As I'm leaving the airport, I head for the 105 onramp. I check the GPS, and I know it's going to change right now from night mode to day mode. This is the best time of the day; it means I am going home. Just as I hit the turn to ascend onto the freeway, the GPS switches from dark to light. I look up when I'm at the top of the hill. Dawn is breaking over the mountains ahead of me, but there is still a hint of haze in the sky. It's so beautiful. From here, I am higher than everything. I can see the whole city below me and I breathe... I'm free... I haven't been able to breathe like this in 20 years. I'm not worried about getting to work late or deadlines or anything.
In this moment, I remember what it is to be alive...
I have technology to thank for my newfound freedom. Thanks to Ridesharing -- Lyft and Uber, Ive been able to use my mom car like a cab. Why would a single, 40-something mom of two want to drive strangers around for a living? Well for one thing, I'm the sole provider for my kids, 14 and 9. I was laid off twice in five years from mid-level jobs in cubicle farms. My unemployment insurance came to an end and I could not go back to that cell, I mean, cubicle. To be honest, financial security was the only reason I worked in the corporate world for such a good part of my life. I only have an AA degree, and I don't have "corporate personality." I have never really fit into the "box." I've only really felt successful at mothering. Self-employment had never been an option to me before, but then ridesharing didn't exist before. Five months ago, I took my old 2005 CR-V to the car wash and started this life experiment which has turned out to be the best move I've ever made.
Driving isn't for everyone, but it works for me. I earn enough to get by, barely. But, I make my own hours, which is crucial for a mom. I can no longer be chastised for having purple hair, clocking in late or chatting too much with clients. Some people don't like to make casual conversation with people they don't know. Not me. That's my specialty. The assets that made me a sh*tty employee in the corporate world actually make me an awesome driver. It feels good to do something I'm naturally good at and get paid, rather than beat myself up every day because I couldn't hack the corporate environment. Surprise, I'm not a loser. I was just in the wrong environment; a misplaced winner, if you will.
My car used to be a mess. A mom car to the max with papers and wrappers and single socks and empty coffee cups. Granted, it's still my old CR-V, but now it's my office, designed and cared for by me. It is spotless inside and out. I have pink leis to fuel the festive vibe, I have every kind of charger you can think of, gum and candy, waters and a music app that allows my passenger to be the DJ. That's what I say when they get in. "You be the DJ." I have to stay up on maintenance, and because I don't want all of my hard-earned cash to go straight to a mechanic, I do what I can myself. I've replaced the headlights, repaired hoses, replaced wiper blades and fixed my own electric window (thank you, You Tube!). Taking care of my car, my business, is growing my self-respect.
Before this, the only thing I've ever really felt done well is be a mom. This job allows me to support our family and still do that. When I get home from work, I leave it at the door and can focus on them without worrying about office politics and time clocks, deadlines and paperwork. With my mind freed up, I can help them with homework, take them to after school activities and just be more present in their day to day lives.
Lady cab driving has its drawbacks. Gas is pricy, the car is slowly dying and I'm not sure how I'm going to replace it. I've started a gofundme campaign to try to get a hybrid Ford Escape. When I work nights, I rarely see my boyfriend. But nothing worthwhile comes without some kind of a price. And, thanks to technology, for the first time in my life, my kids and I are living rather than existing. In this line of work, the things I'm good naturally are the things that make me a good driver. I work in an environment where I can thrive. And for the first time in my life, it's me in the driver's seat.