Never judge a book by its cover. (Courtesy photo)

Never judge a book by its cover. (Courtesy photo)

‘You wouldn’t believe me if I told you’

It’s Thursday night. After dropping at Bayside Village, I contemplate my next move, blasting Ty Segall while barreling aimlessly into the night. Eleventh Street or home to Oakland? What shall it be?

Then, my Flywheel phone goes off.

Pickup at 850 Bryant. I assume the Hall of Justice, but spot two women standing outside the AutoReturn on Seventh, one waving her phone furiously.

I pull up and confirm the name. “Diane?”

“Yes, that’s me,” the first one tells me. “Can you to take my friend to Berkeley on my account?”

“Sure, no problem.”

The other woman gets in the backseat, and Diane asks if it’s possible to order another cab through the app.

“No, but I’ll get you a cab.”

I call in the order on the dispatch radio and offer to wait. The streets are empty, and she’s too well-dressed for the occasion.

“My friend really needs to get home,” Diane tells me. “I’ll be fine.”

I glance in the rearview. Had I picked them up outside a restaurant, theater or trendy cocktail lounge, I wouldn’t have blinked. But under the freeway at midnight, they’re as incongruous as it gets.

“You sure?” I ask one last time.

After giving me an address, the woman in back sighs.

“Rough night?” I inquire, heading up the I-80 onramp.

“I just had the craziest experience of my life.”

I point out we’ve got 20 minutes or so ahead of us.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

I chuckle softly. “I’m a cab driver. Try me.”

“I just got out of jail.”

Not what I was expecting, but uh … “You mind if I ask?”

Three nights before, on her way back to the East Bay from her job at an art gallery in Fisherman’s Wharf, she clipped the mirror of a parked car on Bay Street, near The Embarcadero. When she stopped to investigate, a man and woman emerged from the car in a rage and attacked her. They grabbed her phone, car keys and purse before calling the police, who showed up and arrested the woman.

Without anyone to bail her out, she was forced to sit in jail. Luckily, she managed to prevent her 14-year-old daughter from being taken into protective services by sending her to the estranged father’s house, even though they’ve had minimal contact most of her life.

“So, wait … You’ve been in jail for three days because you clipped someone’s mirror?” The story sounds fishy.

“They claimed it was a hit-and-run.”

“Had you left the scene?”

“No. Like I said, I’d stopped to check out the damage and leave a note or something. I even pointed out to the officers that my car was in park. If I’d been trying to get away, why would it be in park? And why would the other people have my keys?”

The damage was minimal, she claims. Still, the cops took the couple’s side. Three days in jail, freezing to death, barefoot because all she had were high heels and no jacket since it’s been warm lately.

“I was finally able to call a friend who got me this cab so I can go to another friend’s place who might have keys to my apartment.”

“You never got your purse or your phone back?”

“I guess the couple just took them. The police said they didn’t have them. All I have are the clothes on my back.”

After a few minutes of silence, I say, “Not gonna lie, lady. That’s a fucked up story.”

As I make my way up University, I contemplate all the different angles, trying to make sense of the story. Why did the people in the car freak out so bad? Were they just lunatics?

I wonder if there’s something she’s not telling me …

I keep sneaking glances at her in the rearview. Even after three days in lockup, she seems “put together.” A typical middle-class, white woman.

It makes no sense.

So what if she really did try to drive away, why lock her up for that? Were the cops on a power trip? A couple new recruits eager to jam up some woman’s life because they didn’t like her attitude. Was it because they knew they could squeeze money out of her?

“Why do you think they arrested you?” I ask.

“To make an example of me, perhaps.”

“Like, ‘See, we don’t just target people of color?’”

“I guess.”

I agree that is a logical explanation. Still …

As we reach her destination, the woman asks to borrow my phone to call her friend. She gets out of the cab. I wish her the best and wait until she’s inside the building.

Still plagued with so many questions that’ll never be answered, I slide “Floating Coffin” by Thee Oh Sees in the CD player, turn up the volume and head home for the night.

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine, “Behind the Wheel,” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to Kelly at or visit his blog at

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