Tag Archives: uber drivers are scumbags

When I Was a Newbie

SFO-taxi-trails-christian-lewis-web

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]

Bring on the Self-Driving Ubers

nyc-taxi-graveyard-2

The news last week that Uber had unleashed a fleet of driverless vehicles in San Francisco — much like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s recent announcement that Uber and Lyft are causing most of The City’s traffic congestion — was met by the majority of taxi drivers with a resounding: “Uh doy!”

We’ve been seeing these vehicles, as well as others outfitted with antennas and various gadgets, for months. The other day, I drove past an 18-wheeler run by OTTO, a company recently acquired by Uber that’s developing autonomous big-rigs.

Uber’s official roll out last on December 14, however, didn’t go as planned. By that afternoon, someone had photographed one of their self-driving cars almost running into an intersection on Van Ness, and a Luxor cab recorded video of another one blowing through a red light in front of SFMOMA, narrowly missing a pedestrian.

In the media feeding frenzy that followed, Uber blamed the mishaps on human error. OK. But if they can’t train humans to obey traffic laws, what does that say about their ability to create driverless cars?

Personally, I’d much rather share the road with automated vehicles than the typical inexperienced, out-of-town drivers who disrupt the flow of traffic. If Uber’s hiccup of a launch last week proved anything, it’s that the problem really is — in their own words — “the other dude in the car.”

As anyone who has spent a significant amount of time driving in San Francisco can attest, most Uber drivers are totally unpredictable, usually confused and potentially unhinged psychopaths…

Read the rest of this column, including my experience with a crazy Uber driver here.

self-driving-uber-cars-leave-san-francisco

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out: Uber’s fleet of self-driving cars leave San Francisco… transported to Arizona, appropriately enough, on semi-autonomous semis.

This column generated some Facebook love:

uber-driver-outrage-newspaper-column

The Goons Come Out in the Rain

taxi-driver-scorsese-backseat-de-niro

This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about driving in the rain with the Keystone Kops on parade…

The rain brings out the madness normally only seen during natural disasters. After all, this is California, where even the faintest hint of precipitation threatens the already thin veil of civility. And once it really starts pouring … well, then all bets are off …

I’m driving westbound on North Point when an SUV pulls up alongside me, also going westbound. There’s an Uber symbol in the window. When the light turns green, I keep pace, curious when he’s going to realize he’s driving on the wrong side of the road. As we approach Larkin, another SUV is traveling eastbound. Also an Uber. The original SUV, oblivious that he’s doing anything out of the ordinary, even though there’s a vehicle heading straight toward him, maintains his trajectory until both SUVs stop, face to face, and try to determine who has the right of way…

Later, I’m heading north on Sixth Street when I encounter an accident in front of Monarch. A Prius nailed a Porsche. Based on the positions of the vehicles, it looks like one of the drivers made an illegal left onto Mission. The accident is bad enough the cops showed up. As I’m trying to get through the light, a Lyft driver is waiting in the intersection, left blinker flashing. Once the rain lets up for a moment, I pull into the taxi stand at The Palace for a smoke break. Before I get out, though, a woman comes out of the hotel and gets into the front seat of my cab.

“Do you know the bar Kells?”

“Sure.”

Judging by her accent, she’s Australian, which explains why she’s in the front seat.

On the way to North Beach, she tells me an Uber driver had groped her earlier.

“What?” I’m aghast. “Did you call the police?”

“Yes. And I emailed Uber and my lawyer,” she says. “That bastard is gonna regret messing with me.”

“Were you in the front seat?” I inquire.

Of course she was. She’s Australian. I feel like an asshole pointing out that most Americans don’t sit up front in taxis or Ubers. Because, in an ideal world, women should be able to sit wherever the fuck they want to in a car. But this is America. Trump’s America…

Around 2:30 a.m., I’m heading down Van Ness. At Mission, two guys flag me.

The first one opens the front door.

“It’s better in the back,” I say.

“He rides shotgun,” the other guy snarls. “That’s his thing.”

“We’re going to Golden Boy,” Mr. Shotgun tells me. He seems less drunk than his friend.

“Must be nice, getting paid to drive recklessly through The City,” the guy in back says.

“That’s pretty much my job description.” I make a hard right onto Pearl and rumble over the brick pavement to Market Street.

“You know where you’re going?” he slaps the back of my seat. “We need ’za!”

“Is Golden Boy even still open?” I check my phone at the light. “Nope.” Closed one minute ago.

They seem dumbfounded by this turn of events. I suggest Escape from New York on Polk Street. But they’re closed, too.

“What about the pizza places on Geary?”

No, they don’t want Geary pizza.

“Where’s home?” I ask.

The Presidio.

“So Pizza Orgasmica then?”

As we careen over the hills on Franklin, the guy in back applauds my driving and knowledge of pizza joints. I can almost sense what’s going to happen next.

When we reach Pizza Orgasmica, both guys start to exit the cab.

“Hey, you have to pay me for the ride,” I point out.

“What do you mean?” the guy in back asks. “This is Lyft.”

“Man, this is the furthest thing from Lyft.” I point at the meter, which reads $12.30.
“That’s some false representation,” he slurs. “You’re a real asshole, you know that?”
“So you don’t like me anymore?”

“I never liked you. Dan, fuck this guy. Don’t pay him.” He jeers at me. “Fuck you!”

“Fuck you too, dickhead.” I laugh some more. We’re just having fun. Locker room talk.

His eyes are enraged, like he’s about to get violent.

Dan gives me a ten and a five.

“Change back?” I ask.

“Yeah, change back, asshole,” the guy in back seethes.

Sure thing. Happy to serve. I hand Dan back three singles. Once they’re clear of my cab, I take off. In my rearview I see the guy flipping me off.

It’s stopped raining. For now, at least.

goons-come-out-in-rain

This column elicited some angry reader responses:

hate-mail-anti-trump02hate-mail-anti-trump01hate-mail-anti-trump04hate-mail-anti-trump03

What Makes a Cab Driver an Asshole?

flywheel-taxi-driver-san-francisco-cabbie

My column in the S.F. Examiner this week is about getting into a fight with an Uber driver in Union Square

The longer I drive a cab, the more I realize I need to be more of an asshole.

Like the night I drove this guy from Eleventh Street to his apartment in Pac Heights. He was friendly and we had a good time. In front of his beaux arts building, he tells me his life story. I listen patiently, $15.05 on the meter, thinking he’s going to give me a decent tip for being an impromptu therapist. But after half an hour of jabbering on, he opens the door, says goodbye and walks away.

“Hey!” I yell after him. “Aren’t you going to pay me?”

“Nope. Sorry.”

What was I supposed to do? Run after him and tackle him to the ground? Call 9-1-1 and wait for the cops to show up and point to the door where he entered? Lotta good that would do me…

Or what about the bartender at Raven who flagged me down and deposited an intoxicated woman in the back of my cab, assured me she wouldn’t throw up and told me her address. Mindful of my last experience with a puker, I demanded payment up front. They gave me $20. But when I pulled up to her place in the Mission, she passed out cold. I couldn’t wake her up. When I threatened to take her to the police station around the corner, she came to long enough so I could get her on her feet, but then the problem got worse. I had to somehow get her up two flights of stairs as she leaned against the building and passed out again.

Fortunately, her neighbor, or someone who claimed to be her neighbor, showed up and rescued me, but I still wasted 45 minutes of prime time driving dealing with this drunk girl…

Or the guy who approached my cab with a bottle of beer and I told him not to throw it out because it’s legal to drink in the back of a cab, but not on the street. After his debit card was declined, he told me he was going to run up to his apartment to get cash and had me hold onto his bank card. Ten minutes later, I realized he wasn’t coming back and that the card probably didn’t even belong to him…

I could go on and on listing the indignities that I’ve suffered as a cab driver and why I might have a sour disposition about it all…

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.45.27 AM

Anyway, read the column here.

bar_bearings-i-drive-sf

Photo by Trevor Johnson.