Lyft Stories 9/1/18

I started driving for Lyft primarily because I wanted to have the feeling that I could earn a couple hundred bucks a month, with total flexibility of schedule, to supplement my monthly Social Security and modest monthly 401K payments. I live a pretty solitary life, so I also thought I might like to have a little more human contact. I live and drive in the Portland, OR area, Southeast quadrant, Richmond neighborhood.

Not that many of my schemes turn out the way I plan, but this one has come very close. In addition to achieving the main two goals, giving people “Lyfts” has provided the added benefit of being interesting. At this point, I’ve completed 51 rides and probably 45 of the riders have been interesting and quite nice. This “article” will be about those interactions and the ways they have expanded my appreciation for humanity. Cliched, but true. This is my first post to Medium, so it’s a bit of an experiment for me.

I suppose it will also enhance the reading experience to describe my life stage and situation. I moved to Portland in February from Santa Barbara, CA after a few health setbacks. I had a heart attack in November, 2017 and a fall from bed in January, 2018, which caused a brain bleed. I am 73 years old, a retired non-profit fundraiser and, I hasten to add, a former teacher of English and soccer coach in high school and college.

I usually drive 2–4 rides a day. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever given 4 rides in a day. I’m not sure why I would prefer readers to see me as a more committed driver than I am. Yesterday was Saturday, the first day in the 3-day Labor Day weekend. I had to wait about 20 minutes before getting prompted by Lyft on my app to pick up a rider — Michelle from Atlanta. She and her husband moved to Portland about three weeks ago. Michelle works for the Forest Service. I’m continually surprised how many professions I’m able to talk with riders about, but this was not one of them. As a person also new to Portland, though, we could share the experience of being new to the Northwest.

Michelle and her husband moved to Portland on the strength of her job offer. Her husband, who was not riding with her, is a software engineer and he came along for the ride, finding a job once they decided to come here. Michelle said, “In my work, you have to go where the public lands are.”

Just before dropping off Michelle, Lyft messaged me that there was another rider in my queue, so after dropping Michelle I made the 7 minute estimated drive to pick up Lindsay. Only a single person, with a single account, can request a ride, but sometimes there are two — or even three — passengers waiting. Lindsay’s partner, or husband, was with her and he didn’t introduce himself. Most “extra” riders are quite courteous and do introduce themselves. This unidentified guy was nice enough, but a little rough around the edges. We stopped at a 7/11 to pick up some food for a house warming they were going to. Lindsay came out with food and her companion came out with two rolls of toilet paper. He told the story of moving houses once and having to “take a dump” but there was no toilet paper. He made a reference to using his shirt, but I couldn’t tell if that was to add color to his story, or if it was an actual anecdote.

This was the first time in 50 rides that a rider has made me slightly uncomfortable. He thanked me for the ride and called me “boss.” I’ve never understood why women hook up with guys like that. It was obvious to me that his scatological references made her uneasy as well, but she tried hard not to show her discomfort. Was this because she was afraid that he would be angry if she did show disapproval? I think that’s probably the case. There was a whole story of two people’s lives told in that 15 minute ride. It was a story of insecurity on his part. Asking for a ride from another man put him in a weakened position. He probably feels that insecurity a good part of every day and his efforts to reestablish his male dominance must take up a lot of his daily energy.

Lindsay is willing to trade her felt boundaries for the empty security of having a boyfriend or husband. If I had to experience that kind of suffering from riders every day, I think I would stop driving.

However, my last rider of the day, an airport pickup named Arturus, was an ideal antidote. A young engineer from Spain, Arturus was gracious and friendly. He was probably in his early 30’s. He described his work with turbines, but I couldn’t tell what kind of turbines he was referring to. Arturus is married, with an 18 month old daughter. He explained how difficult it was for him and his wife to conceive and how fortunate they felt to have a daughter. He described all the places that his family members live around the world, and it made me feel a little better about the separation among my closest family members. His contentedness with his very normal life was touching. He wanted to know if Rafa Nadal had won his tennis match that day (he had) and when asked by me whether he was a Real Madrid or Barcelona fan, he emphatically said “Real Madrid! All the way!”

I haven’t figured out yet what makes the people who seek rides on Lyft so interesting and friendly. Only two rides out of 50 where the rider was determined not to interact. There’s a lot of street knowledge available to drivers. And I think riders want to offer what they know. And they’ve found that drivers are willing to share what they know. In that shared knowledge there is connection. Something like that,

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