Walk of Errrr, Shame?

walk-of-shame1“Don’t judge, don’t judge!” That’s how the ride started when I picked up two thirty-something-year-old women in the gritty, industrial-wasteland, home-to-all-tech-startups, south of market district of San Francisco. This is a fairly common occurrence on any Sunday morning in the city. The infamous walk of shame where passengers will lower their heads, filled with echoes of church teachings or, alternatively, tell you in explicit detail of the previous evening’s exploits (yes, this does happen with an impressive frequency)

Civilization and Its Discontents

Back to our two friends: Tammy, whose account was connected to the ride, and her friend Michelle. Tammy, whose fire-red hair spilled messily over her face, smeared with yesterday’s mascara, recapped her night of drunken debauchery. On their way to brunch, they started already discussing, with a gloomy tone, their very different work lives. Makes you wonder why so many of us don’t feel authentic at work. Who we are inside and outside of the office is typically quite different.

At any rate, the two stars of our story had met a gentleman who was intriguing enough for them to have gone back to his flat and “double team him.” Sounds like what some would consider a win-win-win kind of situation.

Sex Positive? Shame versus Glory!

With the Dore Alley Street Festival (perhaps San Francisco’s most sex-positive street fair) coming up this weekend, I reflected on why some of us call this march en mass from the bedroom to the street the “walk of shame.” What’s so shameful about sex between consenting adults? I’d like to re-coin the walk of shame to the walk of glory.

Proselytizing Passenger and Self Esteem Issues

Previously this year I picked up a passenger, in the early afternoon, from the Pacific Heights district. Coming into the vehicle she must have sensed I was a bit distressed. She asked me how I was and if everything was okay. Now, 95% of passengers divulge to me what many would consider very private aspects of their lives. Is it because I tend to be warm and pretty nonjudgmental? Is it the anonymity of the rideshare driver/passenger experience? Perhaps a combination? For once, I decided to share that I was having some really deep feelings for a polyamorous guy in an open relationship. Her immediate response was, “oh, you have really low self-esteem.” What, excuse me?!

We continued our awkward conversation as I drove her to Twitter headquarters to start her workday. She stated that anyone in an open relationship hates themselves and thinks very lowly of their own self-worth. I asked her, “is monogamy for everyone?” She replied, “yes, absolutely!” I answered, “I believe that two consenting adults should define their relationship.” She paused. There was silence. She said, “monogamy is natural for everyone.” I said, “I’m gay and there are many that say the same about heterosexuality and I don’t buy it.” Her reply? “I think you should go to my church.” What?!!! I asked her why. She had to think about this. She replied, “because you’ll like it.”

After this ride, I turned to Facebook (AKA triggerbook) and went on a similar rant that I am about to go on now. Very simply, let’s get out of each other’s bedrooms; let’s get out each other’s places of worship; save the judgement and let people choose for themselves.

Hope to see you at Dore.

Santa Cruz counter-culture & life-changing illness

sticky wicketOur latest story comes to us from the stunning coast of Santa Cruz. For a change, I decided to enjoy some amazing beaches and pick up a few rides along the way! I picked up a middle-aged man, named Gary. He was a pretty smiley fella. a former RV salesman who discovered the joys of participating in the vintage/used economy. Now retired from RV sales, he rehabs bikes and sells them on Craigslist. I dropped him off at his bachelor pad where he was meeting a few friends.

His place was, functional. It was a small house with a few tarps covering vintage cars and what appeared to be bike parts scattered around the front yard. Since I was in the market for a new bike, he invited me to browse his inventory. I got out of the car, looked around and enjoyed the smell of the fresh, salty sea air.

A home to 1960s counter-culture

To the eye, there was nothing particularly special about this place. How deceiving! This slightly ramshackle diggs was home to the infamous Sticky Wicket in the 1960s. A hang out for the most prominent bands on the West Coast! He showed me in the living room and said, “this is where Jerry Garcia met his wife.” From the late fifties through the sixties, this was a hot bed for the counter culture and hippy movement. Bands like Jefferson Airplane, Blue Oyster Cult, and the Grateful Dead would come, play, smoke tons of pot (and who knows what else) and write and play the music that moved generations to come.

One last visit

This came to a halt due to area construction and development. Once they laid ground for the new freeway to run right next to the house, the business began falling off. To this day, however, people still come by to see what was once the great Sticky Wicket. Gary told me the story of a two old hippy ladies, shroud in sparkles and purple, both with long silken gray hair.

They stood outside of Gary’s driveway and silently and stilly wept. Concerned, Gary went outside to greet them. He asked, what is wrong. They wiped their tears and apologized for disturbing him. As it turns out, this was the last place that these sisters saw their father in 1959.

A life changed forever

Gary had a lot of moving stories, one more that I’ll share. A few years ago, one of his friends, a construction worker, worked too many consecutive days. It got to the point where he passed out one day at a construction site. Sounds pretty bad, right? Something that we can all probably relate to in some way. Unfortunately, when this man woke, his life had changed, forever.

The construction worker had pneumonia and a fairly advanced case of it. It was so bad that he was laying on his death bed. He was being treated for the infection that affected all 4 of his limbs. The medical team had to make a vital, life/death decision. Let this man die or remove his arms and legs from the joints, down.

When he woke up, he had no idea what had happened to him. All that he knew is that his arms and legs were removed. As I write this, I’m getting waves of emotion. I ask myself, am I telling this story in a way that is respectful of this man and his experience? It’s a very difficult thing to do!

The rise of the bionic man and annoying soccer moms

Since, he has been fit with prosthetic limbs, some of the best out there. Gary joked and said that his is basically the bionic man now. His new legs are spring loaded and he can run faster than some cars! Frank told me about how he parks in the handicapped spaces and middle aged ladies with hordes of screaming children roll their eyes and shoot him death stares, for doing so. Then, without saying a word, he gets out of the car. Apparently, he’s received all kinds of reactions.

It’s really easy to see the things in life that we don’t have and more challenging to see the positives. Sometimes, it takes tragedies, like illness and the death of loved ones to make us realize and be thankful what we truly have. Living in a consumerist society (which is eating itself alive) does not help. What would our lives, and our communities, be like if we were thankful more often?

3 Stories of Ridesharing and Marijuanna

maryjaneMarijuana has a special place in the Bay Area. This is the home of the Beat Movement, the Summer of Love and Haight Ashbury. It’s rare that you’ll walk the gleaming, gritty and dirty streets of San Francisco and not smell pot wafting through the air. For the record, I am not a pot smoker but I love the culture built around it.

So, all that said, it is quite natural for the subject of marijuana to come up in discussion as it is such a central part of the area’s culture.

Here are three stories, about pot, as told to me by passengers.

1. Startup CEO vs Burning Man Hashcake

What happened when this CEO accidentally consumed enough pot to get a herd of elephants stoned

2. Medical Marijuana Trumps Bay Area Earthquake

Hear how pot effected these stoners during that last earthquake

3. Mimosas, Marijuana and Trouble at the Mexican Border

When two post-college age girls get caught on the wrong side of the border with marijuana

Do you have any absurd pot-related stories? If so, share them in the comments below!

Ride Share Passenger Quote of the Day, March 7, 2015

“Focus on the breath, not the traffic.”

The roommate horror story underwear and dead cat mishap

underwearthiefSan Francisco has recently managed to surpass New York as the most expensive city to rent. So, naturally, it is very common to live with roommates well into your 40s and beyond. San Francisco being the hub of tolerance and creativity that it is, attracts a colorful array of people. Some of these folks may, to some, appear to be somewhat eccentric. So, naturally, some extraordinary stories of cohabitation arise.

Something curious is in the freezer

One story came to me from a passenger I picked up in the beautiful Twin Peaks area of the city. She was a bit frazzled as the apartment hunt in SF can drive anyone a little bonkers. She spoke with me about the urgency she felt around moving out of her current place. Her roommate was threatening her! That must be very unsettling, to say the least. Another thing that is unsettling is some information that her long-time neighbor shared. Apparently, this woman went around collecting dead animals from the side of the road and saved them in the freezer in the garage. Her favorite animals to collect were dead cats. There’s no telling how many dead cats are being memorialized in this local woman’s garage freezer. However, I can confidently say that I do not want to know.

An infestation in Brooklyn

By all means, the best roommate horror story comes to me from a good friend of mine for whom I am dedicating this article. Peter and his former boyfriend used to live a few doors down from me in the grimy-wasteland-since-turned-hipster-paradise known as Bushwick (or East Williamsburg, or Morgantown…) Their place was one of the absolute worse, ever!! I remember when they finally moved and how happy I was for them. Soon after their move we found ourselves passing by the old place and seeing a group of college-aged students waiting to view the apartment. Peter’s boyfriend at the time hesitantly approached them and let loose. It was like you opened a fire hydrant of misery. He said, “move into this lovely apartment if you would like to live among a rat, cockroach, and possible bed bug infestation. Also, if you like living next to a scenic cement factory that runs at all hours of the night. Lastly, if you want a landlord who ‘charges market value’ and does not return phone calls.” Is your blood boiling yet?

Better conditions in San Francisco?

The couple soon moved to lovely San Francisco where they found a rent controlled room in Lower Haight. With many rent controlled situations, the apartment came with its token 60-something-year-old, partially employed, partially depressed, partially dressed resident. This person would sit in his room, surrounded by half-eaten microwavable dinners, practically glued to the flashing colors of reality television. However, this man was not the crux of the story as he mostly kept to himself.

Peter and his then-partner had one more roommate who kept strange hours. He was a friendly guy but like their other roommate, they did not see him very much. He would often leave his door open. It was quite the site. He had no furniture except for a beat up, stained futon mattress and a few hangers. His clothing was scattered in a frantic mess all over the floor.

Fast forward a few months after they moved in: Peter’s grandmother passed away. He flew out East for the services and received a very small inheritance, of which included a very nice dresser. He approached his messy roommate, with the best of intent, and offered him his childhood dresser since he now had a nicer piece of furniture that he inherited from his grandmother. His roommate was very grateful and accepted Peter’s generous offer. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that wasn’t the case here. He soon cleaned up his room and made great use of the dresser.

Where did my underwear go?

As the busy weeks went on, Peter noticed that he was running out of underwear. For a while, he beat himself up for not being diligent in doing his laundry but he had so few pairs of underwear left, something smelled fishy. One afternoon, on the way to the bathroom, he glanced through the crack of his roommate’s door and saw a pink pair of American Apparel briefs, too similar to the ones gone missing. With great reluctance, he entered the slightly more tidy jungle that was his roommate’s space. He was almost positive that these underwear were his! He scanned the room and his glance landed on the dresser he gifted to this person. He approached the dresser and opened the draws, one by one. He was surprised to have found seven pairs of his underwear, neatly folded, and laid out in the draw of this dresser. What was even more surprising to Peter is what else he found. Upon further investigation, every pair of underwear had a giant skidmark. Yes folks, big brown stains!

Underwear is not cheap, as you know. Beyond the cost was the outright violation of privacy! Peter was generous and felt betrayed. What eclipsed the feelings of betrayal, by all means, were the feelings of “what the fuck!!”

That night, Peter approached his roommate and said, “Hey dude, I went in your room and noticed that you’ve been stealing and pooping in my underwear! What the heck!!” In response, the man was dumbfounded, surprised and speechless. With a monumental feeling of embarrassment, he apologized. Unfortunately, in this case, you could not teach an underwear-stealing-dog-with-bad-house-training-habits, new tricks. Only a few days later he was back at it. Peter soon moved out.

Living with people in San Francisco, or anywhere, can be the best or worst of situations. We see what happens when its bad. But, the term “chosen family” is common here. I was recently at a beautiful apartment in Castro Hills where they live in unison. That’s also the feeling with my current situation. Roommates can become the closest friends you could ever have. I actually prefer to live with others.

However, anyone that has ever had roommates has horror stories. What was your last roommate horror story?

Protests against the Mission & 16th development (Update)

mission no evic artIn Ride Share Tales article, Eviction, Creativity and a Story of Self-Discovery, we interviewed ride share passenger, Beatrice. Beatrice, an artist and activist who has lived in the Mission for the past fourteen years, introduced us to Our Mission, No Eviction. This organization is leading the resistance to the high priced development in SF’s Mission District.

Read their latest article, A Developer Forum Becomes a Vocal Protest, and follow the story of the Mission’s struggles of lower income residents as it continues to unfold.

From Porn Star to Shaman: Don’t Judge a Book by it’s Cover

Dont judge a bookProbably the best part about being a ride share driver is the opportunity to meet the colorful people from the San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, that has been the inspiration, from day-one, for this blog.

The last few weeks have been particularly interesting, passenger-wise. One gay porn star shared his experience with me. He was on his way to a client. He had been hired for the entire weekend to escort a particularly well-known gentleman in the community. Let’s just say, the client liked to play rough (think leather, electric shock, restraints, champagne, and Barbara Streisand. Okay, maybe not the latter, two?)

Another person I was intrigued with was on his way to meet a shaman in Chico, CA for an iowaska ceremony. He spoke about how iowaska changed his life. “If used for spiritual purposes,” he said, “it opens your heart. But, you have to be prepared to explore your deepest personally held demons.”

When assumptions are broken

I consistently find myself being surprised by the people I meet in the Bay Area. They march to the beat of their own drum. I think it is natural to quickly make inferences or assumptions about a person when you first meet them. It’s engrained in us as we evolved this way. But, more often than one would think, these preconceived notions are broken! This happened to me when I made a pick up in North Beach, the historically Italian-American neighborhood in San Francisco. (Also, the same neighborhood that was the backdrop for the Beat Movement.)

My passengers, Michael, and his father, who were visiting the city on vacation, got into the car. They asked to be taken to a nearby cigar bar in the Financial District. Michael looked like a character out of the Sopranos. He’s middle aged and both him and his father wore suits. His father spoke with an Italian accent.

Michael asked me if he could request some music. Now, stop for a second and take note. What are you thinking? What music do you think he would request? Be honest!

He asked me if I had anything by The Smiths. I was so pleasantly surprised as I come from a long line of musicians and play and DJ myself. And, I love the Smiths! “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” was the first song that I played. Michael, with glee, rolled down his window and began to sing along. He knew every lyric. He played air guitar. I loved witnessing this ephemeral moment of a perfect contentedness that only music can bring us.

His father leaned over from the back seat, also smiling and said, “Michael, this song reminds me of when we used to live together in San Francisco.”


A pleasant surprise

A few days later, I picked up a very put together, attractive young woman, Celine, from downtown. She asked to be taken to the salon where she works, in the wealthy northern suburb of Marin County. We spoke about her background. She had just come back from Los Angeles and still had that post-vacation glow. She said she loved how people paid special attention to their appearance and dress when they went out. A frequent complaint about San Franciscans is that they’re too laid back and never dress nicely. One passenger at AirBnB told me about how the company has “formal Fridays” instead of “casual Fridays.” This way, employees can wear the nice button up or dress that they never get to wear.

Celine talked about living in the Sunset District. “Yes, it can be a little cloudy,” she said, “but it’s near the beach.” She told me how her boyfriend was an avid surfer and she is just as avid of a skateboarder. She wants to use skateboarding to gain better balance and agility so she can begin to surf too.

Making assumptions is something we do. This can be a touchy subject because no one wants to be seen as judgmental. Plus, assumptions can be harmful to others. Every time we meet others who break our preconceived notions (about anything), it challenges us. It causes a mini-awakening and takes us out of being on “autopilot.” When was the last time you had a preconceived notion or assumption, broken? What was it like? Please share!

Mimosas, marijuana, and trouble at the Mexican border

mexicoI picked Michelle up from Pacific Heights, a wealthy neighborhood in San Francisco. She was a jovial 20-something-year-old who recently moved here from San Diego.

Pot smoke is a-wafting

It was a stunningly beautiful San Francisco day. I had all the windows and sunroof down to let in that honey-like California sun. As I drove Michelle south of Market we passed by the Tenderloin District and a giant cloud of pot smoke wafted into the car. Of course, this is entirely common pretty much anywhere in San Francisco. San Franciscans have a different perspective on pot than most anywhere else in the country.

Michelle practically sprung up out of her seat and said, “have I got a story for you!!” (Sometimes blogging is too easy)

Just a girl’s day out, right?

A few months ago Michelle’s friend from college flew back to the West Coast for vacation. She was going to spend some time in sunny San Diego and then head to Mexico for a relaxing weekend of drinking on the beach. Michelle met her friend for brunch and planned to drive her to the Mexican border.

After some serious eggs benedict, mimosas and bellinis (hopefully not too much), the two reunited friends hopped in their 2011 green Volkswagen buggy and headed for our Spanish-speaking neighbors!

Was that the Mexican border?

I’ve never been to Mexico, which I hope to change soon, but I imagine that the border on this side is not as well marked as going the other direction (from Mexico to the US.) Why do I think this? Well, Michelle and her friend, as she told me, were having such great conversation that they blew right past the Mexican border. Whoops!! We’ve all been there. Some intense girl-talk and all of a sudden the night flew right by, just like the border to Mexico.

They did not think anything of it. Who would? Two 20-something-year-old American gals out cruising on a sunny afternoon. Totally innocent, right? Well, remember what I said about how Californians think about pot? This is all great until you get to Mexico. This is especially the case when you have a year’s worth of roaches in your ashtray. Again, whops!

So, let’s take inventory of the day here. How did two girlfriends meeting up for brunch and drinks turn into a potential jail sentence? I could only imagine these two blonde twenty-three-year-old girls locked away in a Mexican (or any) prison. I would not be laughing!

The patrol officer went through their car and found the roaches. They stood for a good 90-minutes outside of the car in total denial of what was happening. It did not help that their Spanish was bad and most of the patrol officers only spoke broken English. They were scared. I would be too! After their extended wait, they were approached by a senior officer

4 foot tall savior? Mexican border control getting real

The officer in command was a woman who stood about four-foot-nine. Her presence, although calming, carried authority. According to Michelle, the other officers had already confiscated their marijuana. Also according to Michelle, the officer took one look at her and said, “go home young lady…NOW!”

It was undoubtedly Michelle’s lucky day. We should be thankful that their girls-day-out didn’t turn into court and prison.

One day the rest of the world will catch up with our more progressive cities and not take pot so seriously. Until then, keep your weed away from the Mexican border or any border, please. Unless, of course, you’d like to be featured on Ride Share Tales.

Ride Share Tales is Back (and I’m sorry)

BackOkay folks, Ride Share Tales is back and I’m so sorry for taking this long of a break. The holidays threw me off and I just finished applying to graduate school for psychology. Also, I’ve been applying for new jobs. As much as I love ride sharing, it is unsustainable as a full time gig. However, I do hope to continue picking up a few hours with the purpose of keeping this blog running. I think of it as research.

In the next few days I will have a few really great stories being published. Check back tomorrow to read, “Mimosas, Marijuana, and the Mexican Border Control.”

How cursing out current residents helped her find her San Francisco apartment

sf houseOur latest compelling tale comes from my ride share passenger, Christine. I picked Christine up in the downtown Tenderloin area and brought her about 25-minutes south to the foggy residential Sunset District. Christine was enthusiastic, had an authentic and truthful quality to her personality and stunning long, dirty blonde hair that showered down over her shoulders like dripping honey. No longer a resident of San Francisco, Christine told me of her struggles in what is likely the most competitive and challenging housing market in America. This, in part, is why she left the Bay Area.

She had a sublet situation, which was soon coming to an end. After weeks of searching, she had finally received responses back from a few parties who were interested in speaking with her about their soon-to-be-open rooms. She only had a week left in her current place, so this timing, although it could have been better, was good.

Oddly over formal

She arrived at the first apartment to be greeted by the current tenants who she described as privileged, strangely overly-formal hippy offspring. The room was laid out like an alcoholic’s anonymous meeting held inside of a maximum-security prison. (I would guess the living room was a bit more pleasantly decorated, though.) 25 people came that day to view the room. They stood awkwardly in the apartment waiting for instructions.

There were cold steel fold-up chairs placed neatly in a circle around the room. Without being offered any food or drink, these potential roommates, who were being treated as second-class citizens, we’re asked to “please quickly find a seat.” Christine was asked to join the other “parties in the room.”

One of the current residents acted as a facilitator for the group. He suggested that “we go in a circle and answer the following questions: What kind of music do you listen to? What are your eating habits and what kinds of food will you be storing in our refrigerator?”

Midway through the meeting, a young woman entered, late. She was asked to take the only seat left in the room. As the current residents looked at her unappreciatively for interrupting their perfectly planned event, she cringed and took the barren seat next to the facilitator. He turned to her and asked, “alright, what kind of food would you be keeping in the refrigerator? Do you eat junk or fried food?”

When you just had enough

This was the straw that broke the camels back. As the late arrival struggled for her words, Christine stood up in total disgust, and with a red face, threw up her hands and said, “Am I the only one who thinks this is total fucking bullshit? This is so weird and sterile. I’m leaving and anyone here can join me.”

As she left, the room looked at her in amazement. No one got up from their seat. About to walk out of the door, Christine heard the rigid protagonist call out to her, “Christine, excuse me, Christine? Would you be so kind as to leave your email address?” Christine declined.

Christine continues her apartment search

Even more surprising is how Christine found her apartment. The next day she went to another “open house.” She knocked on the door of the building in the residential Western Addition area of San Francisco. An energetic man answered the door and started running her through the crowds of people who were also there to look at the room. “Here is the bathroom” “Here is the open room” “Here is the Kitchen and that’s Aaron and you should talk to him.” “He lives here!” How cool, right?!” Christine did not expect there to be a large house party full of people competing for a room the size of a shoebox. But, there she was.

Taking the man’s suggestion, she started to approach Aaron to introduce herself. She overheard a conversation between one of the other guests and Aaron. The guest found out that she and Aaron went to the same art school. Overhearing this, another potential roommate jumped in front of the girl, flailing her arms around manically, exclaiming, “I went there too! I went there too! I was a great student and love love love art!!” At that moment, her original host came skipping into the kitchen. “Heeeeeey guys, how’d you all get here?” They answered, “I walked!” “I drove” “I took the BART!” He looked at Christine said, “How about you? How did you get here?” Christine hesitantly responded, “umm, I rode my bike…” He replied, “YES!! That’s the answer I was looking for.”

What happens when Christine gets angry

Once again, Christine started to become enraged about the menagerie that is house hunting in SF and how current residents sometimes handle the roommate hunt. And, again, she expressed her discontent: “You guys have some hell of a nerve, inviting me here under false pretenses so I can be a contestant in your weird game show! I’m out of here!!”

They were so intrigued with her, they literally chased her out of the door trying to coerce her to stay. At work the next day, while recapping her experience to coworkers, she received a text from the people at the second house asking her to, please come back. They were very interested in her. Her colleagues suggested that she continue to curse off the current residents so that they want her more. So, she basically did that. She was invited back for a one-on-one interview, the only such interview this household ran. She reminded them how dissatisfied she was and that she did not appreciate their lack of communication and their treating her and the others in substandard ways.

The current residents agreed with her. She was the only one who spoke up. They really liked her and offered her the apartment on the spot. To this day, she is close friends with one of her former roommates.

A lot can be said of the rental market in the Bay Area. I can’t blame Christine for her frustration. It is very challenging to find affordable housing that is convenient, safe and reasonably priced. Residents, looking for roommates, get reportedly hundreds of emails for one open space. I’m not sure what the correct approach would be to finding a new roommate but, apparently for some, the way these two houses went about it most certainly did not rub everyone the right way.

What is your craziest apartment hunting story?