Without a CAT scan, I can’t be 100 percent certain, but there’s a good possibility my brain has been replaced with a bowl of oatmeal. After several weeks of erratic sleep, caused by driving a taxi as much as having a newborn, the fatigue is catching up with me.
On Thursday afternoon, I hit the streets in 1164. My orientation is a little off. Nothing major. Just a misfire here and there. Fortunately, instinct keeps me on course. And I manage to stay busy, which is a welcome change.
At 11:55 p.m., I’m dropping off in the Sunset when I get a message from Hester. The Murder City Devils show at the Great American is breaking in 10 minutes. I pull up right as the first wave of concertgoers exits the music hall and immediately get a fare going to the Handlery, six blocks down the street. I offer to drop them at the front door of the hotel around the corner on Geary, but they insist on the carriage entrance.
The meter reads $4.05. The guy hands me a $10 bill and says, “Keep it.”
By the time I circle back to the Great American, the wolves have descended. There’s not much room to stage on O’Farrell, but I manage to get in line behind a Fog City and a Flywheel.
Even though the sidewalk is packed, nobody’s taking taxis. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen so much black denim in one place, so I’m fine ogling the crowd for a while and reminiscing on the days when garage rock was all the rage. And people still took cabs.
After several minutes, the Fog City gets a fare. The Flywheel and I move forward and wait some more. A Luxor pulls behind me but leaves empty. The crowd is still bustling, although the possibility of a fare is looking grim.
Eventually, the Flywheel in front of me bails, and I’m the last cab standing.
I wait, determined to get a ride. Or watch the last rocker wander off into the Tenderloin night.
Finally, my door opens and a guy shoves a girl roughly into the backseat.
“Get in the cab!” he shouts.
“18th and Guerrero, driver.” She’s giggling, so I assume they’re joking, but as I turn onto Larkin, he starts yelling at her.
“You really messed up, you know that?”
“Get over it already!” she snaps.
“I swear to god, Jill! I can’t take you anywhere!”
“I don’t understand why you’re making a big deal out of this?”
He recounts the incident for her: They were in the mosh pit when some girl told Jill her boyfriend grabbed her ass. Knowing this to be a lie, Jill slapped the girl. A row ensued, and the band stopped playing. Just as the lead singer had smoothed things over, Jill ran up to the girl and socked her in the eye.
“I knocked that bitch the hell out!” Jill laughs.
“You just don’t get it! I’m sick of you getting into fights!”
“It’s not like we got kicked out of the show or anything. Relax.”
“Every time we go out, this happens.”
“Is that why you never have sex with me anymore?”
“What are you talking about?”
As things get more personal, I cringe internally. It’s like I’m back in the car with my parents, except I can’t rest my head against the window until the vibrations drown out the bickering. I try to focus on driving instead.
“You really blew it!” he seethes.
“I was defending your honor!”
When I pull up to their building, I turn on the overhead lights. Jill hands me a $20 bill.
“Keep the change. Sorry about all this.”
“Hey, I’m a cab driver. I’ve heard worse.”
As she exits the taxi, the guy holds onto the open door.
“Are you coming or what?” she wants to know.
“No, I’m not going home with you,” he says.
“What! You’re not going to spend the night?” Her voice cracks.
The guy steps away from the cab long enough for me to move forward. But the door’s still open. As he vacillates between getting back in the cab and arguing with his girlfriend, I remember that trick Late Night Larry told me about.
“Dude, you need to stay here and work this out!” I yell and hit the gas hard. In the momentum, the door slams shut and I head toward the Central Freeway. Time to call it a night.
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.