Panama 2018 November: Lyft Driver

I think you could make quite the book out of a profile of Lyft drivers. The most unexpected story was a guy dressed as an airline pilot. He’s a backup, or at least sometimes. That means he has to stay within 30 minutes of the airport in case he gets a call. He lives north of the city and outside the zone, so instead of hanging around a coffee shop for the duration of his shift, he drives for Lyft. He only takes rides within the city or toward the airport, so he can drop off and still make his call.

My 4:15am Lyft driver for my Panama trip was a chatty guy, and I’m always curious about how people pull together the elements of a life. He and his wife divorced, but neither could make it financially on their own so they are back together living in his mobile home about 45 minutes north of the city. He’s happy because they both love the dog and now share the animal once again. He starts his driving day around 2am, when he picks up guys who’ve been drinking in downtown bars. At 3am he starts getting pings from bartenders on their way home. By 4am the airport calls start. By 9am when the downtown traffic gets bad, he’s headed home.

I’d say he was in his late 50’s, maybe older — but not old enough for Social Security. He’s managed a pizza parlor, worked security, done construction before the work got too hard on his back, and now drives for Lyft He likes the autonomy. He likes people. He said he’s just getting by financially, but it helps to have two incomes pitching in to pay expenses.

I’ll bet he represents a large slice of gig workers in today’s economy, and no wonder they don’t support Republican attacks on the social safety net. He’s counting the days.

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