Desperate times and big, dumb, great ideas

There wasn’t much to be thankful for over Thanksgiving weekend, as far as driving a taxi. I skipped work on Thursday. I was dubious about Friday, too, but did better than I assumed …

Around 9 p.m., I’m in the black. First up at the Hilton taxi stand. I’m smoking and talking to some other cab drivers when a guy with luggage approaches.


“Let’s go!” I throw his bags into the trunk.

Before I even make the corner, he tells me in a thick accent, “My plane’s leaving in an hour. Do you think we can still make it?”

“We’ll make it,” I say.

All the way to the airport, he’s freaking out about missing his flight.

“Relax,” I keep saying. “It’ll be OK. By the way, are you carrying marijuana?”

“None at all. Why?”

“You reek of weed.”

“Oh, I’ve been trimming all week. It must be on my clothes.”

I continue to assure him that he won’t miss his plane, neglecting to mention that he’s likely to get flagged in security. The smell of pot is so strong I’m practically getting a contact buzz.

At SFO, the United terminal is jam-packed. I make some questionable maneuvers to get close enough to drop him off. He hands me three $20 bills. “Keep it.”

“Run like the wind!” I yell after him …

On Saturday, I’m waiting for Colin to pick me up. While I scroll though my Trump-laden Facebook feed, my thumb lands on a news report about multiple accidents on the Bay Bridge. Traffic is backed up past the toll plaza.

I text Colin: “The bridge is jacked up again.”

Last week, after a police chase across the bridge that ended in a crash at the Fremont exit, Colin and I spent almost two hours trapped on the eastern span.

With no desire to replay that horror show, we wait for things to clear up. Once traffic seems to be dying down, we head out via West Grand. But we can’t even reach the onramp to the bridge.

After watching the lights change 15 times and barely creeping forward a few inches, Colin comes up with one of his big dumb great ideas: “What if, instead of working tonight, we go in tomorrow at 1 p.m. and work until midnight?”

Normally, I would ixnay a plan this cockeyed without even trying to be diplomatic, but the break from tradition intrigues me.

“That’s such a crazy idea,” I say. “So crazy, it just might work!”

It doesn’t, of course.

The next day, I get a total of two rides during the first four hours.

Things pick up a little in the evening, about when our shifts would usually start. But my internal clock is all out of whack. I keep thinking it’s four hours later than it really is.

Around 11 p.m., I’ve been empty for almost an hour. I send Colin another mean text: “Smooth move, Ex-Lax.”

The streets are empty. A light drizzle is mucking up my windshield.

“We can call it whenever,” Colin responds.

I’m feeling lucky though … holding out for one more ride.

After circling through SoMa and Union Square, I’m cruising down Geary, about to give up. One last sweep through the Mission and then I’m heading to the yard.

On Van Ness, a guy flags me at Fell. He gets in just as my Flywheel goes off with a $5 guaranteed tip. It’s painful to hit decline, especially since my current fare is only going to Folsom and Eighth. But he tells me he just came from seeing Pink Martini at the Jazz Center.

“There are tons of people there. You should definitely go back.”

A few minutes later, I’m idling across from the Jazz Center. The crowd has mostly dissipated, but eventually, a woman yells, “Taxi!”

I pull up and she gets in.

“Can you take me to Sausalito?”

As I charge up Franklin, she tells me she’d just tried to order an Uber but the app said there were no cars available. She tried Lyft as well but couldn’t even connect to their server.

“It’s really dead out here,” I tell her. “I think everyone’s gone home.”

“That’s why you can always rely on taxis,” she says. “You guys have to work your shifts.”

“Yeah …”

I guess it’s good to be worth something, even if it’s only because there’s no other option. That’s something to be thankful for, right?

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. Write to Kelly at or visit his blog at

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