Every once in a while the sun shines on a taxi driver’s ass.
After getting some leeway from the very understanding Officer Yuen last Saturday night, I start my workweek on Wednesday afternoon feeling optimistic. That night, U2 is performing at the Cloud (née Cow) Palace, as part of the Dreamforce convention. With 170,000 attendees at the annual tech extravaganza, there should be a decent crowd at the arena. Maybe even a few people looking for cabs.
Just like last year, the concert ends with a traffic tsunami as a massive influx of Uber and Lyft cars descend upon the area and cell networks go down, leaving riders and drivers stranded in the ensuing congestion.
And just like last year, taxis come to the rescue.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was kind enough to designate a staging area for us near the arena, but in the post-show confusion, most concertgoers wander into the streets north of Geneva Avenue, looking for reception and a way back to The City. Some even stray into the Sunnydale projects.
Others wait for the chartered buses to take them downtown, freezing in the balmy (well, by our standards) night. Dreamforce attendees are usually super upbeat, but once desperation sets in, they begin attacking each other to secure a seat on the limited number of buses. Those who remain in the cold without jackets (“but it was such a warm day”) lose their sunny dispositions and rename the event Shitforce.
I get one ride from Cow, err, Cloud Palace, but decide to stay in The City afterwards and chase the buses dropping off at the hotels. For almost two hours, I follow them around and, as riders disembark, snatch up those who can’t walk the few extra blocks to their respective hotels or Airbnbs.
How many $8 rides can one cab driver give in two hours if all those rides start and end in the same general vicinity? Ten, apparently.
All credit cards. I only had one cash ride that shift.
Even Other Larry, aka Early Morning Larry, aka “The worst cab driver in San Francisco,” who doesn’t normally venture far from the Mission or the Tenderloin, takes advantage of the trapped hordes and deadheads to Daly City three times. Back at the yard, he proudly shows off his Square report.
“You’re almost like a real cab driver now,” Juneaux tells him.
“Next thing you know, you’ll have a pot belly,” I add.
Thursday is a mixed bag of locals, tourists and conventioneers. I let the taxi winds guide me until there’s not much left but a Dreamforce event at Terra Gallery.
Because Harrison is closed for construction, traffic around First is a clusterfuck. Uber and Lyft drivers use the gas station as a staging area. Instead of hoping for stragglers to wander that far from the venue, I chase Colin around the block to the taxi lane on Essex.
I cut him off, using an Uber as a distraction, and stop right in front of the gallery. As we gently ram our cabs into each other, the doorman tells us to move away from the entrance. I argue with him a little, but eventually pull forward. This proves to be a mistake. I’m too far from the action.
First, Colin backloads on me. Then a Luxor cab. Then a Yellow. Then a Flywheel. Every taxi in The City is getting a fare even though I’m the one on deck!
I yell at the doorman again.
He comes to my window to explain the situation. “Look, man, I hate Uber too,” he says.
“This has nothing to do with Uber!” I shout. “It’s you! You’re the one preventing me from doing my job!”
“I’m just trying to do MY job.”
We seem to be trapped in an idiotic do-si-do as taxis continue to load behind me.
“Come on, man, I just want a fare!”
“This event isn’t over until 1:30.”
“Do you just not know how taxis work?” I look in my rearview. Another cab picks up a fare. “If you’re going to cockblock me, at least wave some folks over to my cab!”
Just then, two guys approach me.
“Are you available?”
“We need to go to the Hyatt Regency. By the airport. Is there anyway we can stop to get some pizza along the way?”