Airport fares sometimes include trips farther afield like to Half Moon Bay. (Courtesy photo)

When it’s time for a change in the game

I used to loathe the idea of waiting almost two hours or more for a fare, but over the past few weeks, the SFO holding lots have become a sanctuary from the madness.

Well, my transition into an airport player is almost complete. As much as I’d rather just work The City, it isn’t worth the hassle most of the time.

I used to loathe the idea of waiting almost two hours or more for a fare, but over the past few weeks, the SFO holding lots have become a sanctuary from the madness of the streets.

It’s not just the infinite stream of unmarked sedans, infringing every traffic law on the books, as if they were merely suggestions. Which they seem to be, since you rarely see any enforcement. Unless there’s a fatal accident. Then they assign an officer to that block 24/7, while every other street remains a free-for-all.

It’s also the perpetual construction projects. The ripped up asphalt, strafed with potholes. Along with mercurial signals that are never on your side. Rude, aggressive drivers, looking for any reason to unleash pent-up road rage. Jaywalkers. Cantankerous seagulls. The detritus of excess and endless despair.

Even if there were a hundred flags on every street downtown, you’d spend more time fighting traffic to reach them than you would with the meter running.

So when I start my shift on Thursday, I ask for a P medallion, to avoid a longer wait at the airport. But they only have a couple Ks.

I take the key to 1274 and head over Potrero to Caltrain.

That evening, listening to Jon Miller’s play-by-play on KNBR 680, I make a beeline to the ballpark after the seventh inning stretch. As the game goes into extra innings, I return to Second and King seven more times, until the Giants finally take the lead in the 16th.

After dropping my last fare out of the ballpark in the Marina, I check out the Deerhunter show at the Fillmore. Get a ride to Bernal Heights. Since I’m close to the freeway and there are plenty of delayed flights, I head to SFO.

Mistake. I end up stuck in the donut lot for over two hours. Until open lot. Then wait at the United terminal with Apollo and Barry, who’s frantically checking the manifests for the few remaining flights.

Around 3 a.m., I get Pacifica. But it’s deep Pacifica. A decent load. I still have to drive all the way home to Oakland, but at least it wasn’t a short.

On Friday afternoon, I exchange 1274 for 793, the only available P cab in the yard. Bit of a clunker. Which is why, I realize later, Nina was reluctant to give it to me. But I’m determined to work SFO. Clunker or not.

Before jumping on the freeway, I stop by El Metate for a burrito and the best chips and salsa in The City. I eat lunch in the entry lot, smoke a cigarette in the donut and watch a couple episodes of Drunk History in the paid lot.

Ninety minutes after tagging in, I’m loaded and heading back to The City.

Later that night, I get stranded at the airport for over two hours. I bail empty, following Baby J’s lead, and race to the Great Northern. Within minutes, I get a fare to Daly City. Along the way, the guy tells me about the Uber driver he had the week before who was taking him home, but kicked him out of her car on the freeway because she refused to drive in fog.

“She left you stranded on the side of 280?” I ask in disbelief. “That’s insane. What did you do?”

“Called another Uber,” he says.

Since the Giants are playing a day game on Saturday, I start my shift at the airport. After a fare to the Marriott Marquis, I take Folsom to Second Street, dodging slowpokes with a Flywheel cab hot on my tail.

At Brannon, the Flywheel gets the jump on me. I shadow him through the PCO barricade at Townsend. Right away, he loads. A few seconds later, this guy approaches my window and asks, “Can you take us to the American Legion in Half Moon Bay?”

“You w-w-w-wanna go to Half Moon Bay?” I stutter.

After a relaxing drive along the coast, I continue the natural, and mellow, trajectory to SFO.

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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