Tag Archives: taxi driving

The thin checkered line revisited

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An Argument on Wheels

The other night I’m transporting a bouncer from The Fillmore to his apartment on Leavenworth. We’re inbound on Post when an Uber/Lyft in front of me hits the hazards and comes to a sudden stop.

I slam on my brakes and look in my side mirror. There’s a motorcycle in the other lane but I seem to have enough space to move over.

The biker, however, disagrees. He beeps his tiny horn and screams at me, “Watch out, motherfucker!”

At the light, I roll down the passenger window to apologize but the biker can’t hear me and most likely assumes I’m just talking shit.

He’s keeps yelling, “Motherfucker! You better watch your ass! I’ll fuck you up, motherfucker!”

It’s an honest mistake, but the guy acts like I’ve committed a capital crime and should be dragged out of my cab and pummeled into hamburger meat on the asphalt.

Now I’m sure the biker’s anger had more to do with the fact that I’m driving a taxi than anything else. Whenever there’s an altercation on the road and blame must be incurred, the easiest target is always the taxi. Not the fucking idiot Uber/Lyft driver who could have easily pulled into an open space to drop his passenger but chose instead to impede traffic since they don’t drive with common sense and just follow GPS directions. They’re not in a taxi, though. Despite the small, barely perceptible Uber and Lyft placards in their windows, they resemble any other vehicle. So they get a pass.

The taxi, though, is the idiot mucking up traffic…

As someone who drives a regular vehicle in the city as well as a taxicab, I’ve noticed over the years how different the two experiences are and how other drivers treat you when you’re driving a cab.

People seem to have this innate hatred of taxis based on the stereotypes that we’re filled with road rage, drive like maniacs and have no respect for anyone else on the road.

In reality, taxi drivers, who log 40+ hours a week behind the wheel, are some of the better drivers on the road.

Along with all the other difficulties of transporting people in an urban environment, there’s the constant disdain from the general public that never once considers the struggles we go through everyday trying to earn a living driving on the mean streets of San Francisco. Which is the topic for this week’s revisited * column…

Read it here.

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* Revisited from a column published last year.

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Random Views from a San Francisco Taxi

Scenes of San Francisco and the Bay Area from behind the wheel:

The Rascally Couple Looking for Late Night Snacks and Adventure

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“Always say yes.”

During a recent Recitation of the Waybill, a bunch of us were standing around the National office as Late Night Larry offered up some of his incontrovertible advice.

“No matter the question,” he snarled. “The answer is always yes.”

I’ve implemented many of Larry’s words of wisdom over the years, but sometimes it’s my own rules that save the day. Like that Friday night when I was inbound on Columbus at 3 a.m., waiting for the light to change at Pacific.

Behind me, the neon lights of Broadway are diffused in the fog like the setup to a Scooby-Doo mystery, while stragglers lurk in dark corners.

Just as the signal turns green, a young black guy and an older white woman approach my cab. Besides the overwhelming stench of booze that’s almost palpable, their eyes are spinning in their sockets, suggesting other intoxicants.

“Hey! You’re cute!” the woman screeches at me. “Can I touch your hair?”

Less of a request and more of a warning, I try to dodge her grasp.

“Let’s not molest the driver,” the guy says with a giggle. “Yet.”

“Uhhh … Where to?” I ask hesitantly.

“We need snacks!” the woman shouts. “Pronto!”

“Driver, do you know where we can get some snacks?” the guy asks calmly, as if his companion’s exclamation wasn’t clear enough.

I suggest Union Square. With several 24-hour diners, fast food and a 7-Eleven, it covers all the bases for late night snack options. And close enough to get this rascally duo out of my cab. Pronto.

Read the rest here.

Driving with My Good Eye Closed

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I might be cracking up. With a 3-month-old baby who’s already teething, consistent sleep has become a distant memory. And while I can usually navigate the streets of The City as if on autopilot, the synapses that control my sense of direction begin misfiring on Friday night.

My previous shift on Thursday was one of those rare occasions when the taxi gods smiled down on me. In the wet and blustery weather, business was booming. By the end of the night, I was exhausted — and not from the usual boredom and angst, but from actual exertion.

It felt good.

With just a few hours of erratic sleep, though, I’m back in the taxi and not feeling very good at all…

Read the rest here.

 

Taxi Driving is More than a Job

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On this, the occasion of my 100th column, I can’t help but feel somewhat reflective. Almost two years have passed since the San Francisco Examiner gave me an opportunity to tell my stories of The City’s streets in 700 words, give or take. While writing about driving a taxi comes easy, actually driving a taxi can be a real drag sometimes. Particularly on those slow, mind-numbing nights, during excruciatingly slow weeks, in painfully slow months.

Taxi driving is more than a job. It’s a form of punishment for all the bad decisions you’ve ever made. Instead of pursuing the 9 to 5, you became an artist, played in bands, wrote books, traveled or just enjoyed life — all the unrealistic distractions your parents, teachers and guidance counselors said would only lead to poverty that somehow became sustainable through driving a taxi. Until one day, it was no longer viable, once some eggheads created a centralized dispatch app, and the cab companies were too busy squabbling over brand recognition to retain any relevance. But in the stupidity of it all, there was still a sense of freedom.

Taxi driving is still the closest you can get to the swashbuckling adventures of a pirate. With no bosses around and no supervisors breathing down your neck, it’s just you, your cab, the streets and the general public. How you navigate those obstacles is up to you. Even if you don’t have what it takes. Thankfully, the meek get lucky, too.

Read the rest here.

Good Fortune is Right Around the Corner

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Now that I think of it, if I could do it over again, the last line of this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner would have read:

“Oh great,” she mumbles snidely as she reaches into her purse. “Lucky me.”

So as to emphasize her visible disdain at having ended up in a taxi.

In fact, the few minutes I interacted with her, when she was conscious, were more noteworthy than I realized last Wednesday afternoon, when I was putting the finishing touches on this column, already an hour and a half past my deadline.

What she actually told me after her address was, “I’ll do whatever you tell me, but I have to sleep now.” Which seemed implausible and surreal at the time. I wasn’t even sure if I heard her correctly.

When she paid me, she dropped her credit card and her wallet, spilling change onto the floorboard, which she never picked up, as well as her phone and her phone charger. I had to get her attention several times to not leave anything behind. Except the coins.

She tipped me 20% and I added the bridge toll. Plus a couple bucks in change -totaled out at a $75 ride. Her Uber probably would have cost a third of that.

I waited until she made it through a wooden gate with a “Beware of Dog” sign. Which seemed odd. Who has a dog you have to be wary of?

Marin County is weird.

Anyway, read the column here.

 

 

Desperate Times Call for Big Dumb Great Ideas

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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.

“Well…”

“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.

“SFO?”

“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.”

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Read the actual column here.

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