Tag Archives: dispatch radio

Everything Will Be Illuminated

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I’m rolling through the Bayview on Jerrold, heading back to the Mission after dropping at Third and Newcomb, when the order goes out over the radio.

“11th and Folsom. Drivers, 11th and Folsom.”

Artur repeats the cross streets for several minutes, his voice becoming increasingly irate.

I grab the mic. “This is 233. I’m by the yard but can probably get there in 10 minutes.”

“Thank you, 233. Go to 320 11th Street.”

Since rush hour is on the make, I figure Rhode Island over Potrero Hill is my best bet. I down-shift and take the inclines with gusto.

Despite making great time, there’s gridlock on Division. And forget about making a right onto 11th at Bryant. So Harrison it is.

After finally getting through the intersection at 11th, I flip a U-ey in front of Slim’s and pull up to the address.

A few minutes later, a guy emerges from the liquor store. He’s on crutches. His clothes are in tatters. There’s a giant cast on his left foot that looks like a kindergartener’s papier-mâché project gone awry. And he’s holding a gas can.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

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Felicia the Freeloader

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I’m sitting on the throne at the Hilton Union Square, watching the madness of rush-hour traffic in front of the hotel as cars trying to drop off and pick up contend with a single interloper who didn’t utilize the loading zone properly, forcing every other vehicle behind him to wait in the street akimbo while the 38 bus, followed closely by a 38R, comes barreling down O’Farrell with horn blasting, and all the stymied doormen can do is push around empty luggage carts hoping that somebody — anybody — will need help checking in, but the tourists move through the bedlam fearlessly, phones held aloft, like seasoned globetrotters.

Then, Artur calls out a radio order for Market and Sixth. Since there’s a break in the congestion, I check in.

“233. O’Farrell and Mason.”

“233. Check. Go pick up Felicia.”

Artur sends the order to my tablet, and I head down Ellis to Jones. As soon as I cross Market, a woman waves me down.

“I need to go to the Travelodge on Valencia and Market,” Felicia tells me.

“Sure thing,” I say, merging into traffic and taking a right on Mission.

“Hey, aren’t you the guy who writes for the paper?”

“Oh, you read the Examiner?” I respond.

“Oh wow! I can’t believe it’s you!”

I’m never sure what to say when passengers recognize me from the column. It’s not something I advertise in the cab and rarely — if ever — bring up.

“You better not put me on blast!” she says with a protracted cackle.

“Now, why would I do something like that?” I laugh.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Trevor Johnson]

Playing the Radio

I play the radio loud. Which is the only way to decipher cross streets when Artur calls out dispatch orders in his overworked and underpaid drawl.

The Russian accent doesn’t help. Especially when the two-way starts cracking up.

Believe it or not, National/Veterans still has regular customers. And Artur will browbeat drivers on the air to get them filled, calling out orders repeatedly and even singling out cabs he can tell are nearby, like a school teacher trying to get the class to answer a question nobody knows …

Last Friday, after dropping in The Castro, I’m inbound on Market while Artur is trying to fill an order for Geary and Webster. A regular customer at the Safeway needs a ride, but there are no takers.

For the next several minutes, Artur’s voice gets increasingly choleric: “Drivers! Geary and Webster! Somebody go pick her up! This is a regular customer! Come on!”

Even though I’m not close, I check in. “This is 233. Market and Sanchez.”

“233. God bless you. Go get her, please. I’ll give you a bonus load.”

With the promise of $10 off my gate, I get in the left turn lane. I figure Steiner through the Western Addition is my best bet. But there’s an Uber with Nevada plates in front of me, and when the light goes from green to yellow and then red, the driver doesn’t move.

Read the rest here.

[photos by Christian Lewis]

The Story of Magnificent Meg and the Taxi Dispatcher

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The dispatch office at National/Veterans Cab Co.

From this week’s I Drive S.F. column in the S.F. Examiner:

“You’re with National,” she states the obvious, slurring her words. “I used to call you guys all the time to order a cab, and the dispatcher always said, ‘Hey, Magnificent Meg! Where you going tonight?’ You guys made me feel so special. And always made sure I got a cab. Sometimes it would take a while, when it was busy, but you’d call me back and let me know when the driver was going to show up.”

“Why’d you stop calling?” I inquire, anticipating the answer.

“Well … I started using Uber … Just at first, you know, to check it out. Then, later, it was easier to use the app than make a call. And it’s cheaper. But I hate Uber now. The drivers don’t know where they’re going and they’re creepy. It’s just, like, a habit.”

She pauses for a few seconds.

“Still, I miss the old days when I’d call National and I was ‘Magnificent Meg,’” she said. “That’s why, when I saw you parked there, I wanted to tell you how much it meant to me.”

Read the rest here.

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