On Thursday afternoon, the Financial District is popping. In Google Maps, downtown San Francisco looks like an open wound. Every street that leads to the freeway is bathed in blood.
For several hours, the Hyatt Regency is load-and-go.
According to one of my passengers, there was a 900-person conference at the hotel and, apparently, everyone left at the same time. With that kind of spike in demand, all car services are maxed out.
The doorman’s whistle never stops blowing. As I’m trying to make a U-turn on Drumm, the doorman singles me out:
I pull into the driveway, angering a large crowd waiting on the curb with their arms out.
Sorry, folks, but the hotel’s needs come first. It’s their taxi stand.
Since most people are going out to dinner or drinks, the rides are short enough for me to drop them off and return to the Hyatt within a few minutes.
After a while, the doorman starts getting friendly with me. He even lets me wait in the driveway when I pull in preemptively, asking everyone who walks through the door if they need a taxi. Several wrinkle their brows.
As if …
While I’m taking a fare to the Fairmont, a lady tries to flag me at Sacramento and Drumm. I point to a Yellow cab in the Regency taxi stand.
“By the time I cross the street, they’re always taken,” she says.
“Just wait for the next one,” I reply.
“That’s OK. I’ll just call an Uber.”
“Good luck with that,” the guy in back says. He tells me the wait time was more than 20 minutes for a Lyft.
Even Flywheel is showing signs of life. A few seconds after dropping at Tosca Cafe and turning on the app, an order comes in. It says nine minutes from Broadway and Montgomery to Sacramento and Front. But I make it in four.
The woman I pick up tells me she’d been trying to get a ride for half an hour.
Finally, a fare to 42nd and Judah spins me out of the metro area. From the Outer Sunset, I head to SFO …
Now that I’m a bonafide airport player, I’ve been working SFO regularly. The night before I took advantage of the numerous rain delays.
The airport presents new challenges in navigation because I don’t know the most efficient routes to the different parts of The City yet.
In the midst of a major downpour, I get a fare to 11th and Moraga. I plug the address into Google Maps, which recommends taking I-280 to Juniperra Serra and then going through West Portal.
There’s so much water collecting on the freeway, we practically hydroplane the whole way. It’s terrifying, and I’m visibly agitated, struggling to maintain control of the vehicle.
In the process of navigating the freeway lakes and the dark back roads of Forest Hill, I don’t display a level of confidence befitting my post.
Still, I go back to the airport for another fare …
On Friday, I start my shift at the Hyatt Regency. When the doorman whistles, I pull into driveway.
It’s the same guy from the day before. “Thanks for helping me out yesterday. Here,” he pulls a couple with suitcases out of the line and directs them toward my cab. “SFO.”
As I wait to cross Market, the guy asks how long it’ll take to get to SFO.
“20-25 minutes,” I say confidently.
I take my usual route, which, I’ve found, is effective when busting through traffic. But today, the streets are extra snarled.
“Maybe we should use Waze,” the guy suggests.
I scoff. “Don’t worry, this isn’t my first rodeo.”
After fighting to get into the flow of traffic on Highway 101 and coming to a dead stop, it’s obvious this isn’t normal Friday traffic. And what’s up with the helicopters hovering above? That’s when I remember a text Juneaux sent me earlier about a massive accident on 101 South.
A truck collided with a Muni, shutting down the freeway all the way back to Oakland.
My bravado dissipates, and I start apologizing. “I’m just going to turn the meter off for now.”
At least it’s not raining anymore …
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine, “Behind the Wheel,” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to Kelly at email@example.com or visit his blog at www.idrivesf.com.