Scene From Santacon

Heads, We All Win
If you don't know what Santacon is... it's a 20-year tradition that started as an SF flash mob of people in Santa suits, but is now just an all-day pub crawl where the Bros and Brodettes of the town try to see how, um, heroic they can be in their intake. So to speak.

It's a dangerous but lucrative day to do the side hustle, so I do it. For the full 14-hour shift.

Cut to the scene in Hour 12 of both my shift and four weary Bros in attire.

They stagger their way into my subcompact Honda for a 10 minute ride of Please Don't Be Sick. My iPod shuffes until a certain song comes on, which... they all know and sing along to. Not even all that badly.

Yes, it's the Talking Heads with "Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place)", which is, I am certain, what you were about to guess.

Not exactly an experience everyone gets to have, that...

Why Terry Gross Doesn't Work For Rideshare Conversations

Terry, Tell Me About Leather
As a rideshare driver with a desire to seem smarter than I actually am, I listen to a lot of NPR and podcasts in my time in the car. (It's either that, a football, baseball or basketball game, or my iPod that's clearly infested by Trickster Gods. See the rest of the blog for evidence on the latter.) I also read newsletters from the NY Times, Poynter (an insider account on what's happening in journalism), a bunch of stuff related to my career in marketing and advertising, and so on. I've also worked as a music and sports journalist, written books, performed as a stand-up, and logged a couple of hundred gigs as a solo musician and frontman.

So I can carry and spur conversation, and I've also learned something from over 3,000 hours and around 10,000 passengers (7,500 rides, but many with more than one passengers) being in close proximity while I fulfill their transportation needs.

Having established my professional standing, I'd like to tell NPR's Terry Gross that she's out of her mind for one specific point in a recent interview. To wit, that "tell me about yourself" is all of the icebreaker you will ever need, because people like to talk about themselves.

Well, sure... maybe in a well-lit world.

In mine, people are trying to overcome some amount of fear from being in the car of a total stranger with TBD levels of driving skill and attentiveness, not to mention fatigue and an inability to respect personal boundaries.

For a rideshare drive, the largest percentage of passengers are going to be single unaccompanied females who get to do the silent calculus of Is This Driver A Creep in the pickup stage.

Which is why I'm often name dropping my wife and kids, flashing my wedding ring, or mentioning the number of rides that I've completed.

So, tell me about yourself?


But only after I show you that it's OK to...

The One Question I'm Not Going To Answer

Image result for i think i'm going to be sick meme
Take It Outside!
I suspect that I am a more candid and talkative driver than most.

Part of this stems from the fact that the overwhelming majority of rides that a rideshare driver is going to catch in a major metropolitan area are for people you will never see again. Especially if you hang out in the airport queue, or in the tourist areas. (Hint for other drivers: these are both good areas.)

But there's one question that I'm not going to answer, and it comes up often enough that I feel it deserves its own post.

Namely... "Has anyone ever thrown up in your car?"

Usually, this question crops up when someone looks at the spray bottles of glass and upholstery cleaners in the seat pocket behind the front passenger seat. (When, realistically, those are just there because where else should they be, really? I mean, I clean the car pretty routinely. Not having the stuff that I use to clean it close at hand would just be silly.)

Here's the thing about answering that question... there's really no good answer for me.

If I say yes, then the passenger is suddenly going to visualize that, and if it indeed happened, where it might have occurred. Especially in relation to where they are currently sitting.

If I say no, then the intelligent passenger will start to do the math on the number of rides I've completed (will pass 7,500 this week, assuming nothing unexpected happens) and wonder if I'm being honest.

I don't really want you think about either of these things. I'd much rather keep the conversation going to a more fun place.

What I can tell you is that throwing up in a rideshare car is an expensive practice for all parties. Lyft generally hits the passenger with a $150 charge that goes directly to the driver for that, and honestly, I feel that it's completely justified. As a driver, you are going to lose working hours while getting your car clean and the odor removed, and it's just work that no one signs up for. Beyond that, it's a risk of long-term damage to your livelihood.

(Note: this doesn't in any way excuse the smash and grab tactic from a driver staging an illness event. Fraud is fraud. Drivers who engage in that give the rest of us a bad name, and I want them out of the system. You should too.)

Drivers can, of course, limit their risk of an illness event by not driving when bars close, and by keeping a sharp eye on impaired passengers.

But sometimes you have to be out at those hours to make your number, and there are plenty of places where pulling over to let someone ruin the shrubbery isn't an option.

But has it actually happened to me?

Again, it's the question I don't answer. Even when I ask it. :)

a rideshare moment from a (bad) french art film

the hail comes from a woman at a supermarket on mission street, in a city i can't afford, having shopped for food i can't afford

the wind and the gray whip the street and my car, as i park not well, because my passenger is right there and wants Speed, because Wind and Cold and Life

the hatchback trunk lifts and the wind whips in to catch a plastic bag and toss it to the sky

relieving it from my service, where it has lived for months, because california is a place where such things are paid for, and paying for things is something i try very hard not to do

the wind takes the bag high above the street, over the elevated train tracks, over the two lanes of busy road, and into the shopping center across the street

where it will start a new and terrible life as litter and sewer trap

and i want to chase after it, like a child after a balloon, like a man who is holding on to everything he can, even something as mean and small as a single plastic bag

while still seeing the moment where it flies against the sky as the new passenger blithely moves into the car as a moment of small art (very lower case)

in frozen time as i think of what to do next, as if there is any real choice othen than to

drive on, drive on, drives on, before someone calls me on my litter

and before the money that is in front of me floats away as well


Nudge Or Shove?

In the past few weeks, Lyft has decided to add a bonus structure. A reasonably good one, too; one that pushes my hourly net as a driver to heights that it hasn't usually seen in the 16+ months that I've done the work.

Image result for nudge

The trouble is that the bonus is, well, perfectly calculated to be just on the edge of a stretch. Instead of being able to get to my own, self-assigned, target in 30 to 40 hours of driving, now I'm going for 45 to 55... and that extra time is coming at the cost of the gym work that I used to be able to do, sometimes even every day of the week.

It is, of course, Not Sustainable, and in all likelihood, Lyft will curtail these bonuses once they get out of seasonal calendar demands. The Bay Area is collegiate enough to have a high amount of turnover at this time of the year, and we also see a spike in traffic after Labor Day, so I'm pretty much thinking this is a short-term deal to try to gain market share.

Also, well, I took a week and a half off for personal travel not too long ago, which means the bonuses are coming at a particularly opportune time...

But, um, still? I almost wish they hadn't done it. If for no other reason than I really do miss being able to eat without worrying about fitting into my clothes, or wondering if my 9 to 5 at a standing desk covers the damage done by my 6 to 12 at a sitting one.

And if this is the New Normal, and I'm going to just be pushed into making this progressively harder number every week?

Well, I wouldn't be driving if I didn't need the money, right?

Scene From Santacon

Heads, We All Win If you don't know what Santacon is... it's a 20-year tradition that started as an SF flash mob of people in Sa...