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. 

Inside the mind of a casting director

I picked up Michelle at LAX and drove her to a hotel in Hollywood, giving us plenty of time for conversation. She worked as a casting director for TV shows on a major television channel. 

“So what is casting for a show like? Are you looking for people who have unique personalities?”

“Well, if its reality TV, you know… we go for stereotypes: the hunky guy, the ditzy blonde, the nerd, the flamboyant gay guy, the spicy Latina, and the token guy/girl. Depending how the rest of the casting goes, sometimes that token character has to be a white person instead of a person of color.”

“Oh, so you can’t have it looking like The Wire up in there?”

“Exactly.  Sometimes you need to throw a white guy in there.”

Since I know there’s a lot of aspiring actors/actresses in Los Angeles, I asked, “What are some of the more common mistakes people make when auditioning?”

“You need to be yourself. If you’re playing a character and it’s not really you, we’ll figure that out quickly. We’ll ask questions to piss you off to see how you react… and if you hesitate – and don’t have that spontaneous natural response – it’s over.”

I followed up with, “So for example, if a guy is playing the flamboyant gay guy, but it’s a character, you’ll spot it because he’s acting. You want… no acting… like Keanu Reeves.”

“100 percent. Or like Denzel Washington. Play the same character in everything because it’s real. That’s what we want is real.”

Again, I asked what other mistakes people make when auditioning for a part. 

“Sometimes you get a person who’s really reserved, and it’s like pulling teeth to get them to say something. To those people I just want to ask, ‘Why are you here?'”

My final question for her was does she target someone who’s… a villain? “Oh, the star?  Of course. If someone makes me want to punch them in the face in the audition tape, that’s when I think, ‘Ohh! That’s the one.'”

“Why do you think that is, that reality TV needs a bad person/heel?”

“I think it’s because if someone can provoke strong emotions out of the audience, it makes them memorable and then people get attached and have to tune in.”

So there you have it, folks. If you’re auditioning for a part in a reality TV show, embrace your inner Joffrey from Game of Thrones, but only if that person is your true self, and not a character you’re playing. Otherwise, work on refining your character stereotype. Good luck!