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Wheelin’ and dealin’

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(Courtesy Douglas O’Connor)


One advantage of writing this column each week is that I have notes on almost every shift I’ve driven in the past four years. With this plethora (or waste, some might say) of information, I can generally figure out what to expect on holidays based on previous observations. Such as Labor Day.

Of course, the week leading up to Labor Day is also Burning Man, when a noticeable percentage of the population in the Bay Area migrates to the Nevada desert.

Abandoned in the void are the alleged beneficiaries of the holiday — the workers. Especially those who toil in service, including numerous drivers, who, desperate or just overly habitual, spend the weekend struggling to make a couple bucks on the otherwise empty streets of The City.

Over the past four years, I have been one of those hungry and habitual motorists for hire, albeit mostly un-hired and oh so bored… until the only thing left to do was practice your road rage … Wheelin’ & dealin’

With past column headlines like “Burnt out without the Burners,” “The top light is on but I’m not” and “Hell is other cab drivers,” I don’t need to browse old Word files on my computer, search the Notes app on my phone or exhume discarded Moleskins from the Filing System of Hell to get a sense of the impact that Burning Man and Labor Day will have on cab driving.

Even if I were stupid enough to think it might be different this year, my decision to not work had already been made.

Irina informed me months ago that she needed help around the house with the baby that week, since a coworker at one of the companies where she does freelance design work was headed to the playa for ten days.

“Don’t you even think about driving taxi that week!” Irina benevolently reminded me, every couple days, leading up to the end of August. “No short shifts. Nothing! No taxi!”

Instead, I hung out with my daughter. At 19 months, she’s full of boundless energy, but still loves to kick back on the couch and read books. And while she’s not fully talking yet, she will repeat any word you tell her, which is kind of hilarious. And she seems to know what everything is and — more importantly — where to find it.

I just have to ask, “Hey, baby, where are daddy’s slippers?” and a few seconds later, she’s sliding them clumsily onto my feet. Or, “Hey, baby, where’s daddy’s phone?” Next thing I know, she’s handing me an iPhone covered in peach slime.

She’s a great kid. I’m infinitely fortunate — and immeasurably thankful — blessed, even — to have such a wonderful child. Don’t get me wrong. But… after a few days… I… I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I started cracking up.

I felt like the car at the end of “Blues Brothers.” I’d been operating at full steam for so long, that when I hit the brakes, everything collapsed.

For two days, I was bedridden. Irina was dubious, but didn’t throw any buckets of ice water on me. For which I am eternally grateful. As a result, though, she had to take the baby alone to the Exploratorium on Friday to see the “Inflatable” exhibit. The tickets were already purchased! We had planned on taking BART, since driving into The City of a Friday afternoon would have been torture with a baby who’s not too keen on being in a car seat. But Irina drove straight through the toll plaza, she said. Never a delay.

Parked right in front of the museum. At a meter.

“Is it usually hard to find parking down there?” she asked.

Sometimes, yeah …

After surviving “The Excruciatingly Mysterious Stomach Distress of 2018,” I focused on simple things: sitting around with the baby, helping her avoid hurting herself or the cat, doing mundane chores, arranging the new bookshelves, tending to the jungle of plants in the back area and getting some writing done.

On Tuesday morning, Colin gives me the rundown of his waybill. Just as predicted, it was bad. Real bad.

“You do know, Labor Day weekend is usually when they do things like shut down the Bay Bridge,” he points out.

Or the Transbay Tube. Which is what happened this year.

“It’s almost as if they didn’t even want people to go there…”

When you combine the lack of BART service into The City with the fact that most kids are already back in school and then add Burning Man to the equation, it seems there’s no escape from the boredom of Labor Day. Except maybe go to the desert and blow shit up …

“Hey, baby, where’s daddy’s flamethrower?”

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 www.idrivesf.com.

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