A wait for two ladies in front of Walgreens turns into a shouting match with an Uber driver. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner file photo)

Hostile Uber encounters are inevitable when you are outnumbered


Well, it happened again.

Seems like no matter how hard I try to avoid choleric interactions with Uber/Lyft drivers, the odds are always against me.

On the streets of San Francisco, their numbers alone are reason enough to steer clear, but also why getting tangled up with one of these inexperienced drivers for hire is almost inevitable …

Last Friday night, with Hamilton back in town for a second run, I head towards the Orpheum around 9:45 p.m.

Right as I pull up on Hyde, the theater breaks. Insta-load. Two ladies going to Parc 55. Along the way, they ask to stop at the Walgreen’s on Powell.

Racing down O’Farrell on the red carpet, dodging potholes and double-parkers, their conversation comes and goes like a bad signal from a talk radio station. On the sidewalks, dark figures huddle and conspire in the shadows.

“I was here 10 years ago,” one tells the other. “And never hesitated to walk through Union Square. Now…”

“I know what you mean…”

They discuss the virtues of Denver and Phoenix as we hit a bit of congestion.

Outside the Hilton, I surreptitiously eyeball a streetwalker prowling the cold, wet night in a flimsy miniskirt.

When I pull up across the street from the drugstore, they ask me to wait. I’m not surprised.

“Just keep the meter running.”

“Uh, sure.” As long as they’re fast, I’ll still have time to hit Golden Gate

Theater in ten minutes. “I’ll either be here or…”

Just then, a space opens up in front of Walgreen’s.

“… over there.”

Once the coast is clear, I flip a U, which becomes a three-point turn due to the horrible turning radius on the Fusion.

As I attempt to straighten up, a Camry pulls in behind me, seemingly out of nowhere, and prevents me from fully accessing the space. In my rearview, I notice the U symbol on their windshield.

Oh, great.

Since I’m already halfway in the space and not blocking the cable car, I put the cab in park. Ignoring the guy’s obvious intimidation tactic, I keep my head down and browse Twitter instead.

D-d-doo. D-d-doo.

Oh look, Uber and Lyft are both filing for IPOs soon. And, they’re paying out $10,000 bonuses to loyal drivers, which they can cash out or convert to stock.

Wow. That beats the random $500 check I received from the Lyft vs. Cotter class action lawsuit.

I’m still fantasizing about another big check showing up in my mailbox when the Uber driver gets out of his Camry and approaches my window.

“Yeah?” I ask through the crack.

“Can’t you wait across the street?” He indicates the cabstand at the Sir Francis Drake.

“No,” I say, calmly. “I’m waiting for my passengers in Walgreen’s. I was already here when you showed up and cock-blocked me… I don’t know where the fuck you came from, but I’m not going anywhere.”

“What’d you say to me?” He physically bristles. “Get out of the cab and I’ll knock those glasses right off your face, fool.”

And by “fool” I mean something nasty.

“Sure thing.” I roll up the window and lock the doors. I have no interest in entertaining his nonsense. My meter’s still running.

He continues to gesticulate angrily in the middle of Powell Street as a cable car rolls by, clanging its bell. He’s still talking smack when my passengers emerge from the store and starts yelling at them.

Confused, the ladies try to comprehend his beef. I roll down the back window and yell, “Just get into the cab. Pay him no mind.”

Startled by all the commotion, they quickly climb inside. I lock the doors. Sensing their concern, I make a joke, telling them it was just some Uber vs. taxi thing.

“Uber drivers are like rats. There are so many of them, they think they own the streets,” I say.

Laughing, I bang a right at Ellis, take a left onto Mason and make the block into the hotel driveway, where the doorman is waiting.

“Watch out for Uber drivers,” says the lady who takes the receipt.


Back on Eddy, I check the time. Golden Gate Theater is about to break.

After that, the Symphony.

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine “Behind the Wheel” is available at bookstores throughout The City. He is a guest columnist. Write to Kelly at piltdownlad@gmail.com or visit www.idrivesf.com

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