Monday, November 1, 2010

* * The Thanksgiving Project * *


, not a word, not a peep, until “my commercial” had already been bombarding northern California television viewers for a while. Ten days into it, a woman from the ad agency telephoned. We should have discussed this with you earlier, she told me, but, well, here we are... We sent you some standard forms to sign, and as soon as you send them back we’ll send you some money.

I told her that I didn’t imagine that a big pile of money was involved, and if we were just talking a couple hundred dollars, I’d actually prefer to not be paid -- I was happy to say all those nice things about my Prius for free, because they were all true.

From the other end of the phone, I heard an audible intake of air -- a small gasp. “Oh, but we have to pay you!” she said. “Legally, we actually…have to…pay you.”

I said, “Well, how much money are we talking about?”

She: “Screen Actors Guild regulations say that we owe you five hundred (and some) dollars for the day of the shoot, another five hundred for (something else), five hundred for (something else), five hundred for…”

I said, “I’ll sign…”

In the end, I received about $3,000 -- after taxes, $2,250.

GREEN CAB was founded in 2007 by eight hard-working visionaries (I was not one of them), and now nearly one hundred of us drivers have helped the company grow and prosper. Shortly after Toyota’s check arrived, it hit me that it would be ridiculous for one guy (me, not even a founder) to be getting so much attention -- plus all the money!

It took me a while to figure out just how to share it, but after consulting a few others at Green, in early November I wrote Green a check and sent every driver in the company a letter saying that on Thanksgiving, at Green Cab, all gates and gas would be paid by the money from the ad.

A couple of days later, two Green drivers told me that at the airport cab lot they’d wound up in a long argument with a driver from another company. It wasn’t possible, the other driver said. He’d been driving forever, and he’d never heard of such a thing: Free gates! Free gas! Hah!

And he was right. I’ve never heard of, and no one I know in the industry has ever heard of, any such thing before.

I INVITED ALL GREEN DRIVERS to play along -- to give away a free ride of their own if they felt like it. And, if they agreed, I would mention those rides here on this blog. The stories have been trickling in, and I’ll continue to post them as they arrive. But so far, here’s how I might summarize the feedback I’ve received:

1) Everyone at Green Cab was absolutely thrilled at the prospect of free gates and gas. Once the news got around, the looks I saw on the faces at the Green cab lot were exactly the same sort of looks I’ve grown accustomed to seeing in my backseat during the last however-many-years-it’s-been. People appreciate something different. And something free.

2) Many drivers reported that giving away a free ride was often awkward. I rarely register any personal awkwardness around my free rides these days, but the feedback makes me recall the “early days.” We’re all conditioned to having almost every human interaction include a financial component, and, well, Who in the world are we if money is subtracted from the equation?

3) Several drivers mentioned that they hope to see the Thanksgiving Project become a Green Cab tradition -- as do I, of course.

Drivers Reports:

-- The first report I heard came from our general manager, Athan, who told me that one of our drivers, Jennifer, gave away free rides during her entire shift, accepted the many tips that people pressed upon her, and donated them all to North Beach Citizens, a non-profit that is working to address the issue of homelessness in North Beach “one citizen at a time.” Later Jenny showed me the thank-you letter she received.

-- Carol Osorio, laughing her wonderful laugh, told me that she’d pulled into several bus zones, but wasn’t able to talk anyone into accepting a free ride: “I couldn’t give ‘em away!”

-- Boz Zafeur told me that he, too, hadn’t managed to give away a ride -- but he’d enjoyed hearing his driver friends from other companies say they were “jealous.”

-- At Geary and Scott, Beyen Feraje picked up a student running late for school one morning. The kid was thrilled when Beyen told her that today she wouldn’t be delayed by having to pay him -- she could keep her credit card in her pocket.

-- Michael Pegues picked up three young women at Haight and Shrader at 3:30 one morning. As Michael drove them out into the Avenues, and as the women talked amongst themselves about how broke they each were, he found himself grinning inside, anticipating… Later, as Michael told me about the small, grateful pandemonium that broke out at ride’s end, he was grinning ear-to-ear. “Great, great fun!” he said.


THE END -- I will keep adding to the above list as appropriate, but I think that, otherwise, this is pretty much “it” for this blog.

Thank you, dear readers, so very, very much for being along for the ride.

Brad Newsham

Green Cab #914

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