Most days, I wake up around noon. Usually hung-over. My first thought is always the same: probably should’ve skipped that last drink. At the time, though, it felt absolutely necessary. Vodka has a way of alleviating some of the physical stress from driving a car all night. At least temporarily.
After several months of driving for Lyft and Uber, my neck is like an open wound. The muscles that run from my shoulder to my jaw are steel rods. I have very little radius when I turn my head left or right. The tension never goes away. It makes my teeth ache. There is a real possibility that I have some dislocated vertebrae. My joints hurt. My right ankle has a creak in it. And I have a chronic case of hemorrhoids. No matter how much ointment I apply, they remain perpetually enflamed. Old age has not only crept up on me, it has run past me and turned around to taunt me.
Besides the physical exhaustion of driving a car in the city, there is also the psychological toll. It’s one thing to maintain a diligent eye on my blind spots, the other cars on the road, speeding bicyclists and cavalier pedestrians, but I also have to project a sunny disposition and be accommodating to my passengers. Or risk a negative rating. Not an easy task when I’d rather be committing murder. And yet, with enough Ativan and caffeine in my system, somehow I make it through another shift. Like when the endorphins kick in after a boot to the nut sack, these superficial interactions with complete strangers have a numbing effect after awhile. As long as it’s busy and I have enough rides to keep my mind off the grueling process. The slow nights can be torture and I can’t wait to get home so I can pummel my brain with alcohol, pills and weed until I stop obsessing over the streets of San Francisco, their order and how they intersect with each of the forty-seven neighborhoods.
From the trenches of San Francisco’s sharing economy: another rideshare confessional
Behind the Wheel 2 includes more insight into the day-to-day travails of a rideshare driver in San Francisco, more stories about driving drunks, switching from Lyft to Uber, a visit to Uber HQ, self-entitled douchebags, talk of gentrification and displacement, the tech boom, public debauchery, emotional breakdowns, police activity and the constant threat of pukers.
Illustrated with street scenes from the passenger seat
To Uber Or Not To Uber
A Day in the Life of an Uber/Lyft Driver in San Francisco
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Piltdownlad will be tabling at the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine fest on Saturday, December 6, 2014. More info here.
Rush out the door in the morning for day one of the SF Zine Fest and the car won’t start. Flashing lights on the dash, flickering needles, an ominous clicking sound…
Since the car spent the previous afternoon on the fritz, we have a contingency plan. I grab the two boxes of zines and dump them into our large rolling suitcase. The Wife calls a Lyft.
A few minutes later, a nice older gentleman in a minivan drives us to the Bart. He’s a retired dispatch supervisor for the city of Oakland. Doesn’t like driving in San Francisco. Says when he gets a fare across the bridge, he turns off his app and hightails it back to the East Bay. I tell him I do the opposite. It’s not a long ride to the MacArthur station. With Lyft’s recently implemented lower rates, the fare is a shameful $5. The Wife tips him another $5.
After some difficulty getting through the turnstiles and almost taking the wrong train (I never use Bart and the Wife, who does, is still half asleep), we race under the Bay at warp speed. The doors are literally shaking.
At 16th and Mission, the closest Bart station to the Inner Sunset, where the fest is being held, we request another Lyft. Our driver this time is a former cabbie. Says he loves working for Lyft, but gripes about the new low rates. I know, I tell him. I’m making about $200 less a week from a month ago. The Lyft guy who shuttled the Wife to my rescue when the car stopped working the day before in West Oakland had a long list of grievances and seemed absolutely grateful to have a opportunity to express them to another driver. Not to mention the chorus of complaints I read every day on the Facebook groups for drivers. Lyft and Uber drivers are in open revolt, pawns in the rideshare price wars…
We talk about metaphysics and relationships for the rest of the trip. Pull up to the venue only ten minutes late.