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LYFT Confessions: The Guy from Juvie, Mexican Grandma and The Girl Who Needed Her Insulin 

It wasn’t until three days ago that I actually figured out that I was getting tips while driving LYFT. People told me that Lyft drivers get tips, but every time I looked at the email that came in, there was no indication of it. It wasn’t until I actually opened the full email on a desktop (who does that anymore?), that I saw a full daily summary of such breakdown. All of a sudden, I realized I was being thanked for being a good listener, saving a life (she had forgotten her insulin at home), and being the “best driver ever”.

If you know me well, you know that listening was not a trait my high school students would ever put on my end of year comments. In fact, I was quite snippy and sarcastic. I would probably have a thing or two to say before someone even attempted to finish their sentence. A Weakness?! For sure. Listening has been a skill I have been actively working on honing and thanks to my Lyft friends, there is testimony that it is working.

A Lifesaver? Sure, I wanted to be a doctor when I was taking AP Biology in high school, but I never followed through. Instead, I entered the world of humanities and stuck with it, paid 55K for an education in Education, just because I put so much value on going to an Ivy League. Thanks, Columbia U! Only in America can you pay so much to be educated, but I won’t open that can of worms now.  But all of a sudden, getting someone home in record time to grab her insulin, was appreciated immensely, more so than any diploma can ever buy.

And the review about being the best driver…well, okay! I am quite alert and my reflexes are pretty sharp, but I do roll into my stop signs like a good old California trained driver and make risky left turns during rush hour (Waze tells me to). I actually failed my driver’s license test at 16, because I thought it was perfectly okay to make a right turn on a red light (without stopping). Oh and I failed my permit test 3x. How do I remember all this? Well I decided to take my license exam on my birthday and my mom warned me, but who listened?  In any case, I feel that we are all a work in progress and we can become good listeners or good drivers or just good old damn people. When the age old argument whether men are born evil or good comes up, I usually side with the latter.

I am writing this post because of three instances of stereotyping on my part in the past few weeks. From each one, I have learned a valuable lesson. As I mentioned earlier, I thought I was NOT getting tips. I was partially right. It turns out, only about 10-15% of passengers were leaving me tips. This made me question myself a bit. Looking through my tip history, I realize that a majority of the tippers were younger and worked in the service industry. My execs and admins, not so much. But, I haven’t gathered enough data for generalizations and extrapolations.

However, just yesterday, I was getting a call request from an area which was not in my general direction and 10 minutes away (leaving the limits of Beverly Hills). I wanted to pick up someone from Beverly Hills, because it was prime time and I thought I’d probably get a nice tip. So not only did I have to drive 10 minutes (unpaid) to get to them but I had to leave the prime surge zone. When I arrived, two children and their grandmother entered my car. The request had come from the father of the children so that they could get to school, after which grams would walk to work. I thought, well, no tip here. It wasn’t until the grandma and I got into our stories during rush hour traffic on National Blvd., speaking of our immigrant pasts, the struggle, the hustle and the hard work of being human, where we were actually able to connect. Now, did a small part of me stereotype and assume that one from a lower socioeconomic strata will not be tipping me? Yes! Am I proud of that? Not so much. At the end of our ride she pulled out a $5, just like my own grandmother would and told me to make sure I buy myself a nice cup of coffee. It almost brought me into tears, but then I thought to be strong and stop judging, damn it. The judgement came from a place of greed. I was telling myself I woke up at 6am in the morning to make 3 hours of prime time and here I was being tossed around to zones which are not even in the prime time pink zone. I was pissed off at Lyft, really for not considering my feelings. But, the reason I started driving Lyft in the first place was for the human connections, the inspiration and I don’t want to lose that focus.

Two nights ago my last ride was a guy who had gone through the juvenile system, with a past he didn’t seem too proud of (just yet). He was now 19 and had a job at a hotel. He told me he hated school and academics. He felt very lost in what he was doing, directionless clearly seeking a path. He asked me, straight up, “if you were to give me one advice, what would it be?” He was so genuine in his search for answers. I could not believe a guy who didn’t even know me felt comfortable to put his guard down and ask for life advice. I responded, “do what you’re doing, find the best version of yourself and always question where your mind is going and why it might be going that direction?”  Our 6 minute journey ended at about $4. He left a $5 tip.

And, my girl who provided me with joy and laughter, who I apparently helped immensely. Well she also tipped me well, but most importantly, reminded me of the reason why humans should always connect at a deeper level (unattached to the transactions and gains). We are all spiritual beings and there are reasons we come into each other’s paths. Embrace every being that comes your way and treat them with kindness. Catch yourself when you want to judge them and that’s already one step ahead from everyone else. Spread love and peace. Meanwhile, I’m on the Lyft, I want to continue being the “Life Coach on Wheels”.


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