I hope like heck, they will read this. What I like and don’t like.
First of all, I want to say, up until recently I’ve loved driving. Unfortunately things have changed.
It’s not, for the most part, the people. Yes, on rare occasions I will get a flake and/or an intoxicated person, but overall, my people have been wonderful. Almost always, they are why I drive.
They listen to my stupid stories of the history of our city as I recall it, sharing with them out of the ordinary trivia, not found in history books or archival data, but from my own memories. I think, based on the questions they ask and their responses and feedback to the company, in general, they love it.
If I take them down to Little Italy, downtown San Diego, I share with them how before that district even existed, my dad, being friends with one of the early restaurant owners of Fillipi’s which is still there, would take us kids down there and the original owners would take us to sit in a back room on a long table and we’d have our own private sitting with huge plates of pasta. Something, I’m sure the current owners know nothing about. I was possibly 10 then, so that would make that about 65 years ago.
Then there is our Highway 5 freeway , which was just being built when I was a child. Then, the freeway was only a total of four lanes. Now, it’s more than 8 lanes! I remember the big dozers clearing a swathe of land for the new highway. I remember our ducks crossing the newly graded lanes to cross over to the other side with their ducklings filed behind them. Then there was the time one Halloween where we kids, not being freeway saavy, tried to cross the lanes and my mask kept slipping down and I couldn’t see clearly but seeing what appeared to be headlights coming straight at me. A very scary time, as we are lead by one of the local teens. Why my parents let him take charge I’ll never know. We could have been killed!!
I tell them about our San Diego based airline and how I was one of the cutesie flight attendants of that local commuter airline, wearing mini skirts and a tri-cornered hat. It was very sexist, before we knew what that was. Some of my passengers remember those days, or have heard tell about them, most don’t. I recall the big crash we had downtown. How those were people I knew well and lost.
What was and what no longer is. Areas now populated with new houses that are now old were once farmland or orchards and two lane roads. I tell them of places to visit and places to eat, nightspots and where not to venture at night, though it may be popular. I delight in their stories of where they are from, what they do. Even though politics and religion are two things not to introduce, it can come up, but it often more in relation to how things have changed. Never arguments or debates. If someone expresses a dogmatic point of view, perhaps contrary to my own, I’m okay with it. Sometimes, in this day and age, there really is nowhere to vent safely, so I give them that. It very rarely happens though.
WHY I DRIVE
For the most part, I lead a very lonely life. Since my sister died, I live for the conversations with strangers.
They tell me their stories and I tell them mine. Mostly, in relation to the growth of our city. It is therapeutic. Sometimes too, I can be their therapist for the time they are with me, if just listening can be called “therapy”. It’s a win win.
THE DOWN SIDE
However, of late, since Covid 19, lockdown, masks, now no masks, it hasn’t been quite the same. Things have changed. The apps have changed. Many times my navigation doesn’t work right. I can’t get reception downtown or outlying areas like I used to or in apartment complexes, which has always been an issue. It makes my job challenging and frustrating.
Gas prices have escalated and both companies seem to think a $.50 surcharge is compensation enough, when our gas prices in California went over $6 a gallon in most places and no change in fare compensation it feels like rape. There have been no rate increases to the consumer and many of them have said they expected there would be. They are aware of the $.50 surcharge, which Lyft and Uber have said will drop by next month. Where does that leave us then?
I went to the HUB to complain, but no one has an answer.
The other day, I accepted an Uber ride that when it popped up said 6.6 miles. I thought it would be the pickup distance which I was fine with, however when I clicked it, they were sending me 35 miles for a 6 mile ride? Hell no! I only get paid for the 6 miles, so there was no way in hell I was taking that, so I cancelled. Or rides that take 1 1/2 hours for 30 miles or ones that take us like to Riverside or San Bernadino, far away from home and no paid rides back? For real?
Then Lyft is famous for sending us on a ride only to re-route us sometimes 2, 3 or 4 times zig-zagging all over the place wasting time, gas and energy. I’ve even had them send me 20 miles only to reassign me back to where I just came from for a short ride.
To be honest, I don’t know how they can keep drivers driving. When my day starts out like that, I’ll close the app and go home. I can’t suffer through that, because it’s like getting beat up each time and I want to be happy when I pick up my rider, not grumpy and sour.
One time, I accidentally started my app while I was doing my workout and suddenly got a call. Here I was all stinky from working out, but it was nearby and I felt bad for the passenger, so I hightailed it to my car and went to the pickup and drove them where they needed to be. That’s how I feel about my riders. They are important to me and I try to be very considerate of their time as I hope they appreciate my efforts.
Another thing that has changed since Covid, is the tempers of the drivers on the road. I have seen more road rage and aggressive inconsiderate driving since lockdown was lifted. It’s like a mean bug was injected into all these people from being cooped up and isolated. There are times I’ve had drivers barely miss me zig-zagging in and out of lanes at high speeds. It can be terrifying at times. When I am driving late at night and that begins, I shut down and go home. You can almost be sure those are drunk drivers on a testosterone high and I don’t want to be on the road with them.
One day, I was at an intersection at a stop light and a nice new BMW pulled up next to me. The light had just turned red, so we both stopped quickly. The car behind the BMW was not happy he had not run the light, I guess. He got out of his car screaming and shaking his fist at the driver next to me, who just happened to have his window rolled down. The man behind came up and literally yanked the guy out of the window (he should have had his seatbelt on or that might not have been so easy, I’m thinking) and pulled him to the ground and started beating on him right in the middle of the intersection. I was aghast. I saw a cop not far and beeped my horn several times to get his attention. Somehow or another my Lyft app picked up on my distress and asked if I was okay. Pretty neat feature I might say.
I’ve had people go around me when I didn’t take a right turn fast enough for them. Sometimes, the only thing protecting the person in the crosswalk in front of me is me. I never saw such behavior before.
I’ve been told by some of my riders that because of Covid, there are people who once relied on Uber and Lyft to commute, who now drive. Because of Covid, when Uber and Lyft drivers became scarce, they bought cars and began driving. No wonder they’re angry. Perhaps that is why they are so grumpy. I really don’t know, but if that’s the case, they need to take a chill pill and get back to using us.
However, before that happens, Uber and Lyft are going to have to take better care of their drivers. Uber offers incentives, but mostly if you drive in San Diego, which I don’t like. In many areas, navigational reception is horrible as are the street conditions. On one occasion, I drove over 30 miles with no directionals and the young lady I picked up, being from Latvia had no local phone access, so she couldn’t pull up navigation on her phone as some have done for me. Fortunately, Uber does include the address and I knew the area. Fortunately, she had the number of the young man who’d ordered the ride and was able to input his number in my phone to let him know we were nearing. Normally, that would be a NO-NO, since all calls made between rider and drivers are rerouted through a ghost number. This is a safeguard for both parties but I made an exception, since I wanted to be sure she arrived safely and to the right person, since downtowns anywhere can be generally spurious and one never knows. I’m sure neither of us held onto each others phone numbers. When there was positive recognition, I unlocked my doors. Had she indicated otherwise, I would not have left her. I’m not sure what I would have done, actually, but I would have wanted to know she was safe.
Then there are dicier neighborhoods to venture in to pick people up in. I carry mace, pepper spray and a Tazer, but I don’t want to ever have to use them. If I have any doubt, I keep it handy just under my leg. It’s never been a problem. My new car has auto lock, so I don’t worry someone will open the door while I’m at an intersection and I can roll the window down just enough to talk briefly to my passenger before unlocking it. Visibility at night in many areas is poor. One time another driver ran a stop and disabled my car a half a block from my rider. When the police came and my car was being towed, even the police didn’t want to stay with me until my ride came to pick me up. The tow truck driver took pity on me and drove me to my sisters. I live 45 miles away so that was too far. He said it wasn’t out of his way, but when I went to the tow site the next day, it really was. Out of his way, I mean. I was appreciative.
Needless to say, I don’t drive at night anymore and it is unfortunate, because nights are more profitable.
Things to consider. Sometimes, at night, despite the photos on the apps of the person requesting the ride, being able to see them well enough to know it’s them can be difficult. In those cases, before unlocking any doors, I verify who they are first. Not all include photos. Plus, unfortunately, not all those who request rides are the ones taking the ride. Sometimes they tell us, sometimes they don’t until the last minute. Both companies give us the option to decline a ride if it feels unsafe. My Spidey senses are generally pretty good. I’ve never had anyone get out of hand. I did have a group of drunk men once, who’s conversation was distasteful. What got me was that it was the older men, not the young man who had ordered the ride who were obnoxious. I let the young man know that in the future, it would be up to him to keep his companions in line or he could lose his privileges. He thanked me for the warning and for not arbitrarily penalizing him for his companions.
I’m of the mind that todays environment is too quick to cry foul, when they could just as easily just say, “that is unacceptable and I don’t appreciate …” this or that behavior, language or whatever. For Pete’s sake, just call them out on it.
THE GOOD AND THE BAD
Lyft is good about giving me mostly women, especially at night. Uber does not. Unfortunately, sometimes I expect a woman and at the last minute, I’ll get a text telling me I will be picking up a “boyfriend” or spouse. I love it when they give me a name. It should be required.
One such time, a guy covered in tattoos approached the car, I wasn’t too sure, so I rolled the window down a few inches. Within a couple of sentences, I knew he was going to be okay. Simultaneously she texted that he was the husband. It turns out he is a chef and restaurant owner. We talked about restaurants and ethnic food dishes we liked and places to go try. We had an hour together and he kept me entertained, talking the whole way and it was very pleasant.
I had a couple once that at first glance, were terribly unkempt and looked as though water had not hit their bodies in some time. They reeked of cigarettes. I mean a weeks worth, at least. I was not looking forward to being with them at all. However, they surprised me with pleasant, intelligent conversation. It was a mother and son and they were so kind and sweet. I told myself not to judge a book by it’s cover.
Another time, I went to pick up a couple in a nice area. I had to wait a bit for them to show. First to come out was the man, an Adonis cut figure of a man that should be on the cover of a magazine. He was looking away when he came around the corner and as he looked up brushed his hair back and as he looked up, I’m thinking, “Holy shit! That’s getting into my car?” I’m glad he couldn’t hear me suck in my breath, because I was stunned at how beautiful he was. Then, the woman comes out, looking like a Greek Goddess herself and I’m thinking Damn! How did that happen? I had no idea what this married, power couple would be like, but they were animated and as personable and likable as anyone could wish for. A double wow! He turned out to be one of the architects of the span bridges on the highways being constructed all over the place. She was a pediatric nurse.
One guy I picked up said he was the AP or associate producer for Maroon 5’s most recent video. To be honest, when I saw the video, I’m thinking uh no, he was Maroon 5, but I could be wrong, because that guy I saw sure looked like the same guy. Only he would know or admit to it. What did we talk about? You’ll never guess. Bathrooms. Yup! Bathrooms and music of course. We both knew where all the best bathrooms are and what businesses you could depend on for them. In his case, because he has little ones and with little ones you got to know the best places to stop when needed. With my driving, I have to plan for bathrooms and sometimes those can be hard to find. They have to be clean and safe. We also talked about Maroon 5’s longevity and formula and then strayed over to K-pop music, comparing groups and what we liked.
I’ve gotten young people who are dumbstruck that I know so much about K-pop.
Before Covid, I got a group of four young men, three in back and one in the front seat. There was an oldie song that came on the radio and the guy in front took it upon himself to crank it up and they (we) all rocked out and sang along the way to their destination, one song after another. That was a first and never happened again.
Can you picture it? An old lady and a bunch of kids in animated song. I’m sure we were a sight. Of course, I was limited to just singing.
I LEARN STUFF TOO
I learn so much from my passengers. I don’t just talk, though I must admit, I do the majority of it, but for the most part, it’s an even exchange of knowledge and that’s what I like the best.
Today, I learned that these fancy colors you see on high end vehicles are actually “skins” or Carmeleon wraps to protect their paint job. Some running into thousands of dollars. Some of you may not know what I’m talking about because it probably has more to do with where I live. I just happened to mention to one passenger how I’d seen a Range Rover in a purple pearlescent color that as I went by changed colors almost like a peacocks plume. I’d never seen anything like it. He told me they are referred to as skins and they are a thin film to protect the paint and value of the vehicle. They are mostly found in high end vehicles because they can be quite pricey. They can be washed and when they start to peel or whatever it is that happens to them, they peel it off and the paint underneath is like brand new.