I am an attentive listener, but sometimes I get disconnected. However, machines are tireless listeners. My concert work made me aware of this. Here is an example.
On December 25, 2020, I drove to pick up a woman and her mother. When passengers request Lyft rides, they can drag the “locator pin” in the app to the exact location they want to be picked up. The pickup location for this ride was not a place I could drive my car, although I was able to approach within 25 feet. As the two got into my car, the girl told me that I was not where she had placed the pin. She called me all the names in the book and asked me to “call Lyft” for a refund. The mother dramatically began to repeat her daughter’s name over and over again, amazed her daughter was doing this and begging her to apologize. The girl didn’t want to let go. I canceled the trip. I remembered how the mother repeated her daughter’s name over and over. I have vivid memories of the most ill-behaved passengers. I guess keeping pictures of these faces increases my chances of survival, and some people have suggested it was a symptom of PTSD.
Two months later, I looked at my Facebook feed and saw the woman’s face in my “People You May Know” section. It scared me. How did she get there? What if she stalked me, wanting to start another rant about the locator pin? I didn’t want to befriend her on Facebook or befriend her in real life. I couldn’t help but hear it in the car, and it seems that Facebook was also careful. Google maybe followed the route too.
Thirty years ago, says Hanson, “before there was so much surveillance or computer information on people, when the problem arose, everyone really cared,” he says. Now people keep on “hoping that even though they have given a lot of information, it is not used against them or will not be used against them much”. And it was never made clear to them how easy it would be to share information, he says. In my experience as a driver, seen through an app like Lyft, it’s easy to see others as abstractions, less than real, and treat them accordingly.
I provide essential service to many of my passengers. For various reasons they are unable to drive on their own, and I am kind of a bloated service animal, albeit ad hoc. Passengers may not have access to public transportation or have health issues that prevent them from driving. It’s gratifying to know that I’m helping people get to work or just get out of their homes.
However, to make the most money in the shortest time, you have to go looking for people from the bars. Alcohol consumption is therefore a catalyst for many Lyft rides. The friend sitting next to you in the bar telling you you’ve had enough has been replaced by a ridesharing app that lets you drink as much as you want as there is always a driver to pick you up, a few tapping on your phone. Some of these rides are painful for me.
My mega-app theory remains the best explanation I have for accounting for the things people say and do in my car when they feel that no human being deserves to be recognized. And the issues aren’t as obvious as the stain left by that Instant Pot’s sweet and sour meatballs spilled on my backseat. These are things like privacy and medical issues, my own responsibility for what passengers do, and maintaining our sense of human dignity.