I think I’ve admitted this before in a previous post or two: I like to do some occasional Lyft driving. It’s pretty good spare pocket change, especially if you have a third car that is still in good shape and was paid off a couple years ago, like I’m fortunate enough to say is true in my household.
I’ll admit: when I started doing some driving about three years ago, I needed the money more. For a couple of dark and dismal months, Lyft was the No. 1. supplier of my personal income. It’s not that driving solely for Lyft as your main occupation was the source of my darkness. But I was between the next big decision in my mind back then, which was whether I should stay on essentially as a hired gun in the place I was then, or finally actually grow a pair and work for myself.
I chose to take my wife’s advice and admit: “You’re never going to feel fully satisfied unless you try to go it purely on your own.”
How right she was. And, how happy I’ve been since starting this website. I’m the boss. I’m the editor. What you see on this site is what I approved – not some other person who doesn’t know my real self, who thinks it’s better to dumb it down for the reader instead of smarten-it-up. I won’t reveal specific numbers but: I’m actually making more money working this site than I ever did anywhere else in my career. And, I worked for some good-paying places in the past. A big newspaper with a big budget. Places like SI and Bleacher Report. I once got paid $10,000 for about three or four articles for SI back in their heyday. I usually never mention specific numbers like that, but just this once…
But as good as the site has been to me (all thanks to you, the reader, of course), I still can’t shake that little side-hustle part of me. Even when I worked at The Denver Post in the salad days, I always had a little hustle going on, like delivering other papers one morning a week, for an extra $50, or saying no to NOTHING for a freelance piece for some other outlet. Ask any pro hockey writer from the 1990s and they’ll tell you: the greatest ever side-hustle was the agreement we had with the Hockey News; if you were chosen as the weekly Hockey News contributor for news on your team the deal was: you only had to submit maybe 150-250 words (about three or four good-sized paragraphs per week, usually notes you’d already written for your paper) on your team and every single week there would be check for 100 dollars in your mailbox.
I ate out almost every night, either home or on the road on the company dime. I had plenty of money. Hell, I grew up partially on a Vermont hippie commune, where if I heard it once I heard it a million times “Money is only paper with some old white guy’s face on it.” But I knew that was all a lie the minute two of my commune hippie-dippie housemates started bitching “Who stole my yogurt?!” in a fit-of-commie-pique.
And here I am making about $1,200 a week as a big-paper writer. Not just that, but the $100 a week as a Hockey News guy, and also whatever magazine outlet might want a big story on the Avalanche, which was at least once or twice a week back then.
Needless to say, when I lost pretty much everything several years ago, the side-hustle side of my personality took over the role as “I’m Your Only Means of Income Now, MFer.”
When everything went to smithereens, I just tried to tell myself that “Hey, maybe this might actually be a blessing-in-disguise-thing-for-you.”
Yeah, I don’t know. FFS, I was starting to listen to Joel Osteen daily podcasts back then. I was really starting to believe in his shit. I was starting to believe that Joel truly wanted me to believe in a new, more powerful and more Godly self, and all for the low, low price of $39 a month.
All I know is, I wouldn’t trade that year or year-and-a-half of subbing for anything. Man, the bonds I made with a few kids – I will never forget that. I hope they haven’t either. I was the nice-guy sub, kind of this big, dorky-looking thing to the kids, where I’m like 6-6 with red hair and they are all just 10 or 11 years old and staring at me like I’m actually a hundred feet tall. I loved thinking I made a difference with some kids. That was, what I later realized, was something missing from my life. I always felt guilty for my sudden good fortune as a big-city writer. I always felt like I hadn’t really done anything for anyone yet to that point in my life, except for being just a lazy, selfish, entitled-feelling guy. At least, that’s how I was starting to feel in my last couple years at the Post – and also, just very unhappy with how I thought I was treated there by some people who I naively thought had my back.
So, long story short: I still like to get out there for Lyft and hustle. And as I’ve often told my passengers, “Careful, I might tell your stories at some point.” Though, I always promised to name no names.
So, without further ado, I give you Chapter 1, Volume 1, of the “Lyft Chronicles, by Adrian Dater”
My memories of today’s passengers:
Total Lyft rides: 8. Diary of a handful:
- (1) I pull up to a house listed as the pickup address. There’s a guy smoking a butt out on his front stoop, eyeing me suspiciously as I idle out on the curb in front of the address. I think I’m at the wrong spot, and start craning my neck around the cul-de-sac for what I hope is his correct house address as listed by Lyft technology. It turns out, I’m in the right spot all right. But my guy here just got informed by his annoyed housemate – after his time out to report to the car was up and I’m made to make a mandatory call to see if he’s still there, in which case if he doesn’t answer right away and I hang up, I get a $5 no-show fee and on my way for $5 for five minutes, but he answers on behalf of the guy he bought the ride for” – he’ll be right out. He gets in the car, says he’s been drinking a little. I kind of half-expected as much, when he kept standing there on the lawn looking at me.
- Turns out, my guy recently lost 70% of his vision because of some kind of rare disease. He couldn’t make it out as a car or not when I pulled up. He grumbled at me the first couple questions in the car I had for him, but when I persisted for a third, he started to open up more. He was asking me questions about my own health when he got out, to what I believe was a local bar/hangout in Arvada.
- A ping for a pickup in Thornton, where I live and where mostly lurk as a Lyft-Shark-in-the-waters waiting for your call. Everybody is nice in Thornton. It’s a small-town suburb of Denver. We look out for each other against those Denver snobs :). Sure enough, my favorite kind of passenger enters the back of our third-car Kia Sportage, with 4-wheel drive and expansive backseat legroom; your older man or woman, early 60s, still going to work at a real job. She is walking with a cane and kind of hobbles into the car. She works at Kings Soopers in the deli department, which immediately starts me gabbing because my son also works at a local King Soopers. She tells me a couple of in-house company secrets that might be of use to me and/or my son. I tell her that I’ve kept a lot of secrets in my writing career and won’t stop with her.
- As she gets out of the car and hobbles into the store, her work uniform already on, I think, “That’s real life right there. That’s the real deal. That’s America at its finest.” OK, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic. But that’s pretty much what I actually thought.
- I’m thinking of calling it a day after a couple hours of driving, when I get a ping for a fare at a Holiday Inn Express. I know a couple things already as a driver about people staying at hotels, real hotels: 1. They probably are on a company dime of sorts, and don’t care too much about the cost of the fare. 2. They might be going to the airport, which is always a hearty fare with a 2-for-1 aspect (a ride from the airport back downtown).
- My fare here is a youngish woman who goes by the name of “Cat” for her rider profile. We’ve got about 12 miles from her airport hotel to a street downtown, and the GPS says it’ll be about 28 minutes total with traffic. Cat is very polite upon entry, but after about 30 seconds or so of small-talk, she buries her face in her phone and I take that as the millennial sign for saying, “Shut the (bleep) up and let me get back to my Tik-Tok feed.”
- That’s how I approach the rest of the ride. She doesn’t want to talk anymore, and I get that, as a guy who has traveled about 1.5 million air miles in the last 26 years and don’t love to chit-chat much either when I’m on the go, on the road. But, as an older guy who doesn’t fly around as much, I sometimes like sitting back and chatting with people and hearing their stories, especially when I’m essentially getting paid for it.
- Suddenly, about five minutes from arrival at her destination, there is life! Cat starts to quiz me about the smoky weather here in town, as a first-time visitor, and that leads to a roundabout discussion of where we’re from (she’s from Rhode Island, where I’m familiar as an east-coast-born guy) and by the end of the ride Cat is in a good, chatty mood. She’s going back tomorrow, she says, but wanted to just take a ride downtown to “see that she can see while I’m here. She gets off at 12th St. and Broadway downtown, off to wherever the “rest of the night takes me” as he puts it.
- Pick up of a guy in Thornton and drop him off at a lonely, industrial part of East Denver. He says he is going there to “pick up” a car as part of his auto import-export business. He perks up when I tell him how much rental cars are going for now, thanks to a shortage of cars and microprocessor chips because of Covid. He says he might think about looking into the rental car business.
- Pick of another guy in Thornton, who is paying for a ride to his bus-stop center in Arvada, where he will then be transported up to Black Hawk for what he says could be 24-hour shift at the casino he works as a cashier/bank manager. “Alex” is very intelligent and well-spoken and very, very very shy. He says he has epilepsy, which is why he doesn’t think he’ll ever drive. He’s the kind of guy I knew a couple times in high school especially. Shy, smart, few friends. I was the same way, yet I also knew what it was like to be part of the popular group too. Alex tells me he is going back to college for a degree with something to do with mathematics.
- Alex astonishes me with a $12 tip, on a $9 fare. He must have liked my give-and-take. I think he knew that I was genuine in how he’s felt at times – and I haven’t included as of yet this part: he said he did a three-year stint in the Army but came out on a medical discharge and was “very depressed” after that. But it sounds like there are good prospects ahead, even though he’s walking with a cane for some reason I didn’t ask about.
Time on clock: about three hours, 15 minutes
Take-home pay: $101