Before I can figure out where the shouting is coming from, there are hands reaching for my back door.
“Can you drive us?” The guy’s voice is rife with desperation.
“Yeah,” I say, stating the obvious. “Get in.”
“Thank you so much,” the girl exclaims. “We’re so lucky we found you!”
“Cool. Uh, where ya heading?”
Once I get their destination, I carve my own route out of the Avenues, zigzagging from Balboa to Anza to Clement, and even up to Lake, trying to avoid the gridlock.
“I don’t do traffic,” I tell my passengers nonchalantly, for effect.
Since this is my fifth year working Outside Lands, I can be a little cocky.
I head to the park around 9 p.m., after steeling myself for the inevitable shitshow and getting my accouterments in order. Energy drink: check. Square reader: check. Gary Numan CD: check.
Unlike in the past, attendees of the music festival this year seem to realize that using Uber or Lyft to get out of the park when the music ends is an exercise in futility. Besides the inevitable surge pricing, anyone with eyes can see the congestion. Well, almost anyone.
On my second foray to the park, a girl frantically waves me down on the corner of 18th and Balboa.
“C’mon! Let’s go!” she tells her friend, standing a few feet away.
“But they’ll charge me five dollars,” her friend whines, holding up her phone.
“I’ll Venmo you the five dollars! Come on!”
I hit the gas. This is no time for indecision.
A block later, I pick up a couple heading to the Marriott Marquis.
“For Jonathon?” the guy asks.
“Oh, never mind.”
“You know you’re getting into a taxi, right?”
“Yeah, we actually called for a taxi, but…”
As I try to imagine what kind of fool would drive all the way out here on the off chance that the person who ordered the taxi would still be waiting, it occurs to me that the streets are filled with those kinds of fools.
“I’ve never seen so many people before,” says the guy. “And I’m from New York!”
“Really?” The crowds seem pretty normal for Outside Lands …
On my next ride out of the park, I spot a coyote crossing the street.
“Look, a coyote,” I tell the couple in back.
“That’s impossible,” the girl declares. “Why would there be a coyote out here? Oh, wow! That’s a coyote.” The girl changes her tune when she sees the scrawny pup trot past a throng of festivalgoers. “Poor thing.”
“He’s probably heading to The Presidio,” I say. “Away from the craziness…”
Towards the end of the night, congestion is reversed, now that most of the Uber/Lyft drivers have found passengers and begun their slow procession away from the park.
After picking up another grateful fare at 26th and Anza going to Pac Heights, I take Clement to Arguello and then bust a move onto Euclid for the straight shot to Bush. With $25 added to my Square coffers, I stop to check out the Hackers message board before risking a wasted trip to the park. Instead, I head towards the Mission to check on my regulars …
Shortly before last call, I’m trolling the Independent, where Broken Social Scene is playing a benefit show for the Parks and Recreation Department. After circling the block a few times, three women approach my cab while I’m waiting for the light at Hayes.
“Will you take us to Oakland?” the first one asks.
“Of course,” I say, psyched to end my night with a long haul.
“You know you’ll have to cross a bridge, right?” one of the women tells me.
“He said he’d take us,” the first woman calmly points out.
“You have to make sure they know there’s a bridge involved,” the second one continues. “You don’t have a problem going to Oakland?”
“Why would I?”
“Sorry, she’s drunk,” says the third woman. “How much do you think it’ll cost?”
“Depends on – ”
“Like, fifty bucks,” the drunken woman cuts me off.
“Sounds about right,” I concede.
“That’s better than $100,” the first woman says. “Which is what Uber’s charging right now.”
“As long as he’s willing to go over the bridge,” the drunken one adds, falling onto her friend’s lap as she gets into the back of the cab.
All of a sudden, I’m not so sure anymore …
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine “Behind the Wheel” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to Kelly at email@example.com or visit www.idrivesf.com.