Birth of Stick Shift Lyft

The same night that I had my Best Ride, I had a realization of my purpose of driving rideshare. The purpose of driving rideshare was apparent to me after that night and I only needed to find the time to pursue that purpose.

Shortly after I accepted the ride request I patiently waited at the end of a moderately long driveway for my riders.  The area was a sort of subdivision without the typical cookie-cutter, prefabrication qualities that are normal to see in suburbia.

There were 3 dudes and each seemed to be walking/ galloping/ skipping toward my vehicle at a different pace.  The riders then made the difficult decision for themselves to not all sit in my vehicle’s diminutive back seat after giving it a try.

They were pre-gaming  where I had scooped them up and I could already tell that this 12 minute ride was going to be fun for all of us. One guy seemed emotionally subdued, one was outlandishly hyper, and the third one was a little of both. The hyper one sat in the middle of the back seat straddling the backseat console with both hands on the front seat headrests.  The middle of the back seat is the best seat in the car, I guess?

Without missing much of a beat the hyper guy asked me if I had cocaine to sell them. At this point they were probably looking for the double-secret-code-response that all cocaine moguls respond with, but I clearly didn’t know it.  They signaled to each other that they would be able to find some at the bar/tavern/club that I was taking them to.

There was constant conversation between the hyper dude, myself, and the others in my vehicle for the next several minutes. At this pivotal point, as the hyper dude is bouncing in the middle back seat, he notices that I shifted from 2nd to 3rd gear with my stick shift.  He howled over the idea that my compact vehicle had a stick shift and demanded that I downshift when I slowed down.

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These guys thought my stick shift was completely hilarious, heck I thought it was hilarious as I was shining a toothy grin during the entire exchange.

Admittedly it was a big night in the southwest Chicagoland suburbs. A great night that has fueled my creativity, passion, social commentary, and love of stories. Blame the guys whom begged me to sell them cocaine for the Stick Shift Lyft blog!

Media Fasting Works Until You Talk To Other People Around You

Last night I had a handful of pickups, a below-average night, but rather routine for a Monday night. Each and every single one of my Lyft pickups mentioned the hullabaloo that’s happening now within the love triangle of national politics, Uber, and Lyft.

whyiuber

My last Lyft rider asked if I had many Lyft riders new to the platform that day.  I responded that although I was on a strict media fast for over 45 days, I’d become well-aware of the political situation, and that every Lyft rider was asking similar questions.  He then mentioned that I was his 2nd Lyft driver ever. We shared discussion about both of the rideshare companies. Then he told me that up until recently he was going to take a customer service job with Uber as it paid more than he was making at his current call center sales gig- no longer was that to be the case- he had completely dropped the idea of working for Uber.  At the conclusion of our ride, he stated that during both his Lyft rides he had accumulated more information about the companies and their processes than during his many Uber rides.

lyft-unicorn

As a 1099 contractor of both Lyft and Uber, I am loving that competition is getting red-hot between the main rideshare rivals. I enjoy nothing more than meeting new riders and discussion, this hullabaloo will only make the conversations more fruitful and interesting. As a political animal whose favorite spectator sport used to be Chicago politics, I am slowly and reluctantly getting back into it!

Are you interested in fasting from all forms of media? Please leave a comment below.

 

Anxious, scared, and on edge while waiting for a passenger

The only ride request to date where I was overly anxious about picking up my rider

On Friday, October 21, 2016 a Lyft driver was shot multiple times during a robbery on Chicago’s west side. From the article:

About 7 p.m. Friday, a 23-year-old man was shot in the 5000 block of West Monroe Street in the Austin neighborhood, a police spokesman said. The victim was a Lyft driver who was shot as many as four times, including at least once in the stomach, a source said.

The man was in a vehicle and stopped when someone on foot approached and announced a robbery before firing shots and fleeing. The victim was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where his condition was stabilized.

Think about that for a second.

Yes, it is as stupid as it sounds, it is completely ridiculous, and it borders on malpractice by a criminal. Rideshare drivers have no need to carry cash or anything of value.  I might have as much as $2.63 in change scattered throughout my vehicle, and not in one easily accessible location. Did this clown-criminal think he was going to swipe the Lyft driver’s phone so the police could track him down and arrest him?

The clown-criminal could engage in almost any other criminal conduct and come out better than robbing a rideshare driver. Robbing a panhandler begging for change on the interstate off-ramps would offer a better ROI.

banksy-keep-your-coins-i-want-change

That Sunday, which was October 24, 2016, I had accepted a pickup that was on the 4900 block of West Monroe Street, a block away from the ominous location of the attempted robbery.  This was after midnight and I had full knowledge of the shooting that occurred only a couple of days prior.

I began to feel extremely anxious and employed the following atypical behavior:

  • Locked the doors
  • Parked in the middle of the street, so I could watch my mirrors, and where I was being approached
  • Turned off my music, so that I would be more aware
  • Kept the manual transmission in 1st gear, with the clutch engaged, to take off quickly should I have needed to activate my “flight response”

As the minutes passed, and the longer that I waited, the more anxious I became. It got to the point where I was sure that I waited the requisite 5 minutes, heck it was probably 10 minutes!  I hit “rider no-show”, effectively cancelling the ride request and scurried away as quickly as I could.

Just as I turned off West Monroe Street, I received a second ping from the same person at the same address.  Nah, F*CK THAT (I thought). After denying the ride I turned the rideshare app completely off until I had escaped the immediate vicinity of the ping.

After a series of emails, I found out that I did not wait the requisite 5 minutes at 4900 West Monroe Street and that the rideshare company was not going to compensate me for lost time- I even inquired about hazard pay while forwarding the article, which was not acknowledged in the rideshare company’s final email response back to me. Asking for hazard pay was a ‘shot in the dark’ as rideshare customer service is a gravity well where only a tiny bit of useful information successfully escapes.

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Peering back, the whole episode was odd.  I don’t regularly read the police blotters. The feeling of anxiousness is usually a dull emotion within me; I can’t recall feeling that emotion with that level of intensity. And I have lived in the same Austin neighborhood for over 10 years, so I had something in common with the would-be passenger.

Please leave a comment below of something that unexpectedly made you anxious.

 

 

 

The implications of giving your driver poor directions

Why rideshare riders should be quiet and let the GPS do the work

Made my way through the south side and after a series of nondescript rides I received a request for 69th Street. I pulled onto the street and it was a narrow one-way with blocks of vehicles lined on both sides of the street, and off in the distance were 2 emergency vehicles (one fire truck and one police SUV) blocking the egress of the street.

Parking adjacent to the cars left of me, I flipped my hazard lights on. There was enough room for a bicycle to pass by me on the right.

Within a minute an ambulance was behind me buzzing its terrible pain-invoking sounds aggressively demanding me to move. There was a half spot in front of the nearby fire hydrant, I pulled in with my vehicle’s ass-end out.  At about that time my passenger casually strolled toward my vehicle.  As the unbearable noise from the ambulance had been increasing, the driver halted the stressful noise to comment over the loud speaker “TAKE YOUR TIME” to my passenger.  Laughing on the inside and smiling on the outside I greeted the female passenger as she entered my vehicle.

I quickly pulled ahead about 200 feet to the waiting emergency vehicle barricade and was directed to an illegal parking spot adjacent to the situation they were tending to.  My passenger mentioned that the person being tended to, must have been shot by a firearm. After she made this statement, I was left unemotional, it seemed like the person struggling on the sidewalk could have just as easily been hammered, tripped, and fell on their face.

As we were trapped on 3 sides by the emergency vehicles, my passenger opened up her window to ask the emergency responders when they would move so we could get by. They deadpanned “we don’t know yet,” right back at her. While waiting I asked her “What’s in Burbank?” The answer was her boyfriend as he had purchased the ride.  I then dropped the “My Best Ride ever was in Burbank,” she didn’t bite or dig deeper; we probably waited about 4 minutes before the emergency responders politely pulled away..

A few blocks into the drive we were enjoying polite conversation when my passenger mentions that one time she was 86’d by a rideshare driver for giving “bad directions.” She told a bit of the story and then stated her boyfriend later told her to sit in the back seat, be quiet, and not give directions. She smiled and told the story with some giggles, so I didn’t internalize what was said.

Moments later she tells me that she has a better way to get to Burbank, Illinois. Great, I thought, taking local lanes 29 minutes west did not excite me either.  After all, a stick shift can be lots of work when there’s a stop light every eighth of a mile!

She proceeded to direct me to take Lake Shore Drive northbound.  For the next 10 minutes, the GPS kept amending its recommended route to include an immediate U-turn, go back, then head west. I had been verifying with her nearly every step of the way- ‘should I get off LSD here?’, ‘keep heading north? Okay.’

15 minutes into the ride we arrive in Bronzeville near McCormick Place and the on-ramps to the Stevenson Expressway were blocked with type-3 barricades. Unable to enter the Expressway due to road construction, I pulled to a complete stop at a green light, turned toward my rider, and asked her “where do we go now?

Flashing a slight smirk, she closed her eyes, tilted her head, and shrugged her shoulders. It was almost cute.

Customized route to Burbank from 69th

31 minutes later we arrived in Burbank. Her boyfriend was charged about $7.00 more for this customized route.

The passenger essentially told me not to trust her directional advice through a related rideshare story, and I should have called her on it immediately.

Dear potential passengers, trust the Global Positioning System and the app using it.  Its one of the many government projects that has considerably improved life on Earth (honorable mentions: Internet, interstate highway system).

Condensed image of entire poster
This GPS poster is available by request here

Email me

Rideshare Pilfered $3.88, Then Gave It Back, With A Bonus

After completing 1,000 rides, I’ve noticed only 2-3% of them are permanently memorable, and all the others have an memory expiration date of 1-3 weeks. Below is a memorable ride for 2 different reasons.

Drove to the pickup location: Erie Cafe. Dude opens the door, he bought the ride, and tells me “She’s all your now!” Woman gets in the car, we are going for a quick jaunt to the Gold Coast and then I’ll go hunt for another fare from there.

As an aside, easily 10-20% of my rides are purchased by someone other than the actual rider. Routinely, a male purchases a ride for a female.

Trying to start a conversation with passengers is not always met with enthusiastic open discussion. In this case, I noticed she was fucking annihilated. When she talked she tried to breathe in to prevent the smell of alcohol permeating my vehicle and only spoke a word or two at any time.

She did end up telling me that she was at the Erie Cafe for after work drinks and sucked down too many whisky shots.

Perhaps 2 blocks from her home, she requests that she get out of the vehicle. I did what I could and she successfully got out of my vehicle at the 100-150 block of W Division St.

I threw on my hazards, and got out of the vehicle to check on her. She had vomited all over the front of her black mini-skirt, mostly beer suds and froth, no visible chunks. Thankfully for her, nothing on her cream colored high heels. I asked how I could help, and she wanted napkins. I handed her a half dozen sheets of paper towel from my rideshare bugout bag and she was thankful.

Image result for bugoutbag
Not actual rideshare bugout bag

Back in the car, I proceed to give her a pep talk after she wanted to end the ride and walk. I told her “We are in this together, we are a team. We are going to get you home, the doorman is going to get you into your condo, and everything is going to be fine. We only have 2 more blocks to go!”

Minutes later, I unceremoniously saw her to the door, and the doorman handled the rest.

Later I see that the requester was charged $5.00 for the ride of which my take was $3.88…

…Five weeks later my payment statement from the rideshare company lists a debit of $3.88. Curious, I check what I was being docked for, I realized that I remembered this ride, VIVIDLY. The rideshare company had removed the payment from one of my most memorable rides.

I then kicked-off what turned out to be an infuriating 3-hour email battle with rideshare customer service reps. They stated, quite emphatically, that I gave a ride to the wrong passenger, and that the requester did not take the ride. The second part was technically true. Nonetheless, everything on this fare was compliant.  The requester probably just looked at his rideshare statement a month after he got blackout drunk at the Erie Cafe. How would you communicate this situation, your rage, and your sarcasm via email to a customer service representative, who’s primary language is not English?

After several ridiculous replies from customer service representatives, I reached a sympathetic person at the rideshare company that thanked me for my professionalism with the female passenger. She reapportioned me $3.88 for the ride, and re-reviewed the ride, thereby rewarding me with an additional $0.50 for something she didn’t identify.

That ride and that passenger will never be forgotten.

What is $5.00 worth to you?  Please leave a comment below.

Best Ride To Date, Woman Tells Me of How She Was Beaten Badly, Stop At the Trailer Park, And Back, Part I

This is the post excerpt.

The further I drive from the city, the farther out I eventually get from the city. Or, as I enter the adjacent suburbs there exists a great likelihood that I will enter far flung suburbs.

After several short rides, I found myself in Burbank, far from my starting location. I accepted the next ride and pulled up to the address.

As I sat patiently in the car at 2:00am, I watched as the shadow of a male walked out from the apartment complex that I was parked adjacent to. He approached my driver side window, I became uneasy, as everyone in my first 700 rides has approached a different door.

The guy then motions me to lower my window and he anxiously asks “Do you know how to get to…Trailer Park…” My response was just “…put the address in the app, I’ll get you there.”  Unfortunately I had to repeat my response a couple of ways, before our conversation concluded.

The customer was wearing an adolescent mustache and one of those straight-brimmed baseball caps that teenagers mistakenly believe to be fashionable.

From the parking lot then appeared a female figure walking toward my car. She got in, and sat directly behind me. She was my rider and not the guy with mistake of a mustache and the edgy hat- what a relief! Within a couple of moments we were stopped at a highway intersection, and our conversation got raw.

My rider told me about how her “boyfriend” beat her so brutally that he had killed the fetus growing within her. About the time that I was going to ask, she said her “ex-boyfriend” was being moved to a different prison. The guy that I met was not the perpetrator, remarkably she seemed to be mixing up the terms “boyfriend” and “ex-boyfriend”. We were probably at the stop light for about one and a half minutes, but it felt like 15. Completely uncomfortable and unable to flee from the situation, I stated,

“We’ve been waiting at this intersection for quite a while, I am just going to blow this red light”

Five minutes later we were driving around in a labyrinth trailers.

Trailers.png
 

Not actual trailer park labyrinth

 

 

The rideshare app had gotten us to the correct trailer park, but now it was up to my rider to determine which trailer row, and specific trailer housed her baby. All the rows of trailers looked similar without natural sunlight and the street lighting was ambient instead of utility. We stopped at a trailer which was just as nondescript as any other, sans an obligatory patriotic flag, potted plant, or wind sock.  About 10 minutes after dropping her off, she reemerged with her one-year-old baby in a baby carriage along with that night’s babysitter, her cousin.

A baby, a 20-year old woman, and Stick Shift Lyft: we buckle-up and head back to her apartment complex.

To be continued…