In traffic we become something bigger

i drive

Everything hit at once last weekend. Besides Outside Lands, the Giants were at home and, on Saturday, there was the Pistahan parade and festival.

Combined, it made for a hectic few days of cab driving…

I started my week on Thursday afternoon. Caught a Millbrae train to New Montgomery, and surfaced just as a 9R is idling a few blocks away. I luck out with a seat in the back. As we pass Civic Center, though, a person nursing a crushed can of Old E nods off and hits the deck.

A woman looks up from her iPhone and screams, “Somebody call 911!”

“Forget that!” the guy next to me shouts. “I’m gonna be late for work.”

“But he could be dead!”

The guy shrugs.

Just as the passengers begin taking sides, the bus turns onto 11th Street and comes to a stop. Even though the man is back in his seat, sipping on what’s left of his beer, the operator refuses to continue.

“Come on! Let’s go!”

The grumbling grows louder, until the lights flicker off and it’s obvious we must disembark.

A few minutes later, another 9R turns off Market. Circumventing the first bus, I notice the man has followed us. Barely able to stand, holding onto the back of a seat precariously…

After picking up P818, I head to SFO. Figure I’ll work the airport until the ball game is in the seventh or eighth innings. But a series of shorts keeps me away from The City, and then, around 11:30, I get a ride at the United terminal to Oakland. Since my apartment is close by, I call it a night.

On Friday, there are so many events to work it’s hard to decide. But the late night action at the DJ clubs is dismal. So around 1 a.m., I end my shift early…

My first ride out of SFO on Saturday is to the Holiday Inn Express in the Wharf. Afterward, I flip around to use the restroom at the Hyatt Centric. When I return, a man is waiting next to my cab.

He directs me around the corner to Bay and Taylor, where he’s got a large entourage. They can’t all fit in one cab, so I take him, three young kids, two strollers and a nanny.

They’re going to China Live.

“Do you know where that is?”


“I’ll use Waze just in case.”

“That’s not necessary.”

He does it anyway.

Heading down Columbus, I notice the app wants me to take Powell. Why? I have no clue. But sure enough, as I pass the street, the guy tries to correct me.

“Do you want to lug two strollers and three kids across a busy street?”

“Not really.”

Fortunately, he spends the rest of the ride arranging Ubers for the other members of his family. He tells me the wait is over 18 minutes.

Once they’re unloaded in front of the restaurant, I get flagged a block away, just as a radio order comes in.

And so begins two days of massive needs across The City and at SFO. The result of Eid al-Adha, as all practicing Muslims who drive taxi or TNC stay home to observe the holiday.

Demand is off the charts. Flags on practically every corner. Out by the park after the music is over, festival-goers wander through the fog like zombies. Cell service is intermittent for those whose phones still have battery life.

The insanity carries over into Sunday.

At one point, they run out of cabs at the airport. The starters send us through the lots like we’re at a go-kart track. Each terminal has lines stretching beyond the taxi stands.

I keep driving until the bitter end. Then go home for some shuteye before finishing my work week on Monday.

Due to the DevOps convention, the airport is still busy.

As I’m getting ready to turn in my cab that afternoon, I get a radio call for UCSF on Parnassus. Pull up to the hospital and a nurse loads a patient into the back of my cab. He hands me a pre-filled voucher. I look at the address and hit the brakes.

“San Jose?”

“Yeah. How long do you think it’ll take with traffic?”

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 or visit

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