April [eight months] so I’m fresh off the boat. However, I’ve been in the UK for six years, mostly working in food deliveries. It used to be profitable but the rates have dropped so low it’s like poverty. 

Where were you living before you came to the UK?

I’m from Lithuania and I also spent five years in Cyprus, which I still miss and love.

We bet you miss the weather?

Yeah, the weather is one thing. It’s also the people, the atmosphere and the pretty much non-existent crime over there, which is different to London.

What were you doing while in Cyprus?

Working with tourists in sales – talking a lot. Selling party boat trips and that kind of thing. It was really fun and sometimes, I got to go on the boats if they were short of staff. 

That does sound like a good time

I had the best fun of my life. You work hard for seven months – and then you don’t really do nothing for five months because it’s seasonal. This isn’t sustainable as you can’t save up to buy a property.

You mean that this was not much of a career?

I was never a career guy. I’ve tried the jobs that you might tell your grandparents you do, like working in the bank. But I can’t be bothered to wear a suit and pretend to be serious. It’s just not me. 

So you are a free spirit?

Yes. I love the flexibility of PCO driving. You still have to work the hours but at least I get to pick when I do them. If you don’t feel like it, you can work half a day, or just the evenings – or whatever.  

Has this job been what you hoped it would be?

It’s basically driving and talking so I kind of knew I was gonna like it but I still didn’t commit straight away. I rented two or three different cars from Otto Car for the first three months before I took this one. 

Was selling boat trips to tourists a good preparation for Uber riders?

You can do this job in different ways and some PCO drivers don’t say anything. For me, this is what I like about this job. I talk to people from all over the world and they tell funny stories about their lives. 

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you as a driver?

I’m gonna tell the family friendly version of this story. I picked up a passenger from Heathrow on a normal weekday morning and then he started to show me these photos and videos of his wife.   

That sounds weird. Why was he doing this?

He wanted me to evaluate his wife from the pictures. Towards the end, he asked me if I do breaks, because his wife is at home. Of course, I said I don’t – and I was happy it was only a short journey. 

What is the best advice you’ve heard about the job?

Choose your trips carefully because you don’t have to do everything, especially if it’s busy like during the festive period. When I began, my acceptance rate was like 90% and now it’s much lower. 

Why do you suggest this specific idea?

Personally, I never work nights and I don’t pick-up late at night from pubs. If you have to, just park a bit further away and watch your rider approaching, If anything seems off, just cancel and drive away. 

How does this work in practice?

I like to be home by 6pm. So if I take a job in the afternoon that’s heading too far south of the river, I know I won’t get back by then, unless I take that awful tunnel. I also don’t like long trips. 

What’s wrong with longer journeys?

If it’s a good trip like an airport run, then maybe. The main reason is because I smoke, so I don’t want to be stuck for two hours without having a cigarette. I’m talking about time, not mileage here. 

So comfort is an important part of your working life?

Many people say: why take a new car worth £40k, like my Skoda Enyaq iV, to do Uber jobs that are sometimes worth five pounds? I have a different view, as I spend more time in here than I do at home. 

Do you mean this car is like your office?

Yeah, I wanted something comfortable. Also, I’m quite tall, so this model means I don’t bang my head on the ceiling and I can have the seat pushed back for my legs with enough space for passengers. 

So this car is a practical choice?

Overall yes. In the summertime, I could get away with charging it once for three days of work. In winter, you lose range, so have to charge more often, especially if you use the heating. 

It sounds like the riders’ comfort is important to you?

On forums, I hear PCO drivers talk about how you don’t have to care for the customers with the heating or aircon. But I’m in the same car, right? I don’t want to be cold – or sweaty in the summer. 

And how is that plan working out for you?

Well, my Uber rating fluctuates between 4.98 and 4.99 but I do know that ratings don’t pay the bills. 

Surely higher ratings help you to qualify for Uber Comfort, which means more money?

Yeah, that is true. There is definitely something to that. 

Where is the best Lithuanian food in London?

The one I go to is Beckton. You should try the cepelinai [like Zeppelins] which are dumplings made of potatoes full of meat, with fried bacon and sour cream on top. It’s really good but it will make you fat. 

Do you find London traffic challenging compared to other countries you’ve lived in?

I stay positive and don’t get frustrated about traffic. I’d like to end with the thing I tell all my riders if they ask me how was my day? I say that today is the best day of my life. It’s another day in paradise.

Want to learn more?

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