The nausea comes in waves, along with dizzy spells and a throbbing in my forehead that pulsates to a beat that matches the jackhammers I wake up to most mornings. It’s the sound of progress. These ugly, prison-like buildings are the future. Who am I to criticize some jerkwad who’s willing and able to pay three grand for a cookie-cutter apartment in an “up-and-coming” neighborhood that still hasn’t figured out what to do with the down and out?
If I ever thought having a kid was going to cramp my style, it’s only because I hadn’t considered how nettlesome living with the Bay Area can be. Compared to the toll this place takes on you, dealing with a screaming, sleep-resistant baby is a walk in the park.
When I switched to driving days, I figured there would be some hiccups in the transition. But I wasn’t expecting to become the quintessential angry cab driver overnight.
A change in my life was in order, though. Tèa is already 6 months old. She’s growing up so fast. If I’m not around to see it, I’ll miss out on one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
Besides the sunshine that sears my eyeballs, I actually really like driving days. I’m not doing the traditional daytime taxi shift, though, which usually starts at 5 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. I’m on the slacker day shift: 10-ish to 11-ish. Since I have a long-term lease, it’s up to me how much or how little I drive from when I pick up the cab on Wednesday morning and return it on Saturday morning.
In this brave new reality, I’ve had many revelations, but none have been more gut-wrenching than witnessing the surge of cars that take over the streets in the afternoon. And I’m not talking about rush-hour commuter traffic.
Anyone who doubts the veracity of the claims that Uber and Lyft drivers are directly responsible for most of the congestion in The City should stand on any corner in the metro area and watch the progression (or should I say procession) of vehicles flooding the streets as the day stretches into evening …
The 16th Street corridor between Guerrero and Mission is one of the worst traffic clusterfucks in The City. You have to circumvent jaywalkers and an army of Ubers and Lyfts. When they’re not double-parking with reckless abandon, impeding the flow of cars, bicyclists and two Muni routes, they’re driving like complete assholes or chickens with their heads cut off.
I try to avoid the area, but last Friday, Mr. Judy was waiting for an evac. So I charged into the maelstrom, blasting Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein.”
When I see Mr. Judy on the corner of Albion, giving dirty looks to passersby, I pull over, and he jumps in the backseat.
“Just in time,” he says ominously.
After telling me his next destination, I try to merge into traffic with my indicator on. The light turns red at Valencia, and cars start to back up. I get ready to take my place, but a grey Accord cuts me off. Not to be cockblocked so easily, I try to squeeze the front of my cab into the few inches left between the two cars. But the Accord jumps forward, closing up the gap.
“What the fuck?” I yell out my window. “Do you have to be a dick?”
The guy behind the wheel, bearded and tattooed, looks like he’s from Portland by way of Indiana. He plays dumb.
“What? I didn’t see you.”
“Bullshit! It’s broad daylight, and I’m signaling.”
“Whatever, man,” he shrugs. “We all need to get somewhere.”
“But I’m a taxi! I’m doing a job! And you …” I look his car over. It’s covered in dust and the side door is scraped. “Hell, you’re not even doing Uber. You’re just wasting space.”
“Look, I don’t want to deal with your road rage,” he tells me.
I laugh. “What the fuck are you talking about? I don’t have road rage!”
“Man, everybody knows all you cab drivers have road rage.”
“Do I look like all cab drivers to you?”
He hesitates. “You’re acting like one.”
“I’m just an asshole. That has nothing to do with the taxi.”
“Man, fuck you!” He rolls up the window.
“Argh!” I growl to keep the bile from coming to the surface.
“You need to borrow my mace?” Mr. Judy asks, holding up the canister.
I look in the rear-view. He’s smiling back at me …
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine, “Behind the Wheel,” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at www.idrivesf.com.