On Friday I had to take a Lyft home from work. It’s about a 30 minute ride to my apartment in Hollywood. My driver, Marcus* [name changed], asked me where I live when I got into his jet black Hyundai Sonata. Many Lyft drivers do this as a way of confirming your identity.
“Hollywood, off of Highland and Sunset.”
“C’mon man. I’m from the hood. That’s West Hollywood. Own that shit.” We laughed. I thought to myself that this was going to be a fun ride.
I said, “What do you have going on this weekend?”
“Just tryin’ to make that paper, ya know?”
“For sure. I drove Lyft for the first two months I was in L.A.” I asked him, “Is this a rental?”
Marcus was a big man. I’m a big man too and could sympathize with the small space with which he had to maneuver. My least favorite part of driving for Lyft was being stuck in that space for hours on end. Having to piss all of the time, sweating in places other people don’t sweat. Knees aching. Feet swollen.
His seat was as far back as it could comfortably be. The metal hinge that was holding it in place was obviously stressed under his immense weight. If that were me (and it has been) I would have been concerned that one day my seat would give way, and when it did I would crush whoever was sitting behind me. Marcus did not seem to have the same concern. Or he did and he was embarrassed, which I empathized with.
He roughly turned around to face me and said, “Can’t a black man have a nice ride?”
Nervous laughter. “It’s not that, bud. I did Lyft Express too, I drove a car just like this one. Plus it’s unusually clean.”
He turned back around, satisfied that I was not judging him for being a black Lyft driver in a nice car. He said, “That’s cool man. I just started on Tuesday.”
“Right on. How do you like it?”
“It’s chill,” and without skipping a beat, “How much money you make when you were driving?”
I was honest. Money is not a taboo topic for me. When I was doing Lyft I regularly averaged between $700-$1000 a week. During the week of the 4th of July I made $1300. I told Marcus that the key to being successful with Lyft Express is to meet the 125 ride quota every week. The express program has tiers. If you give 85 rides in a week you get an $80 bonus. If you give 105 rides in a week you get a $125 bonus. Finally, if you give 125 rides you get a $195 bonus. These bonuses are very important. They help cover the cost of your weekly rental (which is $230).
“If you don’t meet the third tier of the ride quota then a chunk of your profits goes into the car rental fee. Avoid that if at all possible. You’re already paying for gas, and you lose money every minute a passenger is not in your car, why make a car payment on top of that?”
He asked me, “Was it tough to get that third tier?”
This is where my lying begins. I could have and should have told him the truth.
It was tough to get that third tier. It required me to work irregular hours, usually putting in as many as 50 or 60 hours a week. The irregularity comes from Lyft’s requirement that you also achieve a specific number of “peak” rides. These are rides which must be given during their predetermined “busy” hours. That means you’ll have to wake up early in the morning to drive through rush hour, work during the commuting hours in the afternoon, and work every Friday/Saturday night. You will not have much personal time if you successfully get to the third tier every week. I know that when I was doing Lyft Express I had almost no free time.
I’m not complaining about the time I put in. I did it willingly. You could even say that I was happy to do it. It allowed me to pay our rent at a sublease, get a good job at a great university, and find our apartment in Hollywood (or West Hollywood if you ask Marcus — but I would argue we’re on the fringe of that. There are more crackheads on my block than there are in most of the nicer parts of WeHo).
“It’s not that hard to get to the third tier if you’re committed,” I replied.
He changed the subject, “Who’s your team?”
A second lie. “Michigan! That’s where I played ball.” I figured I’d never see this guy again, what’s wrong with pretending to be who I always hoped I could be? I have the size… he’d probably believe me. And I know enough about Michigan Football to sell my tale pretty solidly.
“No fucking way. Tom Brady is my man, bro. Whatcha think about Harbaugh?”
“I think he’s great for Michigan football. I met him last year at a reunion. He’s gotta win the big games, but he can do it. The success he’s had at every program he’s been at is incredible. But I think if he can get either the Bears or Lions jobs in the next few years he probably will. I think his heart is in the NFL.”
We were at a light and a young woman walked in front of the car. She took her time. She was thin, tan, blond, with an ample chest, and Prada sunglasses. I wouldn’t have noticed her if it hadn’t been for Marcus.
“That’s my team, bruh. I gotta a girl, but I could use another one. Fuck, dude.”
These types of conversations always make me uncomfortable. I don’t know what space I am supposed to occupy when they happen. Should I have defended the young woman’s honor? No. She didn’t know any of this was going on (I hoped). I figured he was just engaging in some locker room talk. It was innocent enough.
To get out of it I could have said, “I’ve been in a homosexual relationship for seven years.”
Or, “It’s been about 12 years since I was last with a woman.”
Maybe I should have said, “Eh, not enough body hair for me.”
Or, “Do you think she likes bears?”
Marcus asked me, “There a lotta’ fine bitches on that campus of yours?”
“Shit,” I thought, “This is why I shouldn’t talk to my Lyft drivers.”
What was I going to do? Be honest with a complete stranger, a guy who views me as some big shot ex-Michigan football player? So I decided to push my lie as far as I could.
I told Marcus that I married my college sweetheart, Andrea (my husband’s name is Andrew). She was a cheerleader (Andrew plays World of Warcraft). We met after the Purdue game in 2011 (on Grindr). She’s the love of my life (he is). We’re thinking about kids (we are). We have a studio apartment and a dog named Gizmo (also true). I am madly in love (what’s beyond madly in love? That’s where I am).
I also said, “Those girls on campus are too young for me.”
Marcus laughed, “Too young? Fuck that. Get yourself a side hoe. You do it right and she’ll never know. You feel?”
“You haven’t met Andrea. She can be scary.” Andrew sometimes gets a look in his eye…
I was way out of my element talking about women. I changed the subject back to sports, “So who you got in the Superbowl?”
Marcus spent several minutes describing just how fucking awesome the New England Patriots are. I mostly agreed with him. Although I was convinced at the time that the Pats were one of the favorites to get back to the the Superbowl, my opinion has since changed. With the Jaguars handling of the Pats over the weekend I now think they have a strong chance at dethroning Tom Brady. New England’s defense doesn’t play with a lot of speed. And Frankly, when Blake Bortles can light you up… well… that’s a bad sign.
Also — the Chiefs look unstoppable on offense. They remind me a lot of the old Colts teams with Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James (when he was healthy), and Marvin Harrison.
I didn’t say this to Marcus (because the Pats/Jags hadn’t happened yet). But I did tell him I think the favorites to reach the title games are the LA Rams and Green Bay Packers in the NFC. It’s the Kansas City Chiefs or the Pats, and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC.
The Rams just have too much offensive firepower, and scary defense. They’re definitely the favorites to win the Superbowl. The addition of Ndamukong Suh was huge. A defensive line with Suh and the best defensive player, maybe even the best player in football, in Aaron Donald… that’s scary shit.
After debating back and forth about the Pats dominance and Tom Brady’s agelessness, we drove for a few minutes in relative silence. He was playing Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book. I love Chance. “No Problem” was playing at the perfect volume, not too loud — chill enough that you could appreciate the dimness of the setting sun falling on Sunset Boulevard.
You don’t want zero problems, big fella!
Marcus asked me, “You ever been to this part of West Hollywood before?”
We were passing The Abbey. There was an attractive young man standing outside. He was wearing very short pink shorts, no underwear (which was obvious), and a small cut-off tank top. You could see his belly button. I was worried that Andrew could sense my wandering gaze.
I was equally worried about Marcus, “Oh yeah, this place is always busy on the weekends. Great for making money.”
“Shiiiiiiit. Not me, I’m not picking up no queers.”
Fuck wrong with you? What you was thinkin’?
I probed for more. I don’t know why. Maybe to verify the idiocy of the stereotypes I have in my head.
“Have you had problems with them before?”
Marcus was clearly disgusted. He said, “I picked up three faggots yesterday. One of them got into my car with a g-string on. Look bruh, love who you love. That’s cool, I don’t care. Just don’t touch me. Talkin’ all flamboyant and shit. I’m not about that gay shit. And why they gotta talk like that?”
I got problems bigger than these boys.
I paused. He waited for my response. After a few uncomfortable seconds I said, “My brother’s gay. He’s pretty cool; he wrestled in college.”
“A wrestler, huh? That’s pretty gay tho. I bet all his bros knew. You just sort of know, that shits hard to hide.”
My brother isn’t gay. Actually, neither one of them are. And they didn’t wrestle in college — that was me.
The rest of the ride we chatted about the Serena Williams controversy at the U.S. Open. When he dropped me off I told him I’d take care of him, and I did — a $4.00 tip on a $16 fare.
“Sigh,” that’s a lie too. Sorry. I don’t know why I do that. I did tell Marcus I was going to tip him. But I didn’t. I’m a faggot. And sometimes I’m a pissed off faggot. And sometimes I’m a pissed off faggot who lies.
And sometimes it is hard to hide. But not this time, Marcus. Not this time.
If one more label try to stop me.