“Hello, this is your Lyft Driver,” are the first word you hear from me if you called me via the Lyft App here in Baltimore. Yes, you read that right I am, or more correctly was a Lyft Driver for over half this year and it has been a very interesting ride.
For over five months I gave 667 rides to various folk in and around Baltimore, my primary stomping ground was Canton/Fells Point and I did start getting regulars. So I know there is a chance one of my 667 riders will actually read this, if you are, don’t worry, if you are subject of one of my stories your name will be changed, I will never mention where I dropped you off, or give any real specifics of your ride… I will tell the adventure we had.
Now… Like many adventures, all stories have a beginning and I cannot hope to cover all the interactions, moments and journeys I have had in this one blog, but since this is the start of these stories, let’s begin with why I started Lyft driving and my first rider.
What Is Lyft?
This is going to be a completely boring explanation of what Lyft is and why I decided to become a Lyft Driver. So you can skip this section and not miss anything Learn More
Lyft is like Uber, but pink with a more squiggly logo, the basic premises is you can turn the Lyft app on, and pick an available driver to take you to your destination sharing his ride (car) with you.
I call myself a Lyft Driver because it is a convenient description, and will be using that term throughout my ‘Lyft’ blogs. I feel it is important to say I am not endorsed or paid for by Lyft and I think there is a very real chance somethings I will say will upset them… sorry, not sorry…
Are You Employed By Lyft?
I use the Lyft App to advertise my availability to potential passengers to give them a ride to their destination. I am not employed by Lyft, and I am pretty sure both ride share companies would argue that they don’t employ their drivers, because then they would have provide benefits and security, and do all that Human Resources nonsense.
Rather the App gives drivers earning opportunities. I see the Lyft App as nothing more than an opportunity to get micro-gigs, a third-party listing device not much different from Craigslist or Angie’s List that advertises my services.
Since Mid-July I stopped driving for Lyft for various reasons, which I may or may not go into as I tell my adventures.
Is Lyft Safe?
Well, yes and no… I am picking up complete strangers, at the wrong time of night and letting them travel in my car that aspect makes the whole transaction a little unsafe. I can’t though be hailed off the street like a regular cab, you must have a smartphone, an App and an account linked to a Credit Card to summon me, so all aspects of the transaction are tracked. I wont let you in my car (thank you central locking) until you confirm your name with me. I know with confidence 90% of my riders are just regular folk… That doesn’t mean I never encountered riders who worried me, but that is a story for another time.
The other safety factor is I am driving late at night, this brings in the possibility of drunk drivers and car jacking, all I can do is be alert, keep my doors locked and not hang around in the wrong part of the city if I can help it. I also carry no cash, only take a credit card and my license with me, and Lyft has a comprehensive insurance package; should the worse come to the worse.
So… Lyft is as safe as it can be, safer than driving a cab, as a driver you can do a lot to increase that safety and we get final say if we take the rider or not. What I have found is Lyft is very responsive when I report an unsafe or abusive rider. From what I have heard, Uber is not as available.
I don’t though recommend late driving for the women Lyft drivers, stick to the commute times, you will earn more money and be in a safer environment. Cause drunk guys are the worse.
Why Did You Start Driving For Lyft?
The answer I give my passengers is I drive Lyft to pay for my son, which is pretty much the reason in a nutshell. I do leave out few facts that my riders don’t need to know; that I will share below.
My son did start living with me last year which was wonderful, but also an unexpected expense, but there is a twist in this tale. You see his Mother refused to pay any support to help me cover his expenses. However, just make it harder his Mother failed to tell Child Support of her change in circumstances and was still claiming Child Support for my son – as if he is living with her… This situation is still to be resolved legally.
This ain’t the full story my passengers need to hear.
We were broke and I needed to earn extra money fast, so I choose to offset the wear and tear on my car, my own personal safety and become a Lyft Driver to help me cover these additional expenses. Effectively cashing in equity on my car to earn temporary cash to solve a problem.
However, Lyft did basically turned a situation that was turning into a financial black hole, into slightly less of a struggle and helped my family over a hump, all caused by the deadbeat. The situation is still a struggle, but my Lyft driving is long over now.
Yeah… Told you, you didn’t really need to read this section, none of it is really fun.
Okay… Now Let’s Tell A Story…
I trust you skipped the boring why and what section, it really isn’t anything fun and does get whiny by the time you get to the end of it. It is time to start talking about my time as a Lyft Driver, all adventures have a beginning and I wont bore you with my first night of Lyft Driving – which was a mess of confusion and I am surprised I didn’t get low-rated off the road, but I will tell the tale of my first ride.
The First Ride
My Lyft career started on a Saturday, in late February around 5pm. I had done all the preamble stuff two weeks before, I passed my background check, did two mentor meets, got my car through another safety inspection, watched all the Lyft training videos (yes, they are bad), installed my magnetic phone holder, charge cables, chargers, and waterproof foot mats. Cleaned out the car twice, added air fresheners, brought a huge bottle of febreeze, put together a car clean up kit, picked up barf bags. I was as ready as anyone could be it was time to turn on the app.
Now turning on the app was a huge mental leap for me, I ain’t always the most social of people and believe it or not; I can get very awkward around strangers. Lyft was going to take me right out of my comfort zone – it frankly terrified me.
That slightly overcast Saturday it was time to starting Lyfting and off I went leaving the house at 5pm. Non-offensive Jazz playing through Pandora and my app turned on. I planned my route to go through Essex and into downtown Baltimore, sticking to the eastside as much as I could, because it was the side of the city I knew the most about. I played a mental game with myself, if I didn’t get a ride by 5.30pm I would turn around and go home.
The minutes ticked by…
5.05pm… 5.10pm… 5.15pm… 5.20pm… Still nothing, and I had just about run out of Essex to drive through.
5.26pm… Maybe this Lyft thing isn’t what it is all cracked up to be.
5.29pm… Okay, time to go home, this was a bust.
5.30pm… Just about the switch the app off and I got what I would learn to call a Ping, a Rider (actually called a PAX short for Passenger in Lyft Driver speak) was requesting a ride from me. I almost flubbed up accepting the ride, and the app dutifully switched to Google Maps for navigation, and the PAX was waiting for me at the local Mall.
5.32pm… I arrive at the Mall, following the directions to the letter, park outside the designated entrance and wait. I tell the app I am here and the countdown clock starts. The PAX had five minutes to arrive… And it was the longest five minutes ever. I sat in behind the wheel, freaking out and determined to look like I’ve done a 1000 pickups. The last thing the PAX needed to hear from me was, ‘Hey, you’re my first ever Lyft Passenger.’
Cause that would be all kinds of reassuring for them and even worse pressure for me.
With two minutes left on the clock, the PAX arrives, introduces herself and asks if I am Nick, which I reply,’Yes, and you are?’
You see, the Mentor training and all the videos I watched pre-lyfting where very adamant that I ask the PAX for their name, but not to say it. Sort of like a two-step verification thing. The PAX confirms her name, and gets in the car with about six shopping bags. She is a middle age woman, who we will call Miss Jen and lives in the eastside of Baltimore.
I give her a minute to get settled, let the app know I have my PAX, confirm the address with Miss Jen and off we go. We don’t even leave the Mall parking lot before the PAX informs me she never gives high ratings to her drivers, which makes me all kinds of nervous, great I picked up a low-baller on my very first ride… I am so screwed.
The journey into the city takes about ten minutes, I am making silly mistakes which I hope she isn’t noticing and I concentrate on the drive, not on talking. The atmosphere gets tense, I am sweating, my knuckles are white and my head is going around on a swivel watching for traffic. Even the GPS is screwing up on me… This is turning into a nightmare, a real pressure cooker, suddenly I surprise myself and started talking…
I ask about her day, what brought her to the Mall today, what her plans are for the weekend, really small talk stuff. The atmosphere dissipates in the car and Miss Jen talks. I learn her day was very busy, that she is getting ready for her daughter’s birthday, hence why she was at the mall and that she works for the NFL. All pretty cool stuff.
After what feels like an eternity I make it to her destination, completely screw up the pull up to her house, make a joke about the GPS throwing me out and thanked her for taking a ‘Lyft’ with me. Miss Jen smiles, thanks me for the ride and leaves my car. I fumble the app to finish the ride, smile, wave and pull away into an evening of confusion.
To this day I have no idea what rating Miss Jen gave me, as drivers don’t get to see individual feedback, from her announcement when she got into the car I have to guess it wasn’t high. But… It broke my duck… I was a Lyft Driver now, the next few hours of that Saturday were a step learning curve, especially because it got all wet and foggy, and I got totally lost in Baltimore stumbling from one ride to the other, it seems though I did enough right to keep going.
What To Expect Next
I was a Lyft Driver for about five months and I have many more stories to tell, some funny, some sad, but all true and really shouldn’t happen to a Lyft Driver. I hope you do enjoy my tales and will keep writing them as long as folk read them.
Here is a quick summary of what to expect, my first drunk, the midnight Toker (well, 2am), a thousand streets of course I know where your house is (why we use GPS), is it safe, I know where all the Strippers live, Bro’s are the worse, an encounter with an Octopus from Kenya, phone numbers, the thin girl who barfed, the big girl who barfed, I am not here to be insulted, ratings suck, I hear all your conversations, encountering ladies of the night, I know you are buying drugs, Tinder Date Rescue, the great lost house key, Lyft life philosopher, thirty-second guardian, driving a clown car, why are you bailing, one star PAX’s, I don’t want to listen to your music, we are all weird, dumb app blues, where did all the PAX go, guessing the pick up point, free pizza, when I cancel a rider, lady parts in the rear view mirror may appear bigger than they are, picking up a regular, ain’t your trash angel, sorry not your ride, of course my car smells my last PAX was a pot head and why I stopped.