It’s only 10 p.m., but when the guy wearing a green suit covered in four leaf clovers with a matching bowtie stumbles into the passenger seat of my cab and exhales a miasma of booze directly into my face, it suddenly feels like 2 a.m.
“Uhm, where to?” I ask.
“Just head that way,” he mumbles, pointing down the street.
I hit the meter and drive.
Before I began my shift earlier that day, I had forgotten it was St. Patrick’s Day. Since the parade and most of the festivities had taken place the weekend before, I was more focused on the huge gaming convention at Moscone and the subsequent corporate sponsored after parties. As I noticed more and more people wearing green, I just figured they all worked for the same company. Then I remembered what day it was and knew that before the night was over, I’d eventually encounter a few die-hard revelers.
“Do you know where you’re going?” I inquire. “I’m trying to find out…”
While he digs into his iPhone, I assume he’s going to text or call someone to find out which bar to go to next. But he just opens and closes apps. One minute he’s scrolling through his photos, then he’s tapping the screen randomly until he opens the health app you can’t delete that comes bundled with the phone.
“Felix!!” he screams out the open window.
“You’re pretty wasted,” I point out.
He shows me a wristband. “They said if you came to the bar dressed up, you could drink for free.”
“You really took advantage of that offer, huh?”
“I drank a lot of beer.”
“I can tell.”
“Felix!!” he yells again.
I continue to press him on where he wants to go.
“What street is this?” he asks. “Union? Go left.”
“So Polk Street?”
For several minutes, we drive around Pac Heights aimlessly. I patiently suggest different neighborhoods.
“Felix!!” he yells out the window at a frightened woman.
“Stop yelling at people,” I tell him.
“I’m trying to get my friend’s attention.”
“My friends,” he says. “The ones in the back.”
“There are no people on the back,” I point out.
“What?” He turns his head around sharply. “Where the fuck are they?”
“How am I supposed to know? You got in alone!”
He ponders this for a second and then seems relieved. “Well, thanks for telling me.”
“You know you’re in a cab, right?” I ask. “And you’re going to have to pay me at the end of the ride?”
He brushes away my concerns. “Let’s go to a strip club.” “Which one?”
As I drive down Broadway to North Beach, he screams “FELIX!!” all the way through the tunnel.
After we pass Powell, he tells me to pull over.
“But there are no strip clubs here …”
He opens the door, and I realize he’s going to puke.
We’re in traffic. There’s not much I can do but stop the car and put on my hazards while he upchucks into the street. After a few rounds, he careens out of the cab and onto the sidewalk, where he holds himself up against the wall and gets the rest out, much to the dismay of the elderly Chinese women who walk by.
I’ve been driving this guy around for a while. There’s $15.60 on the meter. I’m not about to lose my fare. I pull over to the corner of Stockton. Since he’s on an incline, gravity will get him back into the cab. Sure enough, he staggers into the front seat and demands to go left at Columbus.
“No left turns. I have to go around the block.”
“Then let me out here.” He opens the door.
“Don’t forget to pay me!”
“Oh yeah.” He pulls out his wallet and $20 bills fly everywhere.
I help him collect the money. There’s a few hundred dollars.
He holds out three $20s. “Is that enough?”
I look at the money and sigh. I take one of the $20s and put the rest back in his billfold.
Before I drive away, I look at the guy, teetering on the sidewalk, holding his phone out as if it will magically guide him where he needs to go.
It’s only 10:30. I still got a long night to go …
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. Write to him at email@example.com or visit his blog at www.idrivesf.com.