Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Attention actors: Can you play a cab driver?
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.
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.