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When all else fails, there’s always the SFO casino

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Driving to SFO without a passenger is a gamble, but sometimes it’s the only option. (Emma Marie Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)


On most nights, deadheading to the airport is a gamble. But with taxis sandbagging every hotel, bar, strip joint and DJ club in The City, a Hail Mary seems like the only option.

On my way to the freeway, I stop by Mythic Pizza for a couple slices. Not much is happening on Haight Street. The only customers inside the restaurant are two young ladies sitting at a table having a very loud, profanity-laden conversation about their personal lives.

When my slices are ready, I look for the parmesan, but the container isn’t with the other condiments — it’s on the table where the young ladies are sitting.

I ask if they’re done with the cheese.

“Do your thing,” one says snidely.

Uh, OK. I carry it back to the counter and sprinkle the cheese liberally over my pepperoni slices.

As I’m heading out the door, the girls yell at me:

“Whoa, dude! Where’s our parmesan?”

“What?” I laugh, as if they’re fucking with me.

Their serious faces imply otherwise …

Two hours later, I’m first up at terminal three when a guy with a backpack walks down the line of cabs.

“Let me get that for you,” I say, reaching for his backpack.

In the process, his phone falls on the ground.

“Oh shit!” I exclaim.

“Don’t worry about it,” he says, snatching up the device, an old flip phone.

His destination is like music to my ears.

“I need to get to Oakland,” he says with a heavy sigh.

“You don’t sound very enthusiastic about it. What’s wrong?”

“I missed my flight to Eureka. Even though I was here 90 minutes before it was supposed to leave. Getting through security took forever, and they wouldn’t let me board. So now I have to stay at a friend’s place until the next flight at 12:30 tomorrow.”

“That’s fucked.”

Once we’re off the freeway and cruising up 34th Street, I point out his friend’s place is just a few blocks from the MacArthur BART station.

“You can just take BART to the airport in the morning.”

“What’s BART?”

“The subway,” I say. “It goes straight to SFO.”

“Fuck that, I’m calling a cab. I can’t risk missing another flight.”

“Oh.” Over the next three blocks, a spark of opportunism ignites another plan. Since I’m keeping the taxi overnight and live just a few blocks away, and seeing as how he’s rocking a flip phone and not likely to just Uber, I seize the moment and give him my card.

“You’ll pick me up at 9:45?” he asks.

“On the dot,” I swear.

“I can’t miss this flight.”

“You’re not going to miss your flight. Call me in the morning. I’ll monitor traffic conditions and if we need to leave earlier, I’ll let you know.”

The next morning, at 9:35 a.m., I walk out to my cab to discover a fist-sized hole in the driver’s side window. I stand there in shock, looking up and down the street. Only one other car has been hit.

Assuming the worst, I open the door to inspect the damage. To my relief, the taximeter and tablet are still secured to dash. My CD case is still in the glove compartment. Even the center console hasn’t been rifled through.

This is just random vandalism. Some asshole kid thought it would be funny to smash the window of a taxicab …

And what a perfect day for this to happen, when I need to get this guy to the airport …

I run inside my apartment to grab the broom, muttering to myself and eyeballing the yuppies mingling outside the Temescal Arts Center, who avert their eyes, as if my misfortune were not even happening.

In the process of brushing out the Oakland diamonds, my hand gets ripped up, and I start bleeding all over the place.

On my way to pick the guy up, the street is closed for construction. I park a few houses down and wait to greet him.

“So … uhhh … I hope it’s OK there’s no driver’s side window.”

“I don’t give a shit man,” he responds. “Just crank the heat. I can’t miss this flight.”

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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