Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Attention actors: Can you play a cab driver?

Note to struggling actors: driving a cab is still better than porn.

Lots of struggling actors, writers, and other industry hopefuls have gotten jobs lately here in LA driving for independent ride-sharing services. Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are enjoying a brisk business since starting up within the last couple of years. I don’t know them all but Uber is a very cool service. You order a car via your smartphone. You register and then tell them where you are. They’ll track down the nearest car in your area and have someone there in usually about five minutes. No money changes hands. No tips. You get a bill at the end of the month. Done.

And the cars are generally very nice. Lyft, in particular, likes to hire aspiring actors so when your driver says “You talkin’ to me?” he might be a thespian not a psychopath who intends to kill you.

And they’re often cheaper than regular cabs.

Needless to say, all the licensed cab companies are up in arms. Most Angelinos first reaction to that is “What? You mean we have cabs in Los Angeles?” The taxi companies claim they have to go through hoops, their cars must meet stringent inspection standards, and must pay for business licenses. The rogue cabs say they’re operating legally under the California Public Utilities Commission. My only background on the law is watching SUITS and THE GOOD WIFE so I can’t really comment on which side is within its legal rights. Whoever Alcia Florrick represents is usually right.

But it’s hard not to root for Uber, Lyft, etc. When licensed cab companies say they screen drivers, how tough can they be when speaking English doesn’t seem to be one of the qualifications? And how well are their cars inspected? Have you ever been in a cab that didn’t have a red warning light on on the dashboard? And if you’re at LAX, good luck even getting one of these cabs. Three or four dribble in to each terminal every five minutes. It’s waaaay easier to get a cab at JFK, O’Hare, and even Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Most of the cab companies say you can pay by credit card. But when you do the driver acts as if you pulled out a wrench and announced you were going to yank his wisdom teeth. He then often tells you there’s an extra charge for this. And he pulls out some credit card contraption from 1967. Half the time your card comes back mangled.

“Licensed” cabbies generally work twelve-hour shifts or more. How alert can they be on hour eleven?

Now I understand it’s tough to make a living and I don’t want any cab drivers to lose fares or income. And give me a driver who doesn’t speak English over a guy bitching about how his agent won’t send him out on leading man roles any day. But the cab companies are being hit because someone else has come along and provided better service and a better experience. Instead of driving around city hall beeping your horns and protesting, how about improving YOUR service and experience?   And you might want to change that slogan.  "Would you ride with a stranger?"  Some of the strangest people I've ever seen are driving cabs. 


Eager said...

One more demonstration that most licensing requirements exist to discourage competition, not to "protect the consumer". See also: Interior decorators in Florida

Eager said...

Or, for an example slightly more appropriate for this blog, the traditional cable TV providers using municipal licensing requirements to fight off competitors like fiber optic cable

CRL said...


What does a yellow light mean?

The Anonymous PA said...

Funny that you're worried about a cabbie driving around for 12 hours, when that's the minimum PAs work, before driving your scripts all over town to the actors at the end of the night.

Mitchell McLean said...

"What does a yellow light mean?"

Colorblind prostitute?

JR said...

Slow down!

Whhhhhaaaatttt doooooeeeesss....


Paul Duca said...

I think Lyft is the one that identifies its vehicles by having the owners put what looks like a hot pink boa on the front of their cars.

kb said...

Ever wonder why the Green Line doesn't go all the way to the airport? Instead, it stops short and you've got to take a city bus the rest of the way.

Ever wonder who was behind that bonehead decision? My money's on the cab companies.

More power to those who have the better customer service design.

Cap'n Bob said...

When I was at Fort Leonard Wood I got a cab easily. Other than that, the place was a frozen hell hole.

Matt said...

Where was there to take a cab from Ft. Lost in the Woods?

Blair Ivey said...

"Would you ride with a stranger?"

Commuters crossing the San Francisco Bay Bridge do it every day.

Portland Corey said...

Did anybody else catch "The Rule of Three" example???

"It’s waaaay easier to get a cab at JFK, O’Hare, and even Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri".
Did anybody else catch it?

Cap'n Bob said...

A few of us caught a cab at Leonard Wood to their riding stables, which was out in the boonies.

XJill said...

@ Paul - it's a pink mustache, yes. Lyft bugs me but Uber is great.

Anonymous said...

Uber is catching up in D.C. -- a city infamous for lousy cabs. For years I arrived to Union Train station in the nation's capital, only to find I have to wait in a 15-20 min line for a cab is if it is NYC. Because of no organization. Each year a different ethnicity is manning the cabs - it seems to depend on mafia-like rules as to who gets what territory. I have no issue with cultural difference, learned some things along the way even, but it means also being able to get a new angle to an old conversation about the D.C. cab industry, the corruption of the licensing exams, fleets, who runs what and so on. By the time my destination is reached, I am primed for trying out any other alternative.

Johnny Walker said...

Someone comes along and offers a better way of doing business. Sweet.

I hope that:
1) They sort out their issues with licensed cab firms.
2) This means less drunk Angelenos on the road.

Hamid said...

Off topic but RIP to Eileen Brennan, a great comedic actress.

Joe said...

I drive for United Independent Taxi in the SFV. I accept all credit cards without complaint,even for Ken Levine. If you need a taxi please call Joe at 818-425-2611 I work only at night between 6pm-6am

Storm said...

We don't have this service in San Diego yet, (that I know of), but we do have those li'l bitty Cars2Go, the ones that you rent for an hour or two at a time? They are cool, but so tiny that they make a real British Mini seem like a stretch limo. My drag daughter and I used one to get to an drag event last week, and we barely fit ourselves (she's 6'5" in her stocking feet, and I'm a whole lotta woman) and our gear; we opened the back hatch and colourful wigs fell out (some settling had occurred during shipping), I swear, it was like a clown car on acid.

@Hamid; Right on. I am so sad to lose her, she had been through SO much in her life and stayed so strong. My mother loved her. 80 is a good run, but I still wish we'd had her longer, especially since she was just starting to turn up in stuff again (she's the only reason I made it through the awful "Comic Book Heroes").

Gonna watch "Private Benjamin" this weekend and hoist/burn one for one of my favourite Tough Broads. And those cheekbones.

Cheers, thanks a lot,


Hamid said...

Storm - As a die-hard horror fan, I was delighted to see Eileen Brennan turn up in Jeepers Creepers (the less said about the director of that movie the better, though!).

I think the first thing I ever saw her in was Murder by Death when I was a kid. Loved her performance in that and her banter with Peter Falk.

Lionel Twain (Capote): I'm the greatest, I'm number one!

Sam Diamond (Falk): To me, you look like number two, know what I mean?

Dora Charleston (Maggie Smith): What DOES he mean, Miss Skeffington?

Tess Skeffington (Brennan): I'll tell you later. It's disgusting.

Storm said...

It was "Comic Book VILLAINS", not "Heroes"; I tried to hard to put everything about it but her out of my mind that I got the title wrong.

Ken will probably laugh at this, but I loved her as Mother in "FM" so much, I actually wanted to be an all-night DJ, just like her character. "That was The Kinks, and this is Storm, keeping you warm, all night. Snuggle up Children, it's time for some King Crimson..." If only I'd had That Voice.

I just saw an obit where they refer to her and her style as "world-weary"; no wonder I love her so much.

Cheers, thanks a lot,


Hamid said...

Friday Question - I knew about your writing work on Cheers, Frasier, MASH etc, but when I read your full credits on IMDB, I was intrigued to see you worked on Mannequin on the Move. I've not seen it but I'm curious to know what your experience was like working on that.