Tag Archives: uber

When I Was a Newbie

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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]

The Poor Man’s Taxi Driver

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Do taxis only serve the rich?

Are Uber and Left really accessible to all?

That’s what my passenger in this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner argues…

“Honestly,” I tell him. “I’d rather deal with more than just one demographic of The City. Uber and Lyft only provide transportation for certain members of society, excluding the poor, elderly and disabled.”

“What are you talking about?” he exclaims. “Taxis are way more expensive than Uber! And if you use the ‘Pool’ option, it’s even cheaper.”

After making a bizarre argument that people who don’t own smartphones can save money on rides to the airport by acquiring a burner at Walgreens, he tells me, “Part of what I love about Uber and Lyft is that they’re affordable to everyone and not just the wealthy. Ask around. Most people could never dream of riding in a taxi regularly. Now, they’re riding in cars — nice cars, too — from their doorstep to work for only 3 to 5 bucks a pop.”

As he continues making privileged judgments about how poor people should behave, I bite my tongue. This guy has no clue what it’s like to be poor. And just because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development makes some announcement that Bay Area households earning six figures are now considered lower-class, that doesn’t mean the spoiled brats who find public transportation beneath them are actually broke. For most working-class folks, taking a cab is a luxury, not a right.

The more I think about his nonsensical ideas, the more my head feels like it’s going to explode. There’s just not enough time left in the universe to explain all the many ways his viewpoint is wrong and fucked up.

Read the rest here.

Behind the Wheel 3 Reviewed in Razorcake Magazine

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Behind the Wheel 3 was reviewed in the latest issue of Razorcake magazine. The reviewer particularly liked the Late Night Larry bits.

You can listen to Larry read one of the stories here.

Read the full review on Razorcake’s website.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Uber

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An op-ed about the latest #DeleteUber trend. From Broke-Ass Stuart’s Goddamn Website.

Ahhh… there’s nothing like waking up to a good Boycott Uber movement. The joy of seeing their louche brand dragged through the mud is always exhilarating. But it’s fleeting. Because the latest #DeleteUber trend, like every other wave of public outrage directed at the company in the past, will eventually fizzle away and be forgotten.

So what if Uber CEO Travis Kalanick agreed to join a Trump advisory group… So what if Kalanick defended this position by stating that they would “partner with anyone in the world,” even if – apparently – their policies threaten global stability… So what if Uber crossed picket lines during a protest of Trump’s Muslim ban at JFK airport… So what if they deactivated surge pricing and – sort of – said they were sorry…

That’s some fucked-up shit. But they’ve been doing fucked-up shit from day one.

Read the rest here.

[image via]

The Goons Come Out in the Rain

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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.

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This column elicited some angry reader responses:

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The Many Potholes on the Road to Self-Driving Cars

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“You know it’s a good ride,” Juneaux texts me after letting me know he’d gotten a ride to  Palo Alto, “when you’re using cruise control on the way back The City. 

Just as I’m about to respond with “You lucky bastard,” I get flagged by two guys on the corner of Post and Powell.

“Do you know of any strip clubs open this late?” one asks. 

Five minutes later and $50 richer, I drive away from New Century, thinking about the different services we offer as taxi drivers and how difficult it would be to replace the taxi experience with self-driving cars.

Take the four women I picked up earlier that day outside Magnolia on Haight for example. They’re going to the Marriott Maquis. 

“But first we need to see the painted ladies. Is that alright?”

That’s more than alright. A $15 fare turned into a $25 fare, since I obviously had to show them other Victorians in the neighborhood. 

How can you get service like that from a self-driving car? 

Read the rest here.

 

Self-Driving Uber Car on the Streets of San Francisco

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Spotted on Harrison between 7th and 8th, one of Uber’s self-driving cars. Notice the Pennsylvania plates. There were two people up front and two in the back. When the light turned green, the other cars took off, while the self-driving car didn’t seem to move. 

A fleet of Uber’s self-driving cars were released onto the streets of Pittsburgh last week with limited autonomous features. A driver is always in the front seat with his hands on the wheel as a technician sits shotgun. After watching multiple videos from tech sites and news sources, I can’t say I was impressed. 

After all, there’s only so much a driverless car can do: