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Story Time: 12 Angry Minutes

Image result for anger
Like this, but less attractive
I'm doing personal stuff on July 4, but have a few hours before my next commitment. I turn on the app in the East Bay to kill some time and make a bit more of my nut, and because I'm out in the middle of Burb Land, the pings come from far away.

Here's the thing about when your driver has to come a long way to get you: it's usually not good. We aren't paid for the time and distance that it took to get to you. It's just unpaid miles and minutes, and a good chunk of the time, the passenger will cancel on the way, and make the trip pointless. It's a big reason why, frankly, I avoid a lot of suburban driving, despite being easier on my car, and frequently good if you catch long rides.

But usually, there's one saving grace to it all: a happy passenger, because they know that it's a rare and good service to get someone where they are.

Note: usually.

The ping comes in from 12 minutes and 5 miles away in Fremont, a nice enough suburb. I take the request and make my way to a pizza place, where an annoyed woman and her male companion are waiting. They get in, I offer my usual service, and my Jedi mind trick of offering a breath mint to draw out the knuckleheads works yet again.

"No, I don't need a goddamned breath mint," she says, as angry as you will find a person in paradisical California. Then, "Effin' miracle."

The ride is, I'm not kidding, 3 minutes and 0.7 miles down the road. The entire time, the woman is irate about the length of her wait, while the guy is trying to calm her down. She's convinced that since this ride is usually less time, I've personally delivered poor service by coming from 12 minutes away. On a holiday, while plenty of surge pricing is going on in Oakland and elsewhere.

"Are you gonna ask him?" I try to explain to her that the system simply sends the closest driver at all times, but she's having none of it, then finally resolves with, "So I guess *I'm* the b****."

Note: this is a grown woman, likely in her 30s. Not a petulant teen. Also, not looking like she couldn't walk 0.7 miles, rather than wait 15 minutes for a ride.

I drop them off, bask in the glow of my $3.75 for 15 minutes and six miles of driving, and rest easy in the knowledge that, thanks to the 2-star rating that I fired off as soon as they were out of eyeshot, that I'd never get to agree with her again...

Story Time: Two Star Trainwreck

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Two stars

My standard move when someone enters the car is to offer water, mints and cough drops, and there's something special that truly dumb people do when this is brought up: they, invariably, take offense at being offered a breath mint. "Are you saying I have bad breath?"

Because it's my rideshare dream not to inspire tips and good behavior from my passengers, but rather to make them feel bad about their oral hygiene. Also, that I've developed this opinion of you, despite you entering the car in the back, and me being in the front.

Normally I back down from such a conversational gambit, but I'm running on pretty low energy and not loving this person, so instead, I just wait a few seconds and say, "Yes."

Bearded Guy laughs way too loud and way at this, Not Enough Clothes rummages about the dish for a while, and a block later rolls down her window to spit a cough drop out the window.

And we're off!

She asks me if I can play some music -- no genre -- so I just turn up my random iPod a few ticks, because that will allow this Mensa member to have her next 20 minutes in the back of my hatchback without remembering that there is a total stranger, well, driving her. They proceed to start sucking face pretty hard, and with each weight shift, it's, well, noticeable. They don't seem to be shedding clothes and they outnumber me, so it's not as if I am going to censor their behavior.

Every few minutes, they come up for air and talk to each other. That's when the ride gets, well, special.

"I'm just so grateful that you are hanging out with me tonight. Especially after the way our first date ended."

Oh, please. GO ON.

A few more minutes of sucking face later, and Beardo says "At least the police took you to Berkeley."

"I know, right? It could have been worse. Dublin, Pleasanton..."

More suck, then. "I just feel bad for putting you at risk." Aww, she's sweet! "I mean, it's a DUI, it's..." and Beardo interrupts with, "These things happen."

Um, Beardo? If you are being driven around by Drunk People, that's not a These Things Happen Thing. That's a These Things Should Not Happen, and You Should Get Your Bearded Ass Out Of There Before It Happens.

But, well, she's pretty much throwing herself at him hard, and it is, after all, Date Number Two. Which I'm thinking is a pretty good chance for something communicable for Our Young Lovers, given all of their wonderful choices to date.

Oh, and the final coup d'grace... they aren't taking a Lyft tonight due to the DUI. They are in the car because... "I think it's actually for the best. What with the engine block dropping out of my car the next day."

I get to the drop point, they leave with a final suspension-shaking heave out of the Honda, and off they go for the rest of their enchanted lives. I also resisted the urge of telling Beardo that for an extra $5, I'd wait outside for the 10 minutes until he was ready to go, and gave them the rating that made sure I'd never see them again. Because, honestly, trainwrecks are kind of fun to look at, but not from that up close...

Story Time: Hard To Keep Safe

And second, and third...
It's the last ride of the night and week, as I've made my number with margin to spare. Ping comes from Jack London Square, which is kind of the East Bay's much better answer to Fisherman's Wharf. It's a shared ride, and the first passenger is coming off a shift at a restaurant, en route to a karaoke bar. She's overdosed on perfume and sits in the front seat, and kind of wifty, but what hey, life is short. I start the ride but have to pick up a second passenger a couple of blocks away. And away we go, first into Oakland proper then to the neighborhood around 98th Street. (Note: note the best part of Oakland.)

My second passenger is a little bit intoxicated and a little bit pushy about using the aux cord, but that's really not the problem. The problem is more along the lines that she seems eager to get into some confrontational conversation with the person in the front seat. Luckily for all concerned, front seat passenger gets out first before things can escalate, and after a few minutes of enduring bad mouthing to the departed, I'm looking forward to 3-starring both of these folks and going directly to my bed.

Which is when we come upon one of those scenes that you really only see in marginal neighborhoods. Tonight, it's a bare-shirt bare-knuckle fight among two guys who are probably in their late teen years, with a crowd of onlookers rooting them on... in the middle of the street. Which I can't just, well, drive through.

My passenger is also now eager to leap out of the car and tell these people exactly what she thinks of their activity, which isn't exactly conducive to my personal goals for the evening. Mostly, just to get the hell out of Dodge with as little fanfare as possible.

I lock the doors, stay still and patient, and point out to my passenger that our MMA wannabees don't have any weapons, so let's just breathe a bit.

The duellists part and leave the street clear. I take the passenger home, and shut down for the night.

Just another fare, in the long run.

But kind of almost not...

What Every Passenger Should Do

Maybe Put On Pants
Every passenger? Yes, every single one. No exceptions. Let's get into them.

> Acknowledge your driver with a modicum of politeness. You don't need to get into a great heart to heart conversation with your driver, and there are plenty of days when I'm totally fine with not being fully "on" for everyone that gets into the car... but if you are the kind of person  who goes for the aggressive THANK YOU as a way of cutting off any possibility of conversation, you might want to know that you are projecting as Douchebag. If you say hello and then stare at your phone, I guarantee you that your driver will get the hint that you are busy and leave you alone.

> Double check your address. Every time a passenger types in the wrong address, it's a disaster, which is why I do my level best to confirm it with every passenger. It doesn't always happen that way, Because Life. Get it right and check. The time and money you save will be your own, but your driver doesn't want to take you to the wrong place, either.

> Check your privilege. As your driver, I'm going to take you to your destination. If you need me to do more than that, with possible asks including but not limited to speeding because you are late, adding in extra stops that you can't punch into the app because you haven't figured out how to do that, playing music at an uncomfortable volume, and so on... well, that's another price level. One that neither of us can afford.

> Double-check your exit. I don't really want your stuff, and I really don't want to have to figure out some other drop off where I hand deliver your stuff back to you.

> Consider tipping, if not actually doing it. The vast majority of rideshare passengers do not tip, and many seem to think that tipping is just outside of the realm of possibility. I've had rides where the passenger was in the car for an inordinate amount of time, had what seemed to be a great conversation, took extra service from baggage carrying, partaking from water, mints and cough drops, and so on... and still pretty much stiffed me.

Seriously, what the hell?

All tip money goes directly to the driver. If you are angry about a surge price, taking that out of the tip is kind of, well, misguided, since drivers are independent contractors, rather than the service who is administering the price. You are getting personal service, customized to your needs, from someone who is giving you transport in their own personal vehicle. Throw 'em a freaking dollar at least.

And yes, I do for every drive I take, and I take Lyft fairly often for rides to the airport.

Five Ways To Get Three Stars (Or Less)

Or, Not Very
Here's something that many passengers don't realize: drivers rate you at the end of the ride, the same way you rate us. The default is five stars, and the vast majority of my passengers get that many from me... but, well, Not All.

If a driver gives a passenger three stars, they aren't paired again. If a driver gives a passenger one star with a particularly good reason and story, there's a reasonable chance that the passenger will get bounced out of the system. (This is, inevitably, when someone asks me if I've ever given a one-star rating. The answer is yes, but very, very rarely, and it's mostly been around acts of violence. The job isn't always fun, folks.)

Since I'm picking up a lot of folks, hopefully with as little latency as possible between rides, I don't normally have time to tap out a comment for my three-star riders. So here's the most common ways to get docked by me.

> Making your driver wait. Yes, we are compensated for up to 90 seconds in a shared drive, and up to five minutes in a regular one... but that compensation is literally pennies, and it's the rare moment, especially in urban settings, where we can find a great and open parking spot near your drop point. Folks who get in the car after a prolonged wait, especially without an apology or excuse, are pretty much broadcasting the belief that their time is valuable, and the driver's is not. Not exactly putting your best foot forward. Honestly, if the clock gets down to the final seconds, I'm pretty much rooting for you to not make it, so I can get my $5 kill fee without having to put up with you. And if there are people in the car for a shared ride, and we're all waiting? I've got people with me on the countdown.

> Eating, especially without asking. I don't generally have a ton of time between rides, and I also don't carry a vacuum cleaner with me (no, not even a dustbuster -- it's a little hatchback, so I keep as little in it as possible), so catching your crumbs and airing out the fumes from your meal is a big block of Hell No. My car is a shared public space. Eating in it imperils my future ratings and revenue. Wait and do it later, please.

> Audio without headphones. This one always kind of astounds me, whether it's in my car, or in a gym, elevator, subway or elsewhere. I get that your phone has the capacity to entertain you in a catered and perfect personal fashion. The chance that I'm going to be interested in your content is pretty damn low. Right up there with wanting to be subjected to it, especially in a shared ride. Get headphones. Use them. This isn't hard.

> Getting physical. I get that urges can seem overwhelming, and there's something cinematic about getting involved with your beloved in a semi-public space... but distracting your driver with the worry that there's a porno going on in the back seat isn't exactly polite. Or doing much for my peace of mind that the seats are going to be clean enough for the next folks to occupy. The ride isn't so long that you can't wait, honestly. (Oh, and as a side bar, slamming my doors as if it's an Olympic event judged on volume and impact is just obnoxious, let alone destructive. Close them like a human, please.)

> Making someone else my problem. If you are putting someone you no longer want to deal with in my car, but not joining us on the ride, you are giving me a passenger that I can't rate. More importantly, you are giving me someone who, if they become untenable, I can't really refuse service to, since they might not have any other means to get to their destination. Either don't do it, or accompany them on the ride.

Story Time: 12 Angry Minutes

Like this, but less attractive I'm doing personal stuff on July 4, but have a few hours before my next commitment. I turn on the app...