(Courtesy photo)

When you lose taxis, you lose a sense of wonder – and safety

When you live with a rambunctious two-year old in a cramped one-bedroom apartment, ignoring background noise is the only way to not go insane.

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When you live with a rambunctious two-year old in a cramped one-bedroom apartment, ignoring background noise is the only way to not go insane. So as my daughter plays in the living room while watching a Curious George DVD, I do my best to block out the voiceovers and read the news about Lyft’s recent IPO. That is, until I hear the Man in the Yellow Hat shout, “Taxi!” Soon enough, I’m following the exploits of the inquisitive monkey gone wild.

Apparently, the Man and George were heading to an important business meeting when George got off the bus to grab a free map. As the Man chased after him, he accidentally left his portfolio behind.

This leads to a series of misadventures that includes the Man taking a taxi to catch the bus and find George, who’s now riding in a bike messenger’s saddle bags.

“You’re taking a cab to catch a bus?” the cab driver asks, his deadpan delivery emitting a cantankerous disdain. “And you want me to find you a monkey on a bicycle? Buddy, I’m just a cabbie.”

This archetype of the surly cab driver reminds me of the genesis for a character in another beloved children’s show, Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch, whose voice was based on a grumpy cab driver the actor encountered on his way to the audition.

It seems taxis are everywhere when you’re a kid. In books, puzzles, cartoons and toys. Anything to do with transportation or life in the city usually includes a brightly colored, easily identifiable taxicab.

Or as my daughter refers to them, “Dada’s car.” Just like fire engines, police cars, buses, delivery trucks and streetcars, taxisare a part of the urban landscape.When the titular character in Little Blue Truck Leads the Way heads to the big city, she has this bit of advice for the speeding taxi, “You may be fast, and I might be slow, but one at a time, is the way to go.”

Even though she’s ridden in taxis her whole life and been raised in an urban environment, my daughter still points out commercial and transit vehicles on the road. Just like the kids from small towns in Union Square and the Wharf, who stare in wonder as I drive past them, or chirp with excitement when they get to ride in the backseat with their parents.

And yet, if companies like Lyft and Uber, along with investors and supporters, have their way, taxicabs in the city will soon be a thing of the past. In their dystopian vision of the future, any vehicle on the road should be a form of conveyance. Where’s the fun in that? And how does one represent that image for the preschool set?

Furthermore, what are we supposed to teach our children about not getting into cars with strangers? As long as there’s a smart phone on the dash and a placard in the windshield it’s all good?

What about that young woman in South Carolina who thought she was getting into an Uber? The guy, accused of killing her and dumping her body in the woods last week, was caught by police in the same nightclub district where he originally picked her up because he was probably going to do it again.

What about the Rideshare Rapist who sexually attacked four women in San Francisco before being caught?

What about the lack of adequate background checks? What about the culture of exploitation that allows these kinds of incidents to happen over and over again?

As a parent, it’s terrifying to bring a child into a world where people no longer question the motives of companies willing to use money and deception to succeed. Everyone seems to be all agog over the prospect of our children being assaulted, raped and/or potentially murdered.

We should be making the world safer for our children, not exposing them to more harm.

Right?

At least in cartoons, all’s well that ends well…

Once the Man eventually gets his portfolio and his monkey back, the services of the taxi driver are further employed, including a request to “Step on it.” Which he does, without hesitation.

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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