When you don’t care where you’re going, it’s easy to get there

Toonces, the famous driving cat from Saturday Night Live

Since I started driving for Lyft, I’ve become an Uber-mellow (pun intended) driver.

Most weekdays, I drive the morning AND afternoon rush hours — by choice.

One day I came to a simple truth: Driving in traffic is only stressful when YOU are the person trying to get somewhere. And that’s the reality for most people when they get behind the wheel. As soon as traffic gets in the way, your blood pressure goes up and you feel powerless. You’re gonna be late, and it’s someone else’s fault.

But when driving for Lyft, I’m not trying to get anywhere. And THAT makes all the difference.

A few observations from driving in this previously unnatural state:

  • Surface streets are amazingly efficient (at least in Phoenix, where they are wide and everything is laid out on a grid). I’m always shocked how quickly I can cover a lot of ground without ever getting on a freeway.
  • When you drive the speed limit you hit a lot more green lights. It’s also more relaxing.
  • Going easy on the gas and brake pretty much gets you where you’re going at the same time as the next guy who’s driving like a maniac.

Another observation, specific to spending so much time in this slow-motion motoring state of mind: Casino BaitBeing a rideshare driver feels like some twisted combination of gambling and fishing.

Like fishing, you’re always trolling for the best fishing holes. And when you find one, you want to keep it to yourself. One of mine is a Toyota dealership that I discovered where the service advisors call Lyft rides for any and all of their customers who need to get somewhere after dropping off their car. If I’m in that dealer’s area on a weekday morning, I simply pull in next to the service entrance and wait for the bite. And it always comes. Then I only have to drive 25 yards to reel them in.

Like gambling … especially on a slot machine or video poker … you keep winning (getting rides) just often enough to keep you playing. When things are going good, you’re on a streak. The rides are longer and the next pickup comes quickly. When things are bad, the rides are few, the length is short and no one is tipping.

Which reminds me …

… of the guy I picked up recently at one of our Indian casinos. He was literally coming off 24 hours straight of gambling, with no sleep. He admitted he had lost $5,000, but as we talked more, I realized he’d actually lost $15,000. The $5k was what he had lost on top of the $10k he had walked in with, which he wasn’t counting at first because they were winnings from his last bender the week before.

I think I’ll stick to my low-stakes version of fish-ambling. It’s just as fun … but not nearly as painful when it goes bad.

PS – If after reading, you’re inspired to give Lyft driving a try, make sure to use a driver referral bonus when you first fill out the applicationUse code MIKE17396 and we will both enjoy a bonus for rides you give during your first month. (You don’t need to drive in Phoenix for the code to work.)

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I'm a former corporate manager and journalist driving Lyft for fun ... and sharing these stories with anyone willing to play along.

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