The Ladies of Lyft

By David Helton | Photos by José Alberto Guzmán Colón

It was late. The bars were closing and we were drunk. I don’t mean super drunk, but too drunk to drive. Someone called for a Lyft and within a few moments a moustached car rolls up to the curb. We noisily pile into the well-kept vehicle as someone blurts out directions to the afterhours destination in SOMA — and off we went.

I was in the front seat and happened to glance over at a photo of a cute little boy clipped on the dashboard. The driver was a young woman, probably no more than 25.

“Is that your son?” I ask flatly.

“It is!” She said proudly, “He’s with grandma tonight so mama can get out here and make some coins.”

We laughed and began to chat. I learned that she had recently lost her father and that he’d left her mother with very little. Her mother moved in with her and her young son in a one-bedroom appointment in the Mission. She was a single mother supporting a family of three with a full-time job during the week. She decided to drive Lyft to make ends meet.

“If it wasn’t for Lyft, we’d be on the streets.” she said.

That stuck with me.

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A few weeks later I was chatting with a friend of mine, Mimi. She’s also a single mom. We hadn’t caught up in a while and over coffee she tells me she recently started driving for Lyft as well – and she loved it. “You feel safe driving all hours of the night by yourself?” I asked.

“Absolutely! I have never felt unsafe. Not even once.” Mimi said.

However, Mimi is one tough lady. Honestly, I think any woman who is raising a child alone in the Bay Area has got to be made of steel. This city is so expensive and it’s got to be hard with a child to support. I can barely keep a plant alive. After chatting with Mimi for a bit, I learned that a lot of the ladies at Lyft are mothers – some doing it all completely on their own.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I got a few of the ‘Ladies at Lyft’ together to chat about their own experiences. One of the most common things that I learned is that they love the flexibility and the ability to work independently.

“I was on Facebook one day and I saw an ad saying that Lyft was hiring for the Silicon Valley region,” Kaya Anderson says of her initiation with Lyft, “so I signed up. I wanted to rock that mustache on my Green Kia Soul.” She laughed. “I officially became a Lyft driver the last week of October in 2013 and picked up my first passengers at midnight on Halloween. After that ride I was hooked and knew I was going to love being a Lyft driver. I love meeting new people in my community and getting to know those from different countries.”

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As a single mom who doesn’t receive child support from her daughter’s father, being a Lyft driver helps with the financial responsibility of caring for both her daughter and herself. “I can make anywhere from $100-$800 a week,” she continued, “depending on how much I work and how many rides I accept. What I really love is that I don’t have a boss yelling at me to hurry up or giving me a hard time.”

Lara Oliver has a similar story. “My ex-husband, their father, passed away in 2010, so I am the only parent that they have. If there is any family business to take care of I like that I don’t have to ask for time off, I just re-arrange my schedule as I need to. I am also able to spend cherished time with them. We are a close family.”

Lara has also had her share of corporate and office jobs, worked in tech start ups and even earned her cosmetology license so that she could work in the beauty industry. All of these professions took all of her time and energy leaving nothing for her family, art or herself. Lyft gives her the most flexibility when she needs it.

Wanda Crane resigned from the Golden Gate Bridge District to secure employment for the city of San Francisco in the Department of Elections as a trainer — a job she truly loves.

“I help train 2,500 poll workers for each election. The job runs in cycles. For the November election, I worked full time from September through November; June election I worked April through June” Lyft continues to provide her with a job that she can work and still pursue her true passions of being a trainer and a mom to her two wonderful kids. “I do not know of any other job where I could work the cycles necessary for the Department of Elections and still have the job waiting for me when I return.”

Jenny Reed joined the army at 19 and went abroad to work. She really spoke about the culture of the company. “When you are ‘in it’ together with like minded people, you create a bond – it’s like a family. I have found that same bonding and family love here with Lyft as I did in the Army. I truly never thought I would have that again.”

When asked about her start with Lyft, she laughs “I felt like I was spinning my wheels, and going nowhere fast. I was back at home with my two girls and never seemed to have enough money to do anything. In 2013 I met a guy who drove for the other platform, at that time it was a black SUV only — I couldn’t afford to purchase a new vehicle let alone pay for the gas. He lived in San Francisco and I live in the North Bay, so when I would drive down to see him, I would see these crazy cool pink mustaches! The guy I was seeing had explained to me what they were and as soon as I got home I started my research.”

All of the ladies at Lyft had only positive things to say about the driving experience. What I learned from an afternoon with these amazing women is that they all have backbone. They all laugh a lot. They are all very resourceful. When you drop money on a Lyft to get across town – you are truly helping someone locally. And this job, at least for some people, is what’s keeping them in a position to support their children in the Bay Area.

I have a whole new level of respect for these women.

“My first day of Lyft’ing was only for a couple hours and I made $75!” Mimi said, in conclusion, “I remember thinking this was the easiest money I’ve ever made – and I had so much fun doing it! Because I was so miserable at my day job and was able to find this unique opportunity, I slowly decreased my days from full time to part time, and then I eventually quit. That was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Happy Mother’s Day, ladies.


To learn more about Lyft, visit their website at www.lyft.com

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