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Fumbling the inbound shuffle

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When a conference comes to town, the attendees have no problem throwing money around — and a light drizzle means even more potential rides. (Courtesy Christian Lewis)

http://sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/i-drive-sf/

Slowly, as the holiday season recedes like a bad memory and 2018 offers a plethora of new reasons to be outraged, San Francisco begins to show signs of life again. The weekends are still quiet, and there’s not much action in any particular neighborhood, but at least you get the sense that The City is not officially dormant. Yet.

Last week, the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference rolled through town, with several thousand deep-pocketed attendees who seemed to have no problem throwing money around. I was only able to take advantage of one day of the convention, but if my experience on Wednesday was any indication of the previous two, the event more than made up for a lackluster New Year’s Eve and the dismal December that preceded it.

Most rides are short, but as one fare ends, another begins. And a light drizzle means even more potential rides. All those $7 and $10 rides quickly add up. Then, just as I’m feeling lucky, I get pushed out of the loop and wind up in the Mission.

OK. Just a minor setback, I tell myself. It’s not like I’m going to turn down fares …

Heading back downtown on Market Street, a guy in front of the Boost Mobile store tries to get my attention. I pull over, and he asks me to wait. Goddamnit.

“All right.”

A few minutes later, a girl approaches my cab with a suitcase swaddled in plastic wrap. Before I have a chance to open the trunk, she shoves it in the backseat.

“Brooklyn and Hyde,” she tells me.

“Where?”

“I mean, Broadway and Hyde,” she says. “I just came from New York so I’m a little confused.”

“No problem,” I reply, thinking that I can maneuver through North Beach and get back to where the action is downtown.

As I circle the block to head north on Larkin, she regales me with her various obstacles since arriving in the U.S. from Brazil. Besides her suitcase getting destroyed on the flight to San Francisco, she can’t contact the host of her Airbnb or let her parents know she’s OK, because she can’t seem to acquire a prepaid data plan to use her iPhone in the States.

“Nobody understands what I’m talking about,” she tells me.

“What did they tell you at Boost?” I ask.

“That I should go to AT&T or T-Mobile.”

“We’re going to be driving past a T-Mobile store,” I point out, thinking, from there, I can shoot down California and there will be flags on Nob Hill. “It’s walking distance to where you’re staying.”

She thanks me for being so nice and then asks, “Would you mind waiting for me?”

Right as I’m about to kick myself for always trying to be so helpful, it occurs to me that the fastest way to get her sorted out is to just go into the store and do all the talking myself.

Five minutes later, she has a data plan, and we’re rolling down Broadway …

Back in the Financial, I can’t avoid flags. Even if I want to. After a while, I kind of want to.

I really, really need to use the restroom. It’s been several hours since the start of my shift, and my bladder is throbbing. All this rain isn’t helping.

There’s no way I can stop at a hotel. That’s where all the fares are. While racking my brain trying to remember where the closest public restroom is, I remember the green spaceship toilet on the corner of Clay and Drumm. It’s just a few blocks away. I turn off my toplight and make a beeline, pull into the motorcycle parking, hit the hazards and waddle over to press the magic button.

When I see the out of order notice, my pants aren’t the only thing about to get wet.

I look around. It’s not raining as hard anymore, but there’s a fine mist in the air, which is enough to shroud my activities as I duckwalk onto the grass and find a tree …

With more than a sigh of relief, I get back in my taxi and pull into the Hyatt Regency cabstand. I’m No. 3 when I notice a guy get into the first cab and then get out. He goes to the second one, opens the back door and then closes it. Next, he approaches my taxi.

I roll down the passenger side window. “What’s up?”

“I need to go to Oakland.”

“Get in.”

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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