My Kind of Passenger

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It was one of those nights, when you’re out late, chasing ghosts all over The City, even though the streets are as empty as the backseat of your cab, and there’s nothing left to do but follow the faint glow of your headlights and hope for the best, despite knowing you should just head to the yard, pay your gate and call it a night, because at 3:30 a.m., if your luck hasn’t changed for the better, it probably never will…

After one last circle through Union Square, I take Mason down to Market. Waiting for the light at Fifth Street, two Yellow cabs blow past me, toplights blazing. I hit my turn indicator. At least Soma is one neighborhood closer to the Bayview.

Like an apparition, she appears from behind a plume of steam billowing from the grates in the middle of the street. She walks straight towards me.

“You available?” she asks through the half-cracked window.

“Yeah.” I quickly unlock the doors.

“I was going to call an Uber,” she says, once inside. “But… you probably don’t want to hear about that.”

“Where you heading?”

“Redwood City. I’ll have the address for you in a second.”

I hit the meter and head towards the freeway. Guess I was wrong about that whole luck thing.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

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The First Three Issues of Behind the Wheel

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Ladies and gentlemen!

Here’s an offer that can’t beat!

The first three issues of Behind the Wheel together for $15 postpaid!

That’s 3 zines, 5 bucks each, and free shipping.

ORDER HERE

With over 180 illustrated pages of misadventures, discoveries and altercations, you can experience the harrowing and raucous trajectory of a confused yet weary Lyft driver turned disgruntled Uber driver then freewheeling taxi driver working the streets of San Francisco.

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Plus, stickers!!!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – ORDER NOW – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Need more convincing?

This is what people have written about Behind the Wheel:

behind-the-wheel-three-issuesBehind the Wheel #1 was reviewed favorably in Razorcake Magazine:

Clocking in at fifty-six pages of pure text, Dessaint’s accounts offer a unique perspective to these rideshares that many people forget: the driver’s point of view. I found myself worried that overly drunk riders would vomit in his car; I cringed when a couple used his backseat as their own personal makeout haven; and I clenched my teeth while reading the conversations between tech bros and conservative republicans. I commend Dessaint for his ability to navigate the waters, as these situations all seemed like torture to me. Above all, Dessaint is inarguably enamored with the idea of San Francisco: the art, the culture, the history. Yet, his experiences tell tales more of frustration with what the city has become in recent years, rather than the happiness of being in the city he’s always loved. He and his wife live in nearby Oakland, as they cannot afford to live within San Francisco due to the influx of tech workers raising rent prices. The fact that his dream city is still a bridge away is a source of bitterness for Dessaint. I’ll drive myself around, thank you. –Ashley Ravelo

btw1-dark-difficult-guss-dolanreview of the first two issues by V. Vale: 

If our future looks like San Francisco, what with its impossibly sky-high rents, employment at Google/Twitter et al for the 1%, and the rest of the population grimly hanging on to “real” jobs or trying out the “freelancer economy” working for Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Airbnb and other “disruptive” start-ups… one thing is certain: “real” workers are gonna get royally screwed. It’s almost as if the 20th-century advances of labor unions, more economic justice, widespread health care, are already becoming a dimly-remembered mirage […] We wondered, “If Jack London or George Orwell were alive today, what would they think of the recent headline “Being Ubered: The Unstoppable Rise of the Freelance Economy”? UNSTOPPABLE? Don’t we still have a government with a SPINE?!? Government is our only defense against the rise of the New Economy Wreckers/Law-Breakers of Civilization. We say (again): spending money is a political act. […] Send writer/publisher Kelly Dessaint cash, money order or trade for these 2 brimful-of-“truth” publications.

zine-rack-city-lights-taxi-behind-wheelRazorcake also had some nice things to say about Behind the Wheel #3: 

In this third volume of Behind the Wheel, our author/driver has gone from Uber, to Lyft, to now taxi driver. This series is an inside look at what it’s like to be a Bay Area driver. We meet passengers seeking drugs, sex—and more often than not inebriated—and mistaking the poor taxi driver as a Lyft or Uber. I especially loved the guest stories from “Late Night Larry” because they involved either passengers who puked and had to pay up (a hundred dollar fee!) or wanted to have sex in his car, to which he seemed okay with either? The life of a cab driver doesn’t seem like something I’m brave enough to take on, but I certainly appreciate those who can do it, and the craziness that they encounter every day! –Tricia Ramos

bound_togetherA positive review of Behind the Wheel #3 appeared in Broken Pencil magazine: 

Dessaint loves his city of San Fran but he’s seen it with its makeup off. He’s lost count how many times a young girl has gotten into his cab and passed out because she’d been roofied. Part of his vocation is keeping those young women safe. The taxi industry often runs hand in hand with passengers who use intoxicants, sex workers, and people coming back from good (and bad) dates. Watching Dessaint navigate these worlds while keeping his personal code makes for very entertaining reading.

zine-rack-thrillhouse-records-punk-diy-taxiAs with any vocation, Dessaint recognizes that his career does not exist in a vacuum. He comes from a long line of cabbies whom he respects and admires. Every Sunday he goes to the cabbie BBQ in the junkyard by the cab station. He hears and tells stories, gathers advice and shoots the shit. Throughout the zine he splices in stories told by a veteran cabbie, Late Night Larry. They are some of the funniest tales in the zine. Dessaint writes strong narratives and convincing arguments against Uber/Lyft. As a result, I’m now done with Uber and I hope to be lucky enough to ride in Dessaint’s cab one day. (dustan j. hlady)

btw2-zine-lyft-uber-san-franciscoMore praise for Behind the Wheel #1: 

I read this zine in one sitting, but don’t let that fool you; this is a text heavy zine. The zine has over 50 pages of Kelly’s experiences as a Lyft driver. As Kelly tells us stories about the people he meets, you also learn more about him as a person. I like how he handles his shit. He seems like a cool and nice guy. I appreciate like how neat and clean the zine is made, as I can’t stand sloppy zines.

Even more:

needles-and-pens-zines-idrivesf-01In most of Kelly’s other zines he is what is changing; in Behind the Wheel, San Francisco is what is changing. Kelly moves from LA to the Bay area and quickly finds that the SF he knew has disappeared. He begins working for Lyft, a social media ride sharing business. He documents his life as a modern day cab driver and those he shuttles around the city he can’t afford to live in. Tech companies are one of the reasons SF has changed and yet Lyft is one of those companies. Kelly recognizes the inherent conflict and the potential for being part of the problem. This zine very much captures a time and place and shows changes technology and social media have created.

my-other-car-is-a-taxicab-stickerAnd more

I love insider information! Like, anything that starts with “Confessions of…” I’m probably going to read. Behind the Wheel is a taxi-cab confessional of sorts, from the driver’s perspective. Kelly goes behind the pink mustache and shares the highlights and woes of being a Lyft driver. Whether he’s talking about how he learned the streets of San Francisco instead of relying on GPS, or griping about the stench of alcohol and cigarettes some passengers leave wafting through his car, Kelly’s laid-back style is engaging and readable. Best of all, he recounts passengers’ thoughts about the influx of “brogrammers” and other techy people into San Francisco. This makes Behind the Wheel a slice-of-life snapshot at the height of Tech Boom 2.0. Plus, he weaves in stories about his own life, letting us get to know our narrator better. When his soundtrack (like Bad Brains and Iggy Pop) plays in your head, it helps to beat down that dread you feel when he gets pulled over. At 54 pages, this zine is rich in detail and well-worth reading. Let Kelly give you a Lyft!

Alright, I’m done. Just buy the damn zines already!

And if you don’t do the online thing, you can find them at most bookstores around San Francisco and the East Bay. (If you couldn’t already tell from the photos.)

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The Man Behind the Madness

 

This week’s column is about one of the unsung heroes, and soon to be casualties, of the taxi industry: the window man.

On Saturday morning, I turn in my cab around 7 a.m. Before making the long trek to the 24th Street BART station, I hang around the National office, chatting with Jesse about the corner market he recently bought on Silver and Cambridge. While it wasn’t in the greatest shape when he took over, with the help of his sons, they’ve cleaned the place up, started carrying fresh produce, stocking craft beer and reopened the deli. Business is booming.

“So … how much longer are you gonna stick around this dump?”

Read the rest here.

Your Uber Driver Hates You

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Back in August 2014, I wrote an inflammatory blogpost entitled “Your Uber Driver Hates You” covering the news that Uber drivers rated their passengers and most users had shitty ratings. Which helped explain why some folks would have a hard time getting picked up.

I followed that post up with a whimsical listicle on Buzzfeed called “Ten Reasons Why Your Uber Driver Hates You,” using various gifs to create – what I thought – was an amusing guide for Uber passengers on how to improve their ratings.

It got a shit ton of traffic, and loads of comments. But for some reason, when I visited the page today, there are no comments. Maybe it’s just a glitch or something, but the thing got some visitors.

This is the first six days:

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The rest of the month:

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While I’m sure those numbers don’t mean much to the big sites that generate 100s of thousands of page views per day, it’s not bad for someone with just an idea and an internet connection.

But I am pissed off about one thing…

Even though I was the first blogger to use the term “your Uber driver hates you,” numerous articles have come out since August 2014 on higher trafficked sites using the exact same title and basically pushed me down in the search ratings.

Not surprising, of course, since this is how media works. Those who toil independently, whether online or in print, will always get painted over by the broad strokes of the mainstream media.

Anyway, the reason I’ve been rummaging through all these old posts is because I started a new site to collect images from the “your uber driver hates you” sticker campaign.

You can check out the early stages here:

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Get Sticky!

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I’ve been handing out these stickers for the past few months and asking folks to snap pictures of where they post them. Besides posting on Twitter, I’m now collecting those photos on a new blog called your uber driver hates you.

You can get your own stickers here.

Stranger than Fiction

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This week’s I Drive S.F. column for the S.F. Examiner is about the other side of San Francisco, the one you don’t see from an Uber/Lyft – the taxi side of The City … 

“Since they’re spoon-fed ride requests, Uber/Lyft drivers don’t have to troll the streets of the Tenderloin at 1 a.m. looking for junkies running late meet up with their dealers before they turn into pumpkins … 

“During my eleven months driving for Uber and Lyft, most of what I documented were studies in vapid entitlement, the occasional comedy of errors due to a technical glitch and jeremiads about the exploitative nature of the business model.

“Once in a taxi, though, things went into overdrive and I charged headlong into the unknown, fueled by a guileless enthusiasm tinged with fear and a thrash metal soundtrack. Each shift came with a variety of misadventures, discoveries and altercations. All I had to do was write it down.

“Although only some of the stories made it into the column, as many encounters weren’t – and still aren’t – suitable for the general reading public. The really wild rides are reserved for the zines, where I have more freedom to describe the sordid and ribald aspects of driving a taxi in San Francisco. But I still have to be careful what’s divulged, to not risk losing my A-card …” 

Read the whole thing here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]