#8: Three Changes from Fog City

I’m in San Francisco, and was having some wi-fi trouble last night and couldn’t post this week’s update until today. The last time I was here for longer than a day or two was almost three years ago, and this week I want to talk about three things that are different from the last time.

First is Lyft. It’s surprising how much my friends here rely on Lyft to get around. Lyft is essentially a private car service you use from an app on your phone, and while we have similar apps and services in New York, what makes Lyft different is their drivers aren’t full-time drivers. Their drivers are people driving as a side-gig to earn money to supplement their main interest or occupation, like making music or going to school, or in the case of one of our Lyft drivers yesterday, being a private chef. Lyft gives their drivers a giant fuzzy pink mustache to put on their cars so you can see them coming from blocks away. A stroke of genius, really, and my first instinct when a Lyft car arrives is, unlike any other car service, to ride shotgun instead of in the back seat. My own interest in startups and in finding ways to support a passion builds a bridge of relatability to the driver. I want to find out who these people are, how Lyft is working out for them. Our chef-driver had been a Lyft driver for two weeks. We talked about alcohol and diet, and her culinary clientele. She gave us a quick recipe for dandelion greens to promote liver health.^[Jan 2021 note: You can really feel my naivety and wide-eyed optimism about ride-sharing here! I think at this point we hadn’t yet seen the second- or third-order effects that we’re seeing now, with more drivers depending on sharing-economy companies for as their primary means of income, and these companies refusing to recognize workers as full-time employees.]

The second difference is I’m staying in an area of San Francisco called the Dogpatch, which, from what I’ve heard, cropped up virtually overnight a couple years ago. It’s an old industrial district with a lot of warehouses, some of which have been converted into lofts and new apartments, and it’s the least neighborhood-feeling area I’ve experienced in San Francisco. It reminds me of a part of Brooklyn near where I live.

The third difference is me. The last time I was here, I had been about a year into my new company, and my routine was practically a non-routine, more contingent on client work and deadlines than time I had intentionally blocked out each day. This time around, I’m writing, and every morning I hop out to a nearby cafe to work on my next book, or to journal, keep an account of the incredible things that have happened already on this trip and that I’m still trying to make sense of.

This trip, out of all my trips, has felt the least like a vacation. And maybe this is a good thing, because it’s easy to think of vacation as an escape, easy to lump the set of experiences that come together to form the notion of vacation as something outside of everyday experience. And to dread, after the vacation has ended, going back to your “normal life,” being filled again with obligation.

Maybe to get true value out of a vacation, to make a trip stay with you, you need something to connect it back to your day-to-day life, a bridge of relatability. And with that bridge you can have a deeper conversation with the unfolding that is beyond your direct control; that instead of sitting in the back seat and picking out a destination and saying, “Driver, hurry!” you can sit in the front, and have a dialogue with life, learn about what life wants, what its dreams and struggles are, while it and its vehicle carry you to wherever you may be headed.