Ok, so maybe confusing the Bay Bridge with the Golden Gate Bridge is forgivable — at least at night. (Courtesy photo)

Tourists arrive in “San Fran” with some foggy notions

Some people come to the The City with more preconceived ideas than changes of clothes.

http://sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/i-drive-sf/

People are strange, but tourists are stranger. Visitors tend to show up in San Francisco with all sorts of crazy notions.

Like the other night, while taking two guys from SFO to the Aloft hotel in Millbrae, one asks the other, “Do you think those trees are real?”

“Maybe,” he responds.

I’m not exactly sure why they’d assume the copse of poplars next to the 101 south on-ramp were fake, but don’t correct them. After all, they’re not talking to me.

I’m just the cab driver. What do I know?

Even though questioning the validity of timber is definitely odd, it’s more peculiar that passengers will wonder aloud about the unknown world and not include me in the conversation.

They can tell from our initial greeting that I’m American and speak the language. So what gives? Are they just talking to hear themselves talk? Do they really want to know the answers to their questions? Perhaps they’re shy. Or maybe I really am chopped liver…

Despite my inclination to be a buttinsky, there’s always the possibility that my input is undesired.

Once, I was taking some conventioneers from the Marriott Marquis to Brenda’s on Polk. Along the way, this woman explains to the others how the Tenderloin got its name. Feeling amicable, I add that the legacy of vice and graft often overshadows the neighborhood’s vibrant cultural diversity. She immediately dismisses my contribution, as if I’m the one regurgitating Wikipedia.

I’m just the cab driver. What do I know?

On several occasions, I’ve heard tourists attribute that “coldest winter ever spent was the summer in San Francisco” quote to Mark Twain. Or refer to The City as “San Fran.” Or butcher the names of streets. But correcting people doesn’t always go over well.

For each traveler who asks for clarification, there are dozens of others who seem content to wallow in ignorance.

It happens more frequently on airport rides, as we encounter various features of The City. Like the serpentine fog bank that’s usually resting atop Sweeney Ridge like an insolent feline with its tail wrapped around San Bruno Mountain.

“What’s that?” a passenger will inquire. But not to me.

While this mystery is easily solved, other conundrums require someone familiar with the terrain. Like the South City motto on Sign Hill, which compelled one guy to tell his wife, “I didn’t know they called San Francisco ‘The Industrial City.’”

At least once a week, a passenger will gasp in awe at first sight of the Bay.

“Is that the ocean?”

Or spotting the Bay Bridge, “Look, the Golden Gate Bridge!”

An understandable mistake, especially at night, when Leo Villareal’s light display really makes the western span pop…

Some people arrive in The City with more preconceived ideas than changes of clothes.

A few weeks ago, I was driving a husband and wife from a small town in Texas.

“Look, there’s a truck,” she points out.

“Hmmm,” he grunts in disbelief, as if they assumed San Franciscans only drive cars fueled by liberal juice.

Getting off 101, passengers are often stunned by the gas prices. Of course stations near the freeway are more expensive, geared towards desperate motorists…

The worst kinds of tourists, though, are the ones who think their phones make them smart.

Last week, I picked up a young couple from United, heading to the Hilton Financial. I can tell they’re in San Francisco for the first time based on reactions to the fog, the Bay, the hills and the bridge. But that doesn’t stop them from giving me directions.

“Are you gonna take 280?” the girl asks.

“Yeah.”

I can tell she’s monitoring my trajectory through Google Maps.

From the moment they got in my cab, they’d been complaining about the difficulty of finding an Uber and griping about the cost of a taxi ride. As if I can’t hear them talk.

After exiting onto King, the girl wants to know if I’m going to take Third Street.

“Cause there’s two ways to go,” she says.

“No, there’s not,” I reply sharply. Too sharply, I realize, but laugh anyway while merging into the taxi lane. I mean…

I’m just the cab driver. What do I know?

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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