Uber/Lyft Drivers Behaving Badly: The Safeway Sleeping Lot

VIDEO: Everybody knows that Uber/Lyft drivers come to San Francisco far off locations like Sacramento and even Los Angeles. This particular impact of the “gig economy” has been covered extensively, from Bloomberg to The SF Chronicle and Business Insider, as well as discussed at length in this Uber/Lyft driver forum.

Due to an oversaturated market, drivers need to work long hours to make decent money. So instead of making the long commute back home, only to turn right back around, they sleep in their cars.

One morning, around 4 a.m., I’d just dropped a fare at Geary and Webster when I happened upon this scene. The Safeway parking lot was full of Uber/Lyft vehicles, many of which had sunshades or towels covering the windows.

I’ve seen this situation elsewhere, in other Safeway parking lots, as well at the rest area on 280, just outside the city. It seems that wherever there’s a place to park, there’s a place to sleep.

New Mini-Zine: The Way of the Taxi

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The Way of the Taxi

A PILTDOWNLAD Mini-Zine

“Cab to the Yard”
b/w “Gridlock Is My Business”

This one-sheet mini-zine is a preview of the next Behind the Wheel zine, subtitled “The Thin Checkered Line.” The two short pieces here describe in gripping detail the start of a taxi shift, from getting off BART and walking through the Mission to the National Yard, then heading out into the maelstrom of afternoon traffic and people during rush hour.

8.5” x 11” – essentially, one sheet of paper, folded in quarters.
b&w illustrations

Get Behind the Wheel here.


ORDER HERE:

 

The Way of the Taxi Mini-Zine

The two short pieces in this mini-zine describe the start of a taxi shift, from getting off BART and walking through the Mission to the National Yard, then heading out into the maelstrom of afternoon traffic and people during rush hour. Measures 8.5” x 11” – essentially, one sheet of paper, folded in quarters. Includes a sticker and a taxi card (selected at random – or you can request specifics when ordering). Postpaid. (Be sure to include mailing address.)

$2.00


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Includes the “my other ride is a taxicab” sticker.*

Or choose one of the following:

“What would Herb Caen say?”
“taxi driving is not a crime”
“kill your smartphone”
“gentri•fuck•ation”
“your uber driver hates you”

Get Sticky here.


Also comes with a taxi card.*

(Image selected at random, or choose from one the images below.)

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* This is a limited time offer, while supplies last.

  • Keep Print Alive!

Listen to Late Night Larry Tell His Greatest Barf Stories

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Back in the days of the National BBQ, I recorded Late Night Larry talking about pukers in his cab … Followed by chatter, comments and stories from Colin, Juneaux and Daniel the Chef …


[photo by Trevor Johnson]

A Taxicab Soundtrack

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This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about playing music in the cab…

Over the past five years, I’ve tried to create a soundtrack that not only satisfies my personal need for entertainment but also provides a compelling interlude for passengers. During my first couple months of driving a taxi, I listened almost exclusively to Slayer. The aggression of thrash metal helped me overcome the fear and excitement of working the mean streets of San Francisco as I searched for fares and fought my way through traffic.

When people got into my cab, I immediately killed the tunes and made idle conversation while frantically trying to figure out where to go without the aid of GPS. In the heat of the moment, though, I often forgot to turn the volume down. Upon opening the backdoor, my fares were greeted with the cacophony of piercing guitar solos and thunderous drumbeats. My only recourse was to quickly apologize before they had a chance to run away.

One night, I was waiting for the light at Polk and Clay when a guy jumped in the back of my cab as “Dead Skin Mask” blared from the speakers.

“Sorry about that!” I shouted, twisting the knob to the left so hard it almost snapped off.

“That’s cool,” the guy said. “You can put the tunes back on.”

I turned around to ask where he was headed and noticed his Iron Maiden shirt. “Oh, so you don’t mind Slayer then?” I asked with a relieved chuckle.

“This album’s alright,” he said. “But I prefer the earlier stuff.”

Nowadays, I usually keep a diverse selection of albums in my CD wallet, a habit based on Colin’s early advice to always have music that covers most situations, from the somber vibe out of the symphony to the party-hearty atmosphere at the late-night clubs. That way you can almost avoid sacrificing your musical tastes if passengers want to listen to the radio. Or, worse, request an aux cable …

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

All Roads Lead to Uber

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This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about discussing Uber in the cab, and in the column…

The other night, after a long 14-hour shift, I’m standing outside the dispatch office at National, smoking a cigarette with a couple of drivers and complaining about the latest injustice to our livelihoods: management is raising the gates on 24-hour leases from $103 to $123 per day.

As one driver disappears into the night and another arrives to take his place, conversation fluctuates between outrage and indignation until someone brings up my column, much to my chagrin. He wants to know why I don’t use the forum to blast our adversaries.

Since this is such a common inquiry, especially among taxi drivers, I’ve become adept at brushing it off with offhanded comments like, “Because Uber and Lyft are boring.” Or, “I’m under doctor’s orders not to discuss Uber.”

This time I went with, “Nobody cares about this stuff except taxi drivers.”

My response isn’t good enough, though, and the guy tells me I’m wasting a perfectly good opportunity to help the industry resist the onslaught of the ridehail companies.

“Tell me,” I respond, taking a drag from my American Spirit. “Do you guys actually read the column?”

“Uhhh,” the first guy stutters. “I’ve read it before. In the past.”

The second guy shrugs, while the third guy just smiles.

“So how do you know what I write about, then?” I laugh. “Whatever. If I wrote the column just for taxi drivers, nobody else would read it.” With that, I take a final drag, pitch the butt and walk away.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

A Wild Night for the Wildlife at Outside Lands

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This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about working Outside Lands…

“Taxi! Taxi!”

Before I can figure out where the shouting is coming from, there are hands reaching for my back door.

“Can you drive us?” The guy’s voice is rife with desperation.

“Yeah,” I say, stating the obvious. “Get in.”

“Thank you so much,” the girl exclaims. “We’re so lucky we found you!”

“Cool. Uh, where ya heading?”

Once I get their destination, I carve my own route out of the Avenues, zigzagging from Balboa to Anza to Clement, and even up to Lake, trying to avoid the gridlock.

“I don’t do traffic,” I tell my passengers nonchalantly, for effect.

Since this is my fifth year working Outside Lands, I can be a little cocky.

I head to the park around 9 p.m., after steeling myself for the inevitable shitshow and getting my accouterments in order. Energy drink: check. Square reader: check. Gary Numan CD: check.

Unlike in the past, attendees of the music festival this year seem to realize that using Uber or Lyft to get out of the park when the music ends is an exercise in futility. Besides the inevitable surge pricing, anyone with eyes can see the congestion. Well, almost anyone.

“Hey! Taxi!”

On my second foray to the park, a girl frantically waves me down on the corner of 18th and Balboa.

“C’mon! Let’s go!” she tells her friend, standing a few feet away.

“But they’ll charge me five dollars,” her friend whines, holding up her phone.

“I’ll Venmo you the five dollars! Come on!”

“But…”

I hit the gas. This is no time for indecision.

Read the rest here.