Tag Archives: SFO

The SFO Casino


When all else fails, there’s always the SFO casino …

On most nights, deadheading to the airport is a gamble. But with taxis sandbagging every hotel, bar, strip joint and DJ club in The City, a Hail Mary seems like the only option.

On my way to the freeway, I stop by Mythic Pizza for a couple slices. Not much is happening on Haight Street. The only customers inside the restaurant are two young ladies sitting at a table having a very loud, profanity-laden conversation about their personal lives.

When my slices are ready, I look for the parmesan, but the container isn’t with the other condiments — it’s on the table where the young ladies are sitting.

I ask if they’re done with the cheese.

“Do your thing,” one says snidely.

Uh, OK. I carry it back to the counter and sprinkle the cheese liberally over my pepperoni slices.

As I’m heading out the door, the girls yell at me:

“Whoa, dude! Where’s our parmesan?”

“What?” I laugh, as if they’re fucking with me.

Their serious faces imply otherwise …

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]


Living in a Dream World


This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about working Salesforce’s annual convention Dreamforce…

On Salesforce Sunday, when 170,000 people descend on San Francisco for Dreamforce, the largest software convention in the world, hope springs eternal in the SFO taxi holding lots. And for once, I’m going to be a part of the action … 

Before embarking on my first, full-fledged attempt to become an airport player, I hover in the shade on Loomis Street, summoning the courage to face the unknown while smoking a final cigarette and chugging an iced coffee. The night before and all that morning, I bombarded Ben and Hester with a flurry of stupid questions. Still feeling ill-prepared, but with the nicotine/caffeine combo surging through my veins, I jump on 101 south, ready to embrace the madness.

As several cabs zoom past me on the freeway, I try to keep up, eventually shadowing one into the garage and through a maze of lines and staging areas.

At first, the whole process seems chaotic, but it’s obviously designed to house 100s of vehicles until they’re ready for service …

From the Entry Lot to the Wiggle and into the Donut, taxi drivers mill around their cabs until whistles start blowing, horns start honking and everyone is shouting, “Go! Go! Go!”

In the Paid Lot, we metaphorically rev our engines and wait for the starter’s whistle. Then it’s show time!

I chase the other cabs down a ramp that leads to the arrival terminals, where passengers stand with luggage.


After my first successful run, I deadhead back to SFO.

In the Entry Lot, Bobby comes over to my cab. I pepper him with a bunch of stupid questions.

“Don’t worry,” he says confidently. “Just follow the cab in front of you.”

A few minutes later, my row enters the Wiggle, but when the Luxor cab in front of me stops, there’s no room for me to squeeze in. Panicking, I look around, unsure of where to go and waiting for someone to yell at me. Nobody seems to care though.

When a driver finally notices my confusion and shouts directions at me, I thank him profusely.

Later, in the Donut, Bobby walks to my window and chuckles. I point out that following the cab in front of me isn’t always the ideal strategy.

“Man, it’s all good,” he drawls.

By the end of the night, with seven SFO trips under my belt, I’ve become a real airport player …


Read the rest here.

[Photos by Douglas O’Connor]

Top: The Donut
Middle: The Wiggle
Bottom: Paid Lot


The SFO Open Lot Feeding Frenzy


What am I doing at the airport? According to Ben this is where taxi drivers go when they’ve lost all hope. As I idle in a long line of taxis, my initial optimism rapidly dissipates.

I’m not even sure if this line goes anywhere. For all I know, it could lead to the exit.

I try to find a familiar face. Someone to ask, “Am I in the right place?”

The drivers around me are focused, collectively champing at the bit.

When the line moves a little, the promise of a paying fare is restored. But it’s fleeting and movement grinds to a halt.

Then the honking starts. Haphazardly as first, until it reaches a furious crescendo.

Why are they blowing their horns? There’s no indication anyone is responsible for the hold up, so what’s the point of laying on the horn?

This is open lot.

Between 12:45 a.m. to 6 a.m., taxis entering SFO aren’t required to pay the usual fee. And you don’t have to wind through the various holding lots that drivers affectionately call the Donut, the Loop and the Wiggle. None of which are as exciting as their names imply.

During open lot, you drive right up to the terminal.

Even though I’ve never worked the airport in almost three years of taxi driving, last Thursday, I decided to try my luck with open lot.

Read the entire column here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

Desperate Times Call for Big Dumb Great Ideas


This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about driving a taxi during Thanksgiving weekend… The good, the bad and the turkey. (Spoiler alert: I’m the turkey.)

There wasn’t much to be thankful for over Thanksgiving weekend, as far as driving a taxi… That is, until Colin came up with one of his big dumb great ideas…

On Wednesday night, I’m waiting outside The Box, a literal hole in the wall on Natoma Street next to Tempest that serves up some of the best late night food options in The City. Potato skins with quail eggs, anyone?

As I smoke a cigarette, two guys approach me. The bedraggled one on my right hits me up for change so he can get a slice of pizza. On my left, equally disheveled, some kid from the bar who just wants a light.

“Sorry to bother you…”

“No worries.” I put a flame to the end of his cigarette. “It’s a little weird asking people for things in an alley.”

Next thing you know, we’re talking politics.

“But Hillary’s a bitch!” he declares at one point.

“What’s she ever done to you?” I ask with a condescending chuckle. He’s 27 years old and didn’t even vote.


“Look, the presidential election isn’t a popularity contest. You’re voting for an agenda.”

Like a bell signaling the end of a round, Dre calls out my name from behind the counter. I’m as ready for my food as I am to end this conversation…

I skipped work on Thursday. I was dubious about Friday too, but I did better than I assumed…

Saturday night, out of the sloshed fields of the Mission, I manage to get a decent ride to the Green Tortoise. Three English dudes from Brighton. One of whom forgot his ID.

“Look at him though,” the guy in the middle says. “He’s practically a gaffer. And his jokes are shit. Listen.”

“What did zero say to eight?” the guy asks. “Nice belt.”

Apparently, his bad jokes weren’t persuasive enough to get him into many bars.

They want me to tell my best one liners as we drive to North Beach, but instead I tell them about a ride I had on Friday night…

Around 9 p.m., I’m in the black. First up at the Hilton taxi stand. I’m smoking and talking to some other cab drivers when a guy with luggage walks up.


“Let’s go!” I throw his bags into the trunk.

Before I even make the corner he tells me in a thick accent, “My plane’s leaving in an hour. Do you think we can still make it?”

“We’ll make it,” I say.

The entire way to the airport, he’s freaking out that he’s going to miss his flight.

“Relax,” I keep saying. “It’ll be okay. By the way, are you carrying marijuana?”

“None at all. Why?”

“You reek of weed.”

“Oh, I’ve been trimming all week. It must be on my clothes.”

I continue to assure him that he won’t miss his plane, neglecting to mention that he’s probably going to get flagged in security. The smell of pot is so strong I’m practically getting a contact buzz.

At SFO, the United terminal is jam-packed. I make some questionable maneuvers to get close enough to drop him off. He hands me three $20 bills. “Keep it.”

“Run like the wind!” I yell after him…

“You think he made it?” one of the Brighton kids ask me.

“No, he probably end up getting anally probed.”

We all laugh.

“That’s so like a trimmer,” one of the guys says.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Do we seem like trimmers?”

“I don’t really judge.”

“Well, we are.”

“That’s cool.”

“We just changed our clothes before we went out.”

“Good job, cause you guys just reek of booze.”

“That was our plan all along.”

“Now that’s funny.”


Read the actual column here.


Being at the right place at the right time…


It’s a quiet night. I’m close to my nut, but still in the red at 10 p.m. After dropping off near Telegraph Hill, I meander through the Wharf and North Beach, fighting off competing taxi drivers who try to usurp my pole position down Columbus. At Pacific, I cut over to Powell, for no other reason than I don’t usually take Powell.

At Clay Street, a man and a woman with suitcases flag me. I pop the trunk. Since I’m blocking traffic, I stay behind the wheel and let the man do the heavy lifting.

I’ve long since given up the notion that luggage means an airport ride, so I’m not surprised when the woman asks, out of breath, “Can you take us to 100 California?”

Read the rest of this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner here.