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The way of the taxi stand

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The Hyatt Regency taxi stand, on Drumm Street in San Francisco. (Courtesy Irina Dessaint)


Impact is all but inevitable.

I’m on Sansome. Northbound. Taking a fare from the Hyatt Regency to RJ’s Market. It’s a short ride. Not exactly what I was hoping for after waiting 25 minutes.

Usually, the EC5 cabstand moves at a decent clip. Besides the Regency and Embarcadero Centers, you get people hopping off BART and from the Ferry Building, as well as various randos.

But that’s the way of the taxi stand. One second it’s moving, the next you’re just watching the world stream past …

After moving up two spaces, an Uber pulls over next to me. Instead of proceeding to the driveway that leads to the front of the hotel, a family of four disembarks right in the middle of Drumm Street. The driver, working hard for those five-star ratings, helps set their suitcases on the asphalt. Says goodbye and drives off. The tribe of fresh-faced tourists, slightly discombobulated, manages to gather their belongings and haul them between the line of taxis, across a jam-packed sidewalk and the driveway.

This is a common scenario at most hotels these days. There are many reasons why you rely on doormen. Making sure guests have — at least — the opportunity to show some class is one. Preventing fuckups is another.

A few nights back, while languishing in the Fairmont taxi stand, I saw a girl get her fingers caught in the door of a Lyft car. As her howls echoed off the façade of the luxury hotel, the clueless driver began pulling away. Her friends had to bang on the side of his car to make him stop …

Once I’m finally on the throne, I roll down my windows. With all the activity in this corridor, sometimes it’s hard to hear the doorman’s whistle. If you don’t respond fast enough, impatient cab drivers start blowing their horns.

At this time of day, a radioactive beam of sunlight mercilessly pummels the southeast corner of Sac and Drumm. The driver’s side of 233 is awash in ultraviolet rays. The visor does no good. The AC is useless. All I can do is lean forward and stare at my phone.

When a young woman approaches my window and asks if I’m available, it didn’t matter where she was going, as long as I can escape the wrath of the sun.

Along the way, the woman starts combing her hair. As I drive through Jackson Square, she whips her long locks from side to side, releasing a cloud of perfume, then pulls the mane together and wraps a blue ribbon around it.
Waiting for the light at Broadway, I glance in the rearview as she applies makeup with a small compact.
It comes out of nowhere.

The sun’s onslaught persists as I head up Sansome. At each intersection, an explosion of light pierces my periphery.

At Green Street, a BMW emerges from the flare-up. The driver enters the intersection with all the confidence of a BMW driver. Fair enough, except Sansome is one of the few streets in San Francisco without four-way stops at every intersection.

Everything happens in a flash.

Of course, I see the errant BMW immediately. As a taxi driver, I expect this kind of stupidity. But as a taxi driver, I can’t just yield the right of way all willy-nilly.

“Watch out!” the woman screams.

Her sudden outburst fuels my indignation. I lay on the horn. The BMW driver sees me. He blows his horn.
In his mind, he’s not doing anything wrong. I’m a psycho cabbie trying to run stop signs. Full of road rage.

So how about a little game of chicken to see if who can make it across the street first?

I wait until the last moment to swerve.

“What the hell was that?” the woman shouts.

At first, I assume her anger is over my aggressive driving.

“He had a stop sign,” I state, vehemently.

“I know! He almost killed us!” she yells. “You’re amazing. That’s some hella good driving! You saved our lives!”
I pull over next to the deli. The meter reads $6.80.

“Here’s $15,” she says, handing me three $5 bills. “For getting me here safe and sound. Seriously, that was some great driving.”

“Oh, thanks.”

She approaches a guy sitting at a table outside and relates the story of how I just saved the day.

I pull away and wave. Might as well see what kind of danger I can get rewarded for in Fisherman’s Wharf.

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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