Same but Different
A few days ago, I used Lyft for 3 different rides. I will go on the record saying that I generally use Lyft as I find their drivers to be nicer and I hire the regular service. If I were to share the basics of each ride, driver, and vehicle then it would seem as though I had the same person for each ride.
The drivers were young males.
The cars were small sedans.
Each driver was listening to the radio.
From there the differences began to emerge, rapidly.
My first driver, I sat in the front seat.
I was waiting outside for him because I did not want him to cancel. My destination was barely two miles away.
Of course the minute I was secured with the seatbelt (try and cancel on me now!), I apologized for the short ride. He quickly replied that it was no problem and that his day was just starting. The radio was playing a sports broadcast. I asked if it was baseball. It was football. My driver loves football and looking forward to the upcoming season. His team? I asked, “The Cowboys.” to my surprise. He explained that it is his dad’s favorite team and all his favorite teams he got from his dad. I then noticed the CSULA lanyard hanging from the rearview mirror. He shared that he was a recent graduate. It took him five years because he was working to pay as he went. His degree is in Broadcast Journalism and he was now actively looking for a job in the Southern California market. His passion-sportscasting.
We talked more about his job search and next steps.
I wished him well and I really meant it.
I am convinced he will find something given his positive attitude.
I tipped him immediately and more than I normally tip.
Driver #2, I sat in the back seat due to crutches taking up the front seat.
I watched him from the App miss the turn and then take what seemed like an eternity to turn around. Upon arrival, I greeted him with my customary ice-breaking questions-How was his day? Did he just start his day or is his finishing up?. I also asked about the crutches. Turns out he had a torn ACL which did not require surgery. Or perhaps he was electing not to have surgery( As the ride went on I realized that it would be a mistake to make any assumptions.). It was never made clear as he was not much of a talker. He did have a podcast on the radio. The title of it was Climate Change. It caught my attention because I had just passed on attending Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project Training due to conflicts in my schedule. I began to listen and I began to be confused, my assumptions at work. The person spoke in measured tones about the movie Avatar. He went on to call out James Cameron as a hypocrite, and it went on from there. I see the words Climate Change and I just assume the content will be discussing the significant world events and repercussions due to climate change. I assume that the content recognizes it as an actual crisis. As soon as I was processing that my assumptions regarding the content were wrong, another episode started. Now the same mild-mannered host was talking about Tariffs and Trade Wars. Again it was this smooth voice reminding us of individuals from both sides of the aisle who have complained about Nafta and that somehow we should be grateful for a trade war. I think it was at this moment I checked out. The content was disturbing. It was so carefully crafted and packaged with what felt like a dangerous agenda. Now I know that the views shared on the podcast are not what I believe. I believe I possess the ability to listen to opposing views and apply my critical thinking skills to recognize that most issues reside in a grayscale not in world of easy answers.
I exited the ride disturbed by the combination of this dark, fear-based podcast being ingested by a very quiet, almost sullen young man. Again I am making several assumptions. Maybe he was listening to it for a class, maybe he was really going to research some of the claims asserted by the host as absolute truths, maybe he has a dark sense of humor and plays these to see what, if any reaction he can illicit from his rides.
I will never know.
I was relieved to be out of his car.
I did not give him a tip.
Driver #3, I sat in the back seat. I was tired at this point and looking to get home as quickly as possible.
The soundtrack for my final ride of the evening was the equivalent of alternative elevator music. My driver was friendly. I actually shared with him that his (nondescript) music was refreshing after my last ride. I tried to describe the podcast, and he responded that he believes the government is capable of all sorts of deceptions. At this point I was tired and not sure where this conversation was headed, therefore I steered us towards more neutral territory. I learned that he was engaged and set to be married soon. He was driving to supplement his income for the wedding. He was really excited to get married. He is a musician with a YouTube channel. He was in the process of rebranding.
Like the music on his radio, the ride had been innocuous and for that I was grateful.
I gave him a tip.
We are lucky to have diversity in Southern California, a diversity in our opinions, our professions, our dreams amongst all the other ways in which diversity presents. I began to write about my experience with my three same but different drivers focused on the young men. Now in conclusion the part I find more interesting is the role my assumptions played in all my conversations. What assumptions am I bringing to interactions at a conscious or subconscious level?
Here is a short list of synonyms for assumption: supposition, presumption, belief, expectation, conjecture, speculation, surmise, guess, premise, hypothesis
The synonyms clarify the way in which operating by assumption, a belief accepted as truth without investigation, is liability. A liability because assumptions have the potential to create distance where there need not be.
I am going to work on shelving my assumptions. I am going to work on asking questions and listening, especially when I am uncomfortable.