I Drive SF: From a nightmare to a dream

The Dreamforce convention ended on Friday and most of the drivers are hoping some of the 170,000 attendees haven’t left already

At 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, I pull into the Hilton cabstand. There are six cabs in front of me. The City is really quiet though, and there aren’t many signs of activity at any of the hotels in Union Square, despite long lines of cabs in front of each one.

The Dreamforce convention ended on Friday and most of the drivers are hoping some of the 170,000 attendees haven’t left already. But it doesn’t look promising. After half an hour with no movement, I’m drifting in and out of sleep.

An hour later, I’m only three cabs away from the front, talking to the driver in front of me about our predicament. Well, not really talking. More like whining.

“What if we get a short after waiting all this time?” I grouse.

“Well, that’s the risk we take,” he tells me.

Just then, the doorman from Spero walks over looking for a cab. He’s got a guest going to the airport.

Since the driver waiting in the holding spot on Taylor is fast asleep, the cab driver in front of me asks the doorman, “Can she take it?”

“Sure.”

I quickly flip around and pull up to the hotel to pick up the fare. Hand the doorman five singles after he loads the suitcase in my trunk.

Heading to the freeway, I think to myself, did that cab driver just refer to me as a she? I glance in the mirror. It’s still dark and my hair is sort of feathered as it sticks out of my hoodie. And when I whine my voice tends to go up a few octaves. So perhaps he did think I was a girl. If that’s why he gave me the ride, though, I’m OK with it.

After dropping off at terminal two, I head back to The City. I manage to find a spot in line at the Marriott Marquis, but there’s no movement. Forty-five minutes later, I give up. It’s safe to say that Dreamforce is over. Ending just as quickly as it started.

From the beginning, expectations among taxi drivers were high. Even though the convention didn’t start until Tuesday, hundreds of cabs were lined up at the airport on Sunday. Of course when hotel rooms are going for $700 to $1,300 a night, not many people showed up early and the long day was a bust.

On Monday, though, the floodgates opened at the airport. From morning to night, flights arrived packed with Dreamforce attendees. If not for that same eagerness that compelled drivers to show up a day early, the airport might have run out of cabs. At each terminal there were passengers lined up, waiting for cabs to ferry them into The City. At one point, we were just driving through the lots without stopping.

People stayed anywhere they could find a bed. Half my rides went to Airbnbs in places like the Dogpatch, the Sunset and even Sausalito.

During the convention, business was hit and miss. Salesforce were covering all the needs of the attendees, whose all-access badges provided them free food, free parties, free swag, free transportation and a free concert: Dreamfest at Oracle Park, which featured Beck and Fleetwood Mac.

The exodus began on Friday morning. In anticipation, cabs were already lined up at 3 a.m. As I circled through Union Square, Nob Hill and the Financial, each hotel was stacked. Even hotels that don’t have stands had optimistic drivers waiting in front of them.

The Marquis seemed to have to the most checkouts. But the cabstand reached all the way to Market, prompting cabs to line up on the other side of the street and stake a claim between cabs in the official line. It was a maddening procedure, but I managed to get an airport.

Upon returning, I tried my luck at the Hilton. The line moved slowly and I eventually got another ride to the airport. But that was my last long haul until Saturday morning.

By then, Dreamforce was officially over. There isn’t much to look forward to, now that winter is here. And based on the weather forecast, it’s going to be a long, cold one.

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 piltdownlad@gmail.com or visit www.idrivesf.com.

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