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Driving with DiscoLyft
Caleb Pershan | Photo: Caleb Pershan | March 21, 2013
Lyft driver Matthew David takes us on a karaoke-fueled ride-along.
“Welcome to the DiscoLyft partymobile,” says Matthew David, introducing passengers to his infamous tricked-out Prius. “I only drive it after dark, and if you’re not ready to go, I'll pop open the trunk and blast music to announce my arrival. I’ll just start a block party.” David has been driving his DiscoLyft for nine months, since nearly the beginning of Lyft, which introduced San Franciscans to the everyday sight of rideshare cabs sporting bright pink mustaches on their hoods. Besides having a DJ system installed in the trunk, David's DiscoLyft has karaoke mics, copious string lights, a heated massage chair, backseat TV’s, “LYFTED” vanity plates, and just about every other piece of funky paraphernalia he can get his hands on. He paid for all the improvements himself.
From 10 to midnight last Saturday night, we rode along in DiscoLyft picking up stunned passengers. “Holy shit! This is the best Lyft I’ve ever had!” said one 20-something who hailed the ride outside a bar on Clement Street. While David steered Discolyft toward Badlands in the Castro, the rider and his friend launched into stirring karaoke renditions of Britneys’ “Oops… I Did it Again” and “Yeah” by Usher. At their destination, the passengers stumbled out, thanking David profusely. “Thanks for playing,” David answered.
David drives 50 to 60 hours a week and claims to earn more than he did at his previous full-time job as a safety inspector for California’s Mine and Safety and Health Administration. But his most pertinent pre-Discolyft experience comes from event and festival management. "I used to do all the event directing for the Electric Daisy Carnival, and managed a stage at Coachella,” he says. David contends that he can immediately get a feel for his customers' tastes, knowing exactly when to bust out the Tony Bennett and when to opt for LMFAO. “I hosted my own raves and dance parties in L.A. for about 15 years. It’s easy to read a crowd for me.” Mindful of David's success, Lyft is talking to him about expanding the DiscoLyft concept, starting in Los Angeles: “What they want me to do is build a DiscoLyft in every city.”
As the night moved along, we drove a lone passenger to Polk Street from the newly opened Alchemist in SoMa. Groups of people hollered at the car and pretended to grovel. David gave them a “hang loose” gesture and honked a bicycle horn he keeps below the dashboard. “For people who go ballistic over DiscoLyft I do share my number,” he says. “But I try not to advertise it.” Two other passengers, who readily sang karaoke while we drove them to Japantown, asked for a photo with the car. That’s common, David says. “Tons of people ask me if Lyft will ever allow you to choose a driver,” he says, but for now, it's still the luck of the draw. The company simply pairs customers with the nearest available driver in a fleet of over 600, so you never know if your next Lyft will be a Discolyft. As one passenger put it: ”It’s kinda like a lottery—if you could request it, it wouldn’t be special.”
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