With the holidays fast approaching, there are certain things a taxi driver can count on: Union Square will be packed with shoppers and families enjoying the festive atmosphere, which means gridlocked traffic; most of the event spaces around town will host company-sponsored Christmas parties; and thousands of revelers will don red velvet suits and wreak havoc throughout The City during SantaCon.
In years past, I’d venture into the sloshed fields to document the annual bar crawl out of journalistic responsibility. But now that there’s a toddler in my life, I deal with enough bodily fluids. So last Saturday, with SantaCon happening, I avoid the roving bands of Santas, sexy Santas, elves and reindeer altogether and focus on more profitable, and less disorderly, opportunities. Like the Facebook bash at the Palace of Fine Arts …
Normally, I wouldn’t have even thought to look for fares in the Marina, given its proximity to a plethora of SantaCon-friendly bars, had Loco not mentioned the event on the Hackers message board. And I still wouldn’t have ventured north of Broadway if I didn’t get a fare to Sacramento and Broderick. But seeing as how the Marina isn’t too much of a schlep from Laurel Heights, I follow Loco’s advice and take Divisadero to Lombard, go around the Palace of Fine Arts to Marina Boulevard and join a long procession of Ubers and Lyfts waiting to enter a quasi cattle corral that winds through a parking lot towards the front of the museum, where several hundred people are waiting for rides.
Even though Loco recommends following the signs marked “RIDESHARES,” as the lone taxi, I get nervous and bypass the logjam to investigate the perimeter instead.
Nearby, I encounter a bunch of partygoers on the sidewalk who frantically wave me down. I pull over and four of them pile into my cab, while the others vying for my services walk away dejected.
“Thank you so much for picking us up!” the guy behind me says.
“We were totally trapped out there!” the girl next to him declares.
“You’re a life saver!” enthuses the girl in the passenger seat.
I’m somewhat taken aback by their show of gratitude. “So, uhh… Where ya heading?”
One guy gives me an address on the 2900 block of Baker Street.
“That’s B-A-K-E-R,” he adds.
“Are you going to a residence or place of business?” I ask.
“It’s a bar called Final Final,” he tells me, repeating the address.
“Ok. I got you.”
Heading towards the Presidio Gates, we pass more groups of people wandering along the sidewalk, desperately waving their arms and shouting, “Taxi! Taxi!”
“You should definitely go back there,” the girl up front says. “So many people are trying to leave.”
She tells me the event organizers established a geo-fence around the area. Attendees can only order a car at a designated point in front of the museum, where you have to wait for the driver to eventually wind through the labyrinth.
“Then what?” I ask, imagining the absurd scenario. “The driver starts calling out the name of the person they’re supposed to pick up? ‘Chris? Where’s Chris? Are you Chris?’ ‘No, I’m Adam.’ ‘Sorry. I’m looking for a ‘Chris.’ ‘But I can be a Chris…’”
The girl laughs along. “Exactly. It’s a total nightmare.”
After dropping them off, I head back to the Palace of Fine Arts. This time I approach from Divisadero. As I pass Lyon, a couple emerges from the darkness and jumps in front of my cab.
I slam on the brakes.
“Please, will you drive us?” the guy implores.
They’re going to Pine and Taylor.
“Wow, I can’t believe we’re in a taxi,” the girl says.
“I know,” he concurs. “It’s so old school.”
Outside their building, the guy waves his Apple watch over my Square reader, taps the screen of my iPhone to leave a tip before taking off.
Heading back to Franklin, I catch the red at Polk. On the corner, a drunken and disheveled Santa wobbles towards my cab. His beard is long gone and he’s holding his hat out like he’s trick-or-treating.
In the nick of time, the light turns green and I hit the gas.
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine “Behind the Wheel” is available at bookstores throughout The City. He is a guest columnist. Write to Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.idrivesf.com