Category Archives: Uber Driver Realities

When I Was a Newbie


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]

From the Utne Reader: “To Uber or Not to Uber”

I had a subscription to the Utne Reader all through college. So it was an honor to have my story, “To Uber or Not to Uber” (from the second Behind the Wheel zine), reprinted in the pages of the Winter 2015 issue of the Utne Reader


Read the printed version online.

The Uber Employee Lawsuit Settlement and Its Consequences


On Thursday, April 21, 2016, Uber settled the lawsuit brought against them by San Francisco resident and former Uber driver Douglas O’Connor, among other plaintiffs. 

The next day, I was asked what this settlement means for the taxi industry. It was hard to see anything truly positive for taxi drivers or Uber drivers. 

This settlement ultimately validates Uber in San Francisco. It will allow them to grow and dominate the vehicle for hire landscape without restraint.

If last weekend was any indication, we are going to see a slew of new drivers entering the market, which means more congestion, more clusterfucks and less work for everyone.

Since most of those new drivers are subsidized, getting guarantees or working towards Lyft’s $750 payoff for doing 100 rides, they are only making things worse for all experienced drivers on the road, cab drivers and Uber drivers.

The drivers who brought this suit against Uber were were very short-sighted. They weren’t looking at the bigger picture at all. Sure, now they are able to awkwardly solicit tips, some more creatively than others, the true regulations needed are limits on the number of available cars on the road and less dynamic pricing.

As long as Uber has a free pass to fill the streets with thousands of cars driven by untrained drivers and the ability to undercut taxi rates by half, the taxi industry will continue to whither and cab drivers and Uber/Lyft drivers will both make less and less money.

Despite what O’Connor and the other Uber drivers behind this lawsuit might think, this settlement doesn’t give them more power, just the opportunity to negotiate with a company that has proven, time and again, they don’t like to compromise.

So… yeah… good luck with that.


Photo by Trevor Johnson.

Behind the Wheel 2: Notes from an Uber/Lyft Zine at LA Zine Fest


Behind the Wheel 2: Notes from an Uber/Lyft represented at the LA Zine Fest, along with Disrupt the Disrupters stickers. Get a copy here.

Thanks to Sarah Bitely of Pimpkillah for representing Piltdownlad:


Uber to disgruntled drivers: “Be cool and don’t disrupt the neighborhood”


A bunch of Uber drivers protested Uber’s latest price cuts by driving around town blowing their horns and making a ruckus in front of Uber’s drivers’ headquarters at 301 Vermont. Uber wasn’t impressed. In fact, they had signs made to encourage driver to be be cool and respect their neighbors.

Will they be able to organize a bunch of scabs to shut down the highways and make an impression of Super Bowl 50? Or will most drivers seize the opportunity to chase the inevitable surge?

Scabs are scabs, after all.


On the Uber Driver Super Bowl Protest


Market Street has been renamed Dick Drive for Super Bowl 50

On KPFA 94.1 this morning, I discussed the upcoming Uber protest scheduled during the Super Bowl. There’s a lot of speculation on how this organized action will play out–since the scab mentality is a major part of Uber’s rise–but one this is for certain: it will get people’s attention.

Listen to the archived show here. The Uber protest segment begins 8 minutes into the show.



White Privilege and the Rise of Uber and Lyft


From my latest jeremiad:

The Children are Running the Nursery

Only a person with boundless privilege would expect their own personal driver to come to their exact location (however erratically), and wait there for an indeterminate time, regardless of how much it may inconvenience the driver or other drivers on the road, since they’re most likely double-parked, until the whim strikes him or her to mosey on down and get into the vehicle they requested.

Only a spoiled brat who’s had mommy and daddy wiping their asses their entire lives would lord a draconian rating system, that’s completely arbitrary, over another human being, like a manacle around their neck, to make sure their needs are properly serviced in a timely fashion, and in a way that fully pleases them… otherwise, it’s one less star.

Only someone with absolutely no sense of personal responsibility would pay someone to resolve their problems at highest standards, but at the lowest cost possible, and not even once consider the possibility the deal they’re getting is negatively impacting the one performing said task.

And yet, these are the new city-dwellers who’ve taken over San Francisco…

Read the entire article…