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Scenic Route

The Bus Song by Jay Som


One of the “perks” of working at a startup is that they’re down to pay for Lyft rides home if you work late. Originally, despite being aware of it, I really just kind of refused to use it. I would always bike home, or take the bus, the subway, etc. A coworker tried being real with me and flat out asked me: why I don’t value my time? If your life is just how you spend your time, why are you wasting it when there is a no-brainer opportunity otherwise? So I ended up taking advantage of it more and more. I used to think this was the most awesome gift ever, but I’ve been souring on it more and more recently.

First, let’s talk about what those Lyft rides represent. I one-hundred-percent believe that Lyft/Uber are amazing for my personal life but also terrible companies. They’ve made my life so much dramatically simpler when it comes to going basically anywhere. I don’t want to get too much into the weeds, but I think I took over 100 rides in 2018 with them. That sounds insane on paper – every 3 days? What was I doing? In reality, I can cut it in half and say it’s a TO ride and a FROM ride, which is then ~50 nights, or once a week. That makes me feel a bit better, if only marginally so.

Regardless, I still feel like I’m taking advantage of a system that’s abusing people. Living in SF means you get to spend a lot of rich people’s money (VC cash). Movies, scooters, food delivery – you name it, someone is funding it. I’m fine using these services, since most of the time it’s just the rich people who are losing money on it. Lyft/Uber is very different - real people are losing value. Their car value depreciates, traffic gets worse, and they try to treat it like a full time job. It’s not going to be there forever, and right now it’s just some big stunt to collect data for the eventual switch to self-driving cars. It seems painfully obvious to me, but it’s probably not, and I’m just hoping I’m wrong.

That 15 minute walk followed by a 5 minute subway ride is barely twice as long as that car ride, but it feels so much shorter instead. The car ride feels like a part of work: I am trying to be social and interact with the driver. I am trying to not be another soulless Silicon Valley tech worker. I don’t really want to do these things: when it’s 1AM and my brain is completely melted, I just want to stop all interaction, crank up my music, fall asleep. That’s what walking gets me. I can shuffle, I can emote, I can react and pretend. Despite being in public, the fact that I’ll never see those midnight passerby’s again allows me an air of privacy that hiding in the backseat of someone’s car never will.

As a final counter-point: I do value my time. When I leave work, I want to stop working. Maximizing my time efficiency is really just working. Being able to be lazy and take the scenic route is relaxing. Tracking every second of my day and attempting to squeeze one last drop of efficiency out of it is left at the office. Hope to see you on the bus next time.