Friday, August 1, 2014

Things Heard While Lyfting: “Wait, this isn’t an Uber?”

1:30 AM. The bars are letting out. Prime-Time surge pricing is fluctuating between seventy-five and one hundred percent. I head to the Mission, hoping to get some fast rides. Hit it and quit it. That’s the name of the game with the late night drunkies. Cabs, Ubers, Lyfts, towncars… practically every car on the road is looking for passengers.

A request comes in. 12th and Folsom. The app says one hundred percent prime time. I’m four minutes away. I race down Van Ness.
At the pinned location, a horde of drunks are milling in front of the Holy Cow. I pull up behind a row of double-parkers. Call the passenger to get his exact location.
“I’m right on the corner of 12th,” Miguel tells me.
The cars move forward. Pick up their passengers and speed off into the night. I get to the front of the line. A couple climbs into my backseat.
“Hey, you’re Miguel, right?”
His face doesn’t match the picture on the app. Not that it matters. So many people have weird Facebook profile pics.
“Yeah, I’m Miguel. Sacramento and Hyde, please.”
I take off down Folsom. Turn left on 9th and cross Market onto Larkin.
Miguel and his girl are drunk.
“He’s taking me back to his place,” she tells me after I ask them how their night’s going. “And he didn’t even have to give me a roofie.”
They make-out and giggle.
My phone rings. It’s the generic Lyft number. That’s weird, I think. Only the passenger I’m picking up can contact me when I’m in driver mode. I ignore it. It rings again.
“Hey, are you calling me?” I ask Miguel.
“Oh, I may be sitting on my phone,” he says as he disengages himself from the girl.
A second later, my phone rings again. I answer.
“Hey, this is Miguel.”
“Miguel. I requested a Lyft. Where are you?”
At this point I’m in Nob Hill, straddling the streetcar rails.
“Hold on a second.” I turn and ask the guy in back, “Are you sure you’re Miguel?”
“Yes! Why do you keep asking me that?” He seems offended.
“Cause this is Miguel on the phone,” I say.
“How is that possible?” the girl demands. “Somebody fucked up!”
I tell the Miguel on the phone that I’ve obviously picked up the wrong Miguel. “Don’t worry. I’ll call Lyft to sort everything out.”
“Wait, this isn’t an Uber?” asks the Miguel in back.
At this point, we all realize what has happened. I feel like an idiot. Miguel offers multiple apologies.
“Just email Lyft,” the girl tells me. “They’ll sort it out.”
They want me to let them out of the car so they can walk the rest of the way.
“I’m not leaving you on the street,” I say. “I’ll take you home and then call Lyft.”
“We still need to pay you for the ride.” The girl pulls out her wallet. “I only have four dollars.”
I tell them not to worry about it. “What are the odds that two Miguels would be on the same corner at the exact same time?” I wonder aloud.
“It’s a very common name,” the girl says. “Can you believe he’s Argentinian? He doesn’t look Spanish at all.”
I think about another Argentinian I had in my car the previous week. I thought he was French. “Yeah, I can believe it.”
I pull up to their place.
“I have to pay you for the ride.” Miguel pulls out a small wad of cash. “How much would this ride have cost?”
I think about the hundred percent prime time.
“About twelve dollars,” the girl says. “Give him fifteen.”
“Fuck that,” Miguel says. “Here’s twenty.”
“Thanks, man. Sorry for the hassle.”
I driver off, find a sort-of parking space and call Lyft. There isn’t a prompt for picking up the wrong passenger. I press two. Tell the support guy the whole story in a frantic burst. He must have pulled up a screen with all the details because I didn’t have to explain it twice. He can see that the first Miguel caught another Lyft. They refund his money.
By the time I’m done, prime time is down to twenty-five percent. I roll out and try to find another passenger before I call it a night.

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