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.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.