Category Archives: Cab Driving

Welcome to Pleasanton

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File under: Always get the money up front

My column this week is about abandoning a regular rider for a potential meter-and-a-half. That ride goes horribly wrong. I guess you can say I got my just deserts.

“Alright,” the guy says, getting out of the cab. “Thanks for the ride.”

“Wait a second!”

The woman gets out of the cab slowly. I watch as she teeters on the high heels and careens toward a parked car, bounces off the trunk and falls to the ground. Just as quickly, though, she’s back on her feet.

“Who’s going to pay me?” I demand.

She wrinkles her face and stumbles away.

I get out of the cab and follow her to the door of her apartment. As she goes in, the guy emerges with a bunch of stuff that he loads into the back of a Corolla. On the windshield, there’s an Uber placard.

“I really need to get paid,” I tell him, feeling like the paperboy from the movie “Better off Dead.”

“I told you, I’m not paying. She’s a whore. Get her to pay.”

“Come on, man. I don’t want to get into the middle of this …”

“Be a man! Go get your money!” He drives away.

I knock on the door. No answer. I knock again.

Goddamn it.

I return to my cab and Google the Pleasanton Police Department. An operator picks up on the second ring.

“I don’t know if this is something you can help me with …”

Read the rest of the column here.

[photo by Trevor Johnson]

An Accidental Tub-thumper

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In this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner, I pick up a family who’s exposed to San Francisco’s ugly side on 6th Street, AKA, the Dirty Six. Instead of letting them think the worst, I try to help them understand the consequences of the city’s epic income disparity.

As I wait for the light to change at Mission, a bedraggled woman on the corner is flailing her arms and bitching out the sky.

“Oh my god.” The lady behind me gasps. “What’s wrong with her?”

As I continue down, she points out the motley cast of characters hanging out on the sidewalks and expresses shock at the various displays of mental illness.

“How close are we to your neighborhood?” she asks her son. “I’m really not comfortable with you living around all this squalor.”

“It’s not my neighborhood,” he replies with obvious annoyance.

“It doesn’t look safe here at all,” she intones.

“Mom, I never even come down here!”

As they go back and forth on how much danger she thinks he’s being exposed to, despite his protestations, I feel the need to interrupt. Not that I’m feeling like much of a booster for San Francisco these days, but … someone has to do it.

Read the entire column here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

The way of the taxi stand

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My column for the Examiner this week is about the Hyatt Regency taxi stand, more daytime observations and a near collision with a BMW.

Usually, the EC5 cabstand moves at a decent clip. Besides the Regency and Embarcadero Centers, you get people hopping off BART and from the Ferry Building, as well as various randos.

But that’s the way of the taxi stand.

One second it’s moving, the next you’re just watching the world stream past.

After advancing two spaces, an Uber pulls over next to me. Instead of proceeding to the driveway that leads to the front of the hotel, a family of four disembarks right in the middle of Drumm Street. The driver, working hard for those five-star ratings, helps set their suitcases on the asphalt. Says goodbye and drives off. The tribe of fresh-faced tourists, slightly discombobulated, manages to gather their belongings and haul them between the line of taxis, across a jam-packed sidewalk and the driveway.

This is a common scenario at most hotels these days. As soon as visitors enter SFO, they are accosted with advertisements for Uber and Lyft, which both offer $50 in free credit for new users. Why not take advantage of an offer like that?

They’ve no doubt heard of Uber. Now they can experience it firsthand and tell their friends and family back home about the “future of transportation.”

Plus, it’s $20 from the airport into the city, which is cheaper than a cab, cheaper than BART, cheaper that Super Shuttle and almost cheaper than the bus. They still have more free rides to take. And hey… if Mom downloaded the app on her phone at the airport, can Dad also download the app and get $50 in credit? Sure he can. All the kids too!

So now tourists are taking Ubers and Lyfts instead of taxis. But what kind of experience are they having if their drivers come from Sacramento or out of state and have no clue how to assist them navigate The City? They’re essentially tourists themselves. Talk about the blind leading the naked.

And when it comes to hotels, there are many reasons why you rely on doormen. Making sure guests have — at least — the opportunity to show some class is one. Preventing fuckups is another.

A few nights back, while languishing in the Fairmont taxi stand, I saw a girl get her fingers caught in the door of a Lyft car. As her howls echoed off the façade of the luxury hotel, the clueless driver began pulling away. Her friends had to bang on the side of his car to make him stop…

Read the rest here.

[photo by Irina Dessaint]

The silent us are out there: a letter from a reader

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July 28, 2017

Kelly,

I’ll be brief: I appreciate your columns. I don’t always enjoy them, because some of your experiences push my buttons, good and bad, but I do appreciate them. A long time ago, another cab driver used to post his column, and it also was worth reading. I believe it was called Night Cabbie.

I’ve lived in the Castro for over 20 years. I used to hate waiting for a cab when I needed one, like when I had 4 bags of groceries from Safeway. They didn’t come when called, and in the daytime, they were all parked downtown at the hotels. I knew that my $6 (way back) plus $1-2 tip could not compete. And I resented that I was “second class” behind downtown fares.

And Uber swung the pendulum my way. Any ride, any time. Yippee. But then the reality set in. Uber was mean and aggressive, very un-SF-like. I tried Taxi Magic/Curb, but without a credit card guarantee, they would blow me off too. Finally, Lyft came along. Soon, I noticed that 40% of taxi drivers were “new”. The regulars quit, retired, or started driving for Uber. It bothered me a bit.

Finally, the taxi industry got their shit together and produced an app: Flywheel. Took a while to work the kinks out, but it’s fine now.

I like the experience of taxis. I like that the driver usually knows where I’m going and the best way to get there without relying on “Wayz” app or gps. I like that taxi drivers will pull up in front of my door, get out, and help me with those bags of groceries. I like that the drivers know where and how to flip a U-turn and get it done without whining. I like that I don’t have to worry about surge pricing. And I know that taxis have all the proper certifications and insurance.

I like Flywheel because it levels the playing field for fares, from Yellow Cab and Luxor down to the small independents.

I’m glad that Uber came along. It changed my life for the better in getting a ride. I usually split between Lyft and taxis depending on circumstances, but I want my taxis to stay around.

So you keep writing and keep driving.

The silent us are out there.

David Fusilier
San Francisco, CA

The 16th Street Clusterfuck

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The 16th Street Corridor between Guerrero and Mission is one of the worst traffic clusterfucks in the city. Lined with boutiques, liquor stores, bars, restaurants, shops, movie theaters and apartment buildings – all easily accessed via the BART station on Mission – the corridor functions as a nucleus. A welcome center. Not just to the Mission, but the whole city.

It’s where neighborhoods collide and intersect: SoMa to the northeast, like a pair of shades. Tenderloin due north, where your mind is in the gutter. The Castro is west, like a pack of cigarettes in your jean pockets. Duboce Triangle, on your shoulder like a backpack. And the Haight, the feather in your cap.

The Mission is where it’s at.

El corazón de la ciudad.

And 16th Street is the jugular.

Since the street runs halfway across the city – a straight shot east to west, from the Bay to the Castro – it’s also a quasi thoroughfare along the southern edge of the metro area. And thus, a hotspot of activity day and night. After all, that Latino heat is what gives the city flavor.

As a taxi driver, I try to avoid the area.

The 16th Street Corridor is – in addition to all those other things – a fucking quagmire. If there ever was a reason for that word to exist, it’s the 16th Street Corridor.

With no left turns at Guerrero and Mission, once you enter, you’re trapped. You either push through or retreat down an alley. Otherwise you’ll forced to circumvent packs of drunken jaywalkers. And the inevitable army of Ubers and Lyfts.

Driving in the 16th Street Corridor is like going to war with a bunch of preschoolers. I just want to start slapping drivers upside the head. “Whatsamattawitcha! Fucken morons!”

When they’re not double-parking with reckless abandon, impeding the flow of cars, bicyclists and two Muni routes, they’re driving like complete assholes or chickens with their heads cut off.

So last Friday, when Mr. Judy calls me from Albion and 16th looking for an evac, I’m not thrilled. Nonetheless, I charge into the maelstrom, blasting Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein.”

Mr. Judy is standing in front of Monk’s Kettle giving dirty looks to passersby. I quickly pull over and he jumps in the backseat.

“Just in time,” he says ominously.

Read the rest on the examiner site.

[photo by Shaun Osburn]

On becoming a day driver… and a pissed off cabbie!

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This week’s column for the Examiner is about switching to the day shift and immediately becoming the quintessential angry cabbie. 

The nausea comes in waves, along with dizzy spells and a throbbing in my forehead that pulsates to a beat that matches the jackhammers I wake up to most mornings. It’s the sound of progress. These ugly, prison-like buildings are the future. Who am I to criticize some jerkwad who’s willing and able to pay three grand for a cookie-cutter apartment in an “up-and-coming” neighborhood that still hasn’t figured out what to do with the down and out?

If I ever thought having a kid was going to cramp my style, it’s only because I hadn’t considered how nettlesome living with the Bay Area can be. Compared to the toll this place takes on you, dealing with a screaming, sleep-resistant baby is a walk in the park.

When I switched to driving days, I figured there would be some hiccups in the transition. But I wasn’t expecting to become the quintessential angry cab driver overnight.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

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