Not all rides are equal. Even if they start at the same point, destinations vary
so drastically — and financially — that entire shifts can hang in the balance of one arbitrary decision.
In my early days of driving a taxi, I approached each intersection with a quandary: What’ll happen if I turn right? Will I hit pay dirt by taking a left instead? Or does my fortune lie straight ahead?
After a while, I realized there’s nothing certain about taxi driving, every move is a gamble and the only way to avoid going insane is by letting fate determine your trajectory.
Nowadays, when I leave the National yard, my usual thought is, So… where are the taxi winds going to take me tonight?
Even though getting Zen about cab driving may lead to warm and fuzzy feelings, there are hundreds of taxi drivers on the streets, who are all in direct competition with each other and couldn’t care less about your inner serenity.
It’s only a matter of time before your phlegm is put to the test.
Several months ago, I’m second up at The Great Northern, talking with the driver on the throne — a fellow Hacker and friend — when two guys approach his cab. A few seconds later, though, everyone gets out.
“What happened?” I ask the driver.
“Oh, they’re just going to Audio,” he says with a complacent snicker. “I told them to walk.”
“But now they’re going to take Uber.” I gesture towards the guy holding his phone out like a Geiger counter.
Even though Audio Nightclub is only seven blocks away — a $6 ride at most — it’s 3 a.m. and Showcase Square can seem intimidating at this hour. Especially to those unfamiliar with the area.
Still, I bite my tongue.
A few minutes later, a woman walks up and asks, “Can you take me to Mill Valley?”
“Yes!” he shouts and jumps back into his cab.
I spend 10 minutes repeating “serenity now!” when a girl opens my backdoor
She’s on the phone, trying to find out her destination. At the corner of Utah and Alameda, she gets the word.
“Is 150 San Bruno far from here?”
The taximeter doesn’t even click once before I pull up to the after-hours club around the corner …
Now that Colin is driving for Yellow, I have someone on the inside to ask about their official policy on driving like jerks. Do they have signs outside the office proclaiming things like, “All rides belong to us!” “Take no prisoners!” “Yield to no one!”
Last Wednesday, I’m inbound on Market when a Yellow cab speeds up behind me and promptly usurps my pole position.
Since it’s daytime, I can’t tell if he’s loaded. At Fifth Street, I get behind him in the right lane to avoid the streetcar. When the light turns green, though, the driver exits his cab, opens the trunk and retrieves a walker.
I wait patiently while he helps the passenger, and even flash him a peace symbol to let him know there’s no issue on my end.
Once we’re through the intersection, the Yellow driver gets in the left lane while I keep trolling in the right. Half a block later, a hand goes up in front of the Westfield and the Yellow driver cuts me off, making me wait, a second time, as he picks up the fare.
Still, I don’t let it get me down and just keep rolling down Market.
At New Montgomery, a guy exiting the BART station flags me.
“Can you take me to Eddy and Leavenworth?”
After dropping him off at the Tenderloin Museum, I pick up a woman at Geary going to Vallejo and Larkin, where I’m practically a bingo for a timed SFO from dispatch. With 15 minutes to spare, I run into Swenson’s for a scoop of fresh banana on a sugar cone.
Thirty minutes later, I’m leaving the airport. It’s only been two hours since my shift started and I’ve already booked $100. Not bad for the day before Thanksgiving.
As I deadhead to Caltrain, I try not to think about the Yellow driver and how he’s doing. Because, you know, Zen and all that…
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine “Behind the Wheel” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.idrivesf.com