Last week was full of extremes and extreme confusion. From a scorcher on Thursday, when my shift begins, to rain on Monday, when it ends. From a feeding frenzy at the airport, to a slow crawl through the holding lots, as if we’ll never reach the terminals. From random flags in random corners of The City, to hotel cab stands that have more taxis than taxi patrons.
Nothing seemed to make sense. Even now, I’m still searching for a unifying theme, other than wanton chaos.
Despite feeling out of synch most of the week, there was also a weird synchronicity at play.
On Thursday, I get a ride out of the Orpheum. Two stops. First, Vallejo and Laguna. Second, Chestnut and Mason. My next fare, out of the Golden Gate Theater, goes to Vallejo and Gough. After that, I pick up at the Opera going to Chestnut and Leavenworth.
All week, the northeastern quadrant of The City seems to have this strange gravitational pull over me. Half my rides terminate in the Wharf, the Marina or one of the other adjoining neighborhoods.
Despite the anarchic flow, things start off well enough, a continuation of my good fortune from last week, but after Friday the 13th, my luck fizzles.
At a certain point my penchant for bad fares is almost comical. Like when a lady wants a ride from the international terminal at SFO to United departures. Despite pointing out that she can easily walk there, she makes a case to the young starter that it’s too much of a schlep with her bad leg. He caves and tells me to take the ride. Upon my return, after missing the ramp and ending up in San Bruno, I get a fare to Palo Alto.
Just when things start looking up, for the rest of the day the starters keep sending me to IT, where the likelihood of getting stiffed on tips increases with each European traveler you pick up.
That evening, I take an Italian guy to Van Ness and Green. I watch as he taps the no tip option in Square.
Obviously, he didn’t appreciate my timely, efficient route and expert management of the lights on Franklin.
After returning to SFO and an hour wait, my next fare is also going to Russian Hill.
Once again, I take the Central Freeway to Oak. After turning onto Franklin, I immediately speed up to make the green at Hayes.
“See, this is why I take cabs,” he says.
I impress the guy further by catching the light at Filbert and Van Ness.
As he pays the fare, he includes an extra $20 bill. “For making that light.”
At least someone appreciates good service…
On Sunday morning, I cruise the hotels downtown. Most are stacked with cabs.
Just about to give up on The City and deadhead to SFO, since Oracle Open World is starting on Monday and the airport should be busy all day, I pass the Marriott Marquis and see two cabs loading suitcases. I quickly make the block and pull behind Veterans 278 and a Luxor.
A few minutes later the Luxor takes off. But 20 minutes go by before 278 finally gets a passenger. As I advance to the throne, 278 stops in traffic and begins to reverse into the cabstand. The driver motions for me to back up. Fat chance of that, with a long row of cabs behind me.
As cars start to honk, the passenger exits and approaches my window.
“Do you take credit cards?” he asks.
“He told you he doesn’t take cards?” I ask.
Then why is he working the hotels? I wonder to myself. “Where you going?”
Figures, I seethe under my breath.
Not wanting to create conflict with the driver in front of this passenger, I have no choice but to take the ride. As I pull away and 278 takes my place, the driver waves at me.
Livid, I drop off the fare and try calling National to report 278 for not taking cards and refusing a fare, but get voicemail.
From Second and Harrison, I jump on the freeway, hoping my luck improves at the airport.
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. He is a guest opinion columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner. His zine “Behind the Wheel” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.idrivesf.com.