talesfromthelyft

A view from the driver's seat

The Dark Side

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So I had to take a short break from driving while I got ready to direct my first short, If You Lived Here You’d Be Home Already. I got a small grant to make it from Visual Communications, an Asian Arts organization that has a talent development program called Armed with a Camera and the short will premier at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. While extremely grateful for the opportunity and support, I was woefully unprepared in every way to make this thing. When I directed promos, I had a staff of people who executed my commands and did all the dirty work — the money stuff, the calls, the organizing and bargaining and contracts. But I have learned through a daily roller coaster of follies and shifting plans, nothing, not even a 5 minute short, is easy to make. Nor is it cheap. My lil ole grant wasn’t gonna be enough — I needed to hustle up more cash.

A few weeks ago, I picked up J on a busy Hollywood corner. She was a pretty young female with piercing light eyes, showing off her form in a tight tank top, leggings. She asked me how long I’d been driving that day, if it had been busy. Then she asked how long I’d been driving for Lyft. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then she offered, “So I’m an Uber recruiter and they’re offering Lyft drivers a great deal. Complete 20 rides and you get $500, no commissions for a month. I can help you with your application and get your approved right away.” I was too astounded to really hear the details of what she was saying. I mean, the nerve!! This was her job — standing on the corner calling Lyft rides and trying to turn them over to the dark side? It felt like a violation, this stranger in my car (MY CAR!) trying to upsell me. What was in it for her? Who was this person? But I did hear $500. I heard that loud and clear. She asked me for my number, said she would text me so that I had her number, I could think about it but not that long. The promotion was going to end in a few days. (Why is that all these GREAT AMAZING deals are always ending in a few days?) I dropped her off about 5 min from where I had picked her up, another busy Hollywood corner, and she disappeared into a frozen yogurt place. But when I drove by 5 min later, she was standing outside, on her phone again. Probably calling another Lyft. 

I wasn’t going to call. The whole thing felt dirty and weird. But $500… $500… $500. The clarion call of easy money weakened me. I admit it. I called J and made plans to sign up to drive for Uber. I’m sure I’ll get an earful from other Lyft drivers who think I sold out. I’m a traitor! A turncoat!! But Werner Herzog said that you should do whatever you need to do to make your film — whether it’s working as a bouncer at sex club or a warden in a lunatic asylum. I hardly think Uber will be as colorful as either of those. But it’s what came along at the time I needed it most. In the words of a wise, venerated 20th century poet, “Go on take the money and run. Hoo hoo hoo.”

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