Some useful knowledge I learned on a Sunday drive…

I was taking the circuitous route home after picking up my morning coffee. I was tired of sitting at home quarantining and decided to take a little drive. I wandered deeper and deeper into the burbs and was sitting at the light fiddling with my music when I heard the lady in the car behind me yell “What the fuck is this? You people are insane.”

I thought I had slept on the light and so I looked up to see a Chump Train chugging through the intersection in front of us. A caravan of over-sized pick-up trucks with red, white, and blue flags flapping in the wind declaring their allegiance to his imperial majesty of ‘orangitude.’ They have become more common, though smaller, in recent weeks as the loser of the presidential election tries to con his supporters into believing that the election was a fraud. …


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This is a story about history, San Francisco, and baseball. Photo by the author.

San Francisco, Any Summer of Recent Past

I was driving rideshare around The City picking up passengers and spinning the radio dial in search of something different to listen to. Driving in San Francisco is always a nostalgic experience due to the tremendous history of its many storied neighborhoods. The salty sea air is steeped in tradition, laden with stories intricate in detail like the beautiful Victorian awnings hanging off the ‘Painted Ladies’ on Postcard Row. My go-to audio dose of nostalgia in San Francisco is usually the Grateful Dead, but sometimes I like to diversify.

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Driving my cab through the streets of San Francisco. Photo by the author.

It was then I heard his voice. Bass deep, yet melodic, immediately transporting me back to my childhood when I would listen to him spin yarns late at night — my bedtime stories. I would hold the transistor radio close to my ear so I could hear him regale and wax poetic over the constant hum of the fan blowing in my window, attempting to circulate and cut a cool into the thick humid air of a hot Maryland summer night. Sweat beading up on my brow as he described the heroic actions and roles of the players on the battlefield. …


The reverberations of small moments…

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Coming across a large tree while on the road driving rideshare. Photo by the author.

This is a quick vignette about the tremendous impact that can come from a seemingly insignificant conversation. We never know the domino effect that will be triggered by the slip of a tongue, an unintentionally consequential recommendation, or a casual conversation. Wayward words waft in the wind when spoken in the moment, taking on a life of their own in the hearts and minds of the earnest ears that hear them.

I was reviewing notes from my driving experience when I came upon a blurb about a couple. I couldn’t remember their names for the life of me but as soon as I read the description of their circumstance, I could see their faces. The trip did not include any drama, a deep conversation, or some funny happening that made it memorable. …


A cab driver is assaulted and propositioned

It was about 3 A.M. on a weeknight. I had driven a bartender home from his work in Silver Lake to West Hollywood. I had not received a trip request for a few minutes as in the middle of the week, drivers tended to outnumber riders at this late hour. Business usually did not pick-up again until about five when people started going to the airport and the early birds started heading to work.

The night owls were still out preying upon the snakes and rats that crept about the darkness. Even though it wasn’t busy, you had to stay on your toes. If you dropped your guard, you might fall victim to the nocturnal predators of the city. …


Everything is not what we think

Prelude

I was in San Diego which is most always a pleasant place to be. It had been a good weekend thus far. I had gotten a boost when I received a fare for a long trip from Long Beach to Oceanside on Saturday afternoon. After a break on the beach in sunny San Diego, I worked all day Saturday and on through the night until near dawn on Sunday, finally running out of energy after completing an early morning run to the San Diego airport. …


A personal strike against unjust wages and unethical business

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Rideshare Drivers United, an organization of drivers, stands in solidarity at a Prop 22 protest attended by thousands in front of Uber headquarters in San Francisco. Photo by the author.

It worked. Two hundred million dollars bought a law. The rideshare corporations successfully sold a lie to California voters as part of an effort to escape pending litigation over their unethical business practices and their exploitation of workers.

In their campaign, they lied about what their proposal was offering drivers, and they lied to the public in saying that drivers supported their law. A significant block of the driving community was staunchly opposed to their proposition and I guarantee you that more drivers would have opposed it too had they not been fooled into thinking they were going to lose their jobs by the same lies and threats that the corporations sold to the public in millions of dollars of dishonest advertising. …


Eternal myth in Monterey

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The sun drops down over the Monterey Bay. Photo by the author.

The pick-up was at the break room. It was good timing because I needed to hit the head and grab a drink from the water cooler. I am being facetious for rideshare drivers don’t have a water cooler, nor a break room, which is why it is has been difficult for us to organize as a workforce and collectively fight for our rights against the rideshare corporations that exploit us.

Anyhow...the break room for me at that time was the 7–11 on Fremont Street in Monterey, where I had befriended the guys who worked the graveyard shift. …


The similarities and differences between back to back propositions on the CA ballot

On the backside of an all-night shift, I will often receive an early morning request from a rider who suffers from kidney failure and is headed to a dialysis clinic for treatment. The most memorable of these rides was the time I picked up an older man whose wife kindly helped him into the car — then assisted me as I fumbled in the pre-dawn darkness trying to disassemble and load his wheelchair into the trunk. …


The curious case of people sending objects through rideshare

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As a driver I have been asked to carry food, alcohol, hard drives and drugs. Photo by the author.

Of the 20,000 rides I have completed, a handful of them have included no passenger. There was the time a liquor salesman had me pick-up a case of expensive tequila at his hotel in Monterey and run it over to Cultura Comida y Bebida in Carmel, a restaurant whose owner had coincidentally been a very pleasant passenger of mine on a couple prior occasions.

There was the time I had been summoned to a wealthy estate in Brentwood where a Spanish speaking housekeeper came out and handed me two hot trays of food to deliver to an equally opulent beachside apartment in Santa Monica — where a woman who looked identical to the woman who had brought me the cargo (but twenty years younger) received the foiled-covered trays. …


San Francisco: The final word

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Workers come out in droves to support drivers in their opposition to Proposition 22. Photo by the author.

This was the big day. Uber and Lyft had written Proposition 22, an attempt to buy themselves a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card and evade California labor law, allowing them to continue exploiting the workers who were the backbone of their business: the drivers. The drivers — underpaid, denied benefits, vulnerable to sickness in a pandemic, and vulnerable to liability in an accident — were being misrepresented by the rideshare corporations in hundreds of millions of dollars of dishonest advertising.

We were the drivers, and we had to let the public know that Drivers Do Not Support Proposition 22. Despite the health risks of protesting in a pandemic, we were hundreds strong by this point with cars from SD, The OC, LA, The IE, The High Desert, The Valley, Bakersfield, Fresno and everywhere in between. Caravans of cabs from The Delta, Sacramento, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco were going to meet us on the doorstep of Lyft HQ, where we would assemble before our final onslaught on 1455 Market Street: Uber’s corporate offices and center of their global operations. …

About

D. Thayer Russell

Educator and eternal student. Prefer paper pages and overt spines over webpages and covert designs. Avid reader and writer of creative and original content.

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