When I first heard of the Hertz Express Ride program, it sounded too good to be true. Not only would Hertz rent you a car to give rides to people around the city through Lyft, but the car would be free if you gave seventy rides a week.
I recently decided to give it a shot and found that the life of a taxi driver isn't for the faint of heart.
I started on a Wednesday, needing a pro-rated amount of fifty rides before Monday at 5 a.m. to get my car for free. Otherwise, I was looking at a $200 fee. I started on the wrong foot, hitting Cheesman Park mid-day and sitting there for hours nervously awaiting my first ride. After the first one, I was addicted and drove almost nonstop, waking up at 4:30 a.m. and driving until 3 a.m. on the weekend to ensure I hit my required number of rides.
The car ended up being free, but I'm not sure it was worth the mental trauma that comes with being a taxi driver. Here are the ten most common riders I encountered as a Lyft driver.
1. The Kids
It never occurred to me that children would be using Lyft to get to and from school. I picked up a high-school student at her house early one morning and had to race her to school before the bell rang. I had no idea what to say, so I asked her what her favorite subject was, and to my delight, she said English. That was the extent of our conversation. It was weird being the Lyft driver in a line of parents dropping their kids off at the front door, but I rolled with it, and even mustered my best “Have a good day at school!” as she exited the car. Another time, I picked a couple of teenagers at their high school in the middle of the day. “Playing hooky?” I asked. Yes, they said. I thought for a second that it would be better to teach these kids a lesson than to make a few bucks, so I hesitated. As I was preparing to lecture them on the importance of not ditching school, they told me they were kidding and hopped in.
2. The Belligerent Asshole
I really didn't pick up too many of these, but they are out there. One time I went to pick up what the Lyft app told me to be one guy in LoDo, an absolute hellhole at 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday. It turned out it was a gentleman with half a dozen women following him around. There's no way that's working, I thought, and I told him as much. He started complaining that he needed a bigger car and didn't know how the app worked. I ended up having to use his phone to cancel the ride, incriminating myself for not being able to accommodate his needs. The ladies, dressed to the nines and wearing flashy jewelry, didn't take too kindly to being left without a ride, and one of them punched the side of the car with her ring finger, leaving a small dent that Hertz thankfully didn't notice. I'm sure it was entertaining for the passengers that were sitting in the back seat the whole time.
3. Actual Friends
About every fifteen rides, you just click with someone. They get in the car, and it's like you've been best friends for years. You practically want to ask for their number when they leave so you can drive around together sometime in the future.
4. The Date Dodgers
These people just had a terrible Tinder experience and just want to get home. It makes for a great icebreaker, because you can just criticize the poor soul they just left. I would never cross the professional line and ask a passenger on a date, but it was easy to connect with someone who had just come off such a downer.
Continue reading for the types of Lyft passengers you find in Denver.
5. Lyfts of Shame
When you're out driving all day and night, you end up picking people up from a booty call. You can usually tell by their self-satisfied smile and the stench that takes five rides with the windows down and a dozen Febreze squirts to completely eliminate. For some reason, many of these people like to tell the whole story of their night. Please just tell your roommates.
6. The Out-of-Towners
It's always fun to drive someone from DIA to downtown for the first time. Where can you buy weed? Everywhere. Where can you smoke it? Legally nowhere. But practically everywhere. Where's the best food, where do people hang? I love it here! It's so sunny! How far away are the mountains? It always filled me with nostalgia to talk to these people, because I was doing the same thing four and a half years ago.
7. The Antsy Passengers
These people are going somewhere important, like an interview or a funeral. The weight of the moment hangs heavy in the air. One passenger passed the time popping Xanax on her way to drink cocktails before meeting her partner's parents for the first time. I found the best tactic for these types was to agree with absolutely everything they said and to offer them handfuls of mints.
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8. The Needy
For some, a simple ride from point A to point B is not enough. They need you to stop for beer, pizza and whatever else they can think of while they're out. At first I didn't know the rules, so I stopped whenever a passenger would ask me to. The first time this happened, I thought I was part of something illegal. There was a couple in the back seat, and when the man got out to go the liquor store, the woman told me to turn the music up as high as I could stand it. The man came out clearly packing something extra hidden in his clothes, and I either thought it was stolen booze or a gun he was going to use to hold me up. Alas, the moment passed, and there was in fact no danger. Another person grew angry with me when I wouldn't stop for fast food because the line was too long. “But I have kids!” she said. Sometimes Lyft drivers have to make difficult decisions, like letting kids starve. Hey, no one said it was easy.
9. The Concert-goers
Taking someone, or a group of people, to a concert isn't bad. Those passengers are somewhat sober. Picking them up is where the fun starts. Heading to the 1STBANK Center after an EDM show is a surefire way to get a better understanding of what ecstasy does to a young person's brain. Do not listen to their advice or make stops for them, as their attention span is lacking and they will probably forget you're outside waiting.
10. The Sketchy Ones
You don't really know what they're plotting until a few minutes down the road. They're quiet, shifty and seemingly just left a domestic dispute with their lover/former lover. You're just praying you're not going to get stabbed. They're quick to anger and quick to point out wrong turns. You feel very relieved once you've dropped these passengers off.