At least I’m not getting shot…

Daniel was an armored truck driver who would pick up bags of cash from businesses.

I picked up Daniel, a confident young man in his mid-20’s who mentioned he was between jobs and enjoying life at the moment. Unlike others who felt the need to constantly look for work between gigs, he had saved up money from his last job in San Francisco, which he quit to move to LA.

What was he doing previously that was so lucrative?  Daniel was an armored truck driver who would pick up bags of cash from businesses. He said it was a fun gig that paid so well he didn’t have to work while he was applying for the LA Sheriff’s academy.

armoredtruck

“But isn’t that (the armored truck driver job) dangerous?”

“Yeah, while I was working there, another guard was shot while another had two guys come after him with an AK47 and an AR15.”

“Yikes!  Do you even wear a bulletproof vest?”

“We’re supposed to, but it only stops something like a .45. Anything bigger and you’re dead, ya know?  I’d rather be unencumbered if I’m going down…”

In Lyft driver’s groups on Facebook, I see fellow drivers complain about work conditions in this job, but I’m just thankful I don’t have a bullseye on my back and guys with AR15’s coming to kill me. Give me a drunk passenger at 2am any day!

Karaoke success story and the Wall of Death

If you ever see a young male in his early 20’s with a septum piercing screaming a Miley Cyrus song in karaoke in Orange County, it’s probably him.

I picked up Brian in Fullerton because his girlfriend was supposed to go to her friend’s house and drop him off on the way, but she got busy and stayed at home. He needed to go to his guitarist’s house for band practice, so she called a Lyft for him.

As we got to talking, I found out he’s the singer in a deathcore band that plays in Orange County.  He shared that the band discovered him when he was screaming a memorable rendition of Korn’s Freak On a Leash for karaoke at a local bar.  They approached him afterward and asked if he wanted to join their band.  If you ever see a young male in his early 20’s with a septum piercing screaming a Miley Cyrus song in karaoke in Orange County, it’s probably him. [Note: his real name is not Brian]

bandconcert

Brian talked a lot about different bands and venues that he listens to and plays in.  He described an event that happens regularly at shows he attends.  In the mosh pit, a Wall of Death is setup where people form two groups with a large empty space in between.  On cue, they run towards each other and collide, like a battle scene out of Braveheart.  He says one time he elected to opt out of this particular wall because there were a line of 300 pound dudes on the other side looking to take someone out, and they did… and it wasn’t him.

Another time, he said a skinhead picked up his friend, who is 6’4″, and piledrived him on his head.  While we were driving, a red jeep passed us, and he waved.

“That’s my girlfriend,” he explained.

“But I thought she couldn’t go to her friend’s place??”

“Hmm… yeah I thought so too…”

 

Pros and Cons of driving for Lyft

If all this talk of ridesharing has piqued your interest in driving, here are some things to consider:

Rideshare Pros:

  1. Flexible hours – Most professions don’t offer the flexibility of choosing your work hours like Uber/Lyft do.  When you want to work, you turn the app on and start making money, even if it’s 4am on a Friday night.  Evening plans cancel and you have a 2 hour window?  Why not make some money?
  2. Destination Filter –  I had been considering rideshare for a while, and the feature that made me finally sign up was Destination Filter.  Let’s say you have a one hour commute to work in the morning.  If you leave a half hour early and set the destination filter in the app to your work address, it will pair you up with passengers who are on your way and heading in the same direction as you.  If you pick up one or two passengers on the way to work, those fares will pay for your gas.  If you know you’re going to be driving a long distance, why not subsidize it with rideshare?  If not, you’re leaving money on the table.  Note: I’ve found Uber’s destination filter to work better than Lyft’s, which can sometimes send you out of the way or even in the wrong direction.
  3. Be your own boss – Unlike traditional office jobs, when driving for Lyft there are no office politics.  The only people you have to interact with are passengers one ride at a time.  There’s only one employee in your company, and it’s your car, so you decide how you want things to be run.  Nobody can tell you what to do!  …until a passenger says, “Turn right here!” That advice, you might want to take. Also, as an independent contractor, you can write off miles driven, cell phone, car maintenance, etc.
  4. Meeting new people – This was another reason I wanted to drive.  I had never had a profession where I constantly had the opportunity to meet and interact with strangers.  On a car ride, there’s plenty of opportunity to strike up a conversation and learn about people and their experiences.  If you don’t want to be social, there are plenty of food delivery apps that allow you to drive and earn money with minimal social interaction as well: Uber Eats, Postmates, Doordash, Grubhub, Amazon Flex, etc.
  5. Learning the city – The more you drive, the more you’ll discover trends.  Where will large crowds of people gather?  What events and concerts are happening in your city?  What restaurants and clubs do most people frequent?  You become like a concierge, able to tell visitors where the happening places in town are on any given night, and you’re never without ideas on places to go.

Rideshare Cons:

  1. Vehicle depreciation – The more you drive, the more miles you’re putting on your car’s odometer.  You do get to write off the miles for tax purposes, but you are beating up your car.  If you end up driving more than 40 hours a week, those miles can add up quickly.
  2. Being on the road – Driving in general is a dangerous activity, so you’re putting yourself at risk of a car accident by spending extra time on the road.  Aside from accident risk, being on the road more than usual also increases your chances of getting a flat tire, hitting a pothole, or getting pulled over by police.
  3. Belligerent passengers – Some people could be having a bad day, or are rude, or lack basic social skills or hygiene. You may be in a car with someone you don’t get along with.  If there’s a confrontation or you feel in danger, you can always stop the car and end a ride immediately. If you’re female and working late night hours, you may want to consider something to protect your safety.
  4. Drunk passengers – Especially if you work nights, you’re probably going to deal with driving around folks who’ve had one too many to drink.  They may puke in your car, get handsy, or pass out. If these scenarios make you uncomfortable, you can always drive during the mornings/days to minimize these types of interactions.
  5. Service animals – According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, you have to accommodate a passenger with a service animal.  That means you can’t turn down a blind passenger with a service  dog, even if you’re allergic to dogs.  The chances of this happening are very slim, but it is a possibility you should be aware of.

The LA Metro is a joke

Within a minute of my arrival, my passenger side door opened and in stepped Travis, a fit 20-something male construction worker.

Welcome to the first post of my ridesharing blog!  This space is designed to keep track of all the interesting people I encounter while transporting random strangers around the streets of Los Angeles.

When I arrived at the ping to pick up Travis, it was in the middle of a seemingly deserted street in downtown LA sometime in the afternoon.  The street was devoid of businesses or storefronts, so I was questioning whether I was in the right spot.  But within a minute of my arrival, my passenger side door opened and in stepped Travis, a fit 20-something male construction worker.  I hadn’t noticed the stream of construction workers pouring out of a nearby construction site on the corner.  I guess there were businesses here after all.

trainconductor

His destination was Union Station, and from there he was taking a train to his house in Riverside.  I asked him if it’s expensive taking Lyft and the train to and from work everyday.  He confided, “Not really. They only charge me for the train like twice a week…”

“Umm… how do you manage that?”

“Well, the LA Metro app is so efficient, if I see the person coming around to check passenger tickets, I can buy one before they get to me.  It remembers your favorite destination address, so I can quickly swipe and purchase a ticket just like that.”

And we wonder why nobody uses mass transit in Los Angeles… or maybe they do, but we don’t know about it.  Thanks for the lifehack Travis!

Wildlife in Los Angeles

She was a friendly, petite Jewish lady in her 50’s, notably tired from a flight in which she got no sleep

I picked up Janet in the evening at LAX and drove her to a friend’s house in Altadena.  She was a friendly, petite Jewish lady in her 50’s, notably tired from a flight in which she got no sleep.  “Normally, I don’t even talk to the driver…”

“But I caught you while you’re… punch drunk?”

“Yes, exactly!”  She hadn’t been drinking, but she could probably use a good night’s rest. I found her to be in a chatty mood.  Janet grew up in Los Angeles but was splitting time between a permanent residence in the Midwest and here, where her friends and family were.

Her husband came from a long line of ultra-successful overachievers.  His siblings were brilliant scientists, researchers, doctors who all graduated from Ivy League colleges.  He had started a DVD shipping business and did very well… until DVD sales fell off a cliff.  Then he transitioned to warehouse distribution, and again had a successful, thriving business.

Thinking big, he decided to relocate the warehouse from Los Angeles to the Midwest, to a city he’d grown up in.  He wanted to come back and open a distribution center where he could provide jobs for people in town and be a savior… but not everybody wants to be saved.  He quickly learned that the people in his rural Rust Belt town didn’t have the same drive, ambition, and intelligence as an entrepreneur in a fast-paced city like Los Angeles… and so business suffered.

At this point, our conversation turned to Altadena, the city we were driving to.  I confessed I had never been to Altadena, and Janet said, “Yeah, there’s probably not a lot of reasons to come here. We have one fancy restaurant, and that’s it.”  Altadena is up in the foothills north of Pasadena.

As we were climbing the winding roads up the mountain, I asked her if you could see the stars from here?  “Oh yeah, you can see stars… and much more!  I saw a bobcat once!”

“Wait, a bobcat?!”

bobcat.jpg

“Yeah, it was on the front lawn as soon as I opened the front door.  When it saw me, it ran to the bushes on the side of the driveway.  That’s when I saw it was a baby, and the mom was in the bushes…” Now I’m a city slicker who grew up in LA, and this story of a pair of bobcats chilling on the front lawn is mildly terrifying because it is so far outside of my reality, but for denizens of Altadena, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

When we arrived at the house, I helped Janet by carrying her luggage to the front porch.  As I reached down to grab her last bag from the trunk of my car, she said, “See?  You can see the stars here…” I looked up and noticed she was right. The stars in the night sky were clearly visible.  You could make out constellations, something I wasn’t used to seeing due to all the streetlights in Los Angeles.  Then she said, “It was standing right there…”

“What was?”

“The bobcat.”  Looking down, I realized it was pitch black and  I was inches away from the front lawn to my right.  To my left was a driveway lined with bushes.  I bid her farewell and hightailed it to my car faster than you could say, “Bobcat!”

Bouncer 101

Maria was a middle-aged, stocky, Latina woman who had been working security and door for nightclubs for 20 years.

I picked up Maria on a lazy Sunday afternoon right after dropping off another security guard at a dispensary, his place of work.  Maria was a middle-aged, stocky, Latina woman who had been working security and door for nightclubs for 20 years.  Once I learned this, I began asking questions, and she was more than happy to answer.

“So what’s the best way to break up a fight?  Do you just go in there while people are swinging wildly?”

“No! No!  You don’t want to do that.  Trust me. <feeling her nose> I did that one time, and I got punched in the face.  My nose is still messed up from that.  What you want to do is when people are going at it… just let them.  After a while, people get tired, and they use up all their moves… and then they don’t know what to do.  They’re looking for someone to rescue them, and that’s where you step in to pull them off and nobody gets hurt.”

“Ah! I see… do you encounter a lot of fights?”

“Oh every night!  What I don’t understand is these women who go to a club looking to start a fight, and they’re wearing a dress and heels.  Like why would you do that, you know what I mean?  If I’m going into a fight, I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  Who do you think is going to win?  Me or the chick in heels?  I’ve seen some crazy bar-wide brawls.  Clothes coming off, shoes flying everywhere, broken bottles…”

femaleguard

“Wow, that’s intense.  Any tips you have when it comes to fighting?”

“Yeah, don’t punch someone IN the mouth.  I did that once.  Her tooth cut my hand, and the saliva got into my finger and caused an infection.  It’s better to hit them in the side of face instead.”

Author’s note: On a separate ride weeks later, a nurse asked me what one of the wilder stories was that I’d heard.  I shared this story of Maria and her experience punching someone in the mouth, and the nurse nodded knowingly.  “Yes, that’s absolutely true.  I’ve been studying all the diseases and infections that can occur to a person, and she’s absolutely right.  Our mouths are gross.”  So try not to have a stranger drool onto an open wound next time.  Hand-saving survival tips, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood WordPress blog!