Sunday, August 31, 2014

Taking a Lyft Zine and a Lyft to the San Francisco Zine Fest

Assembling Lyft zines for the San Francisco Zine Fest


Rush out the door in the morning for day one of the SF Zine Fest and the car won't start. Flashing lights on the dash, flickering needles, an ominous clicking sound... 

Since the car spent the previous afternoon on the fritz, we have a contingency plan. I grab the two boxes of zines and dump them into our large rolling suitcase. The Wife calls a Lyft. 

A few minutes later, a nice older gentleman in a minivan drives us to the Bart. He's a retired dispatch supervisor for the city of Oakland. Doesn't like driving in San Francisco. Says when he gets a fare across the bridge, he turns off his app and hightails it back to the East Bay. I tell him I do the opposite. It's not a long ride to the MacArthur station. With Lyft's recently implemented lower rates, the fare is a shameful $5. The Wife tips him another $5. 

After some difficulty getting through the turnstiles and almost taking the wrong train (I never use Bart and the Wife, who does, is still half asleep), we race under the Bay at warp speed. The doors are literally shaking. 

At 16th and Mission, the closest Bart station to the Inner Sunset, where the fest is being held, we request another Lyft. Our driver this time is a former cabbie. Says he loves working for Lyft, but gripes about the new low rates. I know, I tell him. I'm making about $200 less a week from a month ago. The Lyft guy who shuttled the Wife to my rescue when the car stopped working the day before in West Oakland had a long list of grievances and seemed absolutely grateful to have a opportunity to express them to another driver. Not to mention the chorus of complaints I read every day on the Facebook groups for drivers. Lyft and Uber drivers are in open revolt, pawns in the rideshare price wars... 

We talk about metaphysics and relationships for the rest of the trip. Pull up to the venue only ten minutes late. 

the Wife and our table mate Sarah Bitely

Set up next to our regular table mate, the lovely Sarah Bitely who does the comic Pimpkillah. While the girls catch up (it's officially been a year since we started tabling together), I make the rounds. Say hello to some folks. V. Vale. Joe Biel. Tomas Moniz. John Marr. Score a Flipside from '82 for a buck at a vintage zine booth. Head back to the table. 

As suspected, the Lyft zine is popular. The other two zines I just reprinted, the Cult of Teddy Ruxpin and The Murky Realm, are moving as well. And people like the SHUT UP AND PUBLISH stickers. I give away a bunch. The "disrupt the disruptors" stickers are almost gone. 

The fest ends sooner than expected. We say our goodbyes, eat burgers and walk out of the congestion along Irving as two Muni trains go by. We have to feed two cats in the Mission for a friend at Burning Man. Too exhausted to figure out how to use the Muni, we call a Lyft. The ride to the fest was only $11. 

Within two minutes, a young guy in an Altima picks us up. Drives us over the hill into the Mission. Only been doing Lyft a few weeks, but after telling him I drove too, he goes off about the low fares. All those $6 rides, of which we only get $4.80 after Lyft's cut. The ride this time is $12. I round up again and leave a nice comment when I rate him 5 stars. 

Hang out with the cats awhile, water some plants and make the long slog back to Oakland. Crash out. Still one more day of the fest. And plenty of Lyft zines to move.

My wares for the San Francisco Zine Fest


We stumble bleary-eyed and half-caffeinated into the sunshine at ten AM on Sunday for day two of the SF Zine Fest. Walk to the Bart and catch a Millbrae train right away. After the last Oakland stop, it rockets under the Bay. Google says the Bart can go up to 80 mph, but with all the shaking and the deafening hum, it feels like we're heading to the moon. 

We get off at 16th and Mission. Stroll up to Church to see where the J Line goes. Not Golden Gate Park. Call a Lyft. It's 25% Prime Time. We get an older guy. Says he just started driving for Lyft. Does it part time. Knows his way around without navigation though. Tells us he's lived in the Western Addition twenty years. A pleasant, friendly ride. We talk about the low rates. He asks if there's a difference with Uber. I tell him it's basically the same deal, price-wise, but there's no tipping and the passengers aren't as friendly. He likes Lyft. Says he prefers to talk. It makes the ride go faster. I agree. The three of us chat. Next thing I know, we're at the venue. 11:30. It took an hour and a half to get from Oakland to the Inner Sunset after a combination of walking, the Bart, a little more walking and a Lyft. Which was $11 with $2 extra for prime time. Wouldn't 25% be $2.75? I guess Lyft rounds down. I add four more dollars to the total. 

The fest starts off slow. And stays slow. Our table mate Sarah drops in for a little while, packs up and leaves to take a brief tour of the city before she heads back to LA. She doesn't miss much. On Saturday, I used my Square card reader at least ten times. Today, not once. Some cool trades though. I make the rounds again, talk to folks, sell a few Lyft zines and give away a bunch of stickers. 

Around 3:00 things pick up, but an hour later, the fest is over. We load up and say our goodbyes. Walk down Lincoln. I'm dragging the suitcase, leaden with unsold zines and books, wooden display boxes and a full bottle of wine. 

Six blocks later, I check the Lyft app. No drivers. We summon an Uber instead. Within 2 minutes, a former cabbie in a suit and cap pulls up and tries to load the suitcase for me. I protest. Heft it into his trunk myself. We get in the back. He suggests Oak Street and off we go. Traffic is bad, but he and the Wife are talking about his career as a cabbie and subsequent transition to Uber. He says he does UberBlack as well. Hence, the suit. Started with Uber when he was still driving a yellow cab and Uber just had UberBlack and UberTaxi. At first the cab companies didn't mind Uber, he says. They were getting more rides from the referrals. But after UberX was introduced, business went down. He switched over to rideshare and drives a taxi one day a week to keep his place on the cab medallion waiting list. He's also looking to get a TCP license. After that, he's legal no matter what. I tell him I've been noticing a lot of TCP cars around town. This is how Uber will win, he tells us. Regardless of what happens with ridesharing, they will always have the TCP drivers and the ability to lure cabbies away from the taxi companies with the promise of starting their own businesses. And he has a point. His car looks more like a cab than somebody's vehicle being used to ferry people around town as a side gig. There are credit card stickers on the window and a huge GPS system on his dash like you'd see in cabs. He seems happy, chatting away as he weaves in and out of traffic with a keen eye to the fluctuations in traffic. Like a pro. He is a much better driver than me. 

The Wife is looking at the map in the Uber app which shows our car moving through the city. She suggests we go to the Civic Center Bart instead of the one in the Mission. Our driver agrees. It's about the same distance by car but one stop less on the train. He takes Franklin to Grove. I tell him to just let us out a block away where it's safe to pull over and get the suitcase out of the trunk. 

We head to the station entrance. The escalator is not working. Lug the suitcase down the stairs as people scoot by on the left. A Pittsburgh train arrives as we reach the landing. The train is packed. With each stop downtown, more people pour in. The Giants game just let out. While we grasp the handrails and do the herky-jerky with our fellow passengers, the Wife completes the Uber transaction. Our ride was $11.34. The same rate as Lyft. I can't tip, she says. Then it hits me. Uber doesn't allow tipping through the app. You can't pay more even if you want to. But I have cash! It just totally escaped my mind. I feel like such a tool. After complaining bitterly in the past about not getting tipped as a driver, I do the same thing! Oh well. 

Our weekend of using rideshares is adding up. But it saves us from having to take the bus, which would increase the already long commute by an hour or so. And we get to meet some interesting people along the way. 

Like the guy on the Bart who calls himself Elvis. He's standing right next to us and, gesturing at our suitcase, says, I take it you're not coming back from the game. We tell him about the zine fest. He's curious. We explain zines and independent publishing. The Wife gives him a Lyft zine. Another guy behind me asks if I go to APE. I say I had in the past, but the APE is more for comics. All the while the conductor is yelling over the intercom, pissed about somebody jamming his doors. A few people wonder aloud if he's having a nervous breakdown. It's a relief to finally reach our stop and make the final slog home. That bottle of wine has our name on it.

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