Given the opportunity for a do over, I never would have worked last Wednesday.
Like many, I was curious to witness the outcome of the Uber “strike,” even though anyone could have easily assumed it would be a flop. That didn’t stop the SFMTA from sending out an email a few days prior, notifying cab drivers that due to the protest there might be increased demand for taxis.
It seems everyone got the memo. Because when I got to the Yellow yard, there were no available cabs. I ended up waiting over an hour for one to become available.
After half an hour pacing the ground in front of the office, I contemplated going back home. But I had to work. Like so many desperate Uber/Lyft drivers, struggling to make money in this oversaturated market, I didn’t have a choice.
On the following Friday, I was driving to LA for my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday party. As I’m sure anyone with a Jewish mother, in-law or otherwise, from the Old Country or not, can attest, there’s no way in hell I could miss this milestone.
So Wednesday and Thursday were my only chances to make enough money to cover gas and incidentals for the trip and not have to beg my wife, who’d flown down with the baby that morning, for a bank transfer.
Of course, there was always a possibility that taxis would hit pay dirt because of the protests. After all, stranger things have happened…
Some cab drivers had reported a small protest outside City Hall, and on the news there were videos showing a hundred or so Uber drivers blocking Market Street outside Uber headquarters.
By the time I hit the road, though, all the streets were clear of protesters. There was still the usual congestion downtown and in SoMa, what you’d expect on any given weekday. Plenty of Uber/Lyft cars, service trucks and vans and the general population who still drive themselves to and from work in The City.
Despite the media blitz predicting an Uberpocalypse, nobody had difficulty getting rides. There were no reports of surge pricing. It was business as usual.
Had the event not been beaten to death by every news outlet on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I never would have noticed anything different. It was just a typical Wednesday.
That afternoon, I’m heading outbound on California at Front Street when a young couple flags me halfheartedly. They were trying to take the cable car to Cow Hollow but the line is out of commission. We watch as a tow truck pulls a disabled car up the hill.
Along the way, they tell me they’re boycotting Uber and Lyft for the day in solidarity with the drivers. During the rest of my shift, I have two other passengers who mention that they’re seeking alternative transportation options due to the protest.
Most are happy enough to employ the services of a taxi for the day, while one well-dressed woman I pick up in the Mission complains to her friend on the phone the entire way to North Beach how expensive the fare is compared to her usual UberPool rides.
Around last call, long after the strike was over, I’m working the Castro cabstand and a guy enters my cab doing to the St. Francis.
When I pull away, slowly approaching the red light at 18th, there’s a flash of movement in my left periphery followed by loud thud as a body collides against the side of my cab.
It sounded like a bus hit me. Without even flinching, I turn to see the guy who bum-rushed me shout invectives and run back into the shadows from whence he came, abandoning his rucksack on the asphalt in the process.
“What was that?!” the guy in back shouts.
“Just some crazy guy,” I point out nonchalantly.
Glancing around the street, several pedestrians are frozen in place staring at me. The other cab drivers seem equally shocked.
Once the light turns green and I advance through the intersection, my only response is to shrug and raise my hands in bewilderment.
What can I say?
Just another Wednesday night in San Francisco.
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