Tag Archives: uber is boring

All Roads Lead to Uber

Powell-St-Taxi-Stand-by-Christian-Lewis-web

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]

The Most Boring Conversation in a Taxi

LateNightLarry

I go where the night takes me. From one ride to the next, I follow the whims of my passengers and take the path of least resistance. Although my trajectory is usually determined by the luck of a street flag or what awaits me at the end of a cabstand, I am the captain of this journey.

At each intersection, I face the same quandary: what happens if I turn left? Do I dare turn right? After dropping off at the Marriott on Columbus, should I head down to Jefferson and roll past the tourist trap emporiums, or go straight to Pier 39 and hope the line of cabs isn’t spilling out into the Embarcadero? Do I try the Financial, even though it’s late for the suit and tie crowd? Perhaps I’ll run into a straggler burning the midnight oil, like the Mormon banker I picked up last week in front of the Gold Club, who walked down from New Montgomery because he knew a strip club is the best place to get a cab.

Tonight, it doesn’t seem to matter where I drive. Nobody wants in my taxi. The dispatch radio is quiet. Not a single arm in the air. Outside the clubs, partygoers stare at their phones. Everywhere I look, I see four door sedans with glowing pink mustaches and U placards in their windows, double-parking and making illegal turns with reckless abandon.

It’s obvious who owns the streets tonight. And every other night. Or so it seems…

When I drive empty for too long, I tend to get morose.

As I’m heading down Battery, two guys flag me at Jackson. I greet them warmly. They’re heading home to Potrero Hill.

Right away, the first one asks me, “You’re not going to talk about Uber are you?”

“I wasn’t planning on it,” I say.

“Good. Our last taxi driver ranted about Uber the whole way here. It got uncomfortable.”

“I mean, we’re in a taxi,” the second one adds. “We obviously want to support you guys.”

“We know it has to be excruciating for old timers and medallion holders to see their investments squandered,” the first guy says with authority. “The City sold them out. But they can’t take it out on the passengers all the time. It gets old.”

For the next five minutes, we complain about cab drivers who complain about Uber. Until finally, as I enter the roundabout in Showcase Square, I break my vow not to mention the origins of Potrero Hill street names. It hasn’t been good for my tips to correct people who seem to know more about WWII battleships than when states were admitted into the union. But hey, it’s a better point of contention than Uber.

I think my friend Colin got it right when he joked at the last BBQ, “The worst thing about Uber is that nobody says anything interesting in my cab anymore. Used to be, I’d hear the details of someone’s latest sexcapade or how they planned to murder their boss. Now, it’s just Uber, Uber, Uber…”

I try to avoid the subject myself. It’s bad for my high blood pressure. Of all the topics to discuss in the Temporary Autonomous Zone, aka, the backseat of a cab, I can’t think of one more boring than Uber.

I rarely tell passengers about my time as an Uber-Lyft driver. It’s not something I’m proud of. I’d rather pretend to be a hapless doofus who wandered into a taxi by mistake. Especially when people get in my cab and gleefully ask about Uber’s influence on my bottom line. And then offer the brilliant solution: “You should drive for Uber!”

Still hoping for an encounter I’ll remember fondly in the morning, I cruise down Valencia, blasting Johnny Thunders to ward off despair. I pass the kids standing on the curb outside the bars with their phones out, shivering in the fog and looking up and down the street for their discombobulated drivers to show up. Meanwhile, dozens of cabs stream by, their top lights burning bright.

At 16th, I decide to try Folsom Street again. Maybe I’ll find some action this time around. The night isn’t over with yet.

 

Originally appeared in the S.F. Examiner.

Photo by Trevor Johnson.