Tag Archives: taxi

My Kind of Passenger

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It was one of those nights, when you’re out late, chasing ghosts all over The City, even though the streets are as empty as the backseat of your cab, and there’s nothing left to do but follow the faint glow of your headlights and hope for the best, despite knowing you should just head to the yard, pay your gate and call it a night, because at 3:30 a.m., if your luck hasn’t changed for the better, it probably never will…

After one last circle through Union Square, I take Mason down to Market. Waiting for the light at Fifth Street, two Yellow cabs blow past me, toplights blazing. I hit my turn indicator. At least Soma is one neighborhood closer to the Bayview.

Like an apparition, she appears from behind a plume of steam billowing from the grates in the middle of the street. She walks straight towards me.

“You available?” she asks through the half-cracked window.

“Yeah.” I quickly unlock the doors.

“I was going to call an Uber,” she says, once inside. “But… you probably don’t want to hear about that.”

“Where you heading?”

“Redwood City. I’ll have the address for you in a second.”

I hit the meter and head towards the freeway. Guess I was wrong about that whole luck thing.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

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The First Three Issues of Behind the Wheel

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Ladies and gentlemen!

Here’s an offer that can’t beat!

The first three issues of Behind the Wheel together for $15 postpaid!

That’s 3 zines, 5 bucks each, and free shipping.

ORDER HERE

With over 180 illustrated pages of misadventures, discoveries and altercations, you can experience the harrowing and raucous trajectory of a confused yet weary Lyft driver turned disgruntled Uber driver then freewheeling taxi driver working the streets of San Francisco.

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Plus, stickers!!!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – ORDER NOW – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Need more convincing?

This is what people have written about Behind the Wheel:

behind-the-wheel-three-issuesBehind the Wheel #1 was reviewed favorably in Razorcake Magazine:

Clocking in at fifty-six pages of pure text, Dessaint’s accounts offer a unique perspective to these rideshares that many people forget: the driver’s point of view. I found myself worried that overly drunk riders would vomit in his car; I cringed when a couple used his backseat as their own personal makeout haven; and I clenched my teeth while reading the conversations between tech bros and conservative republicans. I commend Dessaint for his ability to navigate the waters, as these situations all seemed like torture to me. Above all, Dessaint is inarguably enamored with the idea of San Francisco: the art, the culture, the history. Yet, his experiences tell tales more of frustration with what the city has become in recent years, rather than the happiness of being in the city he’s always loved. He and his wife live in nearby Oakland, as they cannot afford to live within San Francisco due to the influx of tech workers raising rent prices. The fact that his dream city is still a bridge away is a source of bitterness for Dessaint. I’ll drive myself around, thank you. –Ashley Ravelo

btw1-dark-difficult-guss-dolanreview of the first two issues by V. Vale: 

If our future looks like San Francisco, what with its impossibly sky-high rents, employment at Google/Twitter et al for the 1%, and the rest of the population grimly hanging on to “real” jobs or trying out the “freelancer economy” working for Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Airbnb and other “disruptive” start-ups… one thing is certain: “real” workers are gonna get royally screwed. It’s almost as if the 20th-century advances of labor unions, more economic justice, widespread health care, are already becoming a dimly-remembered mirage […] We wondered, “If Jack London or George Orwell were alive today, what would they think of the recent headline “Being Ubered: The Unstoppable Rise of the Freelance Economy”? UNSTOPPABLE? Don’t we still have a government with a SPINE?!? Government is our only defense against the rise of the New Economy Wreckers/Law-Breakers of Civilization. We say (again): spending money is a political act. […] Send writer/publisher Kelly Dessaint cash, money order or trade for these 2 brimful-of-“truth” publications.

zine-rack-city-lights-taxi-behind-wheelRazorcake also had some nice things to say about Behind the Wheel #3: 

In this third volume of Behind the Wheel, our author/driver has gone from Uber, to Lyft, to now taxi driver. This series is an inside look at what it’s like to be a Bay Area driver. We meet passengers seeking drugs, sex—and more often than not inebriated—and mistaking the poor taxi driver as a Lyft or Uber. I especially loved the guest stories from “Late Night Larry” because they involved either passengers who puked and had to pay up (a hundred dollar fee!) or wanted to have sex in his car, to which he seemed okay with either? The life of a cab driver doesn’t seem like something I’m brave enough to take on, but I certainly appreciate those who can do it, and the craziness that they encounter every day! –Tricia Ramos

bound_togetherA positive review of Behind the Wheel #3 appeared in Broken Pencil magazine: 

Dessaint loves his city of San Fran but he’s seen it with its makeup off. He’s lost count how many times a young girl has gotten into his cab and passed out because she’d been roofied. Part of his vocation is keeping those young women safe. The taxi industry often runs hand in hand with passengers who use intoxicants, sex workers, and people coming back from good (and bad) dates. Watching Dessaint navigate these worlds while keeping his personal code makes for very entertaining reading.

zine-rack-thrillhouse-records-punk-diy-taxiAs with any vocation, Dessaint recognizes that his career does not exist in a vacuum. He comes from a long line of cabbies whom he respects and admires. Every Sunday he goes to the cabbie BBQ in the junkyard by the cab station. He hears and tells stories, gathers advice and shoots the shit. Throughout the zine he splices in stories told by a veteran cabbie, Late Night Larry. They are some of the funniest tales in the zine. Dessaint writes strong narratives and convincing arguments against Uber/Lyft. As a result, I’m now done with Uber and I hope to be lucky enough to ride in Dessaint’s cab one day. (dustan j. hlady)

btw2-zine-lyft-uber-san-franciscoMore praise for Behind the Wheel #1: 

I read this zine in one sitting, but don’t let that fool you; this is a text heavy zine. The zine has over 50 pages of Kelly’s experiences as a Lyft driver. As Kelly tells us stories about the people he meets, you also learn more about him as a person. I like how he handles his shit. He seems like a cool and nice guy. I appreciate like how neat and clean the zine is made, as I can’t stand sloppy zines.

Even more:

needles-and-pens-zines-idrivesf-01In most of Kelly’s other zines he is what is changing; in Behind the Wheel, San Francisco is what is changing. Kelly moves from LA to the Bay area and quickly finds that the SF he knew has disappeared. He begins working for Lyft, a social media ride sharing business. He documents his life as a modern day cab driver and those he shuttles around the city he can’t afford to live in. Tech companies are one of the reasons SF has changed and yet Lyft is one of those companies. Kelly recognizes the inherent conflict and the potential for being part of the problem. This zine very much captures a time and place and shows changes technology and social media have created.

my-other-car-is-a-taxicab-stickerAnd more

I love insider information! Like, anything that starts with “Confessions of…” I’m probably going to read. Behind the Wheel is a taxi-cab confessional of sorts, from the driver’s perspective. Kelly goes behind the pink mustache and shares the highlights and woes of being a Lyft driver. Whether he’s talking about how he learned the streets of San Francisco instead of relying on GPS, or griping about the stench of alcohol and cigarettes some passengers leave wafting through his car, Kelly’s laid-back style is engaging and readable. Best of all, he recounts passengers’ thoughts about the influx of “brogrammers” and other techy people into San Francisco. This makes Behind the Wheel a slice-of-life snapshot at the height of Tech Boom 2.0. Plus, he weaves in stories about his own life, letting us get to know our narrator better. When his soundtrack (like Bad Brains and Iggy Pop) plays in your head, it helps to beat down that dread you feel when he gets pulled over. At 54 pages, this zine is rich in detail and well-worth reading. Let Kelly give you a Lyft!

Alright, I’m done. Just buy the damn zines already!

And if you don’t do the online thing, you can find them at most bookstores around San Francisco and the East Bay. (If you couldn’t already tell from the photos.)

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The Man Behind the Madness

 

This week’s column is about one of the unsung heroes, and soon to be casualties, of the taxi industry: the window man.

On Saturday morning, I turn in my cab around 7 a.m. Before making the long trek to the 24th Street BART station, I hang around the National office, chatting with Jesse about the corner market he recently bought on Silver and Cambridge. While it wasn’t in the greatest shape when he took over, with the help of his sons, they’ve cleaned the place up, started carrying fresh produce, stocking craft beer and reopened the deli. Business is booming.

“So … how much longer are you gonna stick around this dump?”

Read the rest here.

Stranger than Fiction

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This week’s I Drive S.F. column for the S.F. Examiner is about the other side of San Francisco, the one you don’t see from an Uber/Lyft – the taxi side of The City … 

“Since they’re spoon-fed ride requests, Uber/Lyft drivers don’t have to troll the streets of the Tenderloin at 1 a.m. looking for junkies running late meet up with their dealers before they turn into pumpkins … 

“During my eleven months driving for Uber and Lyft, most of what I documented were studies in vapid entitlement, the occasional comedy of errors due to a technical glitch and jeremiads about the exploitative nature of the business model.

“Once in a taxi, though, things went into overdrive and I charged headlong into the unknown, fueled by a guileless enthusiasm tinged with fear and a thrash metal soundtrack. Each shift came with a variety of misadventures, discoveries and altercations. All I had to do was write it down.

“Although only some of the stories made it into the column, as many encounters weren’t – and still aren’t – suitable for the general reading public. The really wild rides are reserved for the zines, where I have more freedom to describe the sordid and ribald aspects of driving a taxi in San Francisco. But I still have to be careful what’s divulged, to not risk losing my A-card …” 

Read the whole thing here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

Waiting for the Man

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I recently discovered that if you park your cab on Van Ness and Oak at 2 a.m., with no headlights and the top light off, while the passenger in the backseat is looking to score drugs, almost everyone who walks past will try to solicit a ride.

First, it was two guys with suitcases, who seemed to emerge from thin air. Standing next to their luggage on the curb, smoking and laughing, they continuously glance inside my taxi. Much to the chagrin of my fare, a guy I picked up in the TL who told me his name was Cricket.

“What are these assholes doing?” Cricket wonders aloud. “They’re going to spook my guy! Get rid of them!”

“Me?” I ask. “How?”

“Tell them to fuck off!”

So far, I’ve just been avoiding eye contact, figuring they’ll get the message eventually. A few seconds later, one of the guys steps into the street and flags a passing cab.

“See, they just needed a taxi,” I say. Then add, wistfully, “Perhaps to the airport …”

A few minutes later, an old man approaches my taxi.

“Cabbie!” he yells across the street. “Cabbie! I need a ride!”

“Now what?” Cricket moans. “Goddamn it!”

I roll down my window and tell the old man, “I’m not available. Sorry.”

“C’mon! I got money!” He pulls out a wad of cash.

“But I already have a fare,” I explain. “Another cab will come by shortly.”

“Ah, these motherfuckers won’t ever pick me up!”

I try to offer some reassurance but he brushes my comment away with a wave of his hand and wanders down the street.

Who knew this seemingly desolate spot in The City would be such a hot spot for rides?

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

Mr. Judy Gets Clean

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“I’ve been feeling so much better since laying off the drugs,” says Mr. Judy. “I’m on top of my game and totally killing it, man.”

While describing the benefits of a steady diet of poke and quinoa salads in between text messages, I respond with vacant grunts. It’s hard to concentrate on much but the spectacle of absurdity surrounding us.

Traveling eastbound on 16th past Guerrero, we’re trapped behind an Uber/Lyft that stopped suddenly halfway through the block. Even though there’s an open space in front of Katz and vacant parking spots further down the street, the driver just put on his hazards, impeding half a dozen vehicles. Including the 22-Fillmore, which ended up stuck in the intersection once the light turned red. Since the westbound lanes on 16th are clogged with commuters and more double-parked Uber/Lyfts, the entire corridor is on lockdown until the person who ordered this ride shows up.

A salvo of blaring horns does little to dissuade the driver from staging in the flow of traffic.

Finally, Judy looks up from his phone and asks, “Why aren’t we moving?”

“Uber driver.”

“No surprise there,” Judy responds and snuffles twice.

When the light turns green, westbound traffic begins to move slowly. I see in my rearview that the intersection at Guerrero is congested with vehicles that can’t get past the bus.

“These maggots have no respect for anyone but themselves,” Judy continues. “It’s just me, me, me … Someone needs to do something.”

“You’re right,” I mumble, noticing a Sentra in the opposite lane hesitate, giving me a split-second opportunity to bypass the gridlock.

Of course, like most Bay Area drivers, the guy in the Sentra sees my move as an act of aggression and tries to play a game of chicken.

“YES!” Mr. Judy shouts in excitement. “FUCK YEAH!”

Now, I’m not driving like a maniac for the thrills. Besides thousands of hours of experience working the mean streets of San Francisco, I’m in a multicolored vehicle with a “TAXI” sign on top. Everyone else on the road should just assume I’m liable to do some “creative” maneuvering. But I’m also acutely aware that the thought of a hard-working cabbie doing his job is more than most drivers in San Francisco can bear.

As he lays on his horn, flashes his high beams and screams out his window, I careen through the logjam onto Albion.

“That was awesome,” Judy bellows with laughter.

Compared to the pandemonium of 16th Street, 17th is like Golden Gate Park after hours. At South Van Ness, I go left and take 14th to our destination: Best Buy.

Mr. Judy wants to buy a TV. Part of his new, wholesome lifestyle. No more staying out late at the bars, doing tequila shots and playing pool. From now on, he’s going home at a respectable hour to get enough sleep.

It’s all about reaching his full potential.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Shaun Osburn]

Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

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At any time of the day, Market Street can seem like an inside joke among city planners and the wanton desires of the meddling tycoons who’ve exerted dominance over San Francisco since Day 1. Another example of the many laughable aspects of The City that’s so absurd it’s hard to believe the street was designed intentionally, rather than just the result of tossing I Ching coins, or a game of Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe.

From its original inception, Market Street has pissed off San Franciscans. More than 150 years ago, when the citizens heard about Jasper O’Farrell’s plan, they sent a lynch mob after the young surveyor, who escaped on horseback in the middle of the night and hid out in Sonoma until the furor died down.

Lucky bastard.

Good thing they didn’t have social media back then. Otherwise, Jasper would have been forced to change his name and/or live the rest of his life in a cave to avoid the infamy of a simple Google search.

Nowadays, during rush hour, commuting motorists, homeward-bound bicyclists, confused tourists, expeditious pedestrians, angry Muni operators, delivery truck drivers and thousands upon thousands of vehicles for hire all compete for access to the limited roadway. And instead of blaming Jasper, today’s citizens take their frustrations out on each other.

Whether traversing the thoroughfare from one of the many streets that crisscross it from the north or south, trying to reach the Bay Bridge or 101 South or just leaving work downtown for the Castro or Twin Peaks — which is where the street was originally supposed to go — it seems Herb Caen was on the mark, as always, when he called Market Street an “obtuse angle no traffic plan could solve.”

Read the rest here.