The massive pot holes in San Francisco city streets can ruin your night. Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner

The massive pot holes in San Francisco city streets can ruin your night. Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner

Navigating a Friday night blowout

http://sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/i-drive-sf/

The streets of San Francisco are ribbed for your car’s pleasure. And the massive potholes, some of which could easily qualify as ditches, are there to make sure you’re paying attention.

Out-of-town drivers, unfamiliar with the wretched condition of The City’s thoroughfares, probably think I’m just another reckless cabbie, based on my serpentine trajectory on streets like Mission, O’Farrell or California. Until, that is, they end up testing the limits of their shock absorbers on the trenches I’m trying to avoid.

It’s impossible to keep track of all the potholes. Even if you are able to memorize the egregious ones, and remember to swerve accordingly, new cavities emerge all the time.

Like the one I recently noticed on Third Street that exceeds the definition of a pothole and falls more into the category of a caldera.

On Friday night, I’m heading towards Market on Third, cruising along in the red carpet lane. Even though Dreamforce is over, there’s more commotion than usual downtown. The workers at all the Marriott hotels are on strike. Outside the W, they shake their signs at passing cars. Another rowdy group is assembled in front of the St. Regis.

I’m not about to cross a picket line, so I maintain a steady pace and try tocatch the light at Mission. Just past SFMOMA, a kamikaze Uber driver crosses multiple lanes of intermittent traffic, right towards me. Meanwhile, a pickup truck drifts suddenly into my lane.

I lay on my horn.

The striking workers, assuming the clamor is for their benefit, respond with a loud cheer and wave their signs with renewed vigor. In the furor of the moment, I forget about the pothole. By the time my headlights illuminate the crevasse, it’s already too late. The front end of my cab slams into the crater and I unleash a salvo of profanity.

Seconds later, a warning light flashes on the instrument panel. I pull over on Market and check the damage.

Fortunately, it’s just one tire. I find a safe location on Folsom under a streetlight. After replacing the blown tire with the donut, I race to the National yard, cursing my luck.

It’s been a crap week. Wednesday was dreadful. Thursday wasn’t much better. And now, at 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night, this happens!

Not only are the theaters about to break, my regulars will probably start calling any minute.

As if on cue, my phone vibrates.

It’s Richie Drano.

“Yo, I need a ride to North Beach and back,” he says. “You available?”

From the Mission, that’s a decent load. And Richie’s a great tipper. But if he

knows I’m in dire straits, he might cancel.

“Sure. Gimme a few minutes, okay?”

“Cool. Hit me back.”

That’s the thing about taking care of regulars, besides making sure they always get a ride, you never want them to think they’re jamming you up.

In the National office, David, the dispatcher on duty, reminds me that the garage is closed until Monday morning.

“Can I just take a tire off a spare?” I ask.

“I have no Fusion spares.”

After a few minutes of pacing, I start thinking aloud: “What about 1434?

Colin just took his medallion to Yellow. So they can’t run his old taxi – a Fusion – anyway. I’ll replace my blown tire and still have the donut …”

“That works, but I should call the manager,” David suggests.

“No need to bother him,” I say, rushing out the door. “We’ll just say it was an executive decision!”

I find 1434 in the crowded yard, surrounded by vehicles. There’s barely enough room to work. And it’s dark. Even though I have a flashlight, I can’t seem to position it well enough to see anything.

I keep fighting with the tire furiously, trying to lift it up and align the lug bolts. Sweating profusely, I shout at the sky, “Why is this goddamn tire so goddamn heavy?!?!”

After about 30 minutes, I’m tightening the lug nuts on my cab when my phone starts vibrating again. I fish it out of my pocket and hit speakerphone.

“You good?” Richie asks.

“Yeah. Just a little bump in the road. Be there in a flash.”

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

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Diners at Teeth, a bar in the Mission District, on July 9, 2021. Teeth began using digital menus based on QR code technology in August. (Ulysses Ortega/The New York Times)
The football stadium at UC Berkeley, on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. George Kliavkoff, a former top executive at MGM Resorts International, took over the conference at the start of the month. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)
What’s Ahead for the Pac-12? New commissioner weighs in

‘Every decision we make is up for discussion. There are no sacred cows.’

The sidewalk on Egbert Avenue in the Bayview recently was cluttered with car parts, tires and other junk. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
New surveillance effort aims to crack down on illegal dumping

’We want to make sure we catch people who are trashing our streets’

As the world reeled, tech titans supplied the tools that made life and work possible. Now the companies are awash in money and questions about what it means to win amid so much loss. (Nicolas Ortega/The New York Times)
How tech won the pandemic and now may never lose

By David Streitfeld New York Times In April 2020, with 2,000 Americans… Continue reading

City celebrates completion of pedestrian, transit improvements along Haight Street

City leaders on Wednesday announced the completion of the Upper Haight Transit… Continue reading

Most Read