Sometimes, avoiding an awkward ride is impossible. (Courtesy photo/Christian Lewis)

A very strange reaction

“Hey, cabbie! Can you turn up the music?”

“Oh, sure,” I grumble and twist the volume knob to the right. At least the hip-hop is drowning out the chuckle fest between the guy and girl. I don’t even want to imagine what they’re doing back there. I just keep my eyes on the road and the side view mirrors, grateful it’s a short ride.

“Hey, cabbie! Take Grove!”

“That was the plan,” I say under my breath.

The guy has been shouting directions in my ear all the way from the Travelodge on Valencia and Market, as if there were more than one way to get to Civic Center.

“Hey, cabbie! Stop here!”

I slam on the brakes in front of the library.

“Keep the change, cabbie!” The guy hands me $6 on $5.90.

“Oh, thanks.”

“I always like to support you real cabbies. I don’t fuck with Uber, man.”

“That’s cool.”

It takes a few minutes for them to extricate themselves and all their possessions from the cab. Once they’re clear, I speed away and take McAllister to Polk. I’m still grumbling to myself when the dispatch radio crackles to life.

“Drivers, the opera is breaking. They need cabs on the Grove Street side.”

“Sweet!” I make a beeline to Van Ness and catch the light. Before I can pull into the driveway, where a line of people are waiting for rides, two elderly men in matching black tuxes flag me down on the corner.

As they open the backdoor and the dome light comes on, I look over my shoulder and gasp. The seat is speckled with white powder.

“Ahhhh…” I stammer and try to think of a way to deal with the situation. Do I just say something?

The men don’t seem to notice, though. They’re too busy contorting their bodies through the door and onto the seat.

“Good evening,” one says to me. “How are you doing?”

“Fine,” I say, my voice an octave higher than normal. “How are you guys doing?”

“Oh, fine, fine.” He chuckles. “Just trying to get our bones to work properly.”

“No problem. Take your time.”

The window of opportunity to say something about the mess on the backseat quickly passes, until there’s no longer a point in bringing it up. All I can do now is pretend like I didn’t notice anything.

During the ride to the Nob Hill, I act casual and maintain a normal conversation, even though I can’t stop wondering what they’ll think when they get home and take off their clothes. But then, who knows? Maybe the cocaine — or at least that’s what I hope it is — will disintegrate into the fabric or drift away in the wind away as they walk to their building.

I can only hope …

After dropping them off, I head towards the cabstand at the Fairmont, still mortified. I need to stop and wipe down the backseat and make sure that couple didn’t leave any other souvenirs behind. But just as I turn onto Mason, the doorman at the Fairmont blows his whistle and waves me into the driveway.

I look around. No cabs are lined up. At the front of the hotel, there is a very large group of people in frocks and tuxes. What’s up with all the fancy outfits tonight? I wonder.

Reluctantly, I pull up.

“Pac Heights,” the doorman tells me as he opens the back door. “Pacific and Webster.”

The woman smiles at me as she slides across the backseat. I cringe, hoping the coast is clear.

“How’s your night going?” the man asks.

“Pretty good,” I say, turning onto Sacramento. “I just had the most awkward ride.”

“Oh really?”

I begin to tell them about the coke explosion in the backseat and the distinguished couple in tuxes.

“Well, look at this.” The woman laughs, holding up something that I can’t quite make out.

While waiting for the light at Hyde, I turn the dome light on and look closely at what’s in her hand. “Oh shit,” I mumble.

It’s a residue-filled baggie.

“This was on the floorboard,” she says.

Horrified, I began to apologize profusely, telling them how I’d planned to stop and give the backseat a once over twice.

“It’s okay,” she says, without missing a beat. “Too bad we don’t have a straw.”

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine “Behind the Wheel” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to Kelly at or visit

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