The Dream Job and the Bachelorette 

When I picked up Alice in rush hour on a Tuesday, the first words out of her mouth were, “It’s been a long day. I can’t wait to get home and have a glass of wine.”  After that, she was planning to watch the Bachelorette. 
I’m not one to watch the Bachelor or the Bachelorette or to admit to watching it if I did. Yet Alice pointed out this season was different. After 20 seasons of the Bachelor/Bachelorette, this was the first time they had a black woman (or any minority for that matter) as the Bachelorette. This was because a person of color became the director of content at the studio. Alice felt it important to support the decision to have a minority in the starring role, because if the ratings suffered, we might not see that again. I can respect that. If you feel the same way, set your DVR to record the show and support diversity on television. 

“Can you guess,” she began “after 20+ seasons of the Bachelor and Bachelorette… how many of the couples are still together?”

“I have no idea.”

“Only ONE of the couples is still together!  I guess it’s not realistic to fall in love in two months. Most of the time, they don’t even get married. At the end of the show, they get engaged, but I think only one third of the couples follow through with the wedding.  The girl gets a crazy engagement ring because… sponsors, but she doesn’t get to keep it unless they’re together for 3 months.”

“That’s… that’s not true love. That’s like a contract… a business arrangement. Maybe I’m too idealistic.”

“You definitely are. Imagine if you and I were the couple, and after three months being ‘together’ you get half the money from the sale of the ring…”

“That… doesn’t sound appealing to me.”  Note: this is probably why 2/3 of the couples don’t follow through. 

Rewinding a bit, my first job out of college was what many consider a dream job. I was a video game reviewer for GameFan magazine. My ‘job’ was to play video games that had not been released yet and write about them. 

As we continued chatting, I found out Alice had the female equivalent of my job. She was an editor of beauty products, so companies sent her makeup and she had to write about it. I pointed out she had the dream job… something most people would love to do. 

“Yeah…” she agreed. “But there’s two downsides to it. 1) They know there’s a ton of people who would want to do this job 2) So they don’t have to pay you much.” I know that feel, Alice. Working in print journalism for video games for many years, believe me, I’ve been there, done that. 

“So when I had the dream job, people would always ask me the same question, ‘How do I get a job doing what you’re doing?’ or ‘How did you get that job?’ For me it was a combination of right time right place and knowing the right people. I met a friend through a Street Fighter tournament, and when his work needed a copyeditor, I was there.  What about you?  How did you land this job?”

“Well I didn’t study writing and didn’t think I was going to be doing it. After I graduated college, I was ready to conquer the world!”

“Wait, are you a millenial?”

“Yup, definitely a millenial. My parents wanted me to get a J-O-B, so I contacted a recruiter. Previously, I’d interned at a studio, and then she noticed they were looking for an Executive Assistant. I got that position and did it very well for a couple years. I committed to it 100 percent. After a while, my boss noticed I was getting bored, so he asked me what I wanted to do… and that’s how I ended up here.”  

Have you ever had a dream job?

A Fall From Grace

Grace was a middle-aged woman in a fancy cocktail dress and shawl, but the elegance of her appearance was betrayed by her face, which was contorted in pain as she approached my car.

As I pulled up to the pin for Grace, I could sense something was up.  There was a crowd of people standing around the street corner, facing away from the street.  It was around midnight in Hollywood on a Friday near the Pantages theater.  This was a Line ride (a potential carpool) with a wait time of only one minute.  I started the timer signaling I had arrived, and a man approached my car wearing a bright yellow vest and carrying an air of authority.

“You’re going to be taking her <gestures towards the crowd> to the hospital.” He gives me a knowing look.  “She’s being a bit of a diva right now…” I sat there confused as the timer hit zero.  Technically, I could leave and cancel the ride as a no-show since she hadn’t arrived yet, but that felt wrong in light of the situation.  Thankfully, there were no other riders in the queue, so I waited…

After a couple minutes went by and still no sign of the passenger, I’d grown antsy.  As I was about to leave the car in search of Grace, she neared the car.  She’s clutching her right hand and walking very gingerly.  Grace was a middle-aged woman in a fancy cocktail dress and shawl, but the elegance of her appearance was betrayed by her face, which was contorted in pain as she held her hand. “Please take me to Cedar Sinai.”

“Uhh, ok.” I started the ride and noted the destination was five miles away.  I gave her the standard disclaimer I give all carpool passengers.  “Grace, this is a Line ride you selected… so we may pick up other passengers on the way.”

She looked at me surprised.  “Are you kidding?!”

“No, I’m dead serious.  This is the ride you chose.”

“New Lyft Line pickup added!” chirped my car’s speakers cheerfully.

Grace looked at me horrified.  I’m not a mind reader, but I could tell she was thinking “FML” right now.  As I turned the car around and headed toward Andrew, I asked why she chose the carpool option?

“I don’t really use the app.  This is only my second time using it, so I just hit… whatever.  Actually, I tried calling my friends first, but it looks like everybody is asleep right now.  You know when you really need help… that’s when you find out who your friends really are…”

I nodded knowingly.  “So what exactly happened back there?”

“I was attending this award show… and among this crowd of all my peers, my heel broke.  I fell and landed awkwardly on my wrist, which is probably broken.”  She lifted up her leg, showing me the heel that was the culprit.

“Ouch.  I’m sorry to hear that.”

From the look on her face, I could tell she was pained more by the embarrassment of that happening among her peers than the physical pain of the injury.  “The worst part is I’m a dancer, and I’ve never fallen or had a major accident until now.”  She shared that she was a background dancer in a major movie which you’ve probably seen.  “The other thing is I rarely dress like this.  I’m much more comfortable in jeans and flats, but I had to get dolled up for this event.”

“Well, Grace… for what it’s worth… you look good.”  She smiled.

Fortunately, Andrew was already waiting outside at the pin.  He was your average millennial sporting a denim jacket and backpack, on his way home.  The car was quiet as a library as we dropped Andrew off first. Lyft Line stops are programmed by the computer, so the driver is forced to stick with the plan.  I couldn’t drop Grace off first, because the Lyft system expected me to follow the programmed route, in case additional passengers needed to be added.  Thankfully, Andrew wasn’t going far, and his stop was only a minor detour from the hospital.

As he exited the vehicle, Grace commented, “Please hurry…” Her face showed the pain was starting to get to her, as she was grimacing and holding her hand tightly.  The hospital wasn’t far.  I engaged her in light conversation in an attempt to keep her mind off the pain, eliciting a chuckle out of her as she told stories of her career in the Industry. Within minutes, we had arrived.  She thanked me and walked gingerly to the Emergency Room entrance of Cedar Sinai.

Among the Facebook drivers groups that I participate in, this topic comes up regularly.  Should Uber/Lyft drivers transport people to the Emergency Room?  Some drivers feel that’s the job of an ambulance, and they don’t want the potential liability of further injuring a passenger.  “Call 911” they advise.  I’m of the opposite opinion on this.  Ambulance bills cost thousands of dollars.  I know a coworker whose ambulance bill was $8,000, and he’s still making payments on it years later.  If it’s a life-threatening emergency like a heart attack or stroke where minutes are crucial, by all means call 911.  But if it’s not life-threatening, I’m going with the rideshare ride every time.  The pain of waiting a couple more minutes to get to the hospital is a lot less than opening a bill with 4+ digits at the bottom.  That kind of pain can last for years.

Wildcat

Normally, I change the passenger’s name for anonymity, but in this story, the username in Lyft was really Wildcat. Of course there was no picture, so I drove to the destination in Hermosa Beach not knowing what to expect. I hit the “arrive” button and waited. 

Bounding up to the car was a petite, blonde girl dressed in one of those Halloween M&M costumes… except she wasn’t an M&M. She was a green shamrock, which is fitting because this was on St Patrick’s Day. She was followed by three other female friends about the same age and also festively garbed for the daylong drinking party. 

“Wildcat?” I asked as she entered the car. Her friends started laughing hysterically. 

“I forgot you did that!” One of her companions said between laughs. 

Wildcat looked at me, smiling and said, “Yup!  Be honest, what did you think a Wildcat would look like?” 

I gave her green M&M-like attire a once over and said, “…not this, I have to admit.” She was rocking a pair of attention-grabbing, extra-long green eyelashes along with shamrock head boppers, and shamrock henna face tattoos. Plus, there was glitter all around. She looked stunning. 

“Most people I talk to expect a tall, intimidating black guy, and then I roll up saying, ‘It me!'”

Off we drove, to a nearby bar in Redondo Beach. She pulled at the edges of her shamrock costume and said, “You know what, this outfit is kinda great… I could be 8 months pregnant and nobody would know. It hides everything!  This is rad.” She continued to chat as if we had known each other for 20 years. 

Turns out she was a nurse, and she recommended I get out and stretch regularly, as opposed to sitting in a car all day. She was worried I would get blood clots from doing that… such a thoughtful Wildcat!  She ended the ride saying she wished they would get me for the ride back home, and I wished the same, but alas it didn’t happen. Fellow Lyft drivers, if you come across Wildcat in your travels, treat her well, and remember to stretch regularly! 

Let’s talk underwear…

One of my more memorable Lyft Line stories occurred a few months ago. First passenger was a Latina woman with a 2 year old. Thankfully, she had a car seat with her and strapped her child in safely. The next passenger was an Asian man who sat up front. The third passenger was the stereotypical young Asian female who was petite, quiet, and demure. All passengers were in their 20’s, and the ride was in rush hour afternoon traffic, so we weren’t going very fast. The majority of the ride was filled with silence as everyone stayed in their world.  

I dropped off the mother first.  As we drove to the Asian guy’s stop, he fielded a personal call on his cell phone. I lowered the music volume so he could speak… and he did… for a long time, out loud… very loudly. 

“Yeah, so I’m adamantly against Mike and his idea of doing women’s lingerie. I mean, he’s a guy. Why does he think women would want to buy lingerie made by a man? Don’t get me wrong, I’ll sell it. I can sell anything, but I just think it’s going to be a very tough sell. I think our best bet is going to be a company like meundies. Even then, I think the volume we would need to make this new company profitable would be too much. I don’t think it makes business sense, you know what I mean?”

That was the gist of the conversation, and it went on for like 10 mins. He was also one of those people who was yelling into his phone even though he didn’t need to. So there he is, screaming into his phone about non-profitable women’s underwear being designed by his male friend while I sat there thinking, “Man, I really dislike this carpool feature…”

We arrived at his destination and he exited. I can’t see my final passenger (the quiet Asian woman) because she’s directly behind me, so I asked her, “You doing alright back there?” She acknowledged she was still alive. “That whole conversation about his friend’s underwear brand using his outside voice was weird right?”

“Yup…” she said. “I Snapchatted the whole thing. It was glorious!”  It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for. 😉

He lifts, Bro

I was in the middle of a Lyft Line in West LA when a new rider was added to the queue. Glancing at the picture, I commented, “This guy looks like a Greek God…” Naturally, I picked up Mike at the gym. 

As we continued the drive and dropped off the original passenger, I started talking to Mike, who’s very down to earth and friendly. “So what do you do, Mike?”

“I’m a personal trainer.”

Of course he is… We pull up to his destination, and I look at him confused. “Wait, I’m not dropping you off at McDonalds, am I?!” 

“No, I live right next to the McDonalds…” His voice grow distant as he trails off in thought. “Bro, you don’t know how hard it is living next to McDonalds…” he says wistfully. 

I’m cracking up as he continues with a straight face. “Bro, this McDonalds never closes, man. It’s open 24 hours… it’s even open on Christmas and New Years when everything else is closed.” At this point I’m laughing so hard I’m worried we’re going to crash. 

So if you’re ever craving a McDonalds fix at an odd hour of the day or night, head on over to the McDonalds on Pico Blvd in Santa Monica. And if you see a muscular man on the sidewalk staring at your french fries longingly, they will taste extra special salted by the tears of a Greek God. 

The Big Day

There are two major milestones in the career of a Lyft driver. After 250 rides, Lyft sends you a free Amp, an illuminated sign that sits in the middle of your dashboard and glows custom colors so passengers can easily find your car in a sea of drivers at a crowded venue. 

After 1000 rides, you receive a special Lyft jacket as proof you’ve joined the 1000 ride club. As I neared this milestone, I knew I wanted to do something special for passenger 1000. A couple weeks earlier, I went to an ice cream social for LA drivers and spoke to Carlos, who handles social media for Lyft in the area. He gave me some ideas and items to use to celebrate the milestone. 

After ride 999, I went to LAX, hoping to get a long-distance non-carpool ride so I would not be rushed or interrupted by other passengers. After waiting 30 mins for the ride, the ping arrives… a Lyft Line (carpool) passenger with a 4.6 rating. That’s a low rating for a passenger, who typically are 4.8 or higher, so I said, “Not today, Satan…” and let another driver field that request. 

Sadly, this puts me at the back of the line for the airport queue, so I wait another 30 minutes for the next ping. This time it’s a Lyft Line again, but a 5.0 rating, so I accept it. I pick up Emily at the terminal and no other passengers are in the carpool, so I drive away from the airport content with my moderate length ride. Of course as soon as I leave airport property, my phone chirps,

“New Lyft Line added.”

“New Lyft Line added.”

Feeling like I’m running out of time, I quickly tell her about the 1000 rides and give her some gifts: a $3 scratcher lottery ticket, a Lyft bag, and a Lyft inflatable beach ball. She’s blown away and ecstatic, happily scratching away at her lottery ticket as I pick up our two other passengers back at the airport. 

John is a non-descript brainiac who sits in the back next to Emily. David is a down-to-earth former Lyft driver who sits in the front seat. David is looking around confused… “What is that sounds?!”  It’s Emily blowing up her Lyft beach ball. 

“Umm… sorry, guys. I should’ve asked. I’m just excited, so I’m gonna go for it…” as she dutifully returns to inflating her beach ball. I explain to the other passengers why Emily is sitting back there with a Lyft beach ball, and we find out she won $5 with the scratcher. Woo hoo! 

Unlike most Lyft Lines which are either awkward silence or a cacophony of people on the phone while multiple conversations go on, this ride was like a family having dinner and catching up with each other. It was awesome and the mood was celebratory. Emily signed my guestbook, posed for a selfie, and said she was going to write an email to Lyft recommending me for Driver of the Year. Here’s the selfie:

My life is a TV show

Lyft Line is Lyft’s version of a carpool. It’s also like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates… you never know what you’re going to get when you pack a group of strangers into a car during a long ride in rush hour traffic.

Yesterday, I received a Line request in Santa Monica from Kathy. As soon as she opened the door, I had a huge grin on my face and involuntarily blurted out, “OMG!  Kathy, you sound like an anime character!”  She was a grown ass woman, mind you, but her voice sounded like Minnie Mouse. 

“I know!” She exclaimed. “I’m a voice actress!”

“Well, get in. I can tell this is going to be a great ride.” And so we began our cross-town journey engaged in pleasant conversation about voice acting and video games. Working in video games, I’d met a few voice actresses/directors and sat in on a couple recording sessions.  We were deep in conversation about her work when a chime sounded that a new rider had been added to the queue. 

I turned down a street to pick up Joe, a suited up businessman standing outside a dry cleaner holding a week’s worth of pressed suits. He was cordial enough, but he seemed serious compared to our previously light-hearted conversation about voice actors slipping in and out of character while you’re trying to talk to them. 

After a couple moments of indecision, I said screw it and resumed the conversation with Kathy, and we subjected Joe to our discourse about how nutty voice actors are. Then we heard another chime, signaling another rider. 

We picked up Thomas in front of the CAA building on Avenue of the Stars. As soon as he got in the car, it was all about Thomas. He was a real estate agent who just came from a pitch meeting with executives at a major TV network. Thomas was a wheel and deal, “I’m always right,” Hollywood guy who immediately started engaging with Kathy. He wanted to know about her upbringing and then tried to convince her to woo him so he could be her agent in charge of her career. Needless to say, she wasn’t taking the bait. Even though she sounded like an adolescent Japanese girl, Kathy was a smart cookie who’d worked in the corporate world and answered all of his questions effortlessly.  While driving, all I could do was share knowing looks with Kathy from the rear view mirror as she continued to deflect Thomas’ advances. 

As we drove to the first drop off, I marveled at the cast of characters in the car. A bubbly smart protagonist who sounded like she escaped from a Disney movie, a sleazy Hollywood agent antagonist, the serious “I just want to get home to my boring life” businessman, and a token minority comic relief character. I guarantee this motley crew is more entertaining than any script on AMC’s desk that doesn’t involve zombies right now. 

We dropped off Joe, then Thomas, and Kathy looked at me in disbelief. “That guy was such a douche!”  That’s when I learned she also cussed like a sailor as she went off on him. This was a million times more entertaining with her voice. I could listen to that all day. And so the ride ended with as much laughter and pleasantry  as it started with. This is why I love what I do.