“I’ve been feeling so much better since laying off the drugs,” says Mr. Judy. “I’m on top of my game and totally killing it, man.”
While describing the benefits of a steady diet of poke and quinoa salads in between text messages, I respond with vacant grunts. It’s hard to concentrate on much but the spectacle of absurdity surrounding us.
Traveling eastbound on 16th past Guerrero, we’re trapped behind an Uber/Lyft that stopped suddenly halfway through the block. Even though there’s an open space in front of Katz and vacant parking spots further down the street, the driver just put on his hazards, impeding half a dozen vehicles. Including the 22-Fillmore, which ended up stuck in the intersection once the light turned red. Since the westbound lanes on 16th are clogged with commuters and more double-parked Uber/Lyfts, the entire corridor is on lockdown until the person who ordered this ride shows up.
A salvo of blaring horns does little to dissuade the driver from staging in the flow of traffic.
Finally, Judy looks up from his phone and asks, “Why aren’t we moving?”
“No surprise there,” Judy responds and snuffles twice.
When the light turns green, westbound traffic begins to move slowly. I see in my rearview that the intersection at Guerrero is congested with vehicles that can’t get past the bus.
“These maggots have no respect for anyone but themselves,” Judy continues. “It’s just me, me, me … Someone needs to do something.”
“You’re right,” I mumble, noticing a Sentra in the opposite lane hesitate, giving me a split-second opportunity to bypass the gridlock.
Of course, like most Bay Area drivers, the guy in the Sentra sees my move as an act of aggression and tries to play a game of chicken.
“YES!” Mr. Judy shouts in excitement. “FUCK YEAH!”
Now, I’m not driving like a maniac for the thrills. Besides thousands of hours of experience working the mean streets of San Francisco, I’m in a multicolored vehicle with a “TAXI” sign on top. Everyone else on the road should just assume I’m liable to do some “creative” maneuvering. But I’m also acutely aware that the thought of a hard-working cabbie doing his job is more than most drivers in San Francisco can bear.
As he lays on his horn, flashes his high beams and screams out his window, I careen through the logjam onto Albion.
“That was awesome,” Judy bellows with laughter.
Compared to the pandemonium of 16th Street, 17th is like Golden Gate Park after hours. At South Van Ness, I go left and take 14th to our destination: Best Buy.
Mr. Judy wants to buy a TV. Part of his new, wholesome lifestyle. No more staying out late at the bars, doing tequila shots and playing pool. From now on, he’s going home at a respectable hour to get enough sleep.
It’s all about reaching his full potential.
“You coming?” Judy asks in the parking lot, his voice strained from a long snort.
“Why not,” I say, getting out of the cab. “I’ve never been in a Best Buy before.”
Upon entering the store, the enormity of the place is overwhelming. While Judy heads toward the TV department, I wander past rows of pointless gadgets until stumbling upon an aisle with several turntables on display and an impressive selection of LPs that’s heavy on popular indie rock and hip-hop, but also numerous 180-gram reissues of classic punk and psych rock albums.
After a few minutes, I decide to check on Mr. Judy. I find him meandering through the refrigerator department dragging a box for a 32-inch Samsung flat screen.
“I gotta get outa here,” he says, looking flummoxed. “This place is freaky.”
“You all right?”
“I’m starting to peak from the mushrooms,” he murmurs. “And the E I took earlier.”
“Goddamnit,” I say to myself. “Let’s go.”
“Just follow me.” I head toward the registers, wondering if this even falls under the category of taxi work anymore. What does Colin always tell me? Oh yeah. Never get out of the cab …
At the check out, Judy rifles through his pockets, dumping wads of $20 bills on the counter. Once we’ve got the money organized, the cash drawer won’t open. They call a manager over the loud speaker.
“Don’t worry,” Judy whispers. “I have my Taser.”
I glance at the cashier, unsure if she heard his comment. At this point, I can only laugh. I mean, I am just the taxi driver …
Finally, back in the cab, we’re heading north on Division.
“You know, man,” Judy says enthusiastically. “This new regimen is really working out great!”
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine, “Behind the Wheel,” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to Kelly at email@example.com or visit his blog at www.idrivesf.com.