While I do know someone who successfully networked herself a job through ridesharing, all I’ve gotten out of Uber and Lyft are lightly traumatizing stories I can tell at parties, or in more intimate settings like my darkly lit bedroom where I overshare to a few thousand strangers online. In a Lyft car, I’ve been offered a weapon. I’ve been in a car with a screaming driver. I’ve been humiliated. And those three examples all happened in one ride last week.
Friday, I made plans with a friend for a nighttime stroll around Lady Bird Lake in Austin. Lady Bird Lake is a tourist hotspot, so I’d walked the trail some time ago. I hadn’t walked there at night, but I presumed the only difference would be the hue of the sky.
My friend had departed earlier than I’d expected, so I ditched my plans for taking the bus and called a Lyft so he wouldn’t have to wait.
As I slid into my Lyft driver’s car, we exchanged perfunctory greetings—pleasant and unremarkable. I started browsing Twitter. I’d barely scrolled past the latest variant of the “so you tellin me a shrimp fried this rice” tweet when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw at the intersection ahead a large black dog rearing up like a horse, the owner yanking it back by the leash. A little white dog, walked by a student going the other way, leapt excitedly around the first dog’s legs.
Driver slammed on the brakes and started shouting. Not just a raised voice—on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being silent and 10 earsplitting, this was suburban youth screaming along to Mr. Brightside. Way more than that, actually. The windows were up. I jolted in the backseat, heart racing.
Driver: WHAT IN THE—CONTROL YOUR DOG—HE’S GONNA BITE THE LITTLE ONE!
Driver: Sorry, I had a little dog just like that and he got bitten by a big dog and died.
Me: Oh, no, I’m so sorry. You’re totally fine. I under—
Driver: GOD, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? STOP HIM! CONTROL! YOUR! DOG!
She kept getting louder, and while I understood why she was so upset, she seemed on the verge of a breakdown. She threatened to spray the dog with her mace. I watched, slightly scared and back glued to my seat in this stranger’s car, as the owners separated the two dogs and went their separate ways, unaware of the scene because the car’s windows were still up.
Driver apologized, and I brushed it off, still shaken but understanding that she’d meant well. I made some conversation about the football game the next day, and was she excited? Who was she rooting for? Did she drive those days? As we kept talking, she seemed to settle down. Then she picked up another passenger for the Lyft Pool.
The second passenger, a tall, muscular black guy, slid into the right passenger seat. I tried to pick up the conversation and include him, asking him if he’d gone to the game last week.
I gave up. Driver talked some more about LSU football, the team she’d been rooting for (and my school’s rivals,) and the guy at least acknowledged her questions with one-word responses. I tried again.
Me: Are you going to the game tomorrow?
Dude: *eyes me*
Dude: I’m on the team.
I mumbled something like “oh, that’s so cool” and immediately sat back and tried to disassociate from my stinging cheeks. The conversation for the next ten minutes was pretty much Driver loudly rambling, Dude selecting from Grunt/Yes/No, and me wishing for my escape from the confines of this vehicle.
Driver soon jolted me out of the dark place, asking where exactly I wanted to be dropped off, as my dropoff point of Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk & Trail was in the center of the highway. I briefly considered it and then realized I didn’t actually know where I should be dropped off as I couldn’t see anything familiar from our location at night. She continued driving off the highway, through dark and eerie woods, and I asked her to just leave me at any bus stop and I’d figure it out.
Driver: Are you sure? I’d better not see you on the news tomorrow.
Me: I’ll figure it out! Thank you.
Driver: Do you want a knife? I have one.
Me: Uhhh—I’ll be okay! Thank you though!
I grabbed the handle and leaped out of the car. The car behind us—I’d forgotten my door was on the traffic side, and the guy hadn’t made any indication that he was going to move to let me out—honked the whole time as I looked back, slammed the door, mouthed “sorry!” and darted back to the safety of the sidewalk. Driver honked back, and the two warred for a bit before driving off.
Sitting at the bus stop, I searched up how to actually get to the lake. A woman passed by, walking alone, and, relieved, I walked with her for the mile to civilization. Somehow the Lyft app came up again, asking me to rate the ride.
I stared the screen, still terrified, and clicked five stars.
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