This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about driving in the rain with the Keystone Kops on parade…
The rain brings out the madness normally only seen during natural disasters. After all, this is California, where even the faintest hint of precipitation threatens the already thin veil of civility. And once it really starts pouring … well, then all bets are off …
I’m driving westbound on North Point when an SUV pulls up alongside me, also going westbound. There’s an Uber symbol in the window. When the light turns green, I keep pace, curious when he’s going to realize he’s driving on the wrong side of the road. As we approach Larkin, another SUV is traveling eastbound. Also an Uber. The original SUV, oblivious that he’s doing anything out of the ordinary, even though there’s a vehicle heading straight toward him, maintains his trajectory until both SUVs stop, face to face, and try to determine who has the right of way…
Later, I’m heading north on Sixth Street when I encounter an accident in front of Monarch. A Prius nailed a Porsche. Based on the positions of the vehicles, it looks like one of the drivers made an illegal left onto Mission. The accident is bad enough the cops showed up. As I’m trying to get through the light, a Lyft driver is waiting in the intersection, left blinker flashing. Once the rain lets up for a moment, I pull into the taxi stand at The Palace for a smoke break. Before I get out, though, a woman comes out of the hotel and gets into the front seat of my cab.
“Do you know the bar Kells?”
Judging by her accent, she’s Australian, which explains why she’s in the front seat.
On the way to North Beach, she tells me an Uber driver had groped her earlier.
“What?” I’m aghast. “Did you call the police?”
“Yes. And I emailed Uber and my lawyer,” she says. “That bastard is gonna regret messing with me.”
“Were you in the front seat?” I inquire.
Of course she was. She’s Australian. I feel like an asshole pointing out that most Americans don’t sit up front in taxis or Ubers. Because, in an ideal world, women should be able to sit wherever the fuck they want to in a car. But this is America. Trump’s America…
Around 2:30 a.m., I’m heading down Van Ness. At Mission, two guys flag me.
The first one opens the front door.
“It’s better in the back,” I say.
“He rides shotgun,” the other guy snarls. “That’s his thing.”
“We’re going to Golden Boy,” Mr. Shotgun tells me. He seems less drunk than his friend.
“Must be nice, getting paid to drive recklessly through The City,” the guy in back says.
“That’s pretty much my job description.” I make a hard right onto Pearl and rumble over the brick pavement to Market Street.
“You know where you’re going?” he slaps the back of my seat. “We need ’za!”
“Is Golden Boy even still open?” I check my phone at the light. “Nope.” Closed one minute ago.
They seem dumbfounded by this turn of events. I suggest Escape from New York on Polk Street. But they’re closed, too.
“What about the pizza places on Geary?”
No, they don’t want Geary pizza.
“Where’s home?” I ask.
“So Pizza Orgasmica then?”
As we careen over the hills on Franklin, the guy in back applauds my driving and knowledge of pizza joints. I can almost sense what’s going to happen next.
When we reach Pizza Orgasmica, both guys start to exit the cab.
“Hey, you have to pay me for the ride,” I point out.
“What do you mean?” the guy in back asks. “This is Lyft.”
“Man, this is the furthest thing from Lyft.” I point at the meter, which reads $12.30.
“That’s some false representation,” he slurs. “You’re a real asshole, you know that?”
“So you don’t like me anymore?”
“I never liked you. Dan, fuck this guy. Don’t pay him.” He jeers at me. “Fuck you!”
“Fuck you too, dickhead.” I laugh some more. We’re just having fun. Locker room talk.
His eyes are enraged, like he’s about to get violent.
Dan gives me a ten and a five.
“Change back?” I ask.
“Yeah, change back, asshole,” the guy in back seethes.
Sure thing. Happy to serve. I hand Dan back three singles. Once they’re clear of my cab, I take off. In my rearview I see the guy flipping me off.
It’s stopped raining. For now, at least.
This column elicited some angry reader responses:
In September 2016, Lyft took over the former Bell Plumbing location in Potrero Hill including the “Van on a Stick” that was prominently placed along US 101 right before the Hospital Curve.
Even though the building was vacant for a long wile before Lyft took it over to house their support center, the Van on a Stick was an icon in The City. It’s a shame Lyft decided to paint the iconic van pink and destroy another bit of San Francisco history.
But, as with everything Lyft does, they set themselves up for mockery:
Fuck you, Lyft.
[Original photo of the Van on the Stick from SF Curbed.]
I don’t know if it’s something I did in a past life or my current one – though safe to assume the latter – but I seem to be cursed with these drunken and disoriented millennials. As much as I try to avoid them and the areas where they congregate, somehow they keep getting in my cab.
I had two non-payers during Halloween. Including one to South City. I pulled up to this kid’s house, $32.65 on the meter, and he told me, “I have no money. Sorry. I don’t even have keys to get inside.”
Anyway, this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about a horror ride with a drunken millennial:
It’s almost last call on a quiet Friday night. There’s not much going on. Halloween was the previous weekend, and with the election on Tuesday, only the diehards are out partying …
On the corner of 16th and Sanchez, a young couple flags me. The girl gets in alone. Her eyes are glazed and she’s holding a plastic bag.
An ominous sensation rises from my gut.
Read the rest here.
This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner:
“San Francisco is always changing. So are we.”
While I’m idling in gridlocked traffic on Third Street, trying to get my fare to the St. Francis, I read the advertisement on the wooden barricades shielding the construction at Moscone Center. The statement feels more like a threat than the typical “pardon our dust as we make improvements” disclaimer.
It’s hard not to feel uptight when “change” is used in the same sentence as “San Francisco.”
And yet, you can almost watch The City change before your very eyes — like the weather, when the fog rolls in on a sunny day and wraps itself around the top of the Pyramid like King Kong, or you turn a corner and the wind blows so cold you can’t even remember how it feels to be warm…
If you want to live in San Francisco, you have to accept the flux. And those city dwellers who want the urban life and end up displaced by all this change should just accept inevitability and move along, right?
That’s what an advertisement like the one at Moscone Center seems to be saying. Or at least that’s how it feels in a cab yard, after a long shift, when we’re standing around a dormant barbeque grill trying to make sense of what’s become of the taxi industry.
“I still believe things will turn around,” Colin says.
“Something’s gotta give,” Juneaux points out.
“Ah, fuck this… We’re all doomed,” Jesse decrees as he tosses his cigarette and returns to the office.
“It does feel rather hopeless,” I admit.
“Speaking of hope,” says Late Night Larry. “Have I told you guys the one about the male hooker and the missing $100 bill?”
No one turns down a story from Larry …
Read Larry’s story here.