You never have to wonder if someone works in the entertainment industry. They usually tell you right away. Like the guy I picked up at the Hyatt Regency. He works for Journey as a sound guy. Or a video guy … Some kind of guy.
“I’ve been touring with rock stars for 25 years,” he tells me.
“That’s cool,” I respond. “So uhm … where ya heading?”
Last Thursday and Friday nights, AT&T was flashback central for the soft rock set, with the Eagles and Doobie Brothers playing the first night, and Journey, Foreigner and Def Leppard on the second.
While Mr. Journey tells me about the lineup, the only positive comment I can muster is, “I liked Def Leppard as a kid. That Pyromania album was pretty good.”
“I can get you free tickets to the concert,” he says. “Just say the word. I’ll put you on the list.”
“That’s cool, man, but I gotta work.”
“Take the night off!”
“I have a kid.”
“You have two days to come up with a plan,” he counters.
Even though I knew about the concerts beforehand, the massive turnout is a bit shocking.
On Thursday afternoon, I’m heading into The City from Oakland on the Bay Bridge and get stuck in a long row of cars trying to get off at Embarcadero.
I fail to make the connection, though, until later that afternoon when I’m taking a guy to Third and Market.
“What’s with all the traffic?” we both wonder aloud.
“Oh! The Eagles are playing the ball park,” I say, putting two and two together.
“Why would that many people go see the Eagles?”
“They had a bunch of hits back in the ’70s,” I tell my young fare.
“Weird,” he mumbles.
I take Ninth to Market. He jumps out at Fourth, which sets me up for a fare at the Four Seasons.
“AT&T park, please,” says the gentleman.
“Going to see the Eagles?” I inquire.
“Yes, and the concert started at 5,” his female companion tells me. “We’re already late.”
I look at the clock. It’s 5:15 p.m.
“Shouldn’t take long to get there,” I assure her.
I’ve spoken too soon, though. SoMa is a madhouse.
“It would have been faster to walk,” the woman complains as I struggle to get through the lights down New Montgomery.
“We’ll be rolling shortly,” I chuckle nervously, knowing it’s a promise I can’t keep.
Later that night, around 9 p.m., with Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” in the CD player, I start working the concert.
Summer, or something similar to it, has finally come to San Francisco. During the day, it was 80 degrees. The night is cold, but since it’s not freezing, there’s no mass exodus out of the ballpark. Still, the concert is a real honey pot.
Almost every fare is a $20 bill.
Second and Townsend to the Intercontinental: $7.90 on the meter. Husband and wife from Sacramento who need to get up early, and really only wanted to see the Doobies, hands me two sawbucks folded together.
Second and Townsend to the Donatello: $12.30. Two women from Santa Barbara, who complain about their feet after walking to the ballpark, give me a 20.
Second and Townsend to the closest Walgreens that’s open: $6.80. Guy who hasn’t said a word during the ride slaps a $20 bill on the center console.
After 10 p.m., the crowd is less sober. And the tips are even better.
On my way down Second, the valet at 21st Amendment flags me. He deposits a woman who, in a drunken slur, wants to hit the In-N-Out on Jefferson before going to her hotel in Union Square. Despite my protests, she insists on buying me a hamburger.
“Come on, I’m a mother,” she says. “I have to feed you.”
“Okay,” I relent, knowing it’s pointless to argue with a drunken person. Or a mother. “I’ll take a cheeseburger.”
“Just a regular cheeseburger.”
“What do you want on it?”
“The regular stuff.”
“Grilled onions or raw?”
“Just a cheeseburger. Thanks.”
When the concert ends around 11 p.m., everyone who gets in my cab is either lost or has lost something.
One guy can’t remember where he parked his car.
Another woman has misplaced her purse and sweater.
“All I have is a dead phone and $35 in cash,” she tells me. “I’m kinda at the lowest point of my adult life. I mean, how am I supposed to go to my Barre class tomorrow?”
That really sucks,” I reply. “So, uhhh … where ya heading?”
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.