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Fake $100 bill prompts violence and confusion

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When it comes to fake cash, everyone’s a phony. (Courtesy photo)
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I don’t hear the details over the two-way radio as it unfolds, but when I come upon the aftermath at 16th and Valencia, I see two SFPD squad cars have National 2977 surrounded. On the sidewalk, cops mingle with the crowd of Saturday night revelers, the mariachis and a few competing hot dog vendors.

I look for the familiar face of the driver, but an arm in the air distracts me.

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Later, in the Mighty cabstand, Juneaux tells me all he knows: The driver of 2977 was attacked by his passengers and taken to the emergency room.

While I’m cashing out at the end of my shift, Jesse only has a little more information. The driver, Noguchi, was taken to SF General, and they’re towing the cab back to the yard.

Outside the office, the weekly recitation of the waybill is underway, with Noguchi’s fate the center of attention. Colin, Juneaux, Late Night Larry, Marty and I stand around asking questions: Why doesn’t somebody just go pick up the cab? Cause the driver has the key. Oh. Has anyone gone to the hospital to check on the driver? Did the police file a report? Are we going to pull the chip from the camera?

After a while, the tow truck arrives with 2977 on the hook. Then Noguchi shows up, bedraggled with a hospital bracelet still around his wrist.

We immediately demand answers.

“Hold up,” he says, still visibly shaken. “It’s a long story. Somebody, please, I need a cigarette.”

Colin hands him an American Spirit, and we yield the floor …

“I was dropping off a fare at 16th and Guerrero,” Noguchi begins. “There were three people. One was getting out. But the other two were continuing on to Ocean and Plymouth. The guy who’s getting out wants to settle the bill. The other two will pay separate. He hands me a $100 bill. Now I’ve been playing the airport all evening. I only have $20 in change. That won’t help anybody. I go into a bar to ask for change. Sorry. I go into the liquor store. Sorry. I try the pupuseria. They say, only if you buy something. So I order the beef deshilachada.”

At this point, things get somewhat confusing … Noguchi goes outside to give the guy his change. And since he’s now committed to the food he’s ordered, the other two passengers flag down a different cab, which happens to also be a National.

On his way back inside the pupuseria, the cashier confronts him.

“You gave me a fake $100 bill!”

Realizing that the people associated with the $100 bill are in the National cab, Noguchi tries to prevent them from driving away. The pupuseria worker, however, assumes he’s trying to escape and attacks him.

“He just starts hitting you right away?” somebody asks.

“Yes, and I told him, ‘I don’t want to fight.’ I’m just trying to get the people back to sort this all out. You know what I mean? I’m trying to be honest.” He slaps his chest.

The pupuseria guy won’t listen. He just keeps pummeling Noguchi until he’s on the pavement.

“And then he’s kicking me and kicking me! And I’m rolling on the ground.”

“In the middle of 16th Street?”

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“Yes! I keep yelling, ‘I don’t want to fight!’ But still, he’s kicking me.” Noguchi’s accent gets stronger as he revisits the adrenaline-fueled confrontation.

“So what did you do?”

“I got up and I grabbed him by the head and … BLAM!” He pantomimes a slam-dunk.

“You smashed him into the ground?”

“I did not want to fight! I was only trying to be honest!”

We continue grilling Noguchi until he finishes another cigarette. Then he gets into 2977 and drives away.

Left to fill in the gaps, we try to jigsaw what few facts we have into a cohesive story …

At some point, the cops obviously showed up and then an ambulance took him to General. But what about the pupuseria worker? What happened to him? And what about the guy who passed the alleged fake $100 bill?

“What if,” Juneaux proposes, “the guy’s bill wasn’t phony at all, and the cashier was just trying to get rid of one he already had?”

As conspiracy theories lead to other wacky possible scenarios, much to Colin’s delight, the sky brightens. Slowly, we break away, leaving the yard and all the unanswered questions behind.

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. Write to him at piltdownlad@gmail.com or visit his blog at www.idrivesf.com.



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  • Mrjhnsn

    If I don’t have more than 20$ change and you wanna give me a hundo… I always ask for a credit card instead. Why go through all this hassle? I would rather pay 3%. I am one cabbie who is completely happy with the most recent ease of introduction of credit card payment in cabs via SQ, PayPal and the like. Saves me from crap like this. I don’t have time for hassles, too busy making customers happy and enforcing the bus/taxi lanes with my brake pedal or brights and horn.

  • sf_kenneth

    If the guys were black (who passed the $100 bill) it was fake from the beginning.

  • One of the obvious questions that didn’t get asked that night was, Why didn’t you just figure out an alternative form of payment? Also, I asked if he was wearing his badge and he said no. Cab drivers should always wear their badges. It shows the public we can be held accountable for our actions. Some random guy running into a liquor store asking to break a $100 is a lot different a taxi driver on the job trying to procure change for his business.

  • Rick Vega

    I got a bad $50 about a month ago, he was getting out and someone else was getting in.

  • Not A Native

    If you said you aren’t an ahole, you’d be faking it from the beginning.

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