I start my day at home typically, which is about 20 minutes from the city center. I turn on both Uber and Lyft and wait for a ping. Sometimes I get a ping right away, sometimes I don’t get an acceptable ping for up to an hour. My personal pickup “limit” is about 1.5 miles to pick someone up. I have given so many rides that are only 1-2 miles in duration that I refuse to travel farther (for free) to pick someone up than I will to drop them off. If Lyft and Uber want me to travel 2+ miles to pick someone up, they can pay me for that pickup time and distance. Or, they can tell me in advance where the customer is going, and I can decide if I want to drive further to pick up a customer (that is taking a longer ride).
PING! Pick up 1 mile up the road, pax (passenger) rating of 4.90. The rating is good, the distance is close enough, so off I go. I arrive and a young man gets in. We exchange names and I thank him for being ready to go. My pax is headed to an interview. He is dressed reasonably well, but wearing a short sleeve shirt and his tattoos are showing. I wonder what kind of interview he is going to. We start chatting about his upcoming interview, and I can tell he is nervous and his mind is focused on the event to come. He doesn’t say it, but I know that any conversation is a mental disruption, so I keep the convo to a minimum and let him maintain his thought process. At the end of the ride I wish him good luck. My heart is filled with nothing but good thoughts towards this guy, hoping that his day ends on a high note.
Takes about 3 minutes and I get another ping. Lyft hides information from the drivers, so I can’t really tell how far away the pickup is. Looks like it is about 2-3 miles away, maybe? So hard to tell as you are looking at a little screen while driving. I shake my head at Lyft and their games, and wait for the next ping. Takes about a minute, an Uber ping. Rating of 4.97, distance .4 miles away. I accept and drive there.
A woman comes out, talking on her cell phone. She confidently walks up and gets in my car. She pauses a second on the phone and says hello to me. I confirm the name, and we are off. She chats on the phone the whole time. At the end of the ride she says good-bye to me. Simple, easy peasy.
I do 4 or 5 more rides like that in a row, people either staring at their phones or listening to headphones or just staring out the window. Maybe the occasional comment about the weather. Lots of short rides during the weekdays, people preoccupied with their own daily business. After 2 hours have passed I look at my daily summary and I am only at $27. Pathetic. Guess I will go put $20 of that in my gas tank.
PING! Lyft pickup, no time or distance shown. Map is zoomed out, I guesstimate that it would take me 2-3 miles to drive there, which is too far. PING! Lyft pickup, no time or distance shown. Map zoomed out, looks like a 10 minute drive into the middle of nowhere. PING! Lyft pickup. No info, but looks somewhat close. I accept. The map switches over the Google Maps, and the true pickup is 2.4 miles away, 9 minutes with real time traffic. Forget it. I cancel the ride. Lyft hates cancellations, but if they would have simply given me the information in the first place, I could have made an informed decision and wouldn’t have needed to cancel.
PING! Uber pickup, rating 4.62, 6 minutes, 1.2 miles away. Low rating, but I accept. As I get close, it shows me the building to pick the person up at is Starbucks, which is on the corner of an exceptionally busy intersection. There is no place to park. Traffic is flowing around me as I crawl to the stoplight, looking around for anyone trying to make eye contact. As a Lyft/Uber driver, you recognize when someone is looking for you. No one seems to be looking for me this time, darn it.
I pull into a bus zone, making sure that a bus is not imminently approaching. I turn on my hazards and look around again, hoping to see someone waving at me. No such luck. Pedestrians are staring at me, shaking their heads. Cars are whizzing by. Bikers are annoyed at having to go around me. Any time now, where is my customer?
A truck moves out of a loading zone ahead of me. I mentally justify using the truck loading zone as a waiting area instead of the bus stop, so I pull ahead 20 yards. Look around, still no one.
The two minute mark has passed, and I am waiting, scanning pedestrians, hoping a cop doesn’t come by and write me a ticket… I say to myself “screw this” and turn on my Lyft app. If I get a Lyft ping, I’m outta here! If Pool pax can make it in two minutes, then so can everyone else (I don’t do Pool, I’m just saying, two minutes is plenty of time…)
Another 2 minutes go by and Lyft finally pings in, the pickup looks to be about 8 blocks away. I turn off my hazard lights and drive away. I haven’t cancelled the Uber ride yet. Two blocks later the Uber pax sends me a message “Where are you?” This just enrages me. I want to shout “You insensitive prick! I drove 6 minutes to get you and waited another 4 minutes, how much GD time do you need!! No wonder your rating is so shitty!!!” I ignored their message instead, and eventually they cancelled. Hopefully they will be more respectful towards their next driver.
Arrive at the Lyft pickup; a man comes to the car. I quickly clear my head of the leftover venom towards the missing Uber passenger and put on a big smile for my new pax. As soon as he enters the car the horrible odor of Camel cigarettes washes through my nasal passages. I crack the windows and force a smile. He is a really friendly guy, I wonder if he knows how bad the cigarette smell is to a non-smoker. Is this what it’s like to live in LA, with all the smog?
I dropped him off and rolled down all my windows. Popped some gum into my mouth to try and clear out the smell internally. If I had a bottle of Scope I would have poured it in my A/C vents.
Drove around the corner and parked with windows open, waiting for the next ride request. Sat there reading the internet on my phone for close to 12 minutes before a request came in. That much time between requests really kills the hourly income, but not much I can do about it.
Waiting for my next pax, named Josh. A young woman comes to the car and says “Hi, for Josh?” Yup, that’s it. She sits right behind me and as we drive she is asking me the same questions that everyone asks their driver. I can’t see her, so holding the conversation is like talking to someone on speaker phone. I tell her a story of someone passing out in my car, she leaves with a smile and gives me a tip for the entertainment.
The next pax is a group of 3 business women going to a meeting, in from out of town for the day. They chat amongst themselves, then eventually start asking me questions. When we are 2 blocks away from their drop off they ask what is my craziest story. Sorry ladies, this is your destination, no time for a good story, if I pick you up again ask me and I will gladly share.
I pick up a couple young men and they are BSing back and forth, dropping F bombs, having a good time. I relax a little and join in the fun. “What did Cinderella say when she got to the ball? (pause for effect) (choking sound) GAWK!!” The joke is a big hit. Turns out they are in town for a friends wedding, and ask me about the best strip bars. End the ride with big smiles and the only cash tip I got the entire day. Maybe I should crack inappropriate jokes more often, might get better tips!
Picked up a very young couple that had clearly been drinking all afternoon. Friendly conversation, chatted about local tax issues and changes to traffic patterns. Super short ride. Halfway there they asked if I would stop at Taco Bell. I told them no, I don’t do drive thrus, drivers don’t get paid enough for that. Boom, went from Hero to Zero in 2 seconds flat. In the stony silence, I remind myself that this is a job I do for money, and if Lyft/Uber are going to pay me less than minimum wage for drive thru time then I’m not going to waste 5-15 minutes at drive thrus.
I'm sure many of you will criticize me for this; many other drivers would have taken them where they wanted, and hoped to get a tip out of it. I have driven long enough that I know the odds of a tip were pretty slim, no point in wasting even more time on a minimum ride. Officially, I encourage everyone else to take the customer where they want to go. Unofficially, cash pays the bills, not stars nor badges nor diarrhea from mystery meat burritos.
Picked up a guy who looked like he could be homeless. took him on a long ride so he can see his lawyer. Apparently he got into a fight, got arrested, and is fighting the charges. Told me the whole story. I could tell he had done a lot of drugs in his lifetime. Had the mental acuity of a 13 year old, and the same self-centered focus that is common in that age range.
Another half dozen “normal” rides, and I call it quits for the day. Get home and check my car for any items that were accidentally left behind. Aw dang, someone left a cell phone. Great (I think sarcastically). I drive a bit to a grocery store, where I power off the cell phone. This way it will show Jewel as the last known point for GPS tracking. I don’t need anyone tracking it to my house and banging on my door at 6am. I want to report it as a lost item, but I don’t know who left it, and I don’t even know which company to report it to! Guess I will find out tomorrow, someone will report a missing phone.
Let’s see, 8 hours for my shift, and I “made” about $145 including tips, but I have to pay for my own gas. Plus there are the hidden and delayed expenses, like brakes and tires and oil changes and depreciation of my vehicle. Ugh. Money in the pocket is okay, but really I’m only making about minimum wage. Weekend evenings are so much more lucrative for me. So glad I didn’t waste time going thru Taco Bell!