Light a Roman Candle and Hold it in Your Hand

July was a pretty busy month for driving so, naturally, I have many stories. I had only given 264 lifetime rides before I picked up my first July pax. I ended the month with 388 lifetime rides so needless to say, I met quite a few new people this month. The downside of giving that many rides is that my driver rating went from a pristine 4.99 to a ridiculous 4.91. I can almost guarantee I know which riders weren’t showing me the love, and you may be surprised when I tell you who the suspects are.

As I’ve previously written, all pax and drivers have an opportunity to rate one another on a 5-star system with the option of writing a little comment to explain your rating or just to be cool. I’m not sure if passengers can actually see any comments that drivers write about them, but we drivers get to see all comments that are attached to every 5-star rating, if any.

I received quite a few decent reviews this month. But this by far is my favorite:

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I don’t even like cats, but knowing someone trusts me to care for theirs makes my heart swell.

Lyft runs its pay period from Monday at 5:00 am to Sunday at 4:59 am. Every morning at about 8:30 am, drivers will receive a daily driver summary via email if we logged into driver mode at any time the previous day. The summary breaks down how much will be included in our next weekly deposit, how much each fare was and Lyft’s fee, any tips paid to you on top of the fare, how long you were logged into driver mode as well as any cancellations, your driver rating, acceptance rate, and a color time graph indicating when you were logged in.

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Every Friday, drivers receive an email giving us our weekly feedback summary for the previous Friday through Thursday. It breaks down your star ratings and shows the comments riders left for you who gave you 5 stars. It will also show you your previous week’s rating, this week’s rating and the average driver rating as well as a lifetime ride counter.

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Every Tuesday morning, you are emailed a weekly earnings summary. It tallies your total “paycheck” to be deposited on Wednesday and indicates whether you earned a 10 or 20% bonus, shows the whole week’s color graph of the time you were in drive mode and each day’s earnings, tips, and fees as well as the number of trips you took. Each email is like a number cruncher’s wet dream, filled with statistical analysis.

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But enough about the employment process, let’s talk riders.

The weekend of 4th of July was somewhat busy, however I only logged in for a couple hours at a time since I visited with family before waiting for the occasional ride request. That Thursday and Friday before, I only gave eight rides. None were very exciting, although I did have a young couple that I picked up from the mall and when they got in the car, “Rudy” asked me if I would take the freeway. I assured her that I would, and she proceeded to tell me that other drivers tend to take the surface streets, which greatly inflates the price of the Lyft. Hearing shitty practices of other drivers irritates me because it makes us all look bad. Until we make ourselves look bad.

Once I hopped on the freeway, Rudy, her boyfriend and I were chatting away. I was in the middle of answering a question when I realized I had missed the interchange I needed and apologized profusely to Rudy because I had to double back at the next exit on the surface streets which led us to a snag in traffic due to a non-working signal. I felt horrible. When we finally got back on the freeway, I told Rudy that I was going to end the meter on the ride when we got on the off-ramp so that it wouldn’t charge her anymore since that was totally my fault. Rudy was very pleasant about it and thanked me once she and her boyfriend got out of the car.

My next pax were sisters in town from Nacogdoches, TX. They were fleeing the scene of a popular wine bar they had closed down to get away from a guy who had been hitting on them all night and wanted to know where they were headed next. The buzzed ladies monopolized the conversation so I didn’t get to ask them why they were in town. They directed me to head to a bar downtown but not a dance club. I started rattling off a few different dive bars since that was their preference, and they scoffed at the cash only bar they thought they wanted to go to. I ended up taking them to a great dive bar that my friends and I used to frequent when we were in our early 20’s.

We chatted about the large Basque culture our town boasts and the various restaurants that serve the same cuisine. “Erica” and I were in agreement that pickled tongue is pretty nasty. Like I always say, I don’t want to eat anything that can taste me back. It’s just weird.

My fifth and final pax for Friday night was one of my regulars I’ve written about before. Will was at his Mexican restaurant job when he requested a ride. You may remember that he was the server who complained about people who get stingy with tips during the “drinking holidays.” It’s funny to me when a rider’s profile picture pops up and when they get in your car, they don’t really look like their photo. That’s the case with Will. He looks rather homely in his picture, but I’ve noticed that something about him reminds me a little of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Only really short.

It was just about 12:30 a.m. when I got to him and we had to run him home real quick so he could change before heading to one of the popular downtown bars. I teased him that he was only going to get there in time for one drink before the bar closed and he laughed saying that his friends were bugging him to come out and hang with them.

“So, I’m going to meet up with Fredo and them.”

I looked at Will and smiled and said “You know Fredo?!”

“Haha, yeah, I was with him the last time you picked us up. I was in the backseat.”

We laughed because I had no idea. Fredo is always with a different friend or family member whenever I pick him up. He knows a hell of a lot of people here in town.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Throughout the day, I logged in and out of the app for just an hour or two at a time. My first fare was at 9:30 am and was Andy, Artie’s boyfriend. I got to learn a little more about Andy and his side job on our way to his day job selling shoes at the mall. On his days off he makes jewelry for drag queens and has had some pieces featured in some obscure magazine. Some of my regulars are so interesting.

In the late afternoon, my regular Natalie who I had taken to meet her first date a few days before called for a ride to work. I soon learned that Natalie was an ER nurse for a local hospital and had to work the holiday. I asked if she thought there would be a spike in missing finger emergencies tonight. She chuckled and said she definitely expected a few burn victims for sure.

She told me that the first date went really well and she was excited about him, but he dropped a bomb when he told her that he was leaving for the CHP academy in a few weeks. That academy is about 6 months long, but she wasn’t about to wait for a guy she just met, especially since she wasn’t a big fan of law enforcement.

Jack, the friendly bartender, was the next request. He was pissed that for the first time, the owner decided to open the bar for the holiday and he drew the short straw to have to work it. I surmised that since it was Saturday, once the fireworks were over, business would probably pick up. Jack was of the opinion that this was a BBQ, pool, and beer drinking day at the house and that he hoped it stayed as dead as it was when we pulled up so he could tell the boss that it wasn’t worth it. Jack is one of my favorite bartenders because he’s always ready with cash tips.

Once my family’s fireworks show was over, I logged back in just in time to pick up “Mickey” from his grocery store job. He asked me if I knew Spanish because his friends were texting him in Spanish and he didn’t understand what they were saying. I told him I probably couldn’t help him out much unless they were asking him where the bathroom was or for another beer.

Artie requested a Lyft from work almost immediately after I dropped off Mickey at home. Artie has a paraplegic brother who he actually cares for through a county program. So basically, Artie works at his mom’s house. While they were outside lighting fireworks, a few of their neighbors had the illegal fireworks show across the street. This led to cops coming and ticketing one set of neighbors because the other neighbors grabbed their stuff and ran inside when they saw the cop turn onto the street.

I was shocked when I received a ride request from the very east side of town because I figured that there would be plenty of drivers out for the holiday. I drove all the way out to the country club area and picked up “Jay” and his three friends from a house party. The very animated young lady who sat in the front seat told me how good it smelled in my car courtesy of my air fresheners. I estimated that each of my pax were about 5-6 years younger than me so I entertained them with the satellite radio station that plays music from 2000-2010. It’s always funny when people say “I haven’t heard this song in forever!” before they bust into singing along.

I don’t know if I’ve ever told you about my Glow-In-The-Dark Mustache I received from Lyft after giving 100 rides, but I have one that is just mounted to my dash via magnet. Ever since I received the mustache a couple of months ago, it has been featured in many a pax Snapchat or Instagram account. But that’s because it’s so cool looking.

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It was no different when I picked up “Shelly” and her two friends. They requested a specific satellite station (Channel 47 “The Heat”) and when their jam came on, all three harmonized it pretty well and even recorded themselves singing it. Shelly’s male friend sat in front and manned the radio while the ladies took turns taking photos with Mr. Mustache. When I dropped them off downtown, homie sitting in front started patting down his pockets and remembered that he had left his wallet in Shelly’s other friend’s car that was parked at her dad’s house. The girls were pissed at him, but rather than drive them to go pick up the wallet, he was confident that the bar wouldn’t card him. I tried not to laugh, but it was highly unlikely they were getting into any bar on a Saturday night without ID.

“Kevin” and his buddy “Sean” were in a gated community when I went to pick them up. The first thing Kevin asked was whether he could smoke a cigarette in my car. I politely declined explaining I was an ex-smoker and could no longer stand the smell of a burning cigarette. He was cool about it, but I told him if he had weed, I wouldn’t mind him smoking it, but no cigarettes. I could see his eyes get big in the dark before he asked “Really?!”

“Sure. I don’t care.”

“So we can smoke this blunt in my pocket right now?”

“Go for it.”

“Sweet!” And they did as I drove them to a downtown apartment building. While they were kind enough to offer me some, I again politely declined. After all, I was on the clock.

My final fare was one of my regular pax named Sammy. He was being nice and requesting a ride for his couple friends who needed to get home after a solid holiday drinking and having a good time. I think people ordering a Lyft or Uber for their friends who don’t have the app are our best allies because that’s how we get more users. At the end of the ride, they asked me how much it was, and I explained that this ride was on Sammy and that it is all paid for through the app. They were still kind enough to give me a cash tip which was more than the actual fare.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

When I saw Deepak’s request come through in the mid-afternoon, I grimaced, but begrudgingly drove to his house to pick him up. He was sober and remembered me from our casino excursion the week before. He wanted me to drop him off at the dollar store not too far from his house. I thought at first that maybe he worked there because he said I didn’t need to wait for him. So I was on my merry way.

Later in the afternoon I picked up “D.J.,” who is an actual DJ at a local strip club, and his stripper girlfriend. No really, she’s a stripper. But they were cool peeps who had just discovered Lyft and thought it was a Godsend since they had such bad luck with cab companies. I dropped off D.J.’s girlfriend at work first, then took him to the other strip club not too far away. D.J. asked if I would be driving around 2:00 am to pick them up later and I told him that since it was a “school night” for me, that I would be done driving much earlier than that. I would pick D.J. up a few more times in the month and he’s really a good guy and sounds like a great father. We’ll get to that later.

Once the sun went down, I got a second request from Deepak who was still in the same shopping center where I had left him. When I arrived, the dollar store was already closed, and Deepak came stumbling out of the little bar right next door. I can only assume he had been there drinking since I dropped him off because he reeked of booze and had a noticeable slur to his speech. Dude is a serious alcoholic. But hey, at least he’s not driving right?

My final fare of the night belonged to “Ronnie” who is a bartender and co-worker of Jack’s. He told me that he worked earlier in the day and had been drinking with this hairdresser pretty much the whole time. She had appointments at her shop, and he casually suggested that she should cancel them and drink with him all day instead. Calling his bluff, she did just that before going home to her baby daddy. And now, here he was, heading back to the scene of the crime at the bar to drink more even though he told himself he wouldn’t.

Ronnie was an interesting character and told me a story about how the week before, he took out a 22 year-old on a date and asked if she could hold her liquor. I told him his first mistake was trying to drink with a 22 year-old, because of course she thought she could hang with him. Three pineapple vodka’s and four tequila shots later, the girl was so sloppy drunk, she had to carry her to the Lyft, then carry her to her front door while he rummaged through her purse to find her house keys. When he couldn’t find them, he pounded on the door until her mom answered and had her brother help him carry her inside. Sounds like a hot mess to me. Of course, being in the service industry, Ronnie left me a tip.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I hadn’t seen “Amy” in months since there are so many more Lyft drivers in town now. Amy works at a great BBQ joint and has five kids with her husband. She told me that the new development in her life was that she was going to be a surrogate for a wealthy Chinese couple who were flying in from China to meet her in a couple of weeks. I had so many questions that she happily answered on our way home. She and her husband thought about it long and hard, and given that she would be traveling for free, get full medical care on the couple’s dime and walk away with nearly $50,000 in her pocket, she felt pretty good about their decision. I commend her for her selflessness when it comes to her body. Amy is certainly a better woman than me.

When I got the request from “Gus,” I didn’t know to expect a male or female when I pulled up. I was waiting for a few minutes before I called to find out where he/she was. A female voice with a thick Indian accent answered and said they would be out soon. Come to find out, it was the wife of Gus who answered, but only Gus would be riding with me to a motel just south of the house. On the way, Gus told me that his wife had called the cops on him a few weeks ago and he ended up charged with five felony counts of spousal abuse.

The story caught my attention since I am very familiar with the local criminal defense bar and I found out that he had hired an attorney I would never refer to anybody. The lawyer is kind of a joke in our small legal community. I was recently sitting outside a courtroom and saw him interacting with a couple of his clients and the way he spoke to both of them with such disdain was appalling.

I must have made a face when Gus told me the name of this attorney because he asked me what I knew about him. I had to be honest. When I relayed what I knew about this man, Gus shook his head in defeat and admitted that when he met with him, he had a bad feeling about him, but paid him a retainer anyway because he needed representation. I told him he had to go with his gut on those kinds of things because big decisions like hiring an attorney can be life-altering.

He pressed me as to how I knew the things I knew, and I reluctantly told him that I was also a criminal attorney. His eyes lit up like he had just won the jackpot, and immediately began asking questions trying to get some free advice. I explained to him that felonies were not my bag, but I could refer him to an excellent attorney who could help him out. Considering his court date was the very next morning, he asked for my recommendation regarding the attorney he had already hired. I told him he was within his rights to fire the guy, but not to expect a refund of any fees already paid.

He thanked me profusely and said that he thought I was his guardian angel and that he would call the lawyer I referred him to first thing in the morning. He shook my hand and walked away with a little more confidence.

I had a couple other fares that night, but was surprised when I saw that my driver rating had gone down despite what I thought were four really good fares and 5-star worthy.

Friday, July 10, 2015

I had 11 total rides this busy Friday night. It was a pretty good night and the same night I got the best review I posted above. I am pretty sure that the guy who gave me that review was “Stan” who was extremely animated in the front seat while his three friends chatted in my backseat. When you have the right music for the mood, it makes the ride so much more enjoyable. It also helps that white people LOVE Uptown Funk. Stan serenaded me on the way to the bar, changing the words to “Too hot! Hot Stan!” as we drove. He was a big ball of hysterical making inappropriate uncle-touching jokes. He was impressed when I kept up with him using some of my own inappropriate remarks.

Once it was bar closing time, I made my way to a bar I had previously dropped off “Barry” because one of Stan friends had found some keys in my backseat which had to have been Barry’s. As I waited to see if I could pick him out of the crowd forming in front of the bar, I received a couple of requests from people leaving the same bar. After taking “Aspen” and her friends home, I came back to the bar hoping to find Barry again, but instead, I got another request from a Deepak who had been drinking at the bar as well. Guess where he wanted to go? Yep, the casino. And as usual, the cheap fucker still didn’t tip.

This Friday night was probably the most memorable for me because it was the first time I had ever been pulled over with pax in my car! Once I left the casino, a immediately got a request from downtown. I picked up “Cory” and his three pals from the taco truck and was waiting for the light to turn green when I noticed a cop car pull out from the police station and turn onto the street I was about to turn on. The cop was waiting at the red when I pulled up immediately next to him at the stoplight.

Knowing I was sober and had no reason to trail behind him like most drivers do whenever they see the cop, I hit the accelerator as soon as the green light came on. Apparently the officer didn’t like that too much as he immediately got behind me in our lane and lit me up. I quickly put on my right blinker and pulled over to the curb. My pax were pretty upset at how lame it was that I was doing a community service by getting the drunks home when there’s  real crime happening right now that they should be worried about.

Sitting in my car with the bright spotlight attacking my eyes from my sideview mirror, I readied my driver’s license for the officer. He was an older officer who came up to my window shining a flashlight in my face and asking if I knew what the speed limit was.

“Isn’t it 40?” I asked.

“It was 25 where we were stopped at the light and this is a 35 mile an hour zone but we got you going 38. Let me see your license, registration and insurance.”

So I was going a whole 3 miles over the speed limit which was enough to detain me and my pax. Excellent.

I handed him my license while my I had Cory reach into my glove box for my registration.

“My insurance card is on my phone if I can pull it up for you.” I had my hands on the steering wheel as I spoke in case the cop was trigger happy if I grabbed my phone out of the holster. He told me to go ahead and retrieve it to show him and took my license and registration. I did reach for my glow-in-the-dark mustache on top of the dash as we waited for the insurance card to pop up and I showed that to him and said, “By the way, I’m a Lyft driver and sober in case you were wondering.”

“Alright.” He replied as he walked away with my documents.

The tension in the car was thick, but the only female in the back of my seat said, “Maybe he’ll just give you a warning. You didn’t do anything wrong, this is retarded.” I agreed with her, but for now, we just had to wait.

I told them that I may need to call them as witnesses if I end up getting a traffic ticket and they gladly said that they’d help me out if it came to that. I apologized to Cory as I knew the delay would increase the amount of the fare by the end of the ride and told him I would stop the meter a couple miles from his destination to make up for it. “Don’t worry about it! I’m using a free ride code for up to $20 so this ride isn’t costing me a thing!” I immediately felt better about that.

When the officer returned, it was his much younger, baby-faced partner who was likely a recent graduate and trainee because he handed me back my license and registration with a huge smile on his face and stuttered a bit when he said, “Here you go ma’am. Just watch your speed okay? There’s a sign right there *he points across the street just behind us* that says the speed limit is 30, I know you probably can’t see it because the light’s in your eyes, but just slow down, okay?”

“You got it, thank you officer.”

And with that, he nearly skipped all the way back the patrol vehicle. It’s probably been about 8 years since I’ve gotten a speeding ticket. It was pretty obvious that these guys were fishing for DUI’s, and were likely disappointed when stopping me turned up nothing for them.

Since being a lawyer, I’ve always questioned officers about the equipment they were using to obtain my speed during the contact and when they discover I’m a lawyer, they grant me a “professional courtesy” and let me off with a warning to slow down. It’s happened a few times. This was an instant where I knew I should just keep my mouth shut and hope for the best. In a car filled with drunks, it’s usually the best idea.

I know I’m not even through half the month of July, but I will go ahead and wrap this up and try to post another update this weekend to cover the second half because there is so much more to tell. Stay tuned everybody, and drive safe!

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