“Sometimes I just want to scream, ‘Has everyone lost their goddamn minds?’”
Considering the windows or my taxi are rolled down, and we’re sitting at a red light on Market Street, I think to myself: You kind of did. But this is no time to split hairs. My fare is currently explaining the politics of flipism.
“That’s how shit gets done in San Francisco.” He clears his throat. “They use a Magic 8-Ball. ‘Should we anchor this high-rise condominium to the bedrock?’ Someone shakes the 8-Ball. ‘My sources say no.’ Then, the person in charge goes, ‘OK, fellas. You heard the Magic 8-Ball.’”
The guy has been shouting at the back of my head since I picked him up on a radio order. We began this journey from the Inner Richmond to AT&T on the agreed-upon circuitous route of California to Presidio to Bush to Octavia to Post to Hyde to Market (!) to Fourth and then, “Just drop me at the train station. I’ll walk the rest of the way so I can suck down a few cigarettes before the game.”
Depending on how you make your delineations, we will have traversed eight to 10 neighborhoods, during rush hour, before we reach the ballpark. Already on his second beer, a can of Sapporo resting on his knee, he takes in the scenery while I listen to a series of tirades that change direction so many times I’m getting whiplash from trying to keep up.
In Pac Heights, he complains about small business owners getting taxed to the death while City Hall lets corporations run rampant. “Ed Lee, the puppet mayor, and his overlords are selling out San Francisco to the highest bidder.”
At Van Ness, it’s the construction. “To save five minutes in travel time? Gimme a fucking break!”
In Civic Center, he decries the homeless situation, even though most of the people sunbathing in front of the library are junkies and dealers. I can only imagine his reaction if we were to pass one of the real encampments in whatever corner of The City they’ve been swept into this week.
“When I think about all the sacrifices I’ve made to live here … just in bathrooms alone. The few times I had a private one, the plumbing was usually so bad taking a shower was like getting pissed on by a geriatric diabetic.”
I resist chuckling. Even when the guy tells a joke, it’s no laughing matter.
“Then, there’s the cold, the hills, the exorbitant cost of living and — worst of all — when you go outside, you’re exposed to so much human suffering, it breaks your heart.”
I think of Kilgore Trout’s epitaph: “Life is no way to treat an animal.” Sometimes, it feels like San Francisco is no way to treat an animal.
“Try driving a taxi,” I tell him. “If you really want to experience human suffering.” But he’s not listening to me.
He growls. He grunts. He smacks his lips. Harrumph followed by harrumph.
Which isn’t to say I don’t agree with him, for the most part. I’d just like to add some of my own gripes into the mix. I got grievances, too …
Like the millennials who accuse boomers of ruining the economy but then flood into the cities, displacing those of us who were already here and establishing a rental market that favors their own demographic to the detriment of blue-collar workers and, as a result, ultimately leads to a homelessness epidemic.
Or the rampant lack of consideration. Everywhere you go nowadays, it’s all about me, me, me.
“I think it’s time to get out of this city,” the guy remarks.
“And go where?” I ask.
“Good point,” he concedes.
In the ensuing few seconds of silence, I inquire, “So … how long have you lived in San Francisco?”
“Long enough!” he snarls.
At least we’re getting closer to his destination. Past Bryant, Veterans 233 jostles and bounces over the buckled asphalt on Fourth while the sound of generators and jackhammers fills the air. Meanwhile, the sidewalks are crowded with festive Giants fans decked out in black and orange.
“Who knows,” the guy says. “We just might win tonight.”
No matter what happens, there’ll be plenty of fares after the seventh-inning stretch. That’s something you can always count on. Even when the team is in the dumps, Giants fans still pack the ballpark. Less certain is whether San Franciscans can retain the same optimism as The City tries to rebound from this latest slump. Until then, defense!
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.