Category Archives: shenanigans

The Night We Drove Old Yellow Around

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It was just like the old days. Before the taxi industry went to shit. Back when people still called cab companies when they needed a ride. Especially on Friday nights, which is when the following aberration occurred.

Of course, as a driver in the post-Uber/Lyft world, the notion of taxis being in high demand is mostly abstract, based entirely on stories form drivers who were around then and still around now.

On this particular night, though, I got a taste of that bygone era…

It happened just after last call. During the transition period between 1:45 a.m. and 2:15 a.m., when most cabs are prowling the bars in the Mission, the Castro, Polk Street, SoMa and Union Square, while others begin forming ad hoc taxi stands outside DJ clubs like Public Works, the Great Northern, Audio, the EndUp and the Cat Club.

As I’m cruising down Valencia on my way to check out the line at Public Works, the dispatch radio comes alive.

Sometimes, I forget the two-way is even there, occasionally restarting the device to make sure it’s still functioning. There are nights when the only activity is drivers asking for radio checks. So I’m surprised to hear Jesse’s voice break the silence.

“Guys, there seem to be orders on the board,” he says. “I don’t know where they’re coming from, but I have phone numbers. If anyone wants to check them out …”

He starts listing off cross streets.

Since I’m only a few blocks away, I check in for Duboce and Valencia. I pull up outside Zeitgeist and ask for a callout.

“Hold on, 182.” After a short pause, Jesse responds, “On the way out.”

“Copy that.”

A few minutes later, a guy gets in the back of my cab, and I take him to Bernal Heights. I want to ask questions, figure out what’s going on with the sudden demand for taxis, but he isn’t chatty.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

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Pissing Off Uber Drivers… And It Feels So Good!

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Taxi/Uber panel at LaborFest 2016

Last Wednesday night, I participated in a panel discussion for the annual Laborfest called “Uber, Worker Rights, Tech and the Public.”

I suppose it’s beneficial to continue informing the population about Uber’s impact on the San Francisco taxi industry, as well as the thousands of drivers who propelled the juggernaut to its $62 billion valuation. Despite all the talking between the panel and audience, though, there weren’t many solutions presented other than prolonged lawsuits. Or just holding your breath until enough people realize Uber is a public threat and/or they run out of drivers willing to work for peanuts. 

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Taxi/Uber panel at LaborFest 2016

The following afternoon, I start my workweek feeling mostly pessimistic. Disheartened, I make it through my shift, but something happens the next day that brightens my mood…

Read the rest here.

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A fake $100 bill, a street fight, pupusas and other unanswered questions…

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My column this week for the S.F. Examiner is a somewhat confusing story about an altercation between a cab driver and a pupuseria worker, involving a possible fake $100 bill… 

I don’t hear the details over the two-way radio as it unfolds, but when I come upon the aftermath at 16th and Valencia, I see two SFPD squad cars have National 2977 surrounded. On the sidewalk, cops mingle with the crowd of Saturday night revelers, the mariachis and a few competing hot dog vendors. 

I look for the familiar face of the driver, but an arm in the air distracts me. 

Later, in the Mighty cabstand, Juneaux tells me all he knows: The driver of 2977 was attacked by his passengers and taken to the emergency room. 

While I’m cashing out at the end of my shift, Jesse only has a little more information. The driver, Noguchi, was taken to SF General, and they’re towing the cab back to the yard. 

Outside the office, the weekly recitation of the waybill is underway, with Noguchi’s fate the center of attention. Colin, Juneaux, Late Night Larry, Marty and I stand around asking questions: Why doesn’t somebody just go pick up the cab? Cause the driver has the key. Oh. Has anyone gone to the hospital to check on the driver? Did the police file a report? Are we going to pull the chip from the camera?

After a while, the tow truck arrives with 2977 on the hook. Then Noguchi shows up, bedraggled with a hospital bracelet still around his wrist. 

We immediately demand answers.

Read the rest here.

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Top photo by Christian Lewis.

Joe Strummer in a NY taxicab via the interwebs. 

 

 

Taxi Drivers Confront Uber Driver with Toplight on his Prius

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After seeing this guy around SF for months, picking up street flags and running the Uber and Lyft apps on a phone on his dash, a Town Taxi driver decided enough was enough and confronted the gypsy cab on Market Street. I happened to pull up in National 182 right at the shit went down.

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The Uber fake taxi is blocked in by our cabs on Market Street, inbound at Sanchez. 7 more cab drivers came to assist.

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The SFMTA Parking Patrol arrived on the scene, took the side of the cab drivers and called the police, because when the confrontation first occurred, the Uber driver shot mace at one of the cab drivers. The PCO then blocked the confrontation so the Uber driver was not able to leave the scene.

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Investigating the toplight. It appears to be a Spoon Rocket topper that he appropriated into a top light and screwed into the roof of his Prius. A wire runs down into the interior through the side of the door covered in clear packaging tape.

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The Uber driver who impersonates a cab driver outside his car to the right, trying to film the 8 cab drivers encircling him, who ask him if he thinks what he is doing is legit. He never answers. Before the cab drivers were able to push his car over and set it on fire, like they did in Paris (just kidding), the cops showed up.

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The San Francisco Police having a talk with the Uber driver. Afterwards, the cops talked to the cab drivers and said, “That guy is full of shit. He’s on our radar now. If we see him around, we’re going to cite him. We gave him his one warning.”

Now it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll be back on the streets of San Francisco with that fake toplight on his Prius.

[Updated: He’s never been seen since.]

Lyft vs. Taxi Thunderdome – The Medium Online Debate

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Since Driver 8 and I had so much fun discussing the pros and cons of driving Lyft and taxis at the Next:Economy conference last month, we went to Medium’s offices and did a live debate on their Backchannel site.

Things got ugly fast:

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And even uglier:

 

Marching Backwards into the Next Economy

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When I agreed to be on a drivers panel for the Next:Economy forum last week, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into. I knew there would be three of us on the hot seat: A cab-driver-turned-Lyft driver, a full-time Uber driver and me — the Uber-Lyft driver who became a “cabbie.”

Since I made it clear to the moderator during our preliminary interview that I was no fan of the on-demand economy, I figured I was there to be the lone naysayer, or to provide some requisite objectivity. Other speakers at the conference included the CEOs of Kickstarter, GE and Lyft, as well as David Plouffe, Uber’s Chief Adviser.

On Thursday morning, I put on a grey suit, a black shirt and my Florsheims. If I’m going to be a dancing monkey, I should at least wear a shiny red hat.

Read the rest here.

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I was a Lyft Driver for Halloween

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My column for the S.F. Examiner this week is about impersonating a Lyft in a cab…

 

I was a Lyft driver for Halloween.

The idea came to me at last week’s barbeque. For some reason, driving around San Francisco, picking up fares with Lyft’s iconic trade dress on my cab, seemed like an absolutely hilarious prank. Even if I just caused confusion, at the very least it would be a noteworthy social experiment.

So that Saturday, once it got dark, I fastened the fluffy pink Carstache Lyft sent me when I first signed up to the grill of National 182 and attached the Glowstache I’d received as a top-rated driver to the dash.

I created a Pandora station around The Cramps, Misfits and Ramones.

To augment my trickery, I planned to tell my passengers I didn’t know where I was going and that it was 200 percent Prime Time all night.

I figured everyone would laugh and throw piles of money at me for having such a clever costume.

On 16th Street, a girl dressed as a spider flagged me down.

“Can you take me to Geary and Fillmore, please?”

“Sorry, I’m a Lyft driver,” I said merrily. “I don’t know where that is.”

“It’s easy,” she responded in all seriousness. “I’ll direct you.”

“…”

From Japantown, I crawled down Polk Street behind a beat-up white limo. A few cab drivers looked at me like I was committing the greatest sin by “rocking the ’stache,” as they say in Lyft parlance.

Trevor, the Street Ninja, impersonating Travis Bickle, cruised past me at one point cracking up.

“I’m a Lyft driver!” I yelled out the window. “Where am I? What street is this? Are we in SoMa?”

I stuck to the more congested parts of The City, where I knew my caricature would get the most exposure. Some Lyft drivers scowled at me. Others blew their horns or flashed their high beams.

The majority of my passengers, though, didn’t seem to notice or care. They just told me where they were going, and off I drove with my mouth shut.

So much for being a friend with a cab.

After dropping off a group of revelers at Bar None, I was heading deeper into the congestion of Union Street with The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” at full blast when a guy darted out of the crowd.

“You!” He pointed at my cab, laughed and jumped in the backseat.

Barreling down Gough, we talked about irony and thrash metal. When I dropped him off on Valencia, he almost took off without paying.

“Hey, I’m only pretending to be a Lyft,” I reminded him.

On my way to the Haight from the Mission with a fare, Other Larry pulled up next to me on Guerrero in Veterans 233.

“Nice fucking mustache!” he shouted.

“Look at me!” I jeered. “I’m a Lyft driver and I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing!”

“Does it ever get old?” the guy in the backseat asked.

“What?”

“Making fun of Lyft.”

“No.”

On a ride through the back roads of the Western Addition, I tried to explain to another guy the tension between the Smartphone Hailed Internet Transportation Services and cab drivers and why the Lyft mustaches on my taxi were so hilarious.

“You mean you can’t do Lyft in a cab?” he asked. “I always assumed you guys were all the same.”

The same?

Sure, the lines are blurry these days: Flywheel is an app and a taxi company; most Uber drivers are Lyft drivers and vice versa; decommissioned Yellow cabs are used as Uber-Lyft cars; Towncar drivers slap fake TCP numbers on their bumpers to access commercial lanes; out-of-town cabs come into The City all the time and pick up street hails; and now Uber-Lyft drivers are putting toplights on their Priuses.

According to a recent study from Northeastern University, the streets of San Francisco are congested with more than 10,000 vehicles for hire on average. During a holiday like Halloween, that number is considerably higher. But only taxicabs are required to follow rules and regulations. Everyone else is free to play make-believe all they want.

It doesn’t even matter if the portrayal is convincing. The general population just wants the cheapest and most convenient ride available. Who provides the actual service, whether they’re knockoffs or the real McCoy, is completely irrelevant.

Especially on Halloween.

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