It’s been 20 minutes since the bars let out, and I’m just driving around empty. My eye twitches as I try to locate the source of the call reverberating down Sutter Street. I’m exhausted. Since my ten week old has already started teething, sleep is now an abstract concept.
Cater-corner on Powell, a woman is waving. As soon as I acknowledge her, she barges into traffic, prompting me to stop in the crosswalk behind a police cruiser outside Lori’s.
“It’s fucking impossible to get a cab down here,” she says after climbing into my backseat. “Now… where can I get some food?”
“Well, there’s —” I start to take off, but miscalculate the distance between my front end and the back of the police cruiser. Even though it’s just a tap, the cop car jolts forward. My heart jumps out of my chest.
“Anywhere but fucking Lori’s,” the woman snaps.
“Sure…” Fortunately, the cop car is empty. Seizing the lucky break, I drive away. “What about Cafe Mason? Grubstake?”
“Fuck all that. Take me to Jack in the Box.”
As I turn onto Mason, I check my rearview and see a black-and-white SUV make an illegal left off Powell. Oh shit! Did they see anything? My chest starts pounding again.
Meanwhile, the woman is yelling into her phone: “I’m in a fucking taxi! Go to Jack in the Box. Tell your driver… What the fuck do you mean, ‘which one?’ There’s only one!” She hangs up. “Which Jack in the Box … You gotta be fucking kidding me.”
“There’s one on Bayshore and—”
“And one in Bakersfield, too,” she says brusquely, in that distinctive Frisco accent: all daggers, dripping with sarcasm. “Not much good it does us seeing as how we live in Pac-fucking-Heights.”
“Fair enough.” I keep checking my rearview for flashing lights, navigating the congestion of cars and pedestrians in front of Ruby Skye. I pull over next to Jack in the Box, where the sidewalk is teeming with drunken revelers, spectators and hustlers.
“You’ll wait for me, right?” the woman asks, though it doesn’t feel like much of a request.
“Sure.” I’m still preoccupied with justifying my tap and run … It’s not like the cruiser was in pristine condition. If there’s one fleet in The City more rickety than National/Vets, it’s the San Francisco Police Department.
As soon as she walks away, a guy with a pizza box tries to get in my cab.
“I’m waiting for someone,” I tell him nicely through the window. “Grab another one.”
I point towards the row of cabs streaming by on Geary with top lights blazing.
Just then, Hester pulls up in Metro 1557. It looks like he has a load but when the guy goes to his window, he hesitates and wanders back towards me, confused.
“There’s another cab!” I shout as a Flywheel Taxi roll past. “Put your hand out!”
“They’re not stopping,” he complains.
“That’s one’s not a cab. Wait for a second.”
A few seconds later, Hester gets out of his cab and peers into the windows of Jack in the Box.
I join him. “What’s up?”
“I just picked up this girl from New Century who tried to pass a fake C-note. I told her no way, and she got uppity. Said she was going into Jack in the Box to break it and prove me wrong. Left a jacket as collateral. Claimed it was worth $200, but it’s from The Gap.”
“Is she in there now?”
“Nah, she’s probably long gone.”
“So why didn’t you take that guy?” I gesture towards the guy who’s still in the street trying to flag down random cars.
“Him? He’s going to the fucking Marriott.”
“Two blocks. Fuck him.”
“Yeah, fuck him.”
Read the rest in the condensed version here.
[image by Christian Lewis]