Category Archives: UpLyfting Thoughts

Home Is Where The Heart Is ► UberLyfting Thoughts

I didn’t recognize the address of the homeless shelter right away, but I should have. I’ve actually picked up several other people there in the year I’ve been UberLyfting.

It’s one of those oddities of modern life that some homeless people have both cellphones and UberLyft accounts. This wasn’t the first homeless person from this place I’ve transported. One went to his mother’s place way up in Boca Raton. Another just went to Dania Beach to spend the day with friends. Both were men and, I want to emphasize, neither were a problem.

It was 6:05 in the morning when the order came in. There were several other people around because these folks are disgorged back onto the streets at 6AM, when the shelter closes. My fare had a woman’s name, which is no guarantee it would be a woman; some people use other people’s accounts. Then I saw her on the sidewalk, huddled in a blanket, with a duffle bag and a small luggage hand cart that had several bags attached. Because of all that stuff, the long handle could not be lowered and it had to go into the trunk sideways, on its back, with the rest of her stuff.

I need to describe Sally Ann [not her real name, but one that’s appropriate]. She was magazine cover stunning; my idea of beauty personified. I have always been attracted to women who look just like her. Furthermore, she was a wonderful example of it. She was not disheveled in any way. Her hair was brushed. She wore a slight amount of makeup. Her clothes were clean; baggy sweatpants, with a layered sweatshirt and hoodie combo. I’ve always liked funky gals, as opposed to prissy ones, so her dressing down only added to the overall effect. She was simply gorgeous.

All this only made her story sadder, but it shouldn’t have.

She clearly wanted to talk and was a self-starter. I merely asked a few questions, to keep the conversation going. In the 15 minutes we were together, I learned this much of her life:

She was frustrated when she got in the Grey Ghost because the shelter in which she spent the night evicts people while it’s still dark out. She feels they should wait until it’s light. I was taking her to another homeless shelter where she can get some breakfast. “Why can’t they all serve breakfast?” she wonders.

Sally Ann can barely believe she ended up homeless. It still seems like a dream she can’t wake up from. She had a college degree and a well-paying job. Divorced, she raised 2 daughters alone and put them both through university. One has a Masters; the other a PhD. Neither will give her the time of day or lift a finger to help her.

Opioids ruined her life.

She started the same way that so many addicts start: A tumble down some stairs and a doctor who over-prescribed meds for the chronic pain. She could only afford a few weeks of physiotherapy, so the pain continued, masked by the drugs. Then, before she knew it, the drugs were in control. “Bip, Bop, Boop! It all happened so fast,” she said.

She admitted that she made many mistakes with her daughters while still addicted. She lied to them. She stole from them. While she’s been clean for 8 months, her daughters still refuse to help her.

“Over the years I paid a small fortune to educate them. Charter Schools. University. I sacrificed everything so they could have better than me growing up.”

She lost her job before she lost her addiction. However, once she cleaned up, Sally Ann was convinced all her bad luck was behind her. She was working, although waiting on tables paid far less than her previous [undescribed] job. But the bills were getting paid, even if there was nothing left for frills.

Then a cascade of events (some of which may have been women’s health issues, deduced by the way she skipped over it, as if embarrassed) put her farther and farther behind. The bad knocks wouldn’t stop. A small kitchen repair after the sink overflowed. Unexpected car repairs. The A/C crapped out in the house. just one after another. “Bip, Bop, Boop!” she said again.

So many people are just a paycheque or two away from the same fate. Sally Ann said she had a 5 week cushion when the bad dominoes starting falling against each other. She couldn’t stop them. She started having to push one bill off against another. Then her creditors ran out of patience. Suddenly her house was in foreclosure. Then she was living in her car. Then the car was repossessed. “Bip, Bop, Boop!”

By that time we had arrived at our destination. Her story — and her beauty — got to me. A part of me wanted to say, “I have a spare room. Can you cook?” But I kept it totally professional.

The breakfast shelter didn’t open until 7, so there were a lot of scruffy men milling around. That made me nervous for her. “You going to be okay here by yourself?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah. I know all these people. These are my friends.”

As I wrestled her stuff out of the trunk, my next fare was flashed to me by the UberLyfting Machine. I wished Sally Ann GOOD LUCK and zipped off.

It was hard to get her off my mind. I couldn’t get over the fact that she looked nothing like what I expect a homeless woman to look like. She was difficult to shake.

A couple of hours later I got an UberLyftee going to the Miami airport. As I popped the trunk to toss their luggage inside, there was Sally’s blanket. We had both missed it in the dark.

It was a big, thick sports blanket. It wasn’t a cheap blanket when it was originally acquired.  By whom? When?

Pops would have loved this blanket, he was such a Michigan fan. Was Sally Ann from Michigan? Could we know some of the same people? Or, did she just pick up the blanket somewhere in her travels?

I let myself have a good cry driving back from Miami. I’ve been close to homeless myself and was now ashamed that I had her blanket. I’m sure having it was very important to her, judging by the way she had it wrapped around her when we first met.

I drove straight back to the shelter, but now it was about 4 hours later. All I had was her first name and made a total fool of myself describing Sally Ann to several people there. No one admitted to knowing her, including the staff. They may have been trying to protect her from a weird man who showed up asking questions. I know I would have.

In the end I gave the blanket to Marley and $250 in cash to the Salvation Army. Maybe they can use it to serve breakfast.

A Name Change To UberLyfting Thoughts

UpLyfting Thoughts is now UberLyfting Thoughts and here’s the reason why:

My last UpLyfting Thought (#8 in a series) was all the way back in November. I thought it might be my last one, which is why it was called “Last Lyfting Log?” I won’t repeat any of that, but here’s the next chapter:

Three days after Lyft suspended me I signed up to Uber. 

After 2 weeks, when I still had not heard back from Lyft, I sent an email early in the morning. Immediately, I received a reply which said I had been reinstated. It was dated 2 weeks earlier. It HAD to be triggered to be sent by my email because it arrived in my inbox in the blink of an eye, in less time than it would have taken to open it and read the 1st paragraph.

I stated this to Lyft in a subsequent angry email and they actually disputed that. They claimed they sent it 2 weeks earlier.

At that point I gave up, which is uncharacteristic of me. Maybe I’m growing up.

I could have proven it with the internal date stamps attached to the email, but I had already lost 2 weeks of driving. Any more time spent on this was just eating into my bottom line. Besides, I wasn’t sure how hard I wanted to bite the hand that partially feeds me.

Since then I’ve been driving both Uber and Lyft. I should have done this from the beginning. I’m making more money. While Uber is busier than Lyft, Lyft always seems to be there to pick up the slack when Uber slows down.

I’ll be writing more about the differences as time goes on.

I’ve not stopped collecting vanity plates. I have so many I can easily string that into a series of it’s own, but I won’t. Here’s a selected few:


While I still have dozens to list, I’ll have to save them for another day because I need to service 2 13-year legacy clients. However, I’ll leave you with the best vanity plate I’ve seen so far. How do you think this got approved?



Last Lyfting Log? ► UpLyfting Thoughts #8

I was very proud to be a Lyft Driver, but I may not be one any more.

When I decided earlier this year to become a Ride Share driver, I investigated both Lyft and Uber using Der Googalizer. While doing so I kept coming up with negative reports about Uber and nothing but positives about Lyft.

Now, understand, I’m not talking about Yelp-style negativity. Every business gets shat upon eventually on Yelp. No. What I was finding could best be described as Corporate Evil. Don’t take my word for it. Please take a few minutes perusing the headlines in this search for a couple of pages. That’ll give you a good idea of what popped up in my search 7 months ago.

However, I found nothing similar for Lyft.

That’s when I asked myself, and probably out loud, “Who needs to partner with a company that lies to its drivers, its customers, and various governments around the world?” It was all documented for handy reading on the innertubes. [And, since then the news has only gotten worse.]

That’s why I went with Lyft exclusively.

I know that many drivers do both, logging onto both Lyft and Uber and take the first order that comes in. They turn off the app that’s idle and take the immediate client. Then they sign back on after dumping their passenger. I didn’t want to do that and it had everything to do with Uber’s reputation.

Last week I was “deactivated” from Lyft.

At first I mistakenly thought it was because Lyft was requesting a new driver’s pic. At least that’s what I thought it meant when my pic disappeared from the app. While it didn’t make sense, I gave Lyft a new one anyway. After waiting a few hours for it to be approved, I finally called Lyft because it hadn’t been and I was losing money.

That’s when Lyft drew my attention to an email it had sent late Sunday, which I had not seen. It turns out that one of my customers reported that I was intoxicated.

I was never much of a drinker. To have described myself as a moderate drinker actually overstates the case. I was ALMOST a teetotaler, having a drink or two every couple of months. However, I’ve not had a single drink in the last 12 years.

The reason I can pinpoint it so exactly is because on the day I was sworn in to become a Canadian citizen, some of my friends — I’m looking at you, Peter and Erin — took me to the Ben Wick’s Pub and got me shit-faced. Every time I turned around someone else was shoving a scotch on the rocks in my hand. And, I drank them all. It was a celebration.

I’ve not needed a drink since, nor have I had one. Not even a beer. That was enough for the rest of my life.

Lyft is *STILL* investigating this false accusation, but how does one investigate a FAKE accusation? How do I prove that I don’t drink at all? I actually asked this question on my facebookery. All my face-to-face friends replied they had NEVER seen me drink. I can produce dozens of people who I’ve gone out drinking with over the years, who will swear I ordered nothing but ice tea or coffee and served as the evening’s designated driver. No one will ever find a single person who has seen me take a sip of liquor in 12 years. But, some mistaken impression in the Grey Ghost sidelines me?

I’m not told who complained. I’ve been wracking my brain to try to figure out what I could have done, or said, or slurred, that would cause someone to draw that conclusion. However, if you think your driver is drunk, there’s only one proper response: “PULL THIS FUCKER OVER RIGHT THIS SECOND!!! I WANT OUT!!!” Then call the cops.

I had only been a Lyft driver for about 6 months with a lifetime ride count of 721. Now I may no longer be one. I thought I was a conscientious Lyfter, providing a needed service to my passengers. I gave them music choices, radio station choices, adjusted the temperature to accommodate them, obeyed all the traffic laws, and tried to be a jolly person, whether I felt it or now.

I’ve now signed up with Uber. If you’ve been paying attention to the above, you know why I never wanted to do that. If Lyft ever reinstates me, I’ll become one of those drivers who do both.

BTW: After driving with Uber for a week, I am actually making better money. The Grey Ghost is idle less. The clients come faster, which means more of them in a morning before it’s time to come home and work on my huge project.

Vanity, Thy Name Is Personalized Plates . . . ► UpLyfting Thoughts #7

If I wasn’t such a cheap bastard I might consider getting a license plate that says LYFTING, just because. However, normally I laugh at most of the vanity plates I see.

Of course, some plates are meant to be humorous. Those are the least funny. Some are laughable on its merits. Others are an initial puzzlement, but finally come into focus when I say it aloud enough times. Then there are those that I still have yet to decipher. The ones that are the best in essence say, “Look at what a big dick I have.” They don’t always belong to men.

I don’t know how it is in other states, but Florida also has a plethora Specialty Plates that one can use to support a sports team, charity, or environmental and social issues, as long as your social issue is CHOOSE LIFE. You cannot find a Florida plate for ABORTIONS FOR EVERYBODY. Here’s the only Florida Specialty Plate WORTH GETTING.

On top of that tag you can add your personalized message with a Vanity Plate. A cursory look see (because who’s got time for research?) tells me that Virginians are so vain, they probably think this article is about them. But, New Hampshire, Illinois, Nevada and Montana round out the top 5.

Still Florida has its share of vain people.Because I’m a writer. I always carry a notebook. Since I’ve been Lyfting, here are the plates I’ve jotted down:

DR KING • ANCHA • HPY PUPP • BENZ • NO YU • CLRGY MN • ROBYN Q • NICE LGS • I H8 CLD • NIK 3 • BONANZA • PYEM • MEMRI • TECH CEO • JOYSRUS • I LV TERI • CYNTS • GOONAD • KAMILI • IHELP • SAIRAAP • TNI CAT • LE COBRA • LO5KY • BTR WRTH • D8AGS • WINTER 1 • QUICK 02 • SCIMUNE • AMBIENZ • 4 BLOW [Miami Heat plate] • PNLTY [Florida Panther plate, which oddly enough is not on the official Florida website] • WKDCLWN [belonging to a Juggalo I met in Ohio on his way to the Washington, D.C. protest] • CHIKVET [Georgia] • BLACKSTR • ZAMBONI [Pure Michigan plate] • PBNYAY [Oregon plate] 8NANDAN [Ohio plate] • GRN GOO [on a private jeep painted U.S. Army colours] • STENSHOP [on a Hummer] • MUCH & MUCH 2 [Ontario, Canada plates on a pair of motorcycles northbound on A1A. I tried to catch up to them to  see if they were colleagues from MUCHMusic, but they were too fast for the Grey Ghost]

I’m sure I’ll be collecting more Vanity Plates as time goes on.

Moral Dilemmas ► UpLyfting Thoughts #6

The Grey Ghost at rest

While Lyfting is a relatively new thing to me, I’ve been giving RIDES for the last 12 years.

It started the day I arrived in Florida 12 years ago to take care of Pops. My Mom was in the hospital for a hip replacement and the RIDES business was hers before I got here. That’s what was written on the business card: RIDES. She also advertised in the little local flyer and took people to doctors’ appointments, grocery shopping, and airport runs; wherever people needed to go.

When I got there Pops had been running himself ragged, not only running back and forth to the hospital to spend as much time with her as he could, but he was also servicing her clients. I took over the latter so he could concentrate on the former, and golf.

My very first clients were a pair of sisters, known far and wide as The Sisters. They both had bright red, dyed hair, that may have actually been red at one time. One of them lived in the very next condo building. The other in a house about a mile away. They were my only clients with a standing appointment; others called when they wanted to book a ride.

Every Thursday at noon I’d pick up The Sisters and we were off shopping.

Actually, the word “shopping” does not do it justice. I never knew where we were going before I picked them up, but it was always an adventure. We’d spend the afternoon going to 3, 4, or 5 different stores, getting home at dinnertime. Mostly it was a rotating series of stores from Target, to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, to K-Mart, to the Kosher butcher. The last stop of the day was always Publix, where they did their grocery shopping while I also did mine. It took me 15 minutes to shop. It took them an hour.

I’d wait for them in the car in the parking, reading a book with the tunes cranked up. When they had loaded up their carts and paid for all their crap, they’d call me on my cell phone and I’d swing around to wherever I dropped them to load up the trunk. Some weeks the trunk filled up and we had to put the overflow in the back seat.

MORAL DILEMMA #1: Also in the building next door is a bonded pair of snowbirds. I’ve been taking them  back and forth to the Fort Lauderdale airport for the past 6 years. This spring while flying to New York they actually remarked that I hadn’t changed my price in all that time.

True story: When my mother was still doing it, the fixed price to the airport was $20, which I adopted. After a year, or two, I goosed it to $25 when gas spiked. Later I noticed others advertising $30 to the airport, so I shrugged and matched that price. After several years I hiked it to $35, where it’s been for the past 6 years.

It may seem like a lot. After all the airport is only 15 miles away. However, people could book a run to the airport months in advance and relax, knowing I will be there 5 minutes early. More importantly: I had mastered the extremely tricky pick-up at the airport, being able to time my arrival with the arrival of their baggage.

At that price I had a lot of repeat, regular airport clients. However, all these prices were set in the days when a Lyft app was just a gleam in some programmer’s monitor.

The Lyft price to the airport from this neighbourhood is about $18. Do I tell the snowbirds I that drive for Lyft and they could get this cheaper. Or, do I just keep doing what I’m doing?

MORAL DILEMMA #2: In this same building is a Lyft driver. I met him recently when I was going to one of The Sisters. I told him I had noticed the Lyft sticker and he started telling me all about it. Because he started up immediately — almost non-stop — and because I was pressed for time, I never got to tell him that I was also a Lyft driver. Should I?

Whenever I am setting out for my first Lyft of the day, at about 5AM, I can’t help but look to see whether his SUV is in his space. It always is. Later, when I’ve bounced around with 4 or 5 Lyfters, his vehicle is gone when I get back home.

Back to The Sisters, because that’s where this all started.

H&C have been my clients for more than 12 years. As they’ve gotten older, their shopping prowess has suffered greatly. As the years passed we visited fewer stores each Thursday until they were so infirm they could no longer get out. That’s when I started doing their grocery (and occasionally other) shopping for them. For the past 3 years I go to Publix with 2 lists (and 2 credit cards), getting them whatever they need to last another week.

Yesterday was Thursday and The Sisters canceled!!!

The elder sister (next door) is in the hospital. She fell again and she couldn’t get up. She falls 2 or 3 times a week, sometimes more. She’s a very large woman and cannot get to her feet by herself. So, she has a button she wears around her neck and the paramedics come running when she presses it. Amazingly, as much as she falls lately, this is the only time she’s been hurt enough to go to the hospital.

Meanwhile, I’m in a holding pattern today to see whether I am needed to take the younger sister to the hospital. However, it looks like I could be losing one of my longest clients soon because I don’t know how much longer H will be able to live alone.

The Waze of the Road ► UpLyfting Thoughts #5

The thing that impresses me the most about Lyft (aside from the earnings) is the technology.

Lyft is an app for your phone, drivers and customers alike.

As strange as it sounds, I’ve yet to see what the customer sees. However, I’m told they can track my movements on a map to see how close I may be. I’m hoping that function is not too accurate because I am often logged in from the Not Now Silly Newsroom (where I am sitting right now waiting for a fare).

One of these days I’ll pretend to be a customer, just so I can see what Lyftees see.

However, let’s look at the technology from the driver’s POV:

When I log into Lyft a map of the local area pops up on my phone with an indicator centered on the map to show where I am. North is always at the top.

One slight bug: Most of the time it’s a small chevron [like the one right], which points in the direction I am facing. However, every once in a while it becomes just a dot, which is not helpful if I am in an unfamiliar neighbourhood and need to know which way is which. Worse than the dot, there are some times the chevron points in the wrong direction entirely…for hours on end. Then, just as suddenly, it corrects itself and all is right with the world again.

However, it’s when an order comes in that the real magic starts.

When Lyft sends me a customer, a big pink circle pops up on the center of the screen with the customer’s name and picture. There is also has a ticking 10 second countdown with a timing indicator moving around the circle. If I want the order — and keep in mind I have no idea of the client’s destination — I have those 10 seconds in which to accept the run. I am not obligated to accept it. I can just watch it time out if I want, but why would I? I’m logged on to service customers. Regardless, I have to keep my acceptance rate above 80% if I want to cash in on any of the Power Driver Bonuses that Lyft offers based on a scale of criteria.

Once I accept an order the Lyft app automatically opens Waze, a GPS program I was using long before I became a Lyft driver. Waze directs me right to the door where my customer awaits. Because they can follow my progress, often they are waiting outside holding their cellphone. Every once in a while the Grey Ghost pulls up to a business where several people are looking into their cellphones. Hoo boy! However, they not only have my name and picture, but a description of the Grey Ghost. It all works out.

However, there’s a small bug there, too. If I am almost right on top of the client’s location, Waze does not pop up. It seems to assume I know where I need to go because, heck, I’m right there. However, I can’t be reading addresses on the app when I’m driving and one can’t always pull over to check. Luckily there’s another button that forces Waze to cough up the info I really need.

If my client is not outside I press another button on my side of the app, which alerts the customer that I’ve arrived. That’s when another timer starts. The client has 5 minutes to get to the car, otherwise I report them as a NO SHOW and drive off. During peak hours this timer is set to 2 minutes. This is time I’m being paid for and it gives me time to relax.

Twice the Grey Ghost drove away from a NO SHOW only to be called right back to the same place because they ordered another Lyft. That’s kind of embarrassing because they just watched me drive off.

Once I get the Lyftee in the Grey Ghost, I press another button that says, essentially, “I got ’em”. Suddenly Waze pops up again and directs me right to their destination. It all works so seamlessly that almost no thought on the part of the driver is needed.

One thing that I love, but might frustrates other Lyft drivers, is that I still don’t know our ultimate destination once I have my passenger in the car. Waze only shows me a small portion of the total map I must transverse before I can drop off the customer. While I can immediately see how many miles they are going and the estimated time of arrival, the destination is off the screen. I can always move the Waze map to show the ultimate destination, but I never do. Why should I? I am going wherever the customer is going. What difference does it make? Besides, I kind of like the surprise. I don’t know where we are going until we get there.

There are several other interesting operations on the Lyft app, some of which I may describe in future UpLyfting Thoughts.

My Ways of the Road

I’ve driven as an amateur for decades. However, I’ve also driven professionally, as a cab driver in Toronto. During all that time on the road, I have developed a number of rules for myself that I wish more drivers would embrace. They are all based upon good driving habits, manners, logic, and my own mellow personality.

Your mileage may vary, but it wouldn’t hurt any — or all — of you to adopt any — or all — of these:

Drive like karma is attached:
It takes little time and zero effort to demonstrate consideration on the road.

My attitude is that all pedestrians have the right of way no matter where they are and whether they are crossing legally, or not. Here’s how I view it: I am sitting down and comfortable in a nicely air conditioned car. The pedestrian is not. It costs me mere seconds to let the pedestrian go first.

I also let cars needing to merge get in front of me without racing ahead to cut them off, like I see far too many Bozos do to me when I’m trying to get on the highway. This is not a race and I have no need, or desire for that matter, to get ahead of anybody. When traffic is merging I adjust my speed accordingly because I believe the zipper method serves all drivers on the road best.

Eventually that good karma comes back to me. And, if it doesn’t? Who cares? Because I . . .

Achieve Zen status behind the wheel:
We’ve all seen Road Rage. Some people get behind the wheel of a car and suddenly it’s a contest of testosterone, altho’ women are not immune. Drive too slow, or do something they don’t like, and it’s all honking horns, middle fingers, and — occasionally — revenge driving.

I can’t drive that way, especially since I am spending so much time on the road. There’s always some asshole out there who will cut me off, or so something stupidly dangerous, that if I wanted to be pissed off, I could be pissed off full time. Additionally, it wouldn’t matter how I felt or reacted. The idiots will still be out there, whether I allowed myself righteous anger, or not. The traffic would still be the traffic, whether I allow it to frustrate me or not.

It’s so much easier to just get in the zone and relax. Besides, my happy place is behind the wheel of a car with music playing. Lyft just adds someone to talk to.

Use your turn signals:
It’s amazing how many drivers do not use turn signals. In my rough estimation, it’s well below 40%, and this includes police cars. In fact, it’s a rare cop car that uses turn signals. Maybe they’re broken.

I don’t make a move without first indicating it with the turn indicator and this includes parking lots and alleys.

Additionally, it’s not like the guy who invented the turn signal (Phineas J. Blinker; look it up) put the switch in the trunk It’s right at your fucking fingertips, assholes. The only excuse anyone has for not using turn signals is if they have no arms. And, if that’s the case, why are they even driving?

Here’s a little story from my cabbie days:

I picked up a grouchy gent at 4AM (who just happened to live on my street, but 2 blocks north) to take him to the Toronto airport. You get a sense of people right away and my impression is this guy was gruff and didn’t want any conversation. So, I jumped on the highway, first the QEW and then up the 427. As we’re cruising up the 427 suddenly the guy shouts at me, “You do that every time?”

“Do what, Sir?”

“Use your turn signals! We’re alone on this highway! Who the hell are you signalling to?!?”

That’s when I realized that my using my turn signals is just an automatic reflex. I don’t even think about it when I’m doing it.

The punchline to that story is that when we pulled up to the airport, he tossed me an extra $20 and said, in the same grumpy, gruff voice, “Best driving I’ve ever seen!”

Don’t let anyone else drive your car:
By this I don’t mean allowing someone else to get behind the wheel. I am talking about those other drivers who will honk at you to get you to do something. Some honks are just to request a entry into your lane. Those are fine. It’s those who honk to get you to go faster, or those who try and get you to drive differently.
I drive my own car and don’t let anyone else outside the car change the way I drive my game.

Come to a full stop at every stop sign:
I’ve only received 1 traffic ticket the entire time I’ve been a driver. I rolled a stop sign and was immediately lit up by a police car I hadn’t noticed. I’ve never done it again.

Additionally, when I come to a stop I look left, look right, and look left again before proceeding when it’s safe.

Leave Space:
There are 2 times when leaving space is important. Certainly when driving down the highway at speed, one should never tailgate. It’s just dangerous. When I find someone on my ass, I slow down. If that doesn’t get the message across [or if they start honking], I put on my 4-way flashers. That almost always solves the problem.

The other time one needs to leave space is stopped at a traffic light. My original driving instructor told me that when stopping at a traffic light, make sure you can see the wheels of the car in front of you. Not because they’re interesting to look at, but because it leaves room if there’s any jockeying needed before the light changes. Additionally, if there’s an emergency vehicle that needs to get through, that space allows drivers to move to the right. REMEMBER: The life you save may be your mother’s.

Don’t play the lanes:
Every lane is going to the same place. There’s little point in jumping back and forth to get one, or two, cars ahead. It’s more than likely that we’ll all be at the next stop light together, or that the lane on the highway you’ve jump into will just bog down later. Relax; It’s less wear and tear on your car and brain.

Save your gas:
Why do people race to get to the red light ahead? As soon as I see a light changing ahead of me, I take my foot off the gas. Sometimes I hear a horn from the driver behind me, who is inexplicably in a hurry to get to the red light. Occasionally they’ll even hit the gas and zoom around me to get to that red light, some even giving me the finger as if I did something wrong.

Save your horn:
If I have to use my horn, I consider it a failure on both our parts. I use my horn on an average of 5 times a year.

Change lanes safely:
Aside from using turn signals [see above], don’t change lanes in the middle of an intersection. That’s dangerous, but I see this at least once a day.

Also, respect the solid white line. It means, essentially, stay in your own lane until it’s no longer a solid white line. Occasionally, there’s a valid reason for crossing a solid white line, but most of the time it’s just foolish and potentially hazardous. There’s a reason the line was put there.

Drive like you’re colouring:
Stay inside the the lines!!!

Life would be so much easier if we all followed Headly’s Highway Hints.

The Long and Short of It ► UpLyfting Thoughts #4

Lyfting is great fun and a wonderful way to meet interesting people that I rarely encounter during my average day-to-day.

However, it’s taken some time to get used to.

Back in my disreputable past I once drove taxi in Toronto, while freelancing as a writer for various publications, which even included Taxi News (under the nom de plume Travis Bickel).

Driving hack is very different experience. However, it took a while to change my taxi habits when I first started Lyfting 8 weeks ago. I behaved more like a taxi driver while still trying to find my rhythm.

F’rinstance: I’d decide it was time for a Lyft Shift™, get in the car, and cruise — because that’s what taxi drivers do — what I did. Although some cabbies would sit on a cab stand and wait, I never did that. I’d cruise with 1 eye on the road, 1 eye on street corners for flaggers, 1 ear on my music, and 1 ear on the CB radio, where a dispatcher rambled to drivers virtually non-stop.

However, it took a few weeks Lyfting before I realized that getting in the car and driving a wide, lazy, 7 mile circle around my crib in CondoWorld only served to waste gas. Now I log into Lyft from my desk at home [like at this very moment] and try to get some Not Now Silly word crafting accomplished between orders. However — and this is very important — I can’t walk more than 10 seconds away from my phone, because that’s only how much time I am given to accept a client when one pops up. When an order comes in, I toss on my shoes and leave the condo. The writing (or housework) will wait until I get back.

When I do get a client, I take them where they need to go. Then — no matter how many highways I may have taken to get there — slowly drift back on surface roads to where I live in Condoville. Sometimes I can bounce around for hours, servicing many clients, both long and short, before I can get home. Sometimes, I only get one and drift back to my condo, go back to my other work, and wait for the next Lyfter.

I’m still feeling my way and trying to understand the vagaries of Lyft. Frinstance: Most weekdays I now log into Lyft from my desk at home when I wake up at 5AM. There are times an order comes in before the pot of coffee is ready and I am forced to leave it behind. There are other times I am logged in for as long as 2.5 hours before a Lyfter knocks on my phone. Additionally, there are times that first run of the day is a long one, but there are other times it’s just a short jaunt of under $4.

Yesterday a gentleman apologized because it was such a short run. I told him not to apologize. “Long runs. Short runs. It’s all the same job. Pick up the customer and take them to where they’re going. I can’t speak for other Lyft drivers, but you need not apologize to me.”

As I drive, I think. When possible, I jot down notes for further UpLyfting Thoughts. Already partly written are essays on my rules of the road, personalized license plates, random musical selections, and Dad jokes. Stay tuned for the further adventures of me and the Grey Ghost.

Highway Hypocrite and Turnpike Turncoat ► UpLyfting Thoughts #3

Circle this date on your calendars, folks, because this is going to be a mea culpa for the ages.

Anyone who has ever driven just a few miles with me has heard my rant about Toll Roads. Yet, here’s my newly purchased SunPass just before I installed it on the front windshield of The Grey Ghost.

To make a long story short: I never use Toll Roads if I can help it. However, I can no longer help it because Lyft clients not only expect me to use the Toll Roads, but they are charged for them and I’m compensated.

I want to be clear: I’m not against Toll Roads merely because I’m a cheap bastard. Even if money were no object, I would still avoid Toll Roads because I am philosophically against them. Taxes are supposed to pay for the roads. That’s our socialistic system. Why should some roads charge extra? What kind of capitalism is that? Crony?

But, I digress.

Even crazier are these Express Lanes that they’re building on all south Florida’s highways. Get this: It’s a parallel highway to the main highway, separated by either knock-down poles or not-knock-down concrete barriers. These lanes costs extra to go the exact same place as the rest of the traffic.

I just see it as just another way to separate the HAVES from the HAVE NOTS. The cost for using the Express Lanes changes all the doo dah day. On I-95 during rush hour I’ve seen it as high as $7.50. I’ve read it can go to $10.50. That fee is no guarantee that your Express Lanes will be expressive. I’ve seen those lanes blocked by accidents as I go sailing past with the rest of the Great Unwashed Cars. Worse yet, there are no toll booths or Pay By Plate, as on some of the other Toll Roads around here. You’ll get a heafty ticket for using the Express Lanes without a SunPass transponder.

With a SunPass transponder, it’s just that much easier for the NSA to track people. But, I digress.

Here’s the punchline to the story: This morning I Lyfted a couple from my neighbourhood in Sunrise to the the Miami Airport. It was a white knuckle drive. Not only was it during a torrential rainstorm at 5 in the morning, but it’s been raining that way here for several days. There were flooded roads and accidents everywhere. Meanwhile, the fellow in the car asked me specifically not to use the Express Lanes because they not only make him nervous, but with his bladder condition he wanted to be able to jump off the highway quickly if the need arose.

So, I had to write an email to Lyft to make sure the tolls weren’t charged. Essentially, Lyft told me that the passenger will have to dispute the toll charge if one is applied. That’s what I was hoping to avoid because it’s not fair to the customer to have to challenge the charge.

But . . . I’m just a small cog in a big machine. Now with a SunPass.

The Strangers of Kindness ► UpLyfting Thoughts #2

Some people are incredibly kind.

The other day I picked up 3 women who took a very long time to get to the car.

TO BE FAIR: It was a gated community without a guard. I needed to wait outside and they were forced to walk to me. The youngest actually arrived very quickly. She explained in broken English that her mother and very pregnant sister walked much more slowly.

The Lyft app has a countdown timer. If my client doesn’t arrive in time, I’m supposed to press a button and drive away because “other people may be waiting.” I ignored the app and stayed where I was even though they went 2 minutes over the 5 allotted minutes.

Some rules are made to be broken.

Then . . . I was mildly irritated that, during the drive, all 3 were talking loudly in Spanish — two of them on their cell phones. It wasn’t that they weren’t speaking English that bothered me. It was because I had to turn my music down while they were on the phone.

If there’s no music playing, I forget how to drive.

When we got to their destination — at Sawgrass Mills, a massive mall near me — the two in the backseat opened the doors on both sides of the car, which always makes me nervous, especially if the driver’s side opens up onto a lane of traffic. They closed the doors and as I was waiting for them to clear the car so I could drive away, when both back doors were suddenly opened again.

Thinking they may have dropped and lost something, I got out myself to help them look for it. However, as I stood there (dumbly) I watched them pull the floor mats out of the car and shake them off. They apologized and said they had tracked flower petals into the car when they got in. They youngest gestured to her mother and said, “She teach us to leave a place like we find it.”

I thanked them profusely. I would not have noticed that until much later, probably after the petals had already been ground into the Grey Ghost.

UpLyfting Thoughts #1

This is the start of a brand new series at the Not Now Silly Newsroom, now using our new mobile facilities. The Grey Ghost roams 3 South Florida counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach. On the road there’s a lot of time to think. UpLyfting Thoughts are jotted down as they happen, or reconstructed later.

I’ve been driving for Lyft for 3 weeks. If I had to make snap judgements (without being judgemental):

About 80% of my clients are POC, whether Black, Latino, or Asian. My brother-in-law who drives elsewhere in the country tells me his numbers are reversed. It’s all about local demographics;

70% of my Black passengers — men and women — wear dreads, some of them fabulously;

About 75% of my clients are under 30;

It’s about equally 50% men vs. women.

I drove cab for several years in Toronto and there are some distinct differences. To begin with the relationship is different. When people got in my cab, suddenly I was working for them. With Lyft, however, there’s a level of trust because both sides are vetted. My passengers know The Grey Ghost and I had to jump through a number of regulatory hoops to become a certified, including a  background check and mechanical inspection. Pretty well anybody can become a cab driver. [TO BE FAIR: You need to take a course and then a test to become a Toronto cabbie. Or, at least you did when I did it.]

On the opposite side of the street, I also know that my customers are vetted. Lyft has their address, phone number, and credit card number on file. Nobody’s going to take a runner. Whenever I drop my passenger I press a button and get to rate my clients on a system of 1 to 5 stars. They also get to rate me on the same scale when they leave my car. If my rating drops below a certain line, I can be delisted.

Everyone on both sides of the equation understands that I am providing a needed service. There’s a totally different level of respect than my passengers had for cab drivers.

And, The Grey Ghost is nicer than any cab I’ve ever driven.

Tune in for other action-packed episodes of UpLyfting Thoughts, as the NNS Mobile Newsroom™ gives a Lyft to those who need one. Happy motoring and back to the freeway which is already in progress.