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The passenger is always right

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Don’t be the passenger who trusts GPS over a seasoned San Francisco cab driver. (Courtesy photo)


The shortest distance between the DJ club and your apartment is a straight line …

After a year of working the cabstands outside Mighty and Public Works, I’ve carved particular routes through The City that are, in my mind, efficient, both time-wise and cost-wise.

Since there is little traffic at 3 a.m., I drive as the bird flies, following the map of San Francisco imprinted in my brain and try to hit the timed lights.

When I get a fare out of Public Works, say, going to the Sunset District, I take 15th to Castro — which becomes Divisadero — and turn left on Fell.

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This path also works for the Richmond District, except, instead of continuing through the park, I take a right on Stanyan to Fulton.


Once, out of curiosity, I followed the directions in Google Maps for the same ride. In the end, the app’s route cost two dollars more and wasted several minutes.

Occasionally, a passenger will question my trajectory …

The other night, I pick up three guys from the GlamCock event at Mighty. They’re going to Noe Valley.

Out of habit, I head down 16th. After a few blocks, one of the guys in the backseat tells his companion, “I think we’re going the wrong way. Why aren’t we on the freeway?”

I ask the dude up front if they’re talking about my driving.

“Don’t worry,” he says with a vaguely European accent. “My friend is just fucked up.”

The guys in back then start talking about their Lyft driver from earlier and how he went some roundabout way. “At least he got us where we needed to go in the end.”

As offensive as it is to have my driving compared to that of some clueless Lyft driver, I bite my tongue and contemplate how I could have possibly taken the freeway from Showcase Square to Noe Valley other than going five blocks out of my way down Potrero to Brannan, getting on the 101 from 10th Street, going around the Hospital Curve to Army and taking that up to Guerrero … A course so far out of the way, it would have literally been highway robbery.

When I get to their location, the guy in the front acknowledges how fast I got them home and how cheap the fare is. The meter reads $12.35. He hands me a $20. “Keep it.”

When I got back to the yard, I relate this incident to the cab drivers milling about in front of the office.

“The passenger is always right!” Late Night Larry says brusquely. “Especially if they insist on taking the longer route.”

We all laugh, cause it’s true. But when I’m working a club and my main objective is to take people where they’re going and get back to the club as quickly as possible to find another fare, I don’t want to drive all over hell’s half acre just because passengers are now conditioned by GPS apps to think they need to take a freeway to get home.

This is San Francisco, not L.A.

Of course there’s nothing worse than backseat drivers …

One night, after circling through SoMa, I cruise by Folsom and 8th. A Flywheel taxi is idling in front of F8, obviously unaware of how this particular cabstand works. As I drive past the Cat Club, which is where we usually get cab customers, a hand goes up. I frontload on the clueless Flywheel driver and speed away.

“41st and Telegraph,” the guy in back says.

“Telegraph?” I ask, trying to remember which neighborhood that street is in.

“Oakland,” he clarifies.

Ah, that Telegraph.

As I head to 5th, he starts giving me directions. I casually mention I live a few blocks from him on 48th, but he doesn’t seem to hear me. He doesn’t say another word until I’m in the Maze, about to merge onto Highway 24, at which point he tells me to go left.

“Left?” I ask.

“Yes, go left!”

In a flash, I think he wants me to take MacArthur, without thinking that we’ve already passed the exit, and swerve back onto I-580.

“What are you doing?” he shouts at me. “You’re going the wrong way!”

“You told me to go left!” I yell back at him.

“Ugh!” he grunts in frustration. “I meant the other left!”

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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