Ride or lie homie
Someone poisoned my Lyft driver's brain
“We’re going to the airport, right?” the Lyft driver asks.
“Yup, unless you want to drive me back to Los Angeles.”
I’m joking, but according to the Lyft driver, some people actually hire Lyfts for the 270-mile trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. He thinks some drivers make good money doing this, but they have to be willing to eat the cost of the return trip because there’s “no guarantee” they’ll find another passenger who wants to take a Lyft from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Also, he says, it’s a little “scary” driving with a stranger on such a long trip.
“What if there’s a dispute?” the Lyft driver wonders. “If I’ve got an issue with a passenger in Vegas, I drive to the police station, or kick them out of my car. But what do I do in the middle of the desert? It’s a lonely highway to LA. Maybe they got a gun, or know jiu-jitsu. Personally, I’d worry about being murdered.”
Personally, I’d worry more about being stuck with a boring Lyft driver for six hours, since that seems far more likely than the app matching me with a killer. But that’s me.
“Good thing I’m flying back to LA.”
We share a chuckle. Then after a quiet moment, the Lyft driver asks an ominous question.
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“What’s the situation like in LA?” he asks. “Are things… OK?”
“Yeah, like, is it as bad as they say on the news?”
I’m not sure what “they” say on the news, or what news this man consumes, or if his news source actually practices journalism. Nevertheless, the Lyft driver sounds concerned by what they’re saying about my hometown.
“Are restaurants and bars open, or does King Gavin still have everything locked down?”
King Gavin? Last time I checked, Gavin Newsom was our governor, and America cancelled monarchs in 1776.
“I heard California is a leftist police state,” the Lyft driver says. “I heard you need papers just to leave your house.”
“I managed to leave the house without any paperwork.”
“So… you can go out and, like, get a taco, if you want?”
“Every damn day,” I say. “Los Angeles is a taco paradise.”
“Well, I heard the COVID restrictions are intense in California,” the Lyft driver says. “That’s why everyone is leaving California.”
“I wouldn’t say everyone is leaving. I still live there. My friends still live in California. I have family there too. And we still have awful traffic, so there are definitely a lot of people in California.”
The Lyft driver laughs. Jokes about traffic are universal that way.
“But a lot of people are leaving,” he insists. “I heard the population declined by, like, five million people.”
The Lyft driver is correct that our population shrunk last year, although his numbers are as inflated as the tires on his Honda Civic. California has about 40 million people. A later Google search shows our population declined by about 173,000 people.1
“My family has been in California for more than a century,” I say.
“You mean before California was a state, back when it was part of Mexico? You don’t look Mexican.”
“California was admitted to the Union in 1850,” I say.
“That can’t be right. California isn’t that old. I don’t believe that.”
“You don’t have to believe it,” I say. “California became a state in 1850. You can look it up. Anyway, my family came to California around the turn of the last century. My wife calls me a unicorn because most of the people you meet in Los Angeles weren’t born there. Point is, people are always coming to California, and they’re always leaving it too. You ever hear that famous quote, go west, young man? Well, a lot of young people do go west. But a lot of them end up heading back east, except there’s no famous quote about that.”
For a moment, the Lyft driver takes in what this Californian has to say about migration and the Golden State. But then he gets to the heart of the matter, the narrative he’s been hearing about on the news, the reason so many people are fleeing California, which of course, ties into the larger narrative of decline.
“I heard crime is out of control there,” he says. “Like, it’s totally lawless. I heard the cops can’t do anything to stop it because they’ve been defunded. I heard everything is on the verge of collapse, that it’s anarchy in the streets.”
“I’m not sure about that,” I say. “The budget for the LAPD actually increased.”
The Lyft driver scoffs at my claim, as if verifiable facts can be brushed aside with a guttural noise. But as it turns out, I am correct. A later search backs up my claim that the LAPD budget has been increased.2
“Well, have you seen the stories about the train tracks in LA?” the Lyft driver asks.
I have seen those stories. Local televisions stations, The Los Angeles Times, and KPCC, one of two local public radio stations, covered the crime wave. Basically, thieves have been ransacking cargo trains in Los Angeles rail yards. It’s a mess that only adds to our nation’s supply chain woes. Also, the photos are very disturbing.
“Those train robberies are out of control,” the Lyft driver says. “I don’t want to get political here, but the Democrats are going to ruin this country the way they’ve ruined California.”
I’m pretty sure the Lyft driver does want to get political here, but I don’t. If anything, I’d like to clear up a few things. So, I tell the Lyft driver that California hasn’t been “ruined,” although like everywhere else, the Golden State has its problems.
“Did you know that Union Pacific is partially to blame for this crime wave?” I ask.
“Union Pacific is responsible for security on their tracks, but they’ve got miles of tracks where there’s no fencing at all. Plus, they’ve cut back on security officers in recent years. It’s been all over the news.”
“Not the news I see.”
I’m tempted to suggest that the Lyft driver expand his new diet, but before I can say a word about that, he hits me with another example of California’s collapse, straight from the files of police squad.
“I heard the district attorney in Los Angeles refuses to prosecute crimes,” the Lyft driver says. “Like, for example, theft and robbery and all that stuff isn’t a crime anymore in California.”
“Then why do I pay for groceries?”
“Because you’re an honest dude, I think. But you could just walk out of the store without paying because there aren’t any consequences. That’s the progressive agenda: legalized theft.”
“Well, when I get home, I’m going to steal all the popcorn and hummus I can carry from my local Trader Joe’s. On second thought, if it’s free, I’m going to loot Whole Foods. Their prices are criminal.”
“It’s not funny, man. Crime is a serious problem.”
“I agree. Crime is a serious problem, but let’s get our facts straight. You’re saying California is on the verge of collapse. I’ve lived in California my entire life. Crime data and my lived experience tells me that the situation, while bad, is actually better than it was when I was a kid.”
The Lyft driver groans. I can tell facts aren’t his thing. But he is a big fan of whataboutism.
“What about those flash mobs robbing retail stores in broad daylight? That’s what happens when you release all the criminals from prison. That’s what happens when you tell criminals they won’t be prosecuted. Did you see those stories around Christmas time?”
“I saw those stories. I also saw stories about arrests and prosecutions. Smash and grab jobs are still illegal in California.”
“What about the homeless?” the Lyft driver asks.
“What about them?”
“It should be illegal to be homeless,” he says. “But instead, California gives them free drugs, so they can have orgies in the street.”
“Free drugs and orgies? I never get invited to the cool events.”
“I’m not kidding, man. The homeless are being treated like kings in California. I read all about it.”
“Well, I read all about time travel once, but that doesn’t mean it’s real.”
“Are you saying there are no homeless people in Los Angeles?”
“Nope. I didn’t say that at all. There are tens of thousands of homeless people in Los Angeles alone. We actually do an annual census of the homeless population. It’s a damn humanitarian crisis. But I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that it’s government policy to promote free drugs and orgies in the street.”
“Seriously, what news?” I ask.
“On the internet.”
All of a sudden, the Lyft driver sounds bashful. It’s as if spreading bullshit is his super power, but a simple request to cite his sources is Kryptonite.
“Which website on the internet?” I ask. “I want to check it out.”
“Facebook. It’s all on Facebook, if you know the right groups, the ones that believe in The Truth.”
“Oh! Why didn’t you say Facebook was your source in the first place?”
“Because you wouldn’t have believed me. That’s why.”
“Don’t worry about it. I didn’t believe anyway.”
And if you’ve got a second to spare, please hit that ❤️ button👇
“California population continues decline, driven by lower immigration, fewer births and pandemic deaths” Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2021. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-12-18/california-population-loss
“LA City’s $11.2 Billion Budget Boosts LAPD Spending And Dedicates $1 Billion For Homelessness” LAist, June 2, 2021.