Connections: Lyft Me Up

Suffolk County, as part of its Adopt-a-Highway program, marred the vista on the west side of East Hampton Town Pond last year by sticking up an eye-scorching sky-blue-and-fuchsia sign, exactly at the most-photographed postcard view in the village. You probably noticed it; it read “Lyft.”  I had a vague idea that Lyft, like Uber, was a ride-hailing service, but it really hadn’t meant anything to me — beyond visual pollution —  until two weeks ago. 

I have spent a fair amount of time in Massachusetts lately, with my husband, who has been in treatment at the Lahey Medical Center. Marooned without a car, but needing to get from hotel to bedside, I surprised myself by joining the app age with ease, summoning Lyft drivers by cellphone to take me hither and yon.

I can see why some people prefer these services to a traditional cab. When I pressed the icon, it already knew where I was and asked where I wanted to go. I liked being informed in advance who the driver would be, and when he or she would be arriving (“Adel in a white Toyota Camry” would be at the door in three minutes, or “Amama in blue Honda CR-V in five”).

Contrary to preconceived notions that apps are for kids, in some ways, this service was particularly suited to someone of a certain age who might be slightly slower on their feet. I rather liked receiving texts telling me it was time to “go outside” and where to stand and wait.

Another enjoyable part of my Lyft experience was that the vehicles and drivers were diverse: some cars immaculate, some not; all the drivers were interesting, some chatty, others less so. Drivers, it seems, can sign up without having their vehicles conform to uniform standards. And, as is obviously also the case with the drivers of yellow taxicabs, with Lyft they don’t have to speak perfect English. 

I don’t usually enjoy talking with random people. I keep mum on the Jitney, for example, while others, like my husband, enjoy the opportunity to make friends of strangers. But I enjoyed meeting my Lyft drivers and engaging in small talk. One young woman got a nice tip when she explained she was working for college tuition. And then a young man, who told me he had been in this country for less than a year and liked speaking with passengers to help him improve his English, said he came from a country in Eastern Europe of which I had never heard. The country? “Moldova,” he said. Well, I replied, that is Romania, where my maternal grandparents came from!  

Lyft worked a treat for both short and long hops. Indeed, I even took a single ride all the way from Waltham Mass., to the ferry at New London, Conn. in a car with bad suspension.

Writing on my laptop now, safely back at home in East Hampton, I realize that to a segment of the population the big-brother aspect of ride-hailing apps still seems a bit creepy: A commercial entity knows your whereabouts, and there is a fleet of cars and drivers prowling around waiting to answer the call. But, at any rate, I succumbed — as most of us seem to be succumbing — to the trade-off of privacy for ease.