Category Archives: shenanigans

Watch Toler Make Taxi Driving Great Again

VIDEO: So one Sunday morning I’m sitting in the National office after turning in my cab, waiting to make the long trek to the 24th Street BART station, when a call comes in. The person on the other line tells dispatcher Jesse that one of our cabs is blocking their driveway on York Street, just past Army.

“Do you know the cab number?” Jesse asks. “2977? Ok. Thanks for letting us know. We’ll take care of it.”

I laugh. “Fucking Toler…”

Jesse tries to get Toler’s attention on the radio, but it’s pointless.

“I’ll go wake him up,” I say. “It’s on the way to BART anyway.”

After making my way down Barneveld and through the Hairball, I approach Toler’s cab with my phone ready. The above video is the result.

NOW …

What can I say about these videos of Toler sleeping in his cab?

That’s right… taxi drivers sleep in their cabs. Just like Uber/Lyft drivers.

Should I point out that Toler does NOT represent the SF taxi industry, except as an example of everything that’s potentially bad about it? I mean, he’s a big and burly, bearded and beady-eyed MAGA fan. He stinks, falls asleep at the wheel constantly and he’s been known to yell at people for using Uber and Lyft outside DJ clubs.

Without a doubt, Toler has got to be the worst spokesman for taxis imaginable. Maybe even worse than the mysterious public poopers in the SFO taxi holding lots

But you know what? Fuck all that “positive optics” bullshit. Yeah, Toler is gross. And the Trump shit is about as dumb as it gets… Still, sometimes it’s hard not to love the chaos Toler spreads across the city.

ANYWAY …

In this second clip, taken shortly after the first, I’d just walked up 24th Street, kicking myself for not getting Toler to give me a ride to BART – especially after missing my train and thinking to myself, that’s what you get for being a supercilious prick.

Since the next Pittsburgh/Bay Point train isn’t due for another 20 minutes, I wander down Mission Street to smoke a cigarette and – lo and behold – what do I see? National 2977. I get my phone ready and start banging on the window…

The Night We Drove Old Yellow Around

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It was just like the old days. Before the taxi industry went to shit. Back when people still called cab companies when they needed a ride. Especially on Friday nights, which is when the following aberration occurred.

Of course, as a driver in the post-Uber/Lyft world, the notion of taxis being in high demand is mostly abstract, based entirely on stories form drivers who were around then and still around now.

On this particular night, though, I got a taste of that bygone era…

It happened just after last call. During the transition period between 1:45 a.m. and 2:15 a.m., when most cabs are prowling the bars in the Mission, the Castro, Polk Street, SoMa and Union Square, while others begin forming ad hoc taxi stands outside DJ clubs like Public Works, the Great Northern, Audio, the EndUp and the Cat Club.

As I’m cruising down Valencia on my way to check out the line at Public Works, the dispatch radio comes alive.

Sometimes, I forget the two-way is even there, occasionally restarting the device to make sure it’s still functioning. There are nights when the only activity is drivers asking for radio checks. So I’m surprised to hear Jesse’s voice break the silence.

“Guys, there seem to be orders on the board,” he says. “I don’t know where they’re coming from, but I have phone numbers. If anyone wants to check them out …”

He starts listing off cross streets.

Since I’m only a few blocks away, I check in for Duboce and Valencia. I pull up outside Zeitgeist and ask for a callout.

“Hold on, 182.” After a short pause, Jesse responds, “On the way out.”

“Copy that.”

A few minutes later, a guy gets in the back of my cab, and I take him to Bernal Heights. I want to ask questions, figure out what’s going on with the sudden demand for taxis, but he isn’t chatty.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

Taxi Drivers Confront Uber Driver with Toplight on his Prius

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After seeing this guy around SF for months, picking up street flags and running the Uber and Lyft apps on a phone on his dash, a Town Taxi driver decided enough was enough and confronted the gypsy cab on Market Street. I happened to pull up in National 182 right at the shit went down.

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The Uber fake taxi is blocked in by our cabs on Market Street, inbound at Sanchez. 7 more cab drivers came to assist.

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The SFMTA Parking Patrol arrived on the scene, took the side of the cab drivers and called the police, because when the confrontation first occurred, the Uber driver shot mace at one of the cab drivers. The PCO then blocked the confrontation so the Uber driver was not able to leave the scene.

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Investigating the toplight. It appears to be a Spoon Rocket topper that he appropriated into a top light and screwed into the roof of his Prius. A wire runs down into the interior through the side of the door covered in clear packaging tape.

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The Uber driver who impersonates a cab driver outside his car to the right, trying to film the 8 cab drivers encircling him, who ask him if he thinks what he is doing is legit. He never answers. Before the cab drivers were able to push his car over and set it on fire, like they did in Paris (just kidding), the cops showed up.

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The San Francisco Police having a talk with the Uber driver. Afterwards, the cops talked to the cab drivers and said, “That guy is full of shit. He’s on our radar now. If we see him around, we’re going to cite him. We gave him his one warning.”

Now it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll be back on the streets of San Francisco with that fake toplight on his Prius.

[Updated: He’s never been seen since.]

Lyft vs. Taxi Thunderdome – The Medium Online Debate

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Since Driver 8 and I had so much fun discussing the pros and cons of driving Lyft and taxis at the Next:Economy conference last month, we went to Medium’s offices and did a live debate on their Backchannel site.

Things got ugly fast:

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And even uglier:

 

I was a Lyft Driver for Halloween

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My column for the S.F. Examiner this week is about impersonating a Lyft in a cab…

 

I was a Lyft driver for Halloween.

The idea came to me at last week’s barbeque. For some reason, driving around San Francisco, picking up fares with Lyft’s iconic trade dress on my cab, seemed like an absolutely hilarious prank. Even if I just caused confusion, at the very least it would be a noteworthy social experiment.

So that Saturday, once it got dark, I fastened the fluffy pink Carstache Lyft sent me when I first signed up to the grill of National 182 and attached the Glowstache I’d received as a top-rated driver to the dash.

I created a Pandora station around The Cramps, Misfits and Ramones.

To augment my trickery, I planned to tell my passengers I didn’t know where I was going and that it was 200 percent Prime Time all night.

I figured everyone would laugh and throw piles of money at me for having such a clever costume.

On 16th Street, a girl dressed as a spider flagged me down.

“Can you take me to Geary and Fillmore, please?”

“Sorry, I’m a Lyft driver,” I said merrily. “I don’t know where that is.”

“It’s easy,” she responded in all seriousness. “I’ll direct you.”

“…”

From Japantown, I crawled down Polk Street behind a beat-up white limo. A few cab drivers looked at me like I was committing the greatest sin by “rocking the ’stache,” as they say in Lyft parlance.

Trevor, the Street Ninja, impersonating Travis Bickle, cruised past me at one point cracking up.

“I’m a Lyft driver!” I yelled out the window. “Where am I? What street is this? Are we in SoMa?”

I stuck to the more congested parts of The City, where I knew my caricature would get the most exposure. Some Lyft drivers scowled at me. Others blew their horns or flashed their high beams.

The majority of my passengers, though, didn’t seem to notice or care. They just told me where they were going, and off I drove with my mouth shut.

So much for being a friend with a cab.

After dropping off a group of revelers at Bar None, I was heading deeper into the congestion of Union Street with The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” at full blast when a guy darted out of the crowd.

“You!” He pointed at my cab, laughed and jumped in the backseat.

Barreling down Gough, we talked about irony and thrash metal. When I dropped him off on Valencia, he almost took off without paying.

“Hey, I’m only pretending to be a Lyft,” I reminded him.

On my way to the Haight from the Mission with a fare, Other Larry pulled up next to me on Guerrero in Veterans 233.

“Nice fucking mustache!” he shouted.

“Look at me!” I jeered. “I’m a Lyft driver and I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing!”

“Does it ever get old?” the guy in the backseat asked.

“What?”

“Making fun of Lyft.”

“No.”

On a ride through the back roads of the Western Addition, I tried to explain to another guy the tension between the Smartphone Hailed Internet Transportation Services and cab drivers and why the Lyft mustaches on my taxi were so hilarious.

“You mean you can’t do Lyft in a cab?” he asked. “I always assumed you guys were all the same.”

The same?

Sure, the lines are blurry these days: Flywheel is an app and a taxi company; most Uber drivers are Lyft drivers and vice versa; decommissioned Yellow cabs are used as Uber-Lyft cars; Towncar drivers slap fake TCP numbers on their bumpers to access commercial lanes; out-of-town cabs come into The City all the time and pick up street hails; and now Uber-Lyft drivers are putting toplights on their Priuses.

According to a recent study from Northeastern University, the streets of San Francisco are congested with more than 10,000 vehicles for hire on average. During a holiday like Halloween, that number is considerably higher. But only taxicabs are required to follow rules and regulations. Everyone else is free to play make-believe all they want.

It doesn’t even matter if the portrayal is convincing. The general population just wants the cheapest and most convenient ride available. Who provides the actual service, whether they’re knockoffs or the real McCoy, is completely irrelevant.

Especially on Halloween.

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How to Get Kicked Out of a Lyft Driver Lounge: Write a Blog Post

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I started driving for Lyft in March of 2014. From the beginning, since I fancy myself a writer and publish the occasional book and/or zine, I planned to keep a “driver’s log” of my experiences as a Lyft driver.

In July, I published a zine called Behind the Wheel: A Lyft Driver’s Log.

Some of the material I’d written for the zine didn’t make the cut. For whatever reason… perhaps it wasn’t good enough or maybe it was too technical… who knows. (Just don’t ask the Wife about it… she a brutal critic.)

Anyway, for the hell of it, I posted several outtakes on my Medium page, including a very ad hominem take on the fanaticism of Lyft drivers:

The Cult of Lyft: Inside the Pacific Driver Lounge

A few weeks later, in a late night, pot- and alcohol-induced flurry of impulsivity, I posted a link to the piece on a Facebook group for rideshare drivers called Uber, SideCar, Lyft Drivers Community. Not expecting much but a few page views (who doesn’t love clicks), I woke up the next morning to a shit storm. Somebody from the community forum had posted it on the official Lyft driver page, the Pacific Driver lounge.

Other drivers reposted it on the official Lounges for their cities.

Not only were Lyft drivers reposting the story, Uber drivers were propagating it as well.

The response was overwhelming. People laughed, people got upset, people talked smack, people did all the things people do on Facebook… I don’t think I’ve ever been insulted so much in such a short amount of time before, even though I used to start flame wars on the internet under the handle DiarrheaPunk.

It was hilarious that people would get so upset over a half-baked rant written on my iPhone as I was passing out from a hard night of Lyfting in the city (and a few stupefacients when I got home).

Some of the comments were pretty funny so I collected a bunch and posted them on my blog:

Lyft’s Pacific Driver Lounge is my Honey Boo Boo

Since it seemed germane to the group, I posted a link on the Uber, SideCar, Lyft Drivers Community forum. I tweeted a link to it as well. Which isn’t saying much. I only have 190 followers.

Shortly after that, Matt Jensen, a community outreach person for Lyft, or something called a “Lounge mentor” (if anybody can clarify his position, please leave a comment), tweeted at me asking for suggestions to improve the Lyft experience.

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I posted this constructive and very earnest — at least in my mind — response:

An Open Letter to Lyft: Since you asked…

After posting links, I was no longer able to access the Pacific Driver Lounge.

Not that I was surprised. After all, I collected all the comments because I figured I would be kicked out. I knew, from being a member of the Lounge that people got expelled from the Lounge all the time. And not just for getting in an accident, but for the silliest of offenses, like talking bad about Lyft.

C’est la vie. No more Honey Boo Boo for me.

About two weeks later, I found a personal message from Matt Jensen about being removed from the Lounge in my “other” inbox on Facebook. (Why do we need an “other” inbox anyway?) It was rife with paranoia, suggesting I shared “lounge details” with Uber. As if I had some connection to Uber, besides taking $500 from them for that one ride deal they offered back in May. (More on that later…)

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Even though I had been feeling a little offended that I never received a real email letting me know that I was banned from the Lounge, sending a Facebook message that he had to know would go to my “other” folder on Facebook since we weren’t friends was a little… unfriendly. Still, I was nice to get some communication about it. I took a screengrab and posted it on my blog:

My Official Removal from the Lyft Pacific Driver Lounge Notice

So that about wraps it up.

Well, not exactly.

Recently, a lawyer contacted me about a case she was working on for another driver who was kicked out of the Lounge. Something about unlawful retaliation in the workplace or discrimination in the workplace… Wanted me to discuss my experience with Lyft and the Lounge… I wrote this blogpost instead.

I don’t know, man… lawsuits are a bit of a stretch. If you’re able to sift through all this social media/blogpost nonsense, it’s obvious I was toying with Lyft. They made a play, I countered and they cried foul.

Wah.

The Lyft folks are a bunch of big babies. Somebody needs to call them a wahbulance.

The only downside to all this tomfoolery is that I got kicked out of the Lounge. Which sucks. Not only is the Lounge a place for drivers to get information about changes to Lyft policies and the driving experience in San Francisco, it’s also extremely entertaining. Is there anything better than gawking at a collective lack of self-awareness?

Lyft, please let back into the Pacific Driver Lounge.

I miss my Honey Boo Boo!