It’s lovely in Pleasanton this time of year …
At 3:30 a.m., I’m leaning against my cab with the hazards flashing, smoking a cigarette in the carport of an apartment complex, listening to the crickets and wondering how long I should wait for the cops to show up.
An hour earlier, I was driving around empty in SoMa when Chelsea, one of my regulars, texted me.
“I’m at Noc Noc on Broadway. Can you pick me up?”
“Sure,” I respond. “5-7 mins?”
I hit Mission and take Third to Kearny.
On Broadway, I slow down next to the Ford GoBike rack. Traffic is surprisingly light, even though it’s almost last call. As I keep an eye out for Chelsea, a very tall black woman in a very small pink dress clomps toward my taxi on a towering pair of stilettos with a level of authority that throws me off.
Before I can roll down my window, she’s opening my back door.
“Sorry,” I say. “I’m picking someone up.”
She slides across my backseat and shouts at someone on the sidewalk.
“Hey!” I yell. “I’m not available!”
“Get in the taxi!” she yells out the open door.
“Hey! I’m waiting for someone!”
A guy leans in. “Get out of the taxi,” he tells the woman.
“Take us to Pleasanton!” the woman commands.
I clear my throat. “Did you say Pleasanton?”
“How much will that cost?” the guy asks.
“Just get in!” she bellows at him. “You’re going to ruin everything!”
“Around $150,” I reply.
“Get in the taxi!” she screams.
Reluctantly, he sits down and closes the door. “I don’t give a shit. I’m not paying for this ride.”
“Go, please! Drive!”
I take off down Broadway. While waiting for the light at Sansome, I text Chelsea, “Crazy shit just happened.”
“You fucked up!” the woman yells.
“No, you fucked up!” the guy yells back.
“No, you fucked up!”
The guy is vicious, assailing her with a bevy of insults. Apparently, he just found out she’s been cheating on him. She doesn’t even try to deny it.
After a while, he starts laughing.
“You know, I’m glad. Now, I know what a truly horrible person you are.”
He keeps laughing and insulting her as I race through the Oakland Hills and into Castro Valley. Finally, I reach Dublin and get off on the Santa Rita Road exit. From the freeway, the guy directs me through a maze-like apartment complex until I hit a dead end.
“Alright,” the guy says, getting out of the cab. “Thanks for the ride.”
“Wait a second!”
The woman gets out of the cab slowly. I watch as she teeters on the high heels and careens toward a parked car, bounces off the trunk and falls to the ground. Just as quickly, though, she’s back on her feet.
“Who’s going to pay me?” I demand.
She wrinkles her face and stumbles away.
I get out of the cab and follow her to the door of her apartment. As she goes in, the guy emerges with a bunch of stuff that he loads into the back of a Corolla. On the windshield, there’s an Uber placard.
“I really need to get paid,” I tell him, feeling like the paperboy from the movie “Better off Dead.”
“I told you, I’m not paying. She’s a whore. Get her to pay.”
“Come on, man. I don’t want to get into the middle of this …”
“Be a man! Go get your money!” He drives away.
I knock on the door. No answer. I knock again.
I return to my cab and Google the Pleasanton Police Department. An operator picks up on the second ring.
“I don’t know if this is something you can help me with …”
After a couple cigarettes, two black and white SUVs pull up behind me with their lights off.
I gratefully point them toward the apartment, and they start pounding.
“Police! Open up!”
In the distance, a dog barks.
I wait by the cab, not expecting much. But at least I didn’t just scamper away. A few minutes later, the police return with a different guy.
“I work six days a week,” he says nervously. “I just sleep here. This is my cousin’s place. How much does she owe you?”
I point at the taximeter.
“Oh, man. I can’t give you that much.”
“What can you give me?”
He shrugs. “Forty dollars.”
I look at both cops. Their blank expressions are no help.
As the cops walk away, I thank them for coming out. Saying, “City cops would have been like, ‘Pfft. Whatever.’”
“Yeah, well …” One of the officers turns before getting into his vehicle. “Welcome to Pleasanton.”
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.