In some cases, cab drivers receive a finder’s fee for taking passengers to strip clubs and massage parlors. (Courtesy photo)

Aiding and abetting passengers’ vices

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So this hooker and an Irishman get in my cab at Post and Mason. They’re going to the Union Square Hotel.

“I know it’s right down the street,” the woman tells me. “But can you drive around the block so we can get acquainted?”

“Alright.” I hit the meter and continue down Post.

Despite the weather, she’s scantily clad in a dress that’s all va-va-voom and Biff! Bang! Pow! He’s a good-looking, young businessman type, maybe in town for work and trying to squeeze in a little pleasure.

I keep the music faded to the front and turn up the volume to drown out their conversation, which consists of her telling him over and over how liberal San Francisco is.

I take a right onto Grant, then another at Geary. I don’t want to venture too far from the hotel in case they get to know each other quicker than expected. I figure I’m not making much on this ride anyway, just providing a warm place for them to hash out the details of their transaction.

It’s been a night of vices. Earlier, I did a round-trip from the Castro to Polk Street so this guy could score drugs. When I pulled up in front of the bar, he asked me if I needed anything. He read off the menu of available items, but I insisted I was fine. While he ran in to make the deal, I kept the meter running. On the way back to the Castro, he did a few bumps off the end of a key and offered me one. I politely declined.

Before that, I’d picked up three stoners from the Marriott in Fisherman’s Wharf going to The Independent. From the moment they got into my cab, the smell of marijuana was overwhelming. “Damn, you guys reek of pot!” At first they acted surprised, then started laughing and offered to smoke me out. After I turned them down, they begged me to drive as fast as possible down Gough. To amuse them, I tried to catch some air on the hills, but there was too much traffic.

I can’t say it’s been a profitable night, but at least it’s been interesting. And now, here I am, aiding and abetting prostitution …

At Mason, I take a left and complete a roundabout from Ellis to Powell. I pull up to the hotel and the woman gets out.

“Go around the block again,” the man says.

I head up Powell and turn down the music.

“Tell me honestly,” he asks. “If I take that woman up to my room, will I get arrested and kicked out of the country?”

I can’t help but laugh. “Are you serious?” I look at his face in the rearview, and it’s obvious he is.

“I need to know. Will anything happen to me?”

“Not as long as you don’t kill her.”

He thinks about that for a moment as I circle back to Geary.

“What would you do?” he asks, still skeptical.

“Me?” I pull over in front of Macy’s. “I’ve seen some hot streetwalkers in Union Square. I’m not going to lie. If you have the money, why the hell not?”

“So I’m safe from the police?”

“Man, the cops don’t do shit around here except harass homeless people.” I go on to list off all the sex workers I deal with in a cab: the trans hookers on Post Street, the dancers at the Gold Club with their regular clients who pay for college tuitions and new cars, the girls prowling DJ clubs looking for unsuspecting tech kids and the sleazy drive-thru action on Capp Street. Then there are the strip clubs and massage parlors, where cab drivers get a finder’s fee for steering customers. I even point out how they tried to pass a proposition in 2008 to decriminalize prostitution in The City — and it was barely defeated.

Finally, he seems convinced.

“Thanks.” He slaps a $20 bill on the console. “I’ll get out here.”

The meter reads $7.90. I shove the twenty in my pocket and continue on Geary until a group of kids flag me outside Edinburgh Castle. They get in and ask the number one question I get asked each weekend after 2 a.m.: “Do you know where we can get any alcohol?”

Since I’ve already assisted in various illicit activities, why not cap off my shift with a ride to an underground club? I check the Hackers group to see which one is open and race down Van Ness.

“Faster!” they yell, and I step on it.

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. Write to him at piltdownlad@gmail.com and @piltdownlad.

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