Author: Kelly Dessaint aka Piltdownlad
I found this intriguing little zine-like booklet at Thrillhouse Records in the Outer Mission district.
This narrative zine is one of three personal accounts of a columnist who drove for both Uber and Lyft, documented over 3,000 rides; and now drives a cab – and for good reasons! Which you will find reading his blog and zines.
The author of idrivesf.com, who goes by the name of Piltdownlad, writes for the S.F. Examiner appearing every Thursday. You can read more about him here.
Back Cover Summary:
The third installment in the Behind the Wheel series is a ribald journey into the reality of driving a bonafide San Francisco taxicab. Gritty and raw, the view from a cab is not for the faint-hearted. From facilitating drug deals to abetting prostitution to just getting people home safely from clubs, the job of a night cabbie isn’t over until the sun comes up.
Where I read it and how long did it take:
In bed over Christmas break, taking a very relaxed approach – about 3.5 days.
Stand Out Passages:
Still… the most troubling part of driving for Uber and Lyft, though, was the realization I was subsidizing multi-million-or, in Uber’s case, multi-billion-dollar companies. And for what? Empy promises and a sense of community?
What bullshit. I never felt like anything but an underpaid, untrained, and unregulated taxi driver.
From the beginning, I was appalled by the self-entitled culture that spawned the phenomenon of “ridesharing” and the consequences on the livelihoods of cab drivers.
It wasn’t easy participating in the destruction of the blue-collar industry. After all, I’m a descendant of coal miners, janitors, store clerks, and army grunts. Being an Uber/Lyft driver was not in my nature. To be successful at it requires personality traits I’ll never possess: the ability to cheat and scam. And a complete lack of conscience.
Since the only time you make decent money is during surge pricing, you have to take pride in ripping people off. The rest of the time, you’re barely making minimum wage, so you must be somewhat stupid as well…
You’re basically running your personal car into the ground and hoping to luck out with a ride that’s more than five bucks.
Some Drivers have figured out how to game the system and earn more money by referring drivers than actually driving themselves… but isn’t that just a bizarro take on the pyramid scheme?
Despite Uber’s political spin or Lyft’s cheerful advertising campaign, using your personal car as a taxi is not sustainable. Each time I got behind the wheel of my Jetta and turned on the apps, I had to overlook the absurdity of what I was doing. It never ceased to amaze me that people would be so willing to ride in some random dude’s car. But since my passengers acted as if the activity were perfectly normal, I went along with it…
Sometimes, it seems the history of San Francisco’s taxi industry is the history of San Francisco itself.
Slowly, as the fire dwindles, people disappear into the darkness and those who remain huddle to stay warm, until the sky brightness and the hardliners begin to arrange rides home, and easy task in a cab yard.
If no one is heading to the East Bay, I get dropped off downtown.
Waiting for the first Pittsburgh/Bay Point train at 8:15 am, I roam Market Street, empty but for the few remaining street people who call out from the shadows, “Good morning,” knowing I’m a working stiff, not some mark.
That’s when the madness of driving a cab dissipates. And for a few moments, before I descend into the BART station, The City feels like… home, maybe.
First of all, Kelly Dessaint is a great writer. He has a casual way of prose that makes you feel like you’re shooting the shit over a beer, or a cup of coffee… or that you’re in some indie film and his voice is the narrative. It’s the kind of writing I strive to achieve, a casual coolness, with an effortless touch of the keys…
After reading this zine, it moved something in me, especially after the first passage above, and many other rants like it that followed. Dessaint really puts into perspective the absurdity behind the lack of training Uber and Lyft drivers have. Further into the story(ies) he talks about his cab training from an actual driving school, and it really made me think more critically about who we are trusting ourselves with, and the effects corporations have on the livelihood of The City. In his training, he explained that it covered a lot of ground including SFMTA taxi regulations and traffic laws, ADA requirements, and how to navigate The City’s unique streets efficiently. There was even sensitivity training and instructions on safety and protecting their clients and themselves as workers. Lastly, after taking an exam, the final step was to get fingerprinted at the DMV.
Midway through the zine, I started to take cabs instead of using my ride-share apps. What I found was that I could catch a ride much faster than waiting for an Uber or Lyft — they always seem to fake you out with how many minutes you have to wait; as soon as you commit to a ride, they tack on about 5 – 10 more minutes!… that always peeved me. I also found that the prices were about the same, if not cheaper, and I didn’t even have to share the ride.
I hardly ever carry cash on me, and paying with plastic never seemed to be an issue. Not to mention each cab driver lived up to the mystic characters as described in Dessaint’s stories… long time residents of San Francisco, with interesting views on The City’s current changes and impressive navigating skills through alleyways; the best part was watching them interact with other cabbies and random people on the street, making you feel as if you were suddenly a part of The City’s subculture. They could tell you the dish on that one business owner who bought out that one hotel on the corner, and that one piece of scum from LA who thinks he can buy the whole dam block… the stories and attitudes were priceless.
A must read, especially for San Francisco residents. It brought back the San Francisco edge in my mind’s eye, the edge that has been disappearing slowly as gentrification has been taking over. It will encourage you to join the resistance.
I wrote a post 3 weeks after I quit both my instagram channels listing 5 positive changes. It’s now been 7 weeks without instagram, here are 5 more positive changes:
- I quit my facebook. Now I’m even MORE productive at work. Funny thing is, I still have the urge to type in facebook.com everytime I open a web browser…but then I remember I don’t have it, and so I just go to work. How many times have you opened up google chrome to research or get something done and you get sucked into a facebook rabbit hole before you remember what you actually went online to do?
- I’ve discovered more internet. Funny to say, I know, but it’s true – there is so much more world wide web out there to be discovered, why spend all your time in one place? It’s like moving out of your parents house for the first time and realizing that there is so much more world beyond your hometown.
- I don’t live through my phone screen anymore.
- I’m more engaged in conversations, I have more things to say, more opinions to try out.
- I can create with less anxiety, I feel more confident in what I make; there is less fear of being judged.
My favorite quote this week:
“The key to being happy is knowing you have the power to choose what to accept and what to let go.”Dodinsky
This year I have learned a lot about love. Since moving in with my partner, we have faced many ups and downs in our 500 square foot (studio) apartment. There have been rough days, but getting through those road bumps makes our relationship stronger. When people reflect on their life and love on social media, it’s always highlighting the best parts. But what I have learned is that love is the strongest when you’re in your weakest moments. It’s OK to talk about bad moments in life, I think we all need to know that sadness, conflict, and discomfort are normal junctions in any relationship; and so I wanted to embrace the downs of this past year, because it has been these moments that have made me a better person.
To wrap up the year and brainstorm on my new year resolutions, I decided to collect some quotes on what seemed to be the biggest lesson — I’ve learned that forgiveness is hard when anger sits in your throat and hurt pierces your heart. Big or small, learning how to forgive and ask for forgiveness has been my biggest, and ongoing feat.
Here are 6 quotes that inspired me:
- Forgiveness simply means loving someone enough to pursue healing instead of punishment when they have wronged you.
- Forgiveness is not a feeling: it is a commitment. It is a choice to show mercy. Not to hold the offense up against the offender. Forgiveness is an expression of love.
- Communicate, even when it is uncomfortable or uneasy. One of the best ways to heal is simply getting everything out…
- We all make mistakes, don’t let that be the reason you give up on somebody.
- When someone does something wrong, don’t forget about all the things they did right.
- A happy marriage is about three things: memories of togetherness, forgiveness of mistakes and promises to never give up on each other.
Giving and receiving forgiveness is powerful. I realize that reflecting on uncomfortable moments is important if I want to grow. I have always found that journaling has been the best way for me to express myself and understand my emotions.
Writing quotes into my planner is a new practice I experimented with this month and it’s something I want to continue in the new year. It brings clarity to my life when I can see the quotes on a daily basis, and I prefer to refresh them every week or two by choosing a different theme. Try it out!
What are your biggest lessons this year? How will you reflect and remind yourself of that growth?
Author: Shanthi Sekaran
I have been reading San Francisco Public Library’s One City One Book – an initiative to get the community to read the same book at the same time and then discuss in book groups. The main mission – “by building bridges between communities and generations through the reading and most importantly the discussion of – one book, the hope is to make reading a lifelong pursuit and to build a more literate society.”
What makes these books interesting is that they are all novels that take place in the bay area, so these are stories with backdrops I have personal connections to.
Back Cover Summary
In this astonishing novel, Shanthi Sekaran gives voice to the devotion of motherhood through two women bound together by their love for one boy. Soli, a young undocumented Mexican woman in Berkeley, California, finds that motherhood offers her an identity in a world where she’s otherwise invisible. When she is placed in immigrant detention, her son comes under the care of Kavya, an Indian-American wife overwhelmed by her own impossible desire to have a child. As Soli fights for her son, Kavya builds her love on a fault line, her heart wrapped around someone else’s child. Exploring the ways in which dreams and determination can reshape a family, Sekaran illuminates issues of class, ambition, parenthood, and immigration.
From rural Oaxaca to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto to the dreamscapes of Silicon Valley, Lucky Boy offers a moving and revelatory look at the evolving landscape of the American dream and the ever-changing borders of love.
Where I read it
I read this book on the train mostly. I have a 45 minute commute from the city down to the peninsula and back.
How long did it take to read?
A little over a month.
I have a very busy schedule and I was only reading it on the train in 20 – 40 minute increments. There would be a few days here and there where I wouldn’t pick it up, but when I did pick it up, it was definitely a page turner from beginning to end.
Stand out quote(s):
“Don’t be afraid of failing, Rishi-bhai,” Sen said, reading his thoughts. “I led four different companies to the brink of destruction before they hired me at Weebies. Did you know that? It’s not in my company bio. But it’s why they hired me. Failure is knowledge. Nothing more. A little bad luck, some stupid decisions. Nothing more.”
“You don’t believe me.”
“You’ve been to India? Sen asked. “So you’ve seen those buses, right? The buses with the men hanging off the sides?”
“They hang off like this, no? Three, four, five of them across? And you wonder how the bloody hell they manage to not fall? What are they hanging on to? Who knows? But they hang on. Instead of saying Too full, I’ll get the next bus, they run for their lives and jump onto these overcrowded things. And every time they do it, someone catches them, holds on to them, and they hold on too, until they get to where they need to go. No?”
“Yeah,” Rishi said. “You’re right. They do.”
“Imagine if they didn’t take the chance? If they played the cool guy and stayed on the ground?”
“Yeah. I think I see.”
“What would happen then?”
“They’d never get anywhere,” Rishi answered. “They’d be stuck.”
Sen raised one triumphant finger.
Feeling inexplicably uplifted, Rishi hopped to his feet and walked out.
“Run for the bus, Rishi-Bhai!” Sen called.
Sekaran did an amazing job of capturing the thoughts and emotions of the two women going through unfathomable experiences. Many times I had to close the book and just sit with the emotions rising up in my heart and throat.
The light she shines on various relevant topics such as immigration, immigration hierarchy, motherhood, and grit, made this book valuable in addition to being a gripping story.
Although the themes are mostly heavy and the experiences the women go through made me want to cry from time to time, Sekaran is funny! Many times I found myself laughing out loud as she writes about Kavya’s indian mother, Berkeley’s hipster atmosphere, Soli’s innocence in America, and the triumphs and struggles of being in a marriage.
Shanthi Sekaran writes beautifully, and I could read this all over again.
A must read.
I quit my Instagram(s) three weeks ago and already I have been feeling the lights turn on in certain departments of my brain that have long been idle, and unoccupied. Here are five things I’ve noticed of myself in the past three weeks:
- I’ve been able to accomplish more personal/creative tasks.
- I’ve been writing creatively more often. Pen to paper, and it feels so good.
- I’ve been reading more blogs which has been inspiring and informative.
- I’ve had a clearer focus and drive for doing the things I want to do. Instead of thinking I will get to it eventually, or making up excuses that I’m just not ready, I’ve been more proactive with my small windows of time. Instead of finding myself down a scrolling rabbit hole, I’ve been able to put that brain space towards honing in on some creative discipline.
- I’ve been writing out and reviewing my goals, asking myself what I have accomplished?; what was stopping me from doing x,y,z?; and what I can do better?
My favorite quote this week:
The grass is greener where you water it, not on the other side.unknown
Living in San Francisco, and working in the Peninsula, I commute by bike and train and carry my whole day on my back. I bring everything from my breakfast, to my rock climbing gear to ensure that I have a seamless, productive day. Here are my top 8 commuter essentials that would make a great, practical gift for the Urbanite in your life.
#1. Packable, Weather-Proof Jacket
Having a jacket that I can have in my bag at ALL TIMES that will protect me from the elements, makes this item #1 on my list.
#2. Phone Case Wallet
As a commuter, I try to have my hands free, and try to make my transition from bike, to bus, to train as seamless as possible without having to open my backpack. I almost always have my phone in my hand or pocket, as I use it to check bus times and directions; so having my phone with my Clipper Card attached makes commuter life a breeze.
Giving this as a gift, you could even go above and beyond and get a personalized case from Etsy.
#3. A Small Lunch Cooler
I use this Fiesta PackIt Personal Cooler to pack my smoothie and snacks in the morning. One Magic Bullet cup fits perfectly in this foldable pack, and it stays cold with the insulated walls. Just keep this bad boy in the freezer over night and your smoothie is guaranteed to stay fresh and icy cold. I love how small and compact it is.
I’ll admit, I received this cooler one Christmas from my mom, and my initial reaction was thinking how lame and unoriginal this gift was; but I have used this so much and quickly grew to love it!
Central Park or Dolores Park, this pack will make all your friends jealous when your the only one left with ice cold beers 😉 A six pack fits nicely inside.
Combine this gift with some fun Bento Boxes or Sistema containers, and this would make a great practical gift for anyone!
#4 Contigo Coffee Mug & Tea Strainer
I know a coffee mug is a staple household item for most people. But I am here to really boast this mug’s ability to keep things piping hot, and spill proof through out my commute. I switch between coffee and loose leaf tea, so I especially love this tea strainer accessory that snaps into the cap of the mug. This would make a great gift for the tea enthusiasts in your life. 🙂
#5 Compression Packing Cubes
I love these things. It’s better than regular packing cubes because you can really maximize the space in your bag with the compression zipper. I use this on the daily, packing my gym clothes into my backpack.
Before, I used to have my clothes loosely taking up the bulk of my bag, but now they are compressed and my bag is more organized.
For that person on the go, they will love this. It’s one of those things that people don’t think they need until they get it. They come in all sorts of sizes, some small enough for a purse; Pack a cardigan and a scarf into the smallest size and you can still have room in your tote for all the other essentials.
Pair this with other organizational pouches, and your Type A friends will LOVE YOU.
#6 A Quality Messenger Bag or Backpack
Get your commuter a true city bag by brands who really know what the urban commuter needs. My favorite brand is Timbuk2 – a San Francisco based company. I sport their Jetpack backpack, and have purchased their sling bags and messenger bags for days when I want to pack light. They are gender neutral, which I love, and have a very minimalist style. Other great brands I like are Chrome Industries, and Topo Designs.
Timbuk2 always has some sort of sale, if you sign up for their email list, it’s like Black Friday never ended. I HIGHLY recommend this as a gift for someone you love. They are lifetime guaranteed, and my first Timbuk2 bag is 8 years old and in great, vibrant condition.
#7 Portable Phone Charger
Everyone needs one of these. Am I right? Or am I right?
This makes a great stocking stuffer. There are so many fun ones out there too. I have one that looks like R2D2. Check out this avocado portable charger … so hip, so cool, so on trend.
#8 Blue Tooth Headphones
Lastly, a pair of wireless or bluetooth headphones is another one of those items I never thought I needed until I got it. I’ve always preferred these over the earbuds because they are more comfortable and make the music experience so much better.
Similar to my phone case testimonial, walking around and jumping on trains tangle free of chords makes this item a must while commuting.
If your commuter is a cyclist, I suggest a bluetooth portable speaker.
I do not support cycling with headphones on. Ride safe people!
I love listening to music or listening to the news when I ride my bike. This also comes in handy when I am biking to a new place and need to plug in Google Maps. Be sure to get one with a clip so that it can latch onto the rider, and not fall out of any pockets, causing freakish accidents – trust me, I’ve seen it happen!
I love all these items dearly because they make cruising on my bike and hopping around the city a breeze.
Are you a city slicker, train-jumper, cyclist commuter?
What’s in your bag?