Driving for Dollars

Since I left my job, it seemed like an easy option to start driving for Uber and Lyft. It’s a great way to make money on the side, or like some people, turn into a full time job. I quickly learned my tolerances, and things I just wouldn’t do. I can happily drive for about 3 or 4 hours, until I’m bored, my butt hurts, and I’m sick of the same conversation over and over with passengers. I’m not enough of a night owl to drive the bar scene, even though there’s typically big money to be earned around 2 AM. Plus, I don’t want drunk people puking in my beloved car. So that limits my hours a bit. I tend to drive from about 3 or 4 in the afternoon until 6 or 7, depending on traffic and weather.

I started driving right around Christmas, and it was busy! People visiting town, people heading to the airport, Christmas shopping, all on top of the typical rush hour locals. It was a great month to learn about driving.

December and January also gave us winter storm after winter storm. Massive ice storms, and a snow storm that dumped more than 10 inches of snow on a city that has a panic attack over a single snowflake. I didn’t drive in the ice, I’m not stupid, but that snow storm was epic.

The snow started falling around 3 in the afternoon, and we had no idea it was going to be such an avalanche. Around 9 at night, we looked outside and realized how crazy it was out there. Cars were buried, and there wasn’t any traffic on the busy road at the corner. I flipped on the Uber and Lyft apps, and the surge rates were insane! (Surge rates are when there are more passengers than drivers, so rates go up to entice more drivers. Typical rush hour surge rates may be 1.5-2x the normal rate.) I saw surge rates well over 5x! so I would get 5 dollars for every dollar of normal fare. Around 10 pm, Dave and Sadie walked me down to my car, which I’d parked off our steep hill, and helped me clear the snow so I could go driving.

I only had, I think, 3 fares that night, but they were whoppers. I picked up my first pax (passenger) on 82nd street, and drove him downtown (about 90 blocks). That ride earned me $60! Typically that would have cost about $15. The roads were completely unplowed, and for the most part, there weren’t even tracks from previous drivers. My car, a Lexus SUV, has a “snow mode” as well as really fantastic traction control. I had no problem whatsoever driving in snow. My final ride of that night was a guy who had worked late (until 11pm in a snowstorm!?), and lived about 10 south of downtown. He lived up on a hill, and once we got into his neighborhood, my car actually did start to struggle. His neighborhood looked like it’d gotten about 15 inches of the white stuff, and he had me stop at the bottom of his cul-de-sac, worrying that I wouldn’t be able to turn around and leave. He had to push aside snow to get the car door open, and trudged in deep snow up the hill to his house.

The whole next week, while the snow stuck around, I drove like mad, bringing in great fares and substantial tips. It was a blast. People were always thrilled to see a larger car come pick them up, instead of a tiny sub-compact that wouldn’t be able to deal with the roads. I had a ton of fun, met fun people, and drove all over town.

A few fun pax I’ve had since I started driving:

I picked up a woman at a titty bar in a weird neighborhood. She was, in fact, a dancer getting off her shift at 2 in the afternoon. A bouncer walked her out to my car, saying, “Alright Peaches, have a good night.” I drove a stripper named Peaches home to Vancouver.

Speaking of stripping, right around Christmas, I drove a family around downtown. They were two adult sons, an adult daughter, and an elderly father. They had all been at one of the infamous strip joints downtown. I cannot fathom first going to a bar like that, say nothing of going with siblings and my parents!

The week after the big snow fell, I was way out in one of the outer suburbs (Gresham), and picked up a man who needed to go all the way into downtown, quite a long drive. He was a physical therapist at acute rehab facilities, and work had given him a large allowance to use on rideshares to ensure he would make it to work. Since he didn’t car, and it wasn’t his money in the first place, he gave me a whopper of a tip!

On New Year’s eve, I picked up two women heading to a party. They were already tipsy and were stoned as well. They were hilarious and we had highly entertaining conversations the whole way. One of the women had chronic pain symptoms similar to mine, so we talked meds and pain stuff for part of the ride. At the end of the ride, one of them said to me, “I don’t have any cash to tip you, but do you want a hit of my bowl?” Thanks but….no thanks!

Generally though, the pax sit quietly and don’t talk to me. When they do, we seem to have the same conversation every time. What do I think of driving for uber? Your car is nice, they’re not charging me extra, right? What did you do before you did this? I had a couple last week that sang along to all of the songs that were playing, the whole way. I tried to quietly join in, but I’m notoriously terrible with song lyrics.

People often ask about the difference between Uber and Lyft, and which I prefer. The answer is always Lyft. The Lyft app has an opportunity to add a tip, while Uber doesn’t. I don’t get tips often, but I like that there’s an opportunity for it. Lyft passengers actually seem to be more interesting, more conversational, more fun in general. And I’ve heard that the driver support for Lyft is a million times better than for Uber. Plus there’s all the news lately about how sexist Uber corporate is, their sexual harassment issues, and the ball of crazy that is the CEO. If I could, I’d only drive for Lyft, but I can’t get enough fares to do that. I’m hoping that eventually it’ll be possible.

 

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