It’s all fun and games until you realize you’ve been listening to the same passenger moan and complain in the backseat of your taxi for the last… uhhh… two years.
At $2.75 a mile and 55 cents a minute, that may seem like a pretty good load, but what’s the going rate for being a pain sponge?
“It’s never enough,” Late Night Larry tells me. “No matter how much money they give you, it’s never enough.”
Outside the Orpheum on Hyde Street, waiting for Miss Saigon to break, I’m leaning against Larry’s cab, complaining about my predicament with a deep-pocketed regular who has become more trouble than he’s worth.
“Did I ever tell you about the Cash Cow?” Larry asks.
The Cash Cow used to call him three to five times a night. The rides were usually long and profitable. But they could also be problematic.
“One night, I’m driving the Cash Cow and his girlfriend up Van Ness. At a red light, they see somebody on the sidewalk and the woman screams, ‘There he is!’ She jumps out of the cab, walks up to the guy and starts pummeling him. Soon, people are gathering around. Somebody calls the cops. Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself… This just isn’t worth it.”
Later that night, I’m griping to Colin. He mentions the Little Shit, one of his old regulars. This guy just wanted to hang out in the backseat of his cab doing whippets while Colin drove around.
“The Little Shit always called when it was busy, which made it difficult to deal with my other regulars. Even though he paid me whatever I asked for, he wasn’t worth the hassle.”
While it’s comforting to know I’m not the only cab driver to end up with an unwanted regular, I still have to figure out how to get rid of mine.
I’ve tried different methods to fire Mr. Judy in the past. At one point, I blocked his number. But he had other people call me to negotiate reconciliation.
Eventually, pity, and financial difficulties, got the better of me and I acquiesced.
Despite establishing new boundaries, within a few days, Judy was back to his old tricks.
It’s not like he wasn’t generous. Judy was more than willing to pay for the annoyance of dealing with him. Like when his roommate kicked out and I spent three days transporting his belongings to various storage spaces around the Mission, an excruciating task for which he rewarded my handsomely.
But still, it wasn’t enough. Between those big payouts, there was the day-to-day tedium of dealing with a manipulative, narcissistic sociopath.
Without fail, whenever taxi business picked up, Mr. Judy called. It was always a matter of life and death. So I’d deadhead across town and drive him three blocks away. The only crisis was his laziness. Or his need to be a big shot with a personal driver.
On multiple occasions, he’d post up in my cab for hours and wouldn’t get out until The City was completely dead. He often told his friends they didn’t have to pay me for rides. A few times, he used my trunk as a closet, which interfered with giving other rides, since people who hail a taxi generally expect to have access to the trunk as well.
And there was the constant bloviating. Judy bragged nonstop about ripping off his customers, screwing over competitors and interfering in his friends’ relationships.
Whenever I tried to terminate things, though, he’d start crying and beg me to not abandon him. If he didn’t get his way, he’d threaten to hurt himself or other people.
It seemed like there was no way to get rid of Mr. Judy.
Finally, I did what any passive-aggressive empath would do: I stopped taking his calls.
So far, it’s been over a month and I’ve managed to ignore his endless texts, phone calls, voicemails, emails and Signal messages. I’ve snubbed any attempt Judy has made to contact me.
Including his numerous attempts to throw cash at the problem. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned through all this, when it comes to unwanted regulars, no matter how much money they give you, it’s never enough.
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 www.idrivesf.com