It never fails.
Whenever I work large events like Outside Lands, I always end up with a pack of drunken millennials in my taxi who are so accustomed to geographically-challenged Uber/Lyft drivers that they will try, despite the haze of alcohol, weed and molly, to micromanage my attempt to navigate the congestion.
Of all the tragedies that have resulted from the rise of Uber and Lyft, this assumption that a driver for hire has no clue how to reach the simplest destinations is really, as our commander-in-chief would put it, sad.
The other day, I pick up this guy at the Grand Hyatt. As he tips the doorman for flagging him a cab, I hear the guy say his phone had died and he wasn’t able to order an Uber.
“Where to?” I ask.
Okay. “Where in Pac Heights?”
“Geary and Laguna.”
“What?” I respond, somewhat confused.
“Lower Pac Heights. Close to Japantown.”
Brother, there is no Lower Pac Heights, I want to say. Geary and Laguna is Japantown. But I let it go. He’s either a tourist or has just moved here.
As I’m about to cross Van Ness, I ask where he’s going at Laguna and Geary.
He leans forward and says, “Oh, uhh, keep going two more blocks.”
“I know where Laguna is,” I reply. “Where are you going at Geary and Laguna? Are you on Geary? Laguna? Am I going right or left? It’s a big street with lots of turn restrictions.”
“Left on Laguna,” he says. “You’ll uhhh… probably have to make a U-turn.”
“Yeah, at Webster,” I mumble. So his cross streets are actually Ellis and Laguna, which would enable me to access the street he actually lives on: Cleary Court.
And regardless of what his real estate agent told him, he lives in motherfucking Western Addition!
It’s always the clueless passengers who tell you how to get somewhere, and they usually end up lost or going the longest route possible…
Anyway, this is my fourth year working Outside Lands. And even though I’m steeling myself for the inevitable shit show, I am hopeful this year might be different…
An unforeseen benefit of Uber and Lyft is that the number of millennials I pick up has dwindled to the point that, when they do end up in my cab, it’s usually memorable.
Like the four bros who surprised me at Davies Symphony Hall a few months back…
Drunk off their asses and wearing white tuxedos, they pile into my cab and demand to be taken to Emperor Norton’s.
“Do you know where that is?” one asks.
I respond affirmatively several times over the next few blocks, while the three guys in back continue to question whether I’m going the right way since I didn’t put the location into my phone and the guy up front incessantly nags me about playing the radio.
“Look!” I finally snap. “The bar is only five blocks away. I think you can go that long without music. Don’t you?”
On Friday, the first night of Outside Lands, things were astonishingly calm and uneventful.
That is, free of millennials.
I take two guys to Brass Tacks.
“Do you mind if we do garbage cocaine?” the one on the right asks me.
After several key bumps, the guy spends the rest of the ride complaining about the shitty blow in San Francisco.
My second ride is a young couple who’d just met. They spend the ride to Club Deluxe bonding over their pets. When I pull up to the bar, the guy hands me a $20 bill and refuses change on the $12.30 fare.
“For going out of your way to pick us up,” he says, exiting curbside.
Day two starts out smooth enough.
Since I stopped working Saturday nights, I don’t have my regular cab. So I’m driving Veterans 327. Late Night Larry’s cab.
As I venture out to the park on Fulton while the sun is still in the sky, I’m impressed with how the PCOs are controlling the streets and making sure all vehicles are able to get through the area. That same is true on Lincoln. Even though the SFMTA had promised us taxi stands, there are no designated staging areas. But it isn’t that much of a hassle.
When Metallica stops playing later that night, though, there’s little chance for any kind order in the ensuing chaos…
Read Part Two here.
[photo by Jessica Christian]
Always get the money up front…
My column this week is about deserting a regular fare for a meter-and-a-half ride that 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.
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]
I just completed my fourth Outside Lands as a driver, which prompted me to reevaluate my previous reportage on working the three day music festival in Golden Gate Park.
My first OSL was in 2014 as an Uber/Lyft driver. I covered that experience here.
My second OSL was in a taxi and I wrote about it here.
Since I didn’t publish anything about my third year working Outside Lands in 2016, I searched my computer for any notes I may have written and found this:
The tide is turning as anti-Uber backlash surges…
Passengers are starting to realize that Uber and Lyft drivers, the majority of whom aren’t from the area, are creating most of the traffic congestion in The City, especially during major festivals.
That’s what happened during Outside Lands.
I wasn’t making any money driving people home from the festival. With all the congestion getting back to the park for another load, it just wasn’t worth my time…
Next week, my column will be about working Outside Lands for the fourth time. And no, it’s not going to be pretty…
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]
My column this week for the S.F. Examiner touches on some of the racial elements in taxi driving…
On the corner of Folsom and 6th, a guy is standing with his hand in the air. Even though it’s not a night to be turning down fares — if there ever are nights like that anymore — three empty taxis in a row blow right past him.
When he turns around to flag me, I see what the problem is: He’s young and black, with dreads protruding from his hoodie and a gold grill flickering in the haze of a streetlamp.
As he approaches my cab hesitantly, I gesture him forward, and he jumps into the backseat. Up close, he looks more like a lost kid than a gangster, despite the getup.
“I need to get to Richmond hella bad,” he tells me.
“District or city?”
“Oh, man …” I stammer. “It’s after 1 a.m. and uh … that’s a pretty long ride. You think I can get some cash up front?” Adding a quick, “No offense or anything.”
Which actually makes the request more offensive.