Not much is happening. Just a boring Thursday night. I pull up to the Cat Club and shoot the shit with Chucky, Liz and John, the stalwarts of the ad hoc cabstand there, until I’m on deck.
As I watch the throng of smokers for a potential fare, I get a Flywheel request for 1190 Folsom: the address of the Cat Club.
A few minutes later, two women approach my cab.
“This is for Gina, right?” one asks me. I nod, and she opens the back door, helps the other inside and says, “Make sure she gets home safe.”
I turn around. Gina looks a little rough around the edges.
“Where to?” I ask.
She mumbles something about Battery and Jackson.
As I head towards the Financial, Gina starts to whimper slightly.
“Are you OK?” I ask.
“Sure. I mean … Not really.”
“You wanna talk about it?”
She garbles something. Goes silent.
At each red light, I watch her in the rearview gradually keel over onto the backseat. She seems to be sleeping, even though her eyes are half open.
Since nothing about her indicates she’s consumed enough alcohol to be this wasted, I assume she’s been roofied.
It’s alarming how many women I encounter who’ve unknowingly had their drinks spiked in bars. No place is immune. Not even the Cat Club, which usually has a very sophisticated clientele.
Recently, I had a long conversation with a bartender who told me, in the 10 years she’s been in San Francisco, she’s been roofied three times. Once she woke up in a strange bed, in a strange apartment, with no clue how she got there. Turned out, a guy found her the night before raving like a lunatic on the median at Van Ness and Union. Since she’d lost her purse and couldn’t remember her address, he took her home, gave up his bed and slept in the office chair at his desk. A fortunate turn of events, we concurred.
Unlike two years ago, when Irina met a friend at Kingfish in Temescal for a couple drinks. After a while, Irina felt sick, went to the bathroom, threw up and walked back to our apartment four blocks away. I came home later that night and she was still asleep. Her friend, however, woke up in the emergency room.
I’ve dealt with enough drugged women in my cab that I’ve become more adept at the nerve-racking process each time. And not just out of chivalry. If you can’t get a fare home safe, you’re not much of a cab driver.
When I arrive at Gina’s building, I wake her up and ask if she needs help. Once she gives me permission, I open the back door and extend my arm. She stands up and wobbles, but I hold her steady.
As she gains her balance, she swings around and tries to embrace me, giggling. Sensing her inhibitions due to the drugs, I grab the strap of her shoulder bag and slowly guide her towards the building like a marionette. Along the way, she gets more playful and tries to impede the operation.
“Let’s focus, OK?” I tell her. “You need to get home.”
When we get to the front door, I ask if she has her keys.
“Right here!” She pulls them out joyfully.
I open the door for her, but there’s no way I’m crossing the threshold. “Can you make it to the elevator?”
“I’ll be fine!” she insists, though not very convincingly.
“You’re a pro!” I psych her up to make the final stretch into her apartment. “You got this.”
“I’m a pro!”
As she’s about to enter the lobby, she turns around and demands a kiss. Just then, someone emerges from the elevator and I’m able to redirect her advance.
“Quick! Get on the elevator before the doors close!”
Gina careens back inside but doesn’t reach the elevator in time. While she staggers back towards me, laughing hysterically, the girl who got off the elevator stands nearby staring into her phone.
“No! No!” I shout. “Press the button again!”
Gina follows my instructions and, when the doors open, she goes inside. As I wait for them to close, she opens them at the last moment to play peek-a-boo.
“That’s not very professional!” I tell her sternly.
Finally, the doors close, and I take off.
Back in my cab, I head to the yard. I’ve had enough excitement for a boring Thursday night.