The cashier at the ARCO on 14th and Mission is a funny guy. When he’s not yelling at me for giving change to the panhandlers who loiter outside his thick Plexiglas window, he asks me, “Busy? Busy?”
You can usually tell how lucrative a night has been by how much you spend on gas at the end of your shift. Unless you’ve been short-tanked by a day driver.
On Thursday, I pumped $13 into 182, which included an SFO run and a trip to Berkeley.
On Friday, I dropped $20.
Apparently, there was some festival or something in Golden Gate Park, but I just worked The City as usual …
Around midnight, I’m in the Mission. I approach a woman with her arm extended on 16th Street. She doesn’t seem that excited to see me, so I ask, “Do you need a taxi?”
“I’m going to Oakland,” she says.
Several hours later, a guy flags me at the corner of 18th and Castro. At first, he’s tells me 442 Natoma St., then asks how much to Palo Alto. We negotiate a price, and he hands me his debit card.
“I know you want me to pay up front cause you towelheads don’t trust black folks.”
“Whoa!” I hit the lights and say, “You can pay at the end of the ride if you like, but don’t be so quick to judge!”
“Oh, you’re a cute hippy boy!” he responds gleefully.
It’s obvious he’s wasted. Before I’m even on the Central Freeway, he asks if he can give me head. I laugh it off, but he persists. Vehemently. No matter how many times I turn down his offer and try to change the subject, he doesn’t let up. Over and over, all the way down the 101.
“I just know you’re going to let me go down on you …”
“Then shut up,” he says. “Your voice is turning me on.”
I shut up. Then he asks me a random question and returns to the topic of fellatio. When I reject his advances for the umpteenth time, he tells me to shut up again.
“Stop asking me questions then!” I shout.
I’m driving so fast, at one point, he tells me to slow down. I just keep counting down the cities: Burlingame … San Mateo … Belmont … Redwood City … Menlo Park … Palo Alto!
Just when I think this ride is almost over, he decides to give me a tour of his neighborhood, showing me where he grew up and where his relatives live.
At each spot, I ask with increasing urgency, “Is this where I’m dropping you off?”
I don’t know where the hell I am. It’s dark. There are trees everywhere! So many damn trees! There are no sidewalks. The houses have white picket fences and lawns. And what are those, cul-de-sacs?
Finally, he’s getting out at the next stop. He tips me $20 and asks if I’ll reconsider my position on the BJ for another $20.
I quickly speed away, exhausted and weary. I try to find the freeway but I get lost. All these trees are disorienting.
That’s when I realize I need food. As I continue driving north on surface streets, I see a Carl’s Jr. with an OPEN sign. I haven’t eaten at a Carl’s Jr. in 20 years maybe, but I’m starving and figure, what the hell. It won’t kill me.
I pull up to the speaker. The cashier tells me to continue on to the window, where he’s explaining to a woman in the car in front of me that they’re out of beef. (!) She has coupons though. For burgers. (!!) An extensive process of haggling over semantics ensues during which she tells the cashier she drives for Uber. (!!!) After spending 10 minutes ordering two chicken sandwiches, (!!!!) she goes on to talk about how cool it is driving for Uber, (!!!!!) that she loves all the extra spending money, (!!!!!!) but doesn’t work The City because the drunk bar kids puke in your car. (!!!!!!!)
“You have to carry buckets with you or your backseat fills up with vomit,” she tells him. “Can you imagine the smell?”
By the time it’s my turn to order, I’m ready to blow my brains out. The cashier, looking somewhat dismayed, goes into his spiel about not having beef, but I cut him off.
“Just give me a chicken sandwich. I don’t care which one. And some fries.”
Up ahead, I see a sign for the 101. I grab the bag and put the pedal to the metal.
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at www.idrivesf.com.I Drive SFKelly DessaintLyftSan FranciscoSFOtaxiUber