“What have YOU got to be proud of?” Late Night Larry asks me as I wander into the yard on Sunday morning.
The National barbeque, which has been dormant for most of the year, is in full effect, revived to celebrate the Pride weekend. Before I can answer, though, Colin sets off a firework that discharges a geyser of sparks with a prolonged screech.
“I’m not ready for this shit yet,” I mumble and go inside the office to cash out.
Exhausted and ornery, I’m coming off a grueling 14-hour shift. Even though the first half of the night was wasted driving around empty waiting for people’s phone batteries to die, I spent the last six hours working nonstop, with not much to show for my efforts.
It wasn’t a very profitable weekend for me.
While navigating street closures and a tsunami of Uber/Lyft drivers, I did my best to stay near the action without getting trapped in the various clusterfucks, but I relied on luck more than anything …
During the Trans March on Friday, I pulled over on 14th Street to figure out a strategy to circumvent the congestion when two guys walked out of the house I was parked in front of.
As they take out their phones, one guy points at me and says, “Why don’t we just take this taxi right here?”
“Are you available?” the other guy asks.
And off we go to Bix in North Beach, far from the maddening crowds. But not for long. The Castro seemed to have a magnetic pull …
On Saturday, The City is abuzz with gaiety. Market Street is like a jugular vein from Civic Center to the Castro. Traffic streams inbound and out. The sidewalks are crowded with partiers who stop at each bar and inquire, “Is this a gay bar?” To which the answer is always, “Yes!”
It is Pride weekend, after all.
People, people everywhere, but not a flag in sight.
In the doldrums, I try to stay optimistic. Around midnight, the phone networks become overloaded, forcing people to wander onto side streets and up 17th to get a connection so they can order their Ubers and Lyfts. Other people jump in taxis.
“Oh, thank you so much for taking me home! I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t been there.”
It feels good to be appreciated, however misguided. The flurry doesn’t last long though.
Eventually, I make my way to the Afterglow party on Barneveld in the Bayview, right around the corner from the National yard. For the rest of my shift, I transport revelers in various states of inebriation and undress into the white light dawn of day. Then race back to the venue for another load.
At 6 a.m., when the party’s over and all the carousers have disappeared, except for two guys dancing in the middle of the street with hula hoops, there’s nothing left to do but gas up and head to the barbeque …
As Ben and I compare notes on the Afterglow party, he tells me about a guy he picked up there going to Oakland.
Even though he seemed to be cognizant of getting into a taxi, the guy fell asleep on the bridge, and when they reached his destination, he tried to get out of the cab without paying.
When Ben informed him, in his even-tempered manner, that he was in a taxi, the guy insisted otherwise.
“This is a Lyft!” he gestured with his phone.
“No, you have to pay me,” Ben told him.
“How do I do that?” the guy asked.
“Either cash or a credit card.”
“But it’s supposed to be done through the app.” He took out his phone to demonstrate and inadvertently ordered a Lyft to his current location.
No matter how times Ben explained the process of paying for a taxi, the guy just didn’t seem to understand why it wasn’t taken care of through his phone.
They were still going back and forth when the Lyft he accidentally ordered arrived.
Finally, Ben asked, “How did you get into the party?”
That’s when they guy remembered his ID — along with a debit card — tucked away in his sock …
While the barbeque rages on, I pull an Irish goodbye and head home to Oakland. After an onerous weekend, I just want to hang out with my baby girl. And then sleep.
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine, “Behind the Wheel,” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at www.idrivesf.com.