When I started my road trip, I considered driving for Lyft as a way of paying for my expenses as I go, but I've been surprised to find out how much I love doing it. There's something to the idea of never knowing who I'm going to pick up, and I always come home with funny stories. Maybe it's that as the world becomes more and more connected and social, people feel lonelier than ever as they hide behind their smartphone and replace real social interactions with Snapchats, tweets, and posts. When I was in San Francisco, I met a CEO who told me that he had tried driving for Lyft just so he could meet people, but couldn’t because his convertible is a two-door. It's true that I haven't ever felt like I'm alone on this trip, because when I'm not visiting old friends, I'm making new ones within the 20 minutes or so we spend talking about life in my car.
The ride-sharing [and house-sharing, pet-sharing, service-sharing, etc.] industry gets a lot of press for how they're shifting the economy, but I've also noticed that it's changing human behavior in how we treat each other. Before, service felt very one-sided, allowing people to adopt the mindset that the customer is always right, end of story. I personally think that ethos brings out the ugly, self-centered side in otherwise good people. It's like we were all okay with pretending like our waitresses don't have feelings, or that your hotel room just cleaned itself, and any interest in your taxi driver’s day just didn't exist.
What's changing is that now both sides are held accountable for their behavior, as both the service-provider and the consumer can rate their experiences. We're also realizing that the person providing service isn't that different from ourselves, like Lyft drivers who do it for a temporary source of income as they work towards their bigger picture. The beauty in it is having the freedom to wait for the job you really care about rather than settling for the first one to come along so that the bills get paid. At the same time, the wall between the service provider and service receiver is going away as we realize the customer isn't better, or more entitled, or superior, and both parties can interact on an equal plane, human-to-human.
I really admire Lyft as a company because they’re a perfect example of the shift. Sometimes I’ll ask people what the difference is between Lyft and Uber, and the general consensus is that Lyft feels like friends driving friends while Uber feels like a corporation made of former taxi drivers [nothing against taxi drivers, but that culture supports the wall of separation.] It's not that I want to drive for Lyft forever, but for right now, it's exactly what I need to get me to my next chapter, and it makes life interesting. Sometimes the people I drive will ask if I’m going to blog about them, but truthfully, there’s way too many stories to include here, and a lot of them are more of the ‘you had to be there to think it was funny’ type. With that said, here are the top 3 that come to mind:
- One time, I picked up a guy who came speed-walking out of his office building with a rolling suitcase in tow. As soon as he ducked into the car, he hurriedly told me to ‘go, go, go’ like we were starting a high-speed chase. Once we were on the freeway, he explained that he had cut out of work early to spend the long weekend skiing with his buddies. I asked him if he was hoping his boss would just think he was in the bathroom for the entire afternoon, and he told me that, pending some logistics that he would find out that weekend, he was planning on quitting his job on Monday to dedicate himself full-time to his start-up. I told him that I was a quitter too, and we agreed that we belong to the quit-your-job generation. Part of what makes these scenarios so unique is hearing a person's life story in about 20 minutes and then never seeing them again, so I still wonder if he quit his job as planned, or if his boss fired him on Monday instead. If that were the case, maybe it's the best thing that could happen to him.
- On 3 separate occasions, I’ve driven a guy who had just broken up with his boyfriend. In situations like that, I love to pretend to be an expert at relationships, so I tell them what I’ve learned about breakups: that the hardest part is right before and right after the breakup and then it gets better, because eventually you realize that if you were able to get to that ugly place, the relationship probably wasn’t right to begin with. Whether you’re the one doing the breaking up or you’re being broken up with, it really sucks, but it always gets better and you walk away a little wiser.
- Last week, I drove 2 couples to a hockey game on the other side of town. We had lots of time to chat, and I learned that one of the guys is an urban farmer close to downtown Phoenix. He invited me to stop by the farm, so today I took a little field trip to St Vincent de Paul, where Tony teaches groups of volunteers to grow food to give to the homeless. He put me to work alongside the volunteers harvesting kale and peppers, and I learned lots about where the food I eat comes from. You can too by checking out growkale.com, or by following him on Instagram @tonygrowsfood.