Tag Archives: sex

Branded Hoodies and Leather Jock Straps

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Last week is a blur. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I thought I could do five taxi shifts in a row. I’m no longer a young man. I have grown weary and paunchy around the waist.

At the time, though, it seemed like a good idea. With the Oracle convention winding down and the Folsom Street Fair gearing up, The City was hopping, and I didn’t want to miss out on any of the action.

The last thing I remember with any clarity is finishing my column on Wednesday morning and then calling Jacob at the National office to secure 182, my regular cab.

From there, things get a little muddy …

Read the rest of this column here.

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2015 Folsom Street Fair proves to be profitable for taxi drivers

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Originally published on October 2, 2015 in the S.F. Examiner

It was a good week to be a taxi driver.

With an estimated 400,000 people attending the Folsom Street Fair on Sunday, business was booming from the start of my shift on Thursday afternoon all the way to Monday morning, when I crawled home from the MacArthur BART station, my mind fried, my bones aching and my pockets bulging with cash.

Thursday started out with epic gridlock in SoMa. My first fare, from Caltrain to Bush and Gough, took 45 minutes and cost $36.

Things just kept going from there.

Friday was even busier. Each time I dropped off a passenger, another fare was waiting to get into my backseat.

“Is some event going on?” a woman asks me at one point. “Why is it surging?”

I want to remind her she was in a cab, thus I have no clue what’s going on with Uber, and while I know we’re all in an open relationship now, some of us aren’t exactly happy about the arrangement. But instead I politely tell her about the Folsom Street Fair, the AC/DC concert that night at the ballpark and TwitchCon at Moscone Center.

“I’m lucky you came along then,” she says.

“You are,” I agree, as we blow past dozens of people flagging me down.

Saturday… I don’t even remember much about what happened on Saturday after I left my apartment, stumbling down Telegraph, unsure if I would even make it to BART without face planting into the pavement.

Everything becomes a blur from the strain of multiple 12-hour shifts behind the wheel, the hassle of getting from Oakland to the National yard in Bayview and, somehow, managing to squeeze in a little shuteye.

Forget about a personal life.

After a while, I’m just a driving machine.

A muscle and a brain.

On Sunday, I start my shift and go straight to SoMa to work the Folsom Street Fair. The annual BDSM and leather subculture fair is the third largest street fair in California, after Pride and the Rose Parade.

I head in on Potrero and then up Division, which is congested. I cut across two lanes of traffic and head down Bryant. Everyone’s turning left at Seventh so I take Sixth and go west on Howard.

There are supposed to be cabstands on Eighth, but once again, I use the same techniques I did with the Dreamforce Gala and Outside Lands. I stick to the periphery—Eighth and Harrison Streets—where I have access to the best avenues of escape.

Folsom Street Fair proves to be pay dirt. And also my gayest—err, I mean, greatest—night of cab driving in San Francisco.

It felt like the old days, when the rest of The City was “Castro adjacent.”

Without a single lull, the rides kept coming and I just kept shoving the money into my chest pockets.

I transport an endless stream of festivalgoers to and from after parties, many zonked out on GHB, some fully clothed, others half-naked, most clad in leather and everything and anything else in between.

Very few passengers talk, comatose from the drugs, cavorting at the Fair and untold hours of dancing.

One guy, who flags me down on Market, spends the entire ride groaning and drooling on his wrestler’s uniform. When I pull up to Park Central, he removes two $5 bills from a striped tube sock. The fare is $12 but I don’t argue. Even though it’s in my best interest to get the hell out of Dodge, I wait to make sure he’s safe. He meanders into Third Street and then onto the sidewalk towards Market.

“You’re going the wrong way!” I yell out my window.

Eventually, he careens in the direction of his hotel.

People continue to pour out of 1015 Folsom long after the 4 AM closing time. I could keep going, too, but I have a 4:45 cab. With five minutes to spare, I hit the gas station on Army and turn in.

Three days of sleep later, I’m still wiped out.

Next weekend is the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, which should be another profitable, albeit exhausting, week of cab driving.

As things begin to look up, though, I think about what Late Night Larry told me as he dropped me off at the Civic Center BART on Monday morning:

“Don’t forget… winter is coming.”

What’s in a Passenger?

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On the Prevalence of Women Drugged Against Their Will in the SF Bay Area and Ending Up in Taxis and Ride-Hails

My column in the S.F. Examiner this week is about transporting a woman who was most likely drugged. As I mention in the column, the frequency of women getting drugged at bars in the San Francisco Bay Area has become way too common.

It’s alarming how many women I encounter who’ve unknowingly had their drinks spiked in bars. No place is immune. Not even the Cat Club, which usually has a very sophisticated clientele.

Recently, I had a long conversation with a bartender who told me, in the 10 years she’s been in San Francisco, she’s been roofied three times.

In the past, I’ve written about dealing with situations like this as an Uber driver.

As a taxi driver I was confronted with a situation out of my control:

A few months ago, a very intoxicated and distraught young lady showed up in the National cab yard. She only had one high-heeled boot on and no idea where she lived, or where her friends went.

A cab driver brought her into the yard out of desperation after picking her up and not knowing what to do with her.

Since the cab yards are in the Bayview, it would have been natural to assume this girl was homeless and/or on drugs, but she was wearing designer jeans, her hair was done up and her nails were manicured.

While she ran around the junk piles and broken down cabs in a hysterical daze, no one knew what to do with her. That’s the problem with a woman in this condition: most men are afraid to intervene because of potentially misperceived impropriety.

But I’m relatively comfortable dealing with super intoxicated women. So I led the girl to the couch in the lounge area and tried to get her to relax. I held her hands between mine and reassured her that she was safe. I encouraged her to focus on her breathing. I reminded her repeatedly that she was going to feel better soon, that this would pass.

Just as I’d finally calmed her down, flashlights lit up the area and three large cops approached. Someone had called the cops.

I got out of their way, but I tried to mention to them that she just needed to go to the emergency room and get a bed with a blanket until whatever drug she was on wore off. But cops being cops, they surround her and begin to question her like a criminal.

When Colin and I left the yard, they had her on McKinnon sitting on the curb.

I guess they were calling an ambulance after giving her the option of going to jail or to the hospital.

That was a hard lesson learned: never call the cops unless you need a gun.

Anyway, the following is my piece on overly intoxicated women passengers , expanded from the original column published in the S.F. Examiner; as it appears in the zine Behind the Wheel 3: The Unexpurgated Columns:

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Not much is happening. Just a boring Thursday night. I pull up to the Cat Club and shoot the shit with Chucky, Liz and John, the stalwarts of the ad hoc cabstand there, until I’m on deck.

As I watch the throng of smokers for a potential fare, I get a Flywheel request for 1190 Folsom: the address of the Cat Club.

Bingo.

A few minutes later, two women approach my cab.

“This is for Gina, right?” one asks me. I nod and she opens the back door, helps the other inside and says, “Make sure she gets home safe.”

I turn around. Gina looks a little rough around the edges.

“Where to?” I ask.

She mumbles something about Battery and Jackson.

As I head towards the Financial, Gina starts to whimper slightly.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“Sure. I mean… Not really.”

“You wanna talk about it?”

She garbles something. Goes silent.

Guess not.

At each red light, I watch her in the rearview gradually keel over onto the backseat. She seems to be sleeping, even though her eyes are half open.

Since nothing about her indicates she’s consumed enough alcohol to be this wasted, I assume she’s been roofied.

It’s alarming how many women I encounter who’ve unknowingly had their drinks spiked in bars. No place is immune. Not even the Cat Club, which usually has a very sophisticated clientele.

Recently, I had a long conversation with a bartender who told me, in the ten years she’s been in San Francisco, she’s been roofied three times. Once she woke up in a strange bed, in a strange apartment, with no clue how she got there. Turned out a guy found her the night before raving like a lunatic on the median at Van Ness and Union. Since she’d lost her purse and couldn’t remember her address, he took her home, gave up his bed and slept in the office chair at his desk. A fortunate turn of events, we concurred.

Unlike two years ago, when Irina met a friend at Kingfish in Temescal for a couple drinks. After a while, Irina felt sick, went to the bathroom, threw up and walked back to our apartment four blocks away. I came home later that night and she was still asleep. Her friend, however, woke up in the emergency room.

Sadly, I’ve dealt with so many drugged women in my cab I’ve become adept at dealing with the nerve-racking process of getting them out of my taxi and into their homes.

It’s always upsetting and I’m usually paralyzed with fear that something I do may seem or come across inappropriate.

With so many news reports about Uber drivers sexually assaulting passengers, it’s terrifying to be in these vulnerable situations myself. Because I can see how easily temptation arises while transporting extremely young girls, especially when they pass out in the backseat of your car in their tiny skirts, with their legs open, or their tops in disarray and their breasts exposed… For a man with little to no willpower or possessed with an uncontrollable momentary urge, these types of opportunities would be hard to resist.

Whenever girls pass out in my backseat of my cab in a short skirt, I don’t look between their legs. Not just because I’m trying to be a gentleman, or that I’m trying to resist temptation. No, I’m respecting a woman’s body and her right to privacy, even in – especially in – a weakened state.

I keep my eyes up. I turn the lights on and roust them from their slumber. If they come to and are cognizant, I make sure they know my eyes are in the rearview mirror, where I can only see their faces. Or at the least, if they’re completely oblivious, I know in my mind that I’ve done all I can do to protect them when they’re helpless.

It’s my job to get people home safe and sound. And that’s what I do. With as much dignity as possible…

So… when I arrive at Gina’s building, I wake her up and ask if she needs help. Once she gives me permission, I open the back door and extend my arm. She stands up and wobbles, but I hold her steady.

As she gains her balance, she swings around and tries to embrace me, giggling. Sensing her inhibitions due to the drugs, I grab the strap of her shoulder bag and slowly guide her towards the building like a marionette. Along the way, she gets more playful and tries to impede the operation.

“Let’s focus, okay?” I tell her. “You need to get home.”

When we get to the front door, I ask if she has her keys.

“Right here!” She pulls them out joyfully.

I open the door for her, but there’s no way I’m crossing the threshold. “Can you make it to the elevator?”

“I’ll be fine!” she insists, though not very convincingly.

“You’re a pro!” I psych her up to make the final stretch into her apartment. “You got this.”

“I’m a pro!”

“Yeah!”

As she’s about to enter the lobby, she turns around and demands a kiss. Just then, someone emerges from the elevator and I’m able to redirect her advance.

“Quick! Get on the elevator before the doors close!”

Gina careens back inside but doesn’t reach the elevator in time. While she staggers back towards me, laughing hysterically, the girl who got off the elevator stands nearby staring into her phone.

“No! No!” I shout. “Press the button again!”

Gina follows my instructions and, when the doors open, she goes inside. As I wait for them to close, she opens them at the last moment to play peek-a-boo.

“That’s not very pro!” I tell her sternly.

Finally, the doors close and I take off.

Back in my cab, I head to the yard. I’ve had enough excitement for a boring Thursday night.

First photo  by Trevor Johnson. Second photo from Night on Earth, a film about taxi drivers around the wold, directed by Jim Jarmusch.

A Power Couple Walks into a Sex Club…

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Her rating is 4.2.

I accept the ride automatically, like I do with all my Uber requests. The ping comes in and I tap the flashing icon on my iPhone as quickly as possible before it expires. I don’t even look at the passenger name. I’m too busy fighting traffic to reach the pinned location. But at a red light, I press the link in the Uber app that opens up the passenger info screen. That’s when I notice Julia’s rating.

In the four months I’ve been driving for Uber, this is the worst passenger rating I’ve seen. Even though very few Uber passengers have five-star ratings, they’re usually around 4.8 or 4.7. So as I approach Hyde and O’Farrell, I can’t help but wonder why Julia’s previous drivers had rated her so low.

I pull into a bus stop, hit the hazards, and look around. Nobody in sight. Maybe that’s the problem. Making your driver wait longer than a minute will definitely cost you a star. In the Tenderloin, two stars. At least. I’m lucky I have a space to pull into. Otherwise I’d be double-parked in the flow of traffic, getting honked at by spiteful cab drivers or possibly rear-ended by a disoriented tourist. I wait five minutes, watching my side mirrors in case a bus approaches. Just as I’m about to cancel the ride, my phone rings.

“We’re on Jones, between Eddy and Turk.  Uber messed up our address.”

A likely story. Probably doesn’t know how to use the damn app. Inputting the wrong pick up location is another way to lose a star.

“Okay. I’m right around the corner. See you in a sec.”

Fortunately, I don’t have to circle four blocks on the one-way streets downtown.  Just take a left at Eddy and a right on Jones. Pull up behind a double-parked taxi. A woman and a man wave at me.  I unlock the doors.

“Sorry about that,” Julia says, as she slides across the back seat.  The man climbs in next to her.

“No worries.” I pull into traffic.  Glance at the cabbie eyeing me wearily.  “The app can be a little janky at times.”

“McCallister and Baker,” the man tells me.  “Do you need the exact address?”

“Nah. We’ll sort it out when we get there.”

I turn right onto Turk and head towards the Western Addition.  I figure they’ll give me the silent treatment.  Like most Uber passengers.  Which, in the ratings playbook, is another lost point.

“How’s your night going so far?” the man asks.

“It’s cool.  How you guys doing?”

“We just came from the Power Exchange,” he says.

“Oh yeah?”

“Do you know the Power Exchange?”

“A club?”

“A sex club,” Julia says with a hint of derision.

I can’t tell by her voice if she’s telling me because they’d wandered in by mistake or on purpose. “Really?”

“Yeah. But it was lame,” the man tells me. “We were the only couple there.”

“Just lots of dudes jerking off,” Julia says. “Following us around and asking if they could join in.” She laughs. “It was so gross.”

“There was that one woman giving a blowjob,” the guy points out.

“Ugh.  But she was so fat and the dude was covered in hair… I had to turn away.”

At a stoplight, I glance in my rearview. They are an attractive couple. She’s made up like a three-alarm fire and he’s got the international man of mystery vibe down pat. In a club full of dudes looking to wank it to people having sex in public, I can see how they would be popular.

“Was this your first trip to a sex club?” I ask, since they seem inclined to converse and I’m curious.

“Oh yeah. And probably the last.” Julia laughs.

“It’s not like we were able to do anything,” the man says. “Whenever we started making out, the guys would swarm.”

“We left after twenty minutes,” says Julia.

“I guess that was something we needed to experience so we’d never have to try again,” the man tells her.

“I mean, if circumstances were different…”

“Oh, sure… but they’d have to be very different circumstances…”

Their voices go lower. It’s obvious I’m no longer part of the discussion. I focus on driving.  Watch for errant pedestrians and wobbling bicyclists. I tap my fingers on the steering wheel at the lights. The Pixies are playing on the iPod hardwired into my stereo, but the sound is barely perceptible. I keep the volume low and faded to the front speakers when I have passengers in the car. Nobody likes rock music anymore. It’s all about deep house, EDM and dubstep, which I had to google after hearing the term mentioned constantly.

When I get close to the couple’s location, I ask which street they’re on, Baker or McCallister.

“Baker,” Julia says. “About halfway down on the right. Next to that streetlight.”

I pull over in front of an Edwardian apartment building and end the ride. “Have a good night.”

“You too. Drive safe.”

“I’ll do my best.”

I rate her five stars. Like I do with all my passengers. Unlike most Uber drivers, I adhere to the philosophy: live by the rating, die by the rating.

I go back online. Head down Divisadero and wait for another ping.

 

Originally published in Behind the Wheel 2: Notes from an Uber/Lyft and on Broke-Ass Stuart’s Goddamn Website

Image by Irina and Kelly Dessaint.