The urban landscape wouldn’t be the same without taxis…
Do taxis only serve the rich?
Are Uber and Left really accessible to all?
That’s what my passenger in this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner argues…
“Honestly,” I tell him. “I’d rather deal with more than just one demographic of The City. Uber and Lyft only provide transportation for certain members of society, excluding the poor, elderly and disabled.”
“What are you talking about?” he exclaims. “Taxis are way more expensive than Uber! And if you use the ‘Pool’ option, it’s even cheaper.”
After making a bizarre argument that people who don’t own smartphones can save money on rides to the airport by acquiring a burner at Walgreens, he tells me, “Part of what I love about Uber and Lyft is that they’re affordable to everyone and not just the wealthy. Ask around. Most people could never dream of riding in a taxi regularly. Now, they’re riding in cars — nice cars, too — from their doorstep to work for only 3 to 5 bucks a pop.”
As he continues making privileged judgments about how poor people should behave, I bite my tongue. This guy has no clue what it’s like to be poor. And just because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development makes some announcement that Bay Area households earning six figures are now considered lower-class, that doesn’t mean the spoiled brats who find public transportation beneath them are actually broke. For most working-class folks, taking a cab is a luxury, not a right.
The more I think about his nonsensical ideas, the more my head feels like it’s going to explode. There’s just not enough time left in the universe to explain all the many ways his viewpoint is wrong and fucked up.
Read the rest here.
Like a game of chance, driving a cab requires more than just skill – it’s luck and determination that’ll make or break a taxi shift.
A good side hustle doesn’t hurt either…
This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about getting accosted by a bunch of kids on Market Street. The situation got pretty tense, but I was able to deescalate things and escape harm.
Interestingly, almost two years ago to the day, I wrote a post for Broke-Ass Stuart.com about taxi drivers getting accosted. I found this passage relevant and still applicable today:
As a new cab driver, I adhere to the principle that taxi driving is an inclusive public service, even though maintaining an open door policy exposes me to certain occupational hazards. I know the chances of getting robbed or attacked are slim, but the fear still lurks deep in the recesses of my lizard brain.
It’s been over two years since I started driving a taxi and I still maintain an open door policy. Which means I sometimes get in sticky situations, but the alternative – profiling each passenger before I pick them up – is even less appealing.
With “Hamilton” and “Into the Woods” breaking around the same time, Market Street at 10:50 p.m. is flooded with theatergoers. For taxis, it’s a feeding frenzy. After dropping off a family at the Marine’s Memorial Club, I shoot down Mason for another quick load.
As I turn right onto Market, a girl is standing on the curb with her arm up. Two cabs drive right past her. I pull over.
She opens the back door, turns and yells, “Hey! I got a taxi!”
Upon her exclamation, a group of kids emerge from the shadows and bum-rush my cab.
“Hold up, now!” I shout as they surround me.
The battalion of brats ranges in age, from the full-grown teenagers squeezing themselves into the backseat, to some goofy-looking adolescents pounding on my trunk and climbing onto the roof, to a precocious 9-year-old in the front seat trying to grab everything in sight: my iPhone, the Flywheel phone clipped to the vent, my Square reader and even the dispatch tablet mounted on the dash.
Read the rest of the column here.
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]