Today’s guest post comes from Kelsey Myers, a rideshare driver who funded a year-long roadtrip by driving for her favorite rideshare company, Lyft.
Three years ago, I left my digital marketing job at Nike to take a yearlong road trip around the country, funded by driving for Lyft in each of the cities I stopped in.
I considered driving for Lyft as just a way of paying for my expenses as I went, but I was surprised to find out how much I loved doing it. There’s something to the idea of never knowing who you’re going to pick up, and I always came back 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.
My first stop was in San Francisco, where I drove a CEO who told me that he had tried driving for Lyft just so he could meet people, but his application was turned down because his luxury convertible was only a two-door.
It’s true that I never felt like I was alone on my trip, because when I wasn’t visiting old friends, I was 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 wanted to drive for Lyft forever, but for that year, it was exactly what I needed to get to my next chapter, and it made life interesting. I kept a travel blog (followkelsey.com if you’d like to read more!) and sometimes the people I drove would ask if I planned to write about them.
Truthfully, there were way too many stories to include all of them, and many were more of the “you had to be there to think it was funny” type. With that said, here are the top three that come to mind:
1. The Quitter
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.
2. Heartbreak on the Highway
On three 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.
3. The Smooth Operator
Once I drove two 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 was an urban farmer close to downtown Phoenix. He invited me to stop by the farm, so 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. I noticed that he had a handful of cute girls volunteering for him, and at the end of the day, I asked him how he recruited people to help. He motioned for me to follow him, away from the other volunteers and revealed his secret: Tinder. “B*tches love vegetables,” he explained.
Now that I’m back from my trip, I’m writing a book about my adventure and the major lessons I learned, supported with stories from the people I drove. I could use your help to get the book published – Please visit my Kickstarter page to pledge, or share my story with a friend! http://kck.st/2IL13yO