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A legacy of grievances

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A large memorial for Mayor Ed Lee rests on the steps outside City Hall before a celebration of life ceremony on Dec. 17. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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http://sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/i-drive-sf/

“San Francisco is a white-collar crime,” the woman in the back of my taxi says, in a machine gun-like monologue. “And Ed Lee is — was — one of the main culprits. It was Ed Lee who sold us out to the tech companies, turning The City into a playground for the rich.”

It seems like the only notable conversations I have in my cab anymore that aren’t long winded jeremiads are the ones that don’t involve politics. Or millennials. Or tech. Or San Francisco.

“Don’t get me wrong though … I didn’t want Ed Lee dead. Just out of office. Or in jail. He should have gone down after the Shrimp Boy case …”

When I pull up to the woman’s building at Bush and Jones, she hands me a $20 bill.

“So yeah … you won’t see me wearing a black armband anytime soon,” she says, as if there’s a moral obligation to mourn the untimely death of the mayor. 

Granted, over the past few weeks, there have been countless public memorials, but the majority of the people I talk to in my cab haven’t changed their tunes.

Despite Willie Brown’s observation in his column for the Chronicle last week, it seems taxi drivers aren’t the only San Francisco not mourning the death of Lee …

From Bush and Jones, I meander through the Tenderloin and end up at the scene of the crime.

Inside City Hall, several hundred Google developers are having their corporate holiday party.

Outside, on the Polk Street side, an ad hoc cabstand is forming. I pull in behind two other taxis. Zephyr is on deck, and Andrew is behind him. I get out to say hello.

“Not really a taxi crowd,” Andrew says with a resigned chuckle.

“These frock-and-jock events never are.” I nod toward a few couples emerging from the building.

The guys wear the usual business casual, and the women are decked out in festive evening gowns. Slowly, in their high heels, they cascade down the steps, past the assemblage of bouquets and wreaths laid out in remembrance of Lee.

On the sidewalk, the partygoers gather and wait with their phones out like Geiger counters as Andrew and I kvetch about how slow business has been this holiday season.

“Every year, it just gets worse …”

A few minutes later, Icarus pulls in behind me. He immediately expresses contempt toward the proceedings.

“Look at all those flowers,” he sneers. “Can you believe this crap?” 

Next, Bradley and Hester pull up. And just like that, a Hacker all-star gathering is in full effect.

“I just don’t know what I’m going to do, man,” Icarus says. “I have to get out from under this debt. It’s killing me!”

Saddled with a $250,000 loan for a worthless medallion, Icarus works five days a week just to make the monthly payments.

“Am I supposed to declare bankruptcy over this and run my credit until I’m 60 years old?”

Things aren’t any better for Hester.   

“I’d be doing so much better as a gate-and-gas driver.”

“Ed Lee ruined my life.”

“Maybe the Credit Union will step in and take these medallions back.”

Just days after Lee’s passing, KPIX ran a story about the San Francisco Credit Union suing The City over defaulted medallion loans because the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency did nothing to stop the illegal taxis that flooded the streets. And since The City is in the business of selling taxi medallions for $250,000, maintaining the value of those medallions would seem like a no-brainer.

Not so in Lee’s San Francisco, where, by his proclamation, every July 13 is Lyft Day.

It’s actions like these that helped feed the rumor, mostly spread among taxi drivers, that Lee’s daughter is an investor in Lyft, or works at Lyft or has some connection to the company. Whether or not that rumor is true doesn’t matter. The damage has been done. And there’s no going back now …

Finally, Zepher gets a ride. Then, Andrew loads. I leave the others to their grumbling and wait behind the wheel.

A smiling couple knocks on my window.

“Can you take us to the Marina?”

“Sure.”

As we head up Franklin, they laugh in the backseat and talk about her co-workers — who’s secretly sleeping with whom and who knows and who isn’t supposed to know.

“That was such a great party!” the girl enthuses after catching her breath.

“Yeah. Your work really knows how to throw down.”

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine, “Behind the Wheel,” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to Kelly at piltdownlad@gmail.com or visit his blog at www.idrivesf.com.

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