If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all. Or so it seems, when you’ve got them taxicab driving blues …
For the past several months, I’ve been without a regular cab. My beloved 182 is long gone. And 1462, the cab they had me on afterward, is out on a long-term lease. So I’ve been back at the window playing taxicab roulette.
One afternoon, while washing the latest clunker, Abdul walks past and tells me I’m wasting my time.
“How so?” I ask.
“The inside of a taxi is supposed to make the passenger feel at home, but the outside should be a middle finger to everyone else.”
I laugh, but keep scrubbing the freeway grime off the side panels. Maybe in the old days, that was the case, but not in this current market. Times have changed.
Take Juneaux, for example. He’s the most fastidious taxi driver I know. His cab is always spotless, inside and out. He focuses on superior customer service and, in the process, has an uncanny ability to twist fortune in his favor.
I call it “The Luck of Juneaux.”
A few weeks ago, I wake up to a salvo of texts that began at midnight.
“I’m so fucked,” Juneaux writes. “I accidentally overslept and now I only have six hours to make my nut. I’m going to end up hanging a gate.”
After several texts describing the hopelessness of the situation, his tone changes drastically.
“Dude! You’ll never believe what just happened …”
Around 3 a.m., he picks up a guy who’s lost his Lexus somewhere in SoMa and has Juneaux drive him around while he clicks his key remote. An hour later, the meter is at $34.75, and the guy realizes it’s a lost cause.
“So, he asks me, ‘Can you drive me home?’ Sure. Where’s home? ‘Half Moon Bay.’”
His good fortune doesn’t stop there. Back in The City, he gets a timed SFO through Flywheel.
His final text reads: “After gate, gas and tip, I’m $146 in the black. Not bad for starting my shift six hours late.”
While Juneaux is dubious of its veracity, I have complete faith in The Luck. So much so, I’m convinced it’s even transferable …
Two weeks ago, my new regular cab was finally ready. Veterans 233 is a Fusion, like 182, but much newer, with a sunroof, leather seats … all the bells and whistles.
On my first night in the new cab, I run into Juneaux outside Public Works around 3:30 a.m. While smoking cigarettes, we check out the various features of 233. He points at the faded USC sticker on the back window.
“That’s got to go.”
While he grabs his Swiss Army, I pull out my Mercator, and we go to work on the aged sticker. Then, we scrub the remnants with the alcohol wipes Juneaux uses to keep his cab clean.
Once we realize there are no more rides coming out of the DJ club, we bail. I contemplate going home, but it’s been a crappy night. I need a good ride. Or a few decent rides. I head to SoMa, hoping for something big in the small hours …
Following an investigation of an after hours club, I’m outbound on Harrison when a guy waves his phone at me. I make a half-assed attempt to pull over to the right and roll down the passenger window.
“You need a cab?”
A few feet away, an Uber/Lyft car without a license plate is stopped in the middle of the street, hazards flashing. The driver’s door is open and a woman is leaning out yelling at the guy. I can’t make out what she’s saying, but it’s obvious they’re having an argument.
“I’m just going to be a rich asshole then and take a taxi,” he shouts at her.
“Don’t get in that taxi!” the woman yells.
It’s hard to tell what’s going on, but as he approaches my cab, he taps his phone, like he’s cancelling a ride.
In the backseat, he says, “I need to go really far. Are you OK with that?”
“Sure.” Gulp. “Where to?”
“The Juniper Hotel in Cupertino.”
I jump on the freeway before he can change his mind. As I approach the hospital curve, I ask if he wants some tunes, but he just thanks me and apologizes for the long ride.
“No problem,” I say, glancing at the taximeter, clicking 55 cents higher each minute and every 1/5 of a mile. “At this time of night, we’ll be there in 40 minutes. Less, if we’re lucky.”
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 his blog at www.idrivesf.com.