When I touched down at Denver airport, the fun began. As it was, I was getting in quite late and had a 90-minute-plus drive ahead of me to Colorado Springs. Conferences are back! So I was excited about meeting colleagues and the creature comforts of a nice hotel, but I was weary from a long day of travel and the prospect of a long drive ahead.
With rental cars laughably exorbitant, it made no sense to do anything but to catch a ride. More on that in a bit.
We touched down only to find the plane delayed on the tarmac for 25 minutes because no ground-crew from Alaska Airlines was available. The plane was hot, almost as if it had carried Seattle’s 100 degree heat with it. After some time, we pulled into the gate. The next step — baggage — wasn’t easy either. Another 30 minutes gone.
Murphy’s Law — or some watered down version — seemed to have overtaken the normal course of events.
The baggage area at Denver Stapleton is complex and the signage spartan. Add to this my own frailties- a subject that will provoke hours of laughter-filled conversation with my wife — and I was adrift. After asking around, I was told that “Ubers and Lyfts” were available on Island 5. I noted to myself that the person who told me this- certainly over 50- had also replaced the word “taxis” as the generic word for “rides” with “Ubers and Lyfts.” I’m in the technology industry but I will admit my heart sank just a bit at this; Nostalgia is powerful.. and arrogance- like the kind you find in my industry- is off-putting to say the least.
Luckily, my choices were restricted. After hearing some particularly asinine comments from Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, I decided that I would not ever use his company’s services. I do have to wonder how many people abandon these services when CEOs do things like compare the murders of journalists with “mistakes” like “self-driving cars.” I’d hope many but the pessimist in me mocks the idealist all too often. In any case, looking to save some money I thought I’d go with a Lyft.
Well, here’s the deal as you all know. No signal, no App. No App, no Lyft. Okay, no problem, I lugged my bags to another floor and voila! I got a signal. I then initiated the App and put in my destination. The App then prompted to tell it where I was. Well, I knew I was on Island 5, stand H, but not sure West or East. But that’s okay because the App forced me to say I was at the Stapleton Westin Valet. No problem. I was going to be on my way soon. I’d simply let the driver know where I was.
Though the wonders of modern technology, the App started looking for drivers. After some time, it found a decent soul who was willing to take me 90 minutes away to another city. He was to be at my location (where I myself was not) in 17 minutes. Not great I thought but come on, deal with it my friend and stop being a snowflake.
10 minutes later, it was 14 minutes away. I am fairly good at arithmetic and knew something was amiss. You don’t have to be Terence Tao to figure stuff like that out. Worse, the car was stationary. As in not moving. As in not on the way to get me.
Again, no problem. Lyft is brilliant- it lets you message or call the driver. Did both twice and with no answer either time. Another 5 minutes passed. Still 14 minutes away.
I decided to cancel. Again, no problem on the App. Well not until Lyft decided to charge me a cancellation fee.
Well, normally I’d have no problem paying the poor driver a small bounty for his time had the progress been as declared. But it wasn’t. I’m sure the bean-counters and UI designers and all the other folks at Lyft know that a small charge is easy enough to agree to when you’re already fatigued and small enough not to fuss over later when in fairness you should call and contest.
As I had lost hope, I remembered something. An invention from years ago that has persisted.
The yellow taxi.
I walked over to the taxi stand and found a friendly person who was very glad to take me to Colorado Springs. He helped with luggage. He was kind. He was an intelligent, interesting person- an immigrant from Eritrea. We discussed life and politics. He drove safely. He got me to my destination on time and intact. He affirmed my view of people; I was ashamed that I was trying to save money when this man was ready to go. No signal needed. No App. No waiting. No false representations. No nothing.
A drive. A chat. A friend.
Had Lyft worked, I would have missed out on this. Yes, I did pay about $100 more than I would have and yes, $100 is a lot of money.
But on this occasion and I am sure many others that will follow, the old road was so much better to take than the new one.
P.S. I am aware of many things including the fact that the Lyft driver was a person too and likely a decent one. I am aware, also, that to spend an extra $100 on a ride is a sign of privilege but then again so is having a Medium account and being able to take the time to write frivolously about my own experiences. You want to take a Lyft? Go for it. But if you feel you can afford it, maybe try the old wine in the old bottle.