My last two columns for the S.F. Examiner were interconnected, published in two parts.
The first installment, published last week, describes a ride with two ladies who, when I tell them I’ve only been driving for three years, start calling me a “newb” and offering ridiculous advice on how to become a good horrible cab driver.
“You shouldn’t be so nice, newb,” one of the women says.
“You’re never going to make it as a cab driver with that attitude,” says the other.
Their joint laughter is cut short when I turn left onto Hyde.
“This is us over here on the right.”
I hit the hazards and the overhead light.
“I only have a credit card,” the second woman tells me.
“That’s perfectly fine,” I say, inserting the Square reader into my phone.
“Come on newb!” snaps the first woman. “You’re supposed to say your card reader is broken.”
Yeah, they were drunk and having a laugh, but, in part two, published this week, I write about how the old “cabbie ways,” as glorified by these ladies in jest, are what led to rise of Uber and Lyft. And how, when I actually was a “newb” – that is, a hapless Lyft driver – most of my passengers told me they’d started using these new ride-hail options because of all their bad experiences with taxis in the past…
… most of my passengers had these nightmare experiences dealing with The City’s taxi service that mirrored the ladies’ acerbic suggestions: not accepting credit cards, refusing non-airport rides, talking on the phone incessantly and freaking out if you questioned their route.
It seemed like you weren’t a real San Franciscan unless you had a handful of horror stories about taking taxis. People talked about missing flights, losing jobs, getting stuck in the rain and practically left for dead.
My Lyft passengers were so thrilled to have a ride they didn’t care that I barely knew how to get around. (Or refused to attach that hideous pink mustache to the grill of my Jetta.)
Of course, while Lyft and Uber may have solved some of these problems by busting up the taxi industry’s monopoly and in the process forcing out the bad apples who were only able to thrive in a field without competition that capitalized on the public’s desperate need for transportation, a new breed of sleazy operators was unleashed: Uber/Lyft drivers.
But more on that disreputable lot next week…
[photo by Christian Lewis]