I have started driving for Lyft! Yesterday was my first day doing a full “shift” and the following was my experience.
(Not an actual picture from my car. I do not live in Amsterdam … I wish I did)
Driving for Lyft has been a bit of a process, so here is some knowledge that I may be able to pass on to you if you choose to go down this road (see what I did there?). If you are not, just skip this part:
- You have to get approved. It took me three days from the time I signed up on the website to get cleared to drive. As long as you have a clean driving record and a clean “newish” car, you should have no problem. They even have an option to rent a car if you so choose.
- Car insurance can be tricky. You must let your insurance company know that you are driving for rideshare and using your vehicle for commercial purposes. If you do not, you may not be covered under certain circumstances or not at all. I had to switch my car insurance to Allstate which does cover when I drive for Lyft. The best part is they will help with Lyft’s deductible (Lyft insures you when you are picking up someone and when you are driving them BUT there is a $2,500 deductible which is huge. Allstate brings that down to $500). They also cover you when you are working for Lyft but not actively picking someone up, most do not I found out.
- There are many gadgets and things that you can get to turn your car into a hotel on wheels. The only thing that really helped are signs to remind your passengers to rate you and tip you and to get a mount for your cell phone. I also got a dash cam just for peace of mind. You can find decent ones for $50 and under on Amazon.
There are many other things that I left out like keeping mints and air fresheners, having trash bags for “sick” passengers, and looking up tutorials on Youtube to familiarize yourself with the app but I want to get on to the experience.
*The names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike*
Day 1: Friday, 2:50 pm
Ride 1. South Escondido:
I waited around a Vons shopping center near the freeway for about 20 minutes with the app on and nothing coming through. I was seriously considering going back to my apartment to drink beer and watch Black Mirror when Tex’s face appeared on the app.
I drove to the other side of Escondido and picked him up. Well I tried to pick him up. He was a well dressed Asian guy with a blue striped button up shirt who was very nice and talkative. The problem I had was that when he got in the car, I was not prompted with the pick up option and got flustered. When driving for rideshare, you have to hit a button when you arrive, when you pick someone up, and when you drop them off. You have to do this or else you do not get paid. I could not figure out how to do this and accidentally drove in circles trying to get the app to work. Tex was great, I explained the situation to him and he even tried to help me get the app to work, but to no avail. He was going to a local brewery, Stone Brewery, so I promised that if I could not get it to work I would just drive him for free. Luckily, I tried to close the app and when I did, it closed google maps and prompted me to pick him up. The whole ordeal was probably 3 minutes but it felt like an eternity of embarrassing naivete.
I was playing The Black Keys at the time on Spotify, so we talked about the blues and a native american blues guitarist he liked that he heard of on NPR (he was slightly hipster but I did not hold it against him) called Link Wray. He had bought a vinyl record of his music and encouraged me to do the same. I did listen to some of Link Wray’s music later that day and he is pretty great. I dropped him off and wished him a great night hanging out with his cousins.
Ride 2: CSUSM
I parked in the brewery’s parking lot and almost immediately got a notification for Elaine. I drove to Cal State San Marcos and picked her up near the new Urge combo pub/lounge/bowling alley thing. She was a nice plump young lady who was either Asian, Latino, or some kind of combination of the two. She did not talk much and seemed happy to stare out of the window at the traffic I was paid to battle against. I am the quiet type too when I have used Uber and Lyft so I did not try and make conversation. Forced conversations are so much worse than peaceful contemplation. I dropped her off at a grocery store back in Escondido and decided to get a sandwich.
Ride 3: back home
I ate my sandwich and went back online when I got to my car. I did not get a ride for about fifteen minutes so I read a chapter in A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami (I am also a hipster but I do not hold that against me). Marlene’s picture popped up and I took off. I drove to Eastern Escondido in the middle of rush hour in the suburban ghetto that is Washington Avenue. I am convinced all Washington avenues are like this in any town you go to.
I picked up three teenagers and immediately felt old as they all looked like middle school kids to me. I assumed that the two bigger ones were friends and the younger one was a little sister. I could tell from their conversation that I was right which made me feel like a poor mans Sherlock Holmes. The older friends sat in the back and talked about shoes, friends from High School (they were 19 and just graduated), and how Starbucks is so overrated. For fun I told them that I also work at Starbucks and after they all laughed, they admitted that they went to Starbucks earlier that day. I dropped them off at an old folk’s home, which I thought was strange. I was down the street from my apartment, so I clicked off of Lyft and went home.
Statistics: 1 hours and 40 minutes, 26 miles, ~$18 profit.
Part 2: Lyft after dark!
I decided to try a Friday night shift. I was feeling comfortable with the app and, more importantly, wanted to make more than $10 an hour. I decided to try a power zone (Lyft pays extra if you go to a high demand area) and the closest one was Carlsbad. I went to my buddy’s house to hang out, which was a mistake. We got carried away talking about Dungeons and Dragons and random thought experiments about Elon Musk’s true identity. I did not leave his house until just shy of 11pm. I missed most of the prime driving hours when people are heading to the bars and now had to wait till people stopped drinking and needed to get home.
I smoked a couple of cigarettes (Sorry Wife) and could smell it in my car. I knew I could not pick people up smelling like this. So I used my training from my youth, doing road trips while completely out of money. I went to the grocery store; sprayed a small amount of Axe body spray on myself, put some nice smelling lotion on my hands, and bought a Febreeze auto air freshener (they are powerful and smell great, highly recommended). I was back in business.
Ride 1: Oceanside
I decided to drive toward downtown Oceanside because I saw that it had some weird pink zone on it, which I assumed meant it was busy. I never actually made it.
While heading north on El Camino Real I got a request rather quickly. It was less than a minute away. I showed up quickly and hit the button that I had arrived. I did not hear or see anything for 3 minutes. Lyft has a policy that if the passenger does not show up in 5 minutes, you get $5 and are supposed to move on to another ride. I called Christopher and he said “How did you get here so fast? I am just finishing up but my girlfriend is still on her way. Please hold on.” I did because I am a nice guy and they were both in the car a short while later.
I see why the guy had to wait as his girlfriend was supermodel gorgeous. It takes time to look that good. They made kissy noises in the back of the car and giggled. I kept my eyes on the road. I dropped them off in Encinitas and made my best fair for the night.
I waited around Encinitas for a bit but went back to Carlsbad to hit the power zone. I got to downtown and immediately had my next, and best, ride yet.
Ride 2: Carlsbad
I picked up Dwayne at the Coyote Grill. He was well dressed and slurring his speech. I asked him how his night was going and it went like this:
“You know the kind of night where you know everything will change after?”
“Oh, is tonight that night?” I asked, intrigued.
I knew I liked him already. My first real drunk passenger! He was meeting some coworkers from the hotel that he works at. He was talking about the differences between him and his coworkers that are from the east coast. We discussed the differences in culture and how no one can make a proper California burrito outside of San Diego County. Then it got deep. We talked about philosophy and why our culture is in the radical change that it is in. It was refreshing to have a real conversation, albeit a fuzzy one at best, but the foundations were there. I dropped him off and we thanked one another for the discussion. He ended up tipping me $5! My best lesson yet, talk to people if you want to get tips.
Ride 3: Lindsey
I drove back to Carlsbad and immediately got a ping for O’Sullivan’s. I have to admit that I was getting pretty tired right around then but I was determined to finish out the night. I knew where O’Sullivan’s is located so I decided not to use Google Maps (mistake #1). I was also thinking about the deep conversation that I just had so, to make a long story short, I passed the bar. I made a u-turn and went down the wrong alley (mistake #2) and by the time I made it to the back of the bar, it was too late. I called my passenger and she hung up. I called her again and she said, verbatim:
“Uh, I saw you pass us? You are too late? I already got an Uber. Just cancel the ride or whatever. CLICK”
It had been 2 minutes. This is where I learned an important lesson. I canceled her stupid ride (mistake #3) but it is not my responsibility to cancel it. I should have let the timer run out and put her down as a no show, which would have paid me for my time. It is her responsibility to cancel the ride, instead of just hanging up on me and finding another ride immediately. Canceling the ride for her also dropped my acceptance rate which I have to keep high to be able to earn bonuses.
It is okay though. I have learned from the experience, I have moved on (I haven’t), and I am not going to obsesses over it (I can’t stop thinking about it).
Ride 3 (part deux): San Marcos
I thought that the downtown San Marcos area would be a great choice to pick up rides (so far it hasn’t). I got pinged for a pickup by Wally. It ended up being in an apartment complex a couples miles away. He did the lift line, so it only gives him 2 minutes to get to my car. The timer expired before I saw him which means I was supposed to leave to find another passenger but I called him and he came down a minute later. It pays to be nice.
It was a kid that could not have been older than 18. He was scrawny with a leather jacket and a fresh haircut. It was a kid doing cosplay as an adult. Maybe that is what being an adult is?
He got into the car and immediately told me he lost his wallet at his “girlfriend’s” house and that is why he was late. I only mention this because he said it with extra emphasis, he really wanted me to know he had a girlfriend. I said not to worry about it and that was it. Not another word. I dropped him off and we wished one another a good night. I saw later that he tipped me $2. I guess he liked the quiet, or that I did not question that he came from his girlfriend’s house.
Ride 4: Melissa and company
I was going to call it quits after Wally but I got a ride offer right when I was going to turn off the app. It was in Encinitas for three people. I had just started turning onto an on ramp for the freeway and used some creative driving (don’t worry, there was no one around me) to turn around and head back toward the coast.
I pulled up to one of the thousands of bars. I swear Encinitas only has two businesses; restaurant bars and new age metaphysical book stores. A chubby young woman with a shirt that says LOOK AT MY BREASTS (not literally) and a skinny couple got into my car. They had been drinking the night away and were a blast to have in my car. This ride confirmed that I was in the right profession. I love driving drunk people around.
I drove them back to one of their houses. The one with the ridiculously low cut shirt was talking shit about anyone and everyone. It was fun to listen to but what made it great was that her friend could not follow along in the back, mostly because of the noise of her rolling her window up and down and up and down, over and over for no apparent reason. I was entertained.
When I dropped them off, the girl up front was talking shit about her older brother who is “such a loser.” She said that he is pathetic because he is turning 30 years old and is only now getting his Bachelor’s degree. I am 31 and getting my degree in 2 months. The girl left her eyelash curler in my car and I thought about driving back and giving it to her but I gave it to my wife instead. Karma.
Statistics (day total): 5 hours and 6 min., 142 miles, ~$65 profit
All in all, it was a very fun experience. I think I have found a new source of income that I am going to enjoy and I will keep you all updated as I continue this rideshare journey. Thanks for Reading!
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