All good rides are alike, but each shitty ride is shitty in its own unique way.
On Friday, I had a rare douchebag-free night. One fare led to another, almost seamlessly, from rush hour to last call. People were friendly, and the tips were good.
Saturday was the complete opposite. Whether it was the full moon or just bad luck, douchebaggery was at an all-time high.
As always, I start my shift at Caltrain, where I pick up three teenagers, one of whom gives me an address and then proceeds to direct me turn by turn, even though I assure her I know where I’m going.
At one point, her friend scolds her for being so bossy, asking, “Have you even ridden in a taxi before?”
“Once, with my dad,” she replies. “Oh, and my nanny.”
I literally face palm after dropping them off, sans tip, naturally.
Things go downhill from there. Almost everybody gives me exact addresses. And when I ask for a cross street, they assume I don’t know where I’m going. As if not using GPS implies I’m lost.
Tips are minimal, and conversation is limited.
I try to turn the tide and salvage my night repeatedly, but things go from bad to worse.
Just before 2 a.m., I’m working the Edwardian Ball at the Regency. I take two girls in full steampunk regalia to North Beach. At the end of the ride, they almost get out of the cab without paying.
“Oh, sorry, we’re so used to Uber and Lyft.”
From there, I get a Flywheel request for Columbus and Kearney.
On Broadway, I encounter flags galore. Ahead, several police cars are blocking traffic, lights flashing.
I figure it’s another fight and lock my doors before I enter the melee. I call the passenger to get an exact location. She says they’re in front of Hue.
When I pull up to the club, bouncers and cops are directing people down the street and pointing flashlights at cars. “No stopping!”
Just as I’m about to call the passenger again, four women approach my cab. I unlock the doors and their high-pitched, drunken voices bombard me.
“Flywheel?” I ask.
“Yes,” one woman responds.
“333 Battery!” another screams. “Battery and Clay!”
As I’m trying to get a name on the order, a cop shouts at me, “Keep moving! Now!”
In the hysteria, I pull away, still trying to verify that I have the correct fare.
“Just drive, asshole!” the loud woman yells. “Battery! And Clay!”
“Yes, we’re the ones who called for the ride,” says the woman in the passenger seat. “Sorry about our friend. It’s her birthday, and she’s wasted. We’ll give you a good tip.”
While the birthday girl continues to berate me, the other three have a screeching contest. I ask if they’re going to Le Méridien, but I can’t get a word in edgewise. So I raise my voice.
“3-3-3 BAT-TE-RY!” the drunk one shrieks. “What’s your problem? Drive!”
I try to keep my cool since this is a Flywheel order and there’s a rating involved, even though I’m inclined to kick them to the curb. A few minutes later, I pull up to the corner of Clay and Battery and turn on the overhead light.
“Where are we?” asks the woman up front.
“Clay and Battery,” I say, matter-of-fact.
“How do we get inside?”
“I don’t know. This is where your friend is yelling at me to go. Do you want me to drop you off at the hotel?”
“Battery and Clay, you dickhead!”
“The hotel, please.”
At this point, I’m seething, but I circle the block and pull into the driveway. As they exit my cab, a woman hands me nine dollars.
“Sorry again about our friend,” she says. “Oh, and by the way, we weren’t the ride you were supposed to pick up.”
“Sorry.” She flashes me an apologetic smile and walks into the hotel.
Now I’m cursing out loud, trying to cancel the ride in the Flywheel app. But I can’t seem to find that option. Frustrated, I shut down the phone and throw it in my bag with disgust.
I drive back to North Beach, still determined to make something out of a crappy night. At Montgomery, just as a woman outside Coi flags me, a mob of guys in front of the Penthouse Club marches towards me. She beats them to my back door, climbs in and says, “Palo Alto, please.”
“Yes, ma’am!” I reply enthusiastically and head toward the 101.
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. Write to him at email@example.com and @piltdownlad.