Ode to Street Hustle

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Like a game of chance, driving a cab requires more than just skill – it’s luck and determination that’ll make or break a taxi shift.

A good side hustle doesn’t hurt either…

The hassle and the hustle of cab driving.

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Driving with My Good Eye Closed

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I might be cracking up. With a 3-month-old baby who’s already teething, consistent sleep has become a distant memory. And while I can usually navigate the streets of The City as if on autopilot, the synapses that control my sense of direction begin misfiring on Friday night.

My previous shift on Thursday was one of those rare occasions when the taxi gods smiled down on me. In the wet and blustery weather, business was booming. By the end of the night, I was exhausted — and not from the usual boredom and angst, but from actual exertion.

It felt good.

With just a few hours of erratic sleep, though, I’m back in the taxi and not feeling very good at all…

Read the rest here.

 

Taxicabs Around the World – Part Two

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London, England

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Kyoto, Japan

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Tafo, Ghana

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Baku, Azerbaijan

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Berlin, Germany

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St. Petersburg, Russia

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Calcutta, India

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Paris, France

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Manila, Philippines

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Trinidad

Behind the Wheel 3 Reviewed in Razorcake Magazine

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Behind the Wheel 3 was reviewed in the latest issue of Razorcake magazine. The reviewer particularly liked the Late Night Larry bits.

You can listen to Larry read one of the stories here.

Read the full review on Razorcake’s website.

The Hooligans of Market Street

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This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about getting accosted by a bunch of kids on Market Street. The situation got pretty tense, but I was able to deescalate things and escape harm.

Interestingly, almost two years ago to the day, I wrote a post for Broke-Ass Stuart.com about taxi drivers getting accosted. I found this passage relevant and still applicable today:

As a new cab driver, I adhere to the principle that taxi driving is an inclusive public service, even though maintaining an open door policy exposes me to certain occupational hazards.  I know the chances of getting robbed or attacked are slim, but the fear still lurks deep in the recesses of my lizard brain.

It’s been over two years since I started driving a taxi and I still maintain an open door policy. Which means I sometimes get in sticky situations, but the alternative – profiling each passenger before I pick them up – is even less appealing.

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With “Hamilton” and “Into the Woods” breaking around the same time, Market Street at 10:50 p.m. is flooded with theatergoers. For taxis, it’s a feeding frenzy. After dropping off a family at the Marine’s Memorial Club, I shoot down Mason for another quick load.

As I turn right onto Market, a girl is standing on the curb with her arm up. Two cabs drive right past her. I pull over.

She opens the back door, turns and yells, “Hey! I got a taxi!”

Upon her exclamation, a group of kids emerge from the shadows and bum-rush my cab.

“Hold up, now!” I shout as they surround me.

The battalion of brats ranges in age, from the full-grown teenagers squeezing themselves into the backseat, to some goofy-looking adolescents pounding on my trunk and climbing onto the roof, to a precocious 9-year-old in the front seat trying to grab everything in sight: my iPhone, the Flywheel phone clipped to the vent, my Square reader and even the dispatch tablet mounted on the dash.

Read the rest of the column here.

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Return of the Gypsy Cab That’s One Step Ahead

Last time we checked in with out favorite gypsy cab, the fake medallion number had been covered with electrical tape in some feeble attempt to go incognito as it sat parked in plain site outside the California Smoke Shop on Geary Street:

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photo by Bradley Voelker

In fact, the driver of this gypsy cab spends so much time at that smoke shop, it’s been captured on Google Street View:

Several weeks back, I was cab standing at The Great Northern and saw him drive by with a garbage bag taped over his back window, after someone obviously smashed it in. And no wonder, since the SFPD, the DMV and the SFMTA were all notified of this illegal operation and all claimed to have no jurisdiction over it. But a broken window didn’t stop this scofflaw…

Now, the Gypsy Cab that’s One Step Ahead is back, more brazen than ever. With a crafty new medallion number: 007.

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photo by Gerry Rowland

As you can see, the license plates are the same:

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But now he’s enlisted a new driver.

Numerous taxi drivers have spotted him around the city.

Even Stanley Roberts, who produces the People Behaving Badly series for KRON4 News, posted about the fake cab on Facebook:

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I guess claiming to be a SAM Francisco/Redwood City cab makes him immune to the laws of SAN Francisco.

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photo by Christian Lewis

He even has a phone number on the outside. And why not? He’s immune to any sanctions by the city.

Just goes to show… you can get away with anything in San Francisco, except, apparently, eating pizza at a bus stop. Gotta draw the line somewhere…

[All images, other than screengrabs, courtesy of the omnipresent SF Hackers.]

Taxi Driving is More than a Job

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On this, the occasion of my 100th column, I can’t help but feel somewhat reflective. Almost two years have passed since the San Francisco Examiner gave me an opportunity to tell my stories of The City’s streets in 700 words, give or take. While writing about driving a taxi comes easy, actually driving a taxi can be a real drag sometimes. Particularly on those slow, mind-numbing nights, during excruciatingly slow weeks, in painfully slow months.

Taxi driving is more than a job. It’s a form of punishment for all the bad decisions you’ve ever made. Instead of pursuing the 9 to 5, you became an artist, played in bands, wrote books, traveled or just enjoyed life — all the unrealistic distractions your parents, teachers and guidance counselors said would only lead to poverty that somehow became sustainable through driving a taxi. Until one day, it was no longer viable, once some eggheads created a centralized dispatch app, and the cab companies were too busy squabbling over brand recognition to retain any relevance. But in the stupidity of it all, there was still a sense of freedom.

Taxi driving is still the closest you can get to the swashbuckling adventures of a pirate. With no bosses around and no supervisors breathing down your neck, it’s just you, your cab, the streets and the general public. How you navigate those obstacles is up to you. Even if you don’t have what it takes. Thankfully, the meek get lucky, too.

Read the rest here.