On the line-up for this week: two girls in Lyft Line bond over their tattoos and shared past experiences, thoughts on passengers who bare their souls and what it means to know someone on a deeper level, and a dream wherein I give a tour of San Francisco in Spanish to a very important Lyft passenger.
”I heard an oink coming out of that burp.”
–A male Lyft passenger to his female friend, who’d just eaten pork for the first time in sixty days.
#Lyft Thoughts: authenticity vs. hiding and perception vs. reality
Conversing with passengers who are seated in the backseat– with its anonymity conducive to highly personal reveals, the set-up reminds me a bit of church confession boxes (especially when passengers bare their souls).
I find it interesting to think about: Do the conversations we have when we can’t see each other lead some people to hide? Or the opposite– become more themselves (safer as they now feel to reveal their purest thoughts)?
“Only now, with no one watching, could Mitchell find out who he was,” wrote Jeffrey Eugenides in his short story Air Mail.
CW Headley wrote in a Psychology Today article of another character for whom “not being face-to-face allowed [her] to be more introspective, more vulnerable, and more willing to accept others’ opinions without immediately dismissing them.”
Maybe removal of potentially distracting stimuli allows both sides to focus more on the quality of conversation than on superficialities. Maybe it’s conducive to building a deeper emotional connection.
Since I didn’t always get a good look at the passenger at the start of the ride, and because while driving I could hear their voice but couldn’t see their face, my mind sometimes constructed its own vision of what they looked like– based in large part off their tone of voice or the things they were saying.
The meandering of conversations into many directions provided ample opportunity for that image to solidify, which made it both funny and jarring when–as I turned around to say goodbye to the passenger at the end– I was presented with the stark contrast between their actual appearance and the version my mind had concocted.
Once, a guy I’d been convinced was stringy and studious-presenting revealed himself to have more of a Jonah Hill build. Another time, a man professing libertarian values turned out to be dressed in goth / emo clothes.
I think about how the reverse process often plays out when we’re texting or talking online with someone we haven’t met yet. That is, we unconsciously prescribe traits to them, using a superficial means of assessment (edited pictures and curated self-presentations) to draw conclusions about deeper character traits.
As author Kira Asatryan wrote, “Evidence shows that we start constructing our idea of who another person is on first contact. Just one picture on Tinder, one tweet we find hilarious or off-putting, and we think we know who the person is.”
Conversely, in the Lyft dynamic I mentally construct a vision of passengers’ outer appearance through the glimpses into their psyche– or the spontaneous, unscripted snippets of their thought processes– that they’ve verbally provided to me during the ride.
I’ve wondered how my mind come up with this image. Is it recreating someone I once knew who spoke in a similar way (even if I can’t consciously pinpoint who that person was)?
At what point did it decide that the passenger had an angular face and thick eyebrows? Did the way the woman said “avocado” compel me to draw in almond-shaped green eyes reminiscent of those that belonged to a girl I’d once heard say that word in exactly the same tone?
Further questions: Are we biased to ascribe pleasant facial features to someone when we feel more connected to them? Or have some of our minds evolved beyond this unfortunate ingrained impulse, transcending the tendency to correlate a pleasing appearance with goodness of soul?
Maybe there’s no logic to it at all. Still, I’d like to see some psychological or sociological experiments done on this (kind of joking but also kind of serious).
#Lyft Line: Passengers talk tattoos
It’s nice to witness passengers discovering commonalities and connecting. This week two girl passengers find out they’d both been raised by people who weren’t their biological parents; (one girl by her grandparents, the other by adoptive parents).
They go from talking about this to complimenting each other on their body art:
“Oh my gosh, I like your tattoo!” one says to the other, pointing to the colorful etching on her shoulder.
“Oh thanks— it’s not finished yet,” the other replies.
Pulling out her phone, Girl 1 shows Girl 2 more tattoos she’s thinking of getting.
The guy in the front seat chimes in with his own ideas for desired body art: “I want one that says ‘Family above all else.’ I’ve wanted it for a while but I had to hold off because I was coaching youth basketball for ten years. I’ve changed jobs now though. So it won’t be an issue anymore.”
“You’ve got a lot of unlearning to do.”
–Woman passenger to her partner after an argument, shaking her head sadly at him
# Lyft Dream
My task in this week’s dream is two-fold: drive this passenger while interpreting his tour guide commentary. The passenger is from the richest and most opulent neighborhood of Mexico City, and he wants a riveting, detail-laden tour.
While intrigued by the offer, I’m also worried about the level of concentration it will require. Interpretation and driving are both tasks that call for full focus. Despite my initial hesitance though, I go through with it anyways.
“Que aburrido,” (“how boring,”) the passenger says as we drive through the Mission district, after finding out that tech workers outnumber the Latinos and pretty much every other demographic.
I wish I’d had a chance to see how the dream continued, but I woke up shortly after!
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