Rider Potpourri For $200

For $200, Alex
Ride share stories don't always blossom into full adventures. (This is probably a good thing) So here's a bunch of little things from the past month to clear the decks.

> Multi-stop ride from a nice woman in her '20s who hates how she looks in glasses, so she isn't wearing them. We first picked up her friend, then stopped at the liquor store. While waiting for her to emerge, I moved to a legal parking spot ten feet away, then watched as she got into someone else's car after coming out. (This is where readers of a certain age will think about Mr. Magoo, and everyone else will wonder just how old the writer of this blog is. None of your business.)

> An older rider makes a reference to turntables (there's a local store near many of my ride work that I tend to chat about) as something that she was old enough to remember, but that I was not. I then told her my age, which she refused to believe. On reassertion (and the fact that when you are the size of a middle school child, you tend not to look your age), she complimented my skin care regimen. (Note: I have no skin care regimen, assuming you don't count showering and shaving routinely...)

> An astrophysicist gets into the car. We chat and he completely concurs that the recent image of the black hole looks like the Eye of Sauron. Nice to know that actual scientists conform to your Nerding Out stereotypes, really.

> Sign outside of a McDonald's in a bad neighborhood: "Come see Grimice." The character is correctly spelled Grimace (and also makes no sense if you think about it, which you probably should not)... but I kind of like the idea of some franchise going rogue and just making a character out of a bag of dirty ice. "I'm Grim Ice, kids. Winter is coming. And everyone is going to die. Eat up."

> Multi-stop ride where the passenger has me go to a pharmacy in a bad neighborhood, then a grocery store, then back to where I picked him up. The fun part was when he asked me to not park so close to the pharmacy, because he was meeting someone in the parking lot to hand him a bag. (Side note: I don't always make a lot of eye contact with my passengers, for, you know, reasons...)

You Knew What I Was When You Picked Me Up

This Is How It Works
There's an old classic Aesop's fable about the frog and scorpion. In it, a frog is crossing a dangerous river when he sees a scorpion that's unable to progress, and in risk for his life. The scorpion asks for passage on the frog's back. The frog initially refuses for fear that the scorpion will sting him, but the scorpion assures him this will not happen, because to sting him would doom them both. The frog agrees, and allows the scorpion to ride on his back.

They progress, but before they can reach safety on the other side, the scorpion strikes. As they start to both sink to the bottom, the frog asks the scorpion why. To which the scorpion replies that it is his nature, and that the frog knew what the scorpion was when he picked him up.

I never thought this fable would play out in real life for me, and yet... 

Uber is running a promotion for number of rides completed, as part of their goal to get all of my business away from Lyft. (Side note: it seems to be working.) They let you choose which level of ride goal you are going after, and I had a bunch of calls and other plans that was going to completely wipe out last Friday. So to get close to my weekly goal, I chose the most aggressive number and committed to four hard days of max app time to get to the goal.

Because the Rideshare Gods enjoy trickster behavior, this resulted in less demand than usual. So I was about a half dozen rides from getting the threshold with less and less time available when I get a ping. Shared ride, 1 passenger, 5 minutes away. Let's do this, and if I get lucky and get another rider, that's a bigger win. Fatigue be damned.

I roll up to the pick up spot, and out walks a woman with a baby in a car seat. Which means two passenger slots, not one. I ask her if she can adjust the count, and she tells me the app didn't let her. Which is obviously and transparently bullspit, but I'm already counting the minutes until I can get her out of my life and on to the next fare.

Which is when the guy also comes out of the car, and asks if we can stop at a convenience store along the way.

What happens next is a bottle that gets forgotten, a return to the house, a ping from another rider while I'm waiting for the dude to get out of the convenience store, and a face to face cancel on the other rider, because they have two people, and I can't take them with one person becoming three in my back seat.

Oh, and then the woman gets nasty on me and threatens my rating, because I could have just not taken the ride when I picked her up.

No, seriously.

Frog and scorpion, folks. Played out in real time because the Rideshare Gods, in addition to being tricksters, seem to have a taste for the classics...

To The People Who Make Their Drivers Wait

Unlike many rideshare drivers, I've also been a passenger. When I lived in CA, I used services routinely for airport runs, and I've also done so when the car is in the shop, or strange circumstances crop up.

So, um, I know what things are like from the other side. And how many text notices and notifications that passengers get when it's time to go. Also, how the vast majority of passengers are, bless them eternally, ready and waiting when I arrive. Why, there's even a map that shows you exactly how close I'm getting!

Which means that my patience level, especially when it's nice out and the pick up is somewhere safe... is really not great for people who think that when they hire a car and driver, they also hire an attendant and happy passive spectator to their life.

(Note: I get that sometimes life is just like that, and that days go sideways for any number of reasons, and cell phone networks and ride share platforms are not infallible. But, Um, Still. Be ready and waiting for the ride. It's not that hard. As witnessed by the vast majority of people who are, um, ready and waiting for the ride.)

So please note that if you:

> Take a good long time with your cigarette or vape pen outside of the car

> "Hold" the car by texting, calling, or talking to the driver to let them know you'll be out in X minutes, and also decide that leaving a door open for however long is just what happens regardless of air conditioning means the driver is just going to do that with their lives for however long you need

> Time your entrance to the car to be the last possible second before a cancellation can happen, because beating deadlines are an exciting way to live

> Time your text or call to tell the driver about some other pick up point in the last possible second before a cancellation can happen

> Decide that a driver can loop around to position the entrance door closer to you, rather than cross the street (especially in places where a U-turn is either illegal or time consuming)

> Add stops (without adding them to the navigation, naturally) where you purchase goods and services or fulfill various social needs

I'm still going to get you where you are going, with more or less the same standard of service that everyone else gets, because that's the way I'm wired.

But I will make (very) sure it's the last time you ever see me, if you catch my 3-star and under drift...

Falling Out Of Lyft

Um, Not Quite
So for the first nearly 10K rides of my career as a driver, I was Lyft only. I bought into the brand identity of Not Uber, and made enough in NJ to ease the transition to a job in CA. Once I was in CA, I started again, enjoyed the bonus structure, cashed in at roughly twice my current rate while in the Bay Area, and met a lot of Lyft personnel while driving out there, and they were all nice and fun to talk to while in the car. My metrics were very strong, and I thought there was even a chance of getting some stock options, as media reports talked about options to riders with 10K rides.

Then, I moved back to NJ after the CA job ran into funding issues. Lyft never mentioned options to me, and also when I passed 10K rides, didn't notice that at all. (Big drop of the ball, and not the first.) And... what a difference a change of address makes to your earning rate. Along with a few months or less than strong service. It's now at the point where I turn on Lyft about a quarter of the time that I do Uber, and only begrudgingly. Here's why.

When I moved back to the East Coast, I let Lyft know about my change of address. Despite the past history and status, Lyft decided that I needed to pass a fresh background check. Yes, despite passing one back in CA. With a need for ASAP revenue and no guarantee from Lyft that the check was going to happen very quickly, I signed up for Uber as a back up. Within a couple of days, Lyft had realized their mistake and reinstated me. But a few days after that, Uber added me to their rolls as well. So I turned on their app and gave it a try.

Immediately, business picked up. I no longer had to aim for Philadelphia to get busy between rides. So I started turning on both apps when I was unoccupied, and stopped driving as far to start a shift. But doubling up does have its challenges, mostly because it puts you in greater position of declining rides while you are turning off one app, and canceling rides due to network issues.

The other issue that occurs is that, well, you start to understand just how much less competitive Lyft is than Uber, at least in NJ. Lyft doesn't tell you where you are going before your passenger gets in the car; Uber does, at least at my driver level. Lyft doesn't give you how far away your next passenger would be in a queued ride; Uber does. Lyft doesn't tell you if a queued rider is going a very long distance, or their rating, which they do outside of queue. Uber tells you all of that and more for every ride.

There's more. Uber pays a day earlier. Because there's more riders requesting rides, you don't get nearly as many requests from a long way away... and if you do, Uber has the possibility of adding a little to the fare for the driving you did to get there. Lyft will frequently send you a request from someone who is a long way away, and if you decline that ride, you might get it again a minute later as the passenger continues to ask. One more reason to turn off the app, that.

This isn't to say that Uber is perfect. There's no great pattern to good or bad riders per platform, and both platforms give the driver little control over destination mode work. They will also send you right back to a passenger who you just registered as a no-show, and if I no-show a passenger, I'd very much like to avoid seeing them again and enduring the likely negativity. (No show passengers are a whole 'nother blog post that I'm going to get to at some point.) Both also give you ride bonus options rather than, well, just paying a trusted driver a better damn ground rate, because drivers have no control over the number of rides we give. Also, I have a Lyft light that comes in handy, but nothing so far from Uber.

But the greater point is this: I make more per hour and have a lot fewer unpleasant surprises working for Uber than I do working for Lyft. I'm not at the point where I only run one app, but if you were showing my work on a trend line, it's going that way. And yes, I'm sure Lyft will get its act together soon and improve the driver experience, because half of all drivers work for both platforms. Which means my experience can't be too much of an outlier.

Final tally? People vote with their wallet. And I'm making about 10% more per hour, with far less annoyance, working for Uber. (And will, of course, keep tracking the numbers as I go...)

Dudes Gonna Dude

Truth To Dude Power
Episode 1: dude. Dude. DUDE. DUDE... (f-bomb)

Evening work in the hilly parts of San Francisco. It's a weekend, so it's mostly a ton of short fares for drunken people, many of whom aren't too concerned about surge pricing. Not the worst environment for the hustle.

Two guys slouch their way into the back seat for an estimated three minutes and 0.3 miles. It's uphill and it's their money and I'm totally fine with it, because hey, having $4 is better than not having $4.

They start to talking about blockchain, which is perhaps the subset of conversation in the Bay Area that will get you the most Bro Tastic conversations. I'm sure there are women who work in blockchain, because there have to be, but... man alive, I kind of hope not. Just because the guys I've met are just... well, you know.

Anyway, they are both drunk and both very emotional about the subject and their coworkers, to the point where the conversation starts having an inordinate number of Dudes, and an equal or better number of F***s.

So much so that I start counting them on my fingers as we climb the hill.

And stop.

After 40.

Three minutes, folks. Ones that I'll never forget.

Episode 2: Tinder Roulette

Several years ago, riding around Old City, one of the hipper parts of Philadelphia. Weekend night, three bros enter the car.

Normally when a passenger has a bit of the odor to them, I am discreet. I do my spiel, wait a 10 count or so, get the car moving to distract, and then bump the windows down a bit to make sure I'm not overwhelmed. I might also turn off subsequent rides to give myself a minute or five to drive around at speed and air the vehicle out.

These guys? Um... so much Axe Body Spray that I just hit all four windows on entry, immediately. They didn't notice, because They Are They.

After expressing enthusiasm for my amenities, they start to engage with each other as if I were not there. (Fine by me, really.) And the activity for this ride is the little-known game show Tinder Roulette.

For those of you who are, like me, past the event horizon for dating apps, Tinder is one of the more meat market providers out there. Participants swipe left or right for matches, usually based on glimpse level visual data.

But what, may you ask, is Tinder Roulette?

It's when one person swipes for the other... with no information other than a name.

I will now replay the conversation for you in its entirety, because it immediately seared into my memory. For Reasons.

Player 1: "Tiffany."

Player 2: "Aw, man, I dated a Tiffany once! TIFFANY WAS NO GOOD FOR ME. ***Pa-ha-ass.***"

Player 1: "Jessica."

Player 2: "Mmm. Mmm, mmm, mm. Like... Jessica RABBIT? I wants me some Jessica Rabbit! Gives me some Jessica Rabbit!"

Player 3: "DUDE! She's Huge!"

Player 1: (channeling Anakin Skywalker) Noooooooooooo!!!!!!

They left the car soon after. But never my mind. I like to imagine incredibly short toasts to the happy couple at their wedding, with the best man (Player 2) taking credit for the way he said Jessica, and guests giving the happy couple gifts that were as random as the pairing.

The performance of this has been an occasional comedy bit for when passengers ask for whack-a-doodle ride share stories, and it usually lands. Once, with a woman telling me that she was a bridesmaid for a Tinder Wedding, with the bride admitting as such when pressed for an origin story.

Because Meet Cute stories are just too hard, I guess. And also, because Dudes aren't always male.

* * * * *

The common point? Dudes Gonna Dude. Nothing can stop them from Dudeing.

Also, that if you are going to do character comedy improv work on your ride share driver, best to go big, really.

Rider Potpourri For $200

For $200, Alex Ride share stories don't always blossom into full adventures. (This is probably a good thing) So here's a bunch o...