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Best night of driving for Lyft: My car ended up in a ditch

by Nicholas Barnard on February 9th, 2019

People often ask why I drive for Lyft. The short answer is: its how I earn money to live. However, thats incomplete and its almost untruthful.

I believe mobility is important and should be separate from each person having a vehicle to drive.

I believe that one person driving themselves everywhere they need to go is isolating and has an erosive effect on community.

I believe public transit is important to the vibrance and livelihood of our cities, but public transit alone struggles to serve all the mobility needs city dwellers.

I believe people benefit from human connections, however short they are.

I drive for Lyft, because I like meeting people. I like offering a moment to have a conversation on their day, the newest big infrastructure project in Seattle, or just the weather. I also appreciate when both my passengers and I relax our defenses and have a truly human connection. I’ve driven a woman who was on her way to the hospital to give birth the next day. I’ve chosen the scenic route to share a little bit of my city’s beauty with a group of young adults who had buried their grandmother earlier in the day. I once sang along to the soundtrack of Little Shop of Horrors with a car full of passengers who noted in my profile that I listen to musicals. I could go on and on with all the little experiences and connections I’ve shared with my passengers over the past two years.

Lyft’s Mission is “to reconnect people through transportation and bring communities together.”
Lyft’s Vision Statement: “Ride by ride, we’re changing the way our world works. We imagine a world where cities feel small again. Where transportation and tech bring people together, instead of apart. We see the future as community-driven and it starts with you.”

Last night, I discussing the weather and the major snow storm we were having with many of my passengers and how driving in the snow was about patience, as much as anything else. I drove my last passenger of the night to the Broadview neighborhood of Seattle, which is a neighborhood that slopes downward toward Puget Sound. I made my way carefully downhill, dropped off my passenger, then went about making my way uphill toward my next passenger.

In searching for a route up the hill that my trusty Ford C-Max could traverse, I briefly lost control of my car and ended up in a ditch on the side of the road. It was around 11 pm. I called Lyft’s roadside assistance and they let me know that all of the tow companies in the area were only responding to police dispatched emergencies, so the best they could offer was to winch my car out sometime in the morning. I consulted with a few passerbys who offered to try to push my car out of the ditch, but we decided that the risk of someone getting pinched between my car and the other side of the ditch was too high. Luckily my tailpipe was well in the air, so I could keep the car heated by running the engine, without carbon dioxide poisoning being an issue.

So, I settled in for a night of watching Netflix in the car and waiting. I had protein bars, three quarters of a tank of gas, some Starbucks Doubleshots for the morning, and over thirty 16.9 ounce bottles of water. I would’ve been fine staying in my car for the evening.

At midnight, a woman came by and offered to let me stay at her house for the night. She introduced herself as Erika and when I got in the house, she introduced her husband Matt. She let me know that they had two children sleeping upstairs who would be up at 6 am, and she showed me to the guest room and bathroom, and left me for the night.

The next morning, I awoke, and was greeted Erika, Matt, and their two children. They offered me pancakes and coffee, and I shared videos of my handbell quartet. While Erika was getting dressed, I read her daughter a story, then I went and “helped” the daughter shovel the sidewalk while Matt took care of the driveway. (If there were more shovels, I would’ve happily pitched in!)

Later in the morning, a neighbor offered jump my car, then to pull my car out ditch with a tow strap. (My battery had died sometime during the night from the flashers being on.) Finally, Matt and the neighbor pushed my car down the road and helped me turn around. I made my way back to the main and freshly plowed arterial, and drove home.

I am grateful to Erika, Matt, and their neighbors for their hospitality, sense of community, and kindness. In a strange way, my car ending up in a ditch brought us together and made Seattle feel like a small town for the evening.

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