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Physical ailments won’t slow the hustle

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Driving a taxicab all week long takes its toll on the body – and mind. (Cindy Chew/2006 S.F. Examiner)

I’m beat. I’m so exhausted I can hardly stand upright. I feel like I have two bowling balls around my neck. Sure, the heavy drinking and self-loathing don’t help my posture much, but neither does driving 36-48 hours a week.

My right leg aches from pushing the gas pedal and hitting the brakes for 12 hours straight. And I’ve developed a limp.
These days, I try to avoid cabstands, constantly prowling the streets for fares instead. Eventually, my leg cramps up, though, and I have to pull over and stretch. Of course, when I need a break, I inevitably catch a ride.

Outside the Intercontinental, I’m leaning backwards against my cab, trying to reverse the forward tilt I’ve developed from slouching into the steering wheel, when the doorman whistles.

“You working?” he asks.

“Yeah, I’m working.”

How can I turn down a paying customer on a night like this?

I keep moving, scanning the sidewalks for flags. Is that a hand in the air? No, just a tree branch. Is that guy hailing me? No, he’s just pointing at something. What about this couple waving at me? I pull over but they look at me like, “Eek! A Cab!” Then motion to the Uber idling in the bike lane.

Despite the pain, I don’t stop. Yeah, I worry about my legs, my ankles, my hips, my back and my neck, but I worry more about money.
Money, money, money. This city is full of it, but it doesn’t seem to trickle down. I have a thimble out, trying to catch a drop or two, and it’s all but empty.

Everyone knew this week was going to be slow, with Burning Man, Labor Day and BART services between The City and Oakland shut down. Which left the tourist trade. But tourists, after walking around all day, usually go to bed early. After 10 p.m., it’s slim pickings.

On Thursday, I drove empty half the night. I yelled out my window at other cab drivers, “It’s not just me, is it?”

The answer was always the same. “No. It’s bad.”

I thought I’d only break even but I ended up with $40 after gate and gas.

Friday night I did better. On the way to the yard from Oakland, Colin joked that he wouldn’t drive me home unless I broke a hundred.

“Even though all the drugs and the DJs are out in the desert, and it’s going to suck, if you don’t make $100, you should just lie.”

I can’t imagine the hassle I’d have to deal with if Colin didn’t get me to and from work during the BART outage. Vicki Marlane wasn’t whistling Dixie when she told The New York Times that Colin was “a real peach.”

That night, I made a little over $100. I hustled hard for it. And I may need a hip replacement in the not so distant future. But $100 is a $100.
Since I was tabling at the SF Zine Fest on Sunday, I wasn’t planning to drive Saturday. But I thought I could pull an all-nighter and make it to the Zine Fest without sleep.

As soon as I got my cab, I worked the tourist spots. I drove until 4:30 a.m., when my cab was due back at the yard. I actually broke $200. My best night in a while.

After hanging around the barbecue, I got home at 7 a.m. All my stuff was ready for the Zine Fest when I lay down for a little catnap before heading out.

I woke up at 2 p.m. My phone was lit up with texts, missed calls, voicemails and Facebook messages. As I got out of bed, I fell into a pile of laundry. I could have kept going, too, drifting all the way into oblivion. And I sort of did. I spent the rest of the day getting drunk and ignoring my worried friends, feeling like a total loser and making everything worse in the process.

I’m beat. But I’m not beaten. Yet.

I know I’m my own worst enemy. I practice self-sabotage as an art form. My attitude has always been, “If you want to mess me up, let me do it for you.” But I can’t keep going like this. I need to get healthy. So I can continue moving forward and creating the life I want. Otherwise, I might as well just descend into the laundry basket forever…

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