There’s been something in the air lately. And not just the smoke and ash from the fires up north, making it difficult to breathe even with all the windows shut tight.
Last week, it was F/A-18 Hornets screeching through the skies above The City.
Then, there was the Harvest Moon on Thursday, which coincided with my birthday.
As if through cosmic intervention, I had one of the worst taxi shifts ever.
The whole day was one mishap after another: losing my phone, missing my train and not finding a cab at 24th and Mission, forcing me to walk in direct sunshine to the cab yard …
Later that night, when I run into Juneaux outside Davies Symphony Hall and tell him how few rides I’ve had since starting earlier in the day, he’s dumbfounded.
“Seems like you’d accidentally get more rides just by driving around.”
We end up having a smoke break while a mob of stragglers waits across the street for their Ubers and Lyfts.
“Fuck this,” Juneaux says, pitching his butt.
I follow his lead and get into my cab. Head to SoMa, looking for some action.
Around midnight, I stop at Shell on Eighth and Harrison to grab a bottle of water and some smokes. A guy in dirty, ragged clothes is sitting outside next to the after hours window, counting coins. He’s muttering to himself and threatening violence to anyone who doesn’t give him money.
Sometimes, the cashier lets people into the store at night. I knock on the door hoping this is one of those times. But he directs me to the security window. I guess he’s too scared to even crack open the door, in case this crazy guy charges in like a freshly reanimated wight.
As soon as I’m in his orbit, the guy starts verbally accosting me.
“I’m going to kill you … blow your fucking brains out in the street … yeah, cause that’s what you do with people like YOU!”
He seems to spit out that last word so violently it makes my skin crawl.
“Orange American Spirits,” I yell through the holes in the plexiglass and toss $11 into the drawer.
“What?” the cashier yells back.
“Orange. American. Spirits.”
He comes back with the wrong color.
“No, not that orange. The other orange.” I’m not even going to bother with the water. Just get this transaction finished ASAP.
Meanwhile, the guy is collecting his pile of change and pulling himself up against the side of the building. He’s still directing his ire at me, calling me racial slurs.
“I know all about people like YOU,” he says. His vocal cords sound clenched, like there’s a fist in his throat just waiting to be unleashed. “Yeah, your type doesn’t deserve to live.” Then, he goes back to the racial slurs.
I just keep ignoring him and avoid making eye contact, in case that’s all it takes to conjure up his fury.
The cashier is taking his time, though, counting out my change. If he could hear me through the thick glass, I’d tell him to forget about the change. Just give me the smokes so I can get the hell out of here!
The guy is on his feet now, moving slowly toward me.
Finally, the cashier puts the pack of cigarettes and three quarters into the drawer. I walk casually back to my cab and climb inside.
“You’re gonna die like a dog in the gutter!” He’s still yelling at me as I pull away.
An hour later, I venture back into SoMa to check the Cat Club taxi stand. Since there is no space available, I stay on Eighth to check out the clubs on 11th Street.
Approaching Harrison, I notice the Shell station is surrounded by cop cars. Several officers are tying yellow tape around the gas pumps. Outside an ambulance, paramedics are treating a well-dressed man whose head and jacket are covered in blood.
Despite the massive head injury, he seems cognizant and animated, talking to the paramedics as they wrap his head in gauze.
I contemplate stopping and telling the cops what I’d witnessed earlier. I mean, that could have been me. But then I realize it was no longer my birthday, and my luck was changing.
A few minutes later, two guys flag me outside The Stud going to Glen Park.
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.