Tag Archives: taxis

The Hooligans of Market Street

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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.

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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.

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At 2 a.m., there’s only one Jack in the Box

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“Taxi!”

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.

“Taxi!”

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.”

“On Sutter?”

“Two blocks. Fuck him.”

“Yeah, fuck him.”

Read the rest in the condensed version here.

[image by Christian Lewis]

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The Fiat Taxi That Never Was

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Fiat 850 City Taxi Concept, 1968.

The work of Autonova caught the attention of Fiat designer and engineer Dante Giacosa who commissioned Pio Manzù to design this compact prototype for a taxicab with “limited external dimensions, accessibility, visibility, manageability, security and recognizability.”

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The prototype which was built in 1968 and exhibited at the Turin Motor Show had one long sliding door on the right and a normal opening door for the driver on the left. It could seat three passengers but was a mere 10.5 feet long.

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[source]

Oh, those bad, sleazy taxi medallion owners…

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This discussion with Bradley Tusk, an Uber advisor, about how Airbnb is making mistakes in how they deal with local governments by suing San Francisco over the enforcement of legislation they helped create was somewhat interesting… I was just starting to think this Tusk guy was smart and then he mentions the medallion system and it’s obvious he has no clue how the taxi industry works, just talking out of a hole in his ass.

Tusk may know about tech and VC speculation, but he knows shit about the taxi industry.

Medallion holders are the working class stiffs, you fucking asshole. The owners of the cab companies may be scum, or just ignorant old men, but it’s a sign of the rampant arrogance of Uber to discuss things like taxi medallions with no understanding of them whatsoever. 

As always, tech reporting fails to be real journalism…

Click bait: the new normal:

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Poor George: The Other Uber Driver

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While cruising through the Duboce Triangle, I get a request on Market Street. Pick up a middle-aged tourist guy and his twenty-something daughter. They’re in town from Texas. Ron and Lisa. They ask if I know George.

“Who?”

“George was our other Uber driver before you,” Ron tells me.

“I don’t really know any other drivers,” I say. “We basically stay in our cars.”

“George drives for Uber to support his wife and three kids,” Lisa says. “He never has time to even see them because he drives all the time. Not like you. You’re probably just doing this to support your marijuana habit.”

“What’d you say?” I ask with an uncomfortable laugh.

She doesn’t reply.

“Poor George,” Ron goes on. “He probably saw us together, father and daughter, and felt jealous of our close relationship.”

Lisa scoffs. “Well, looks can be deceiving.

Ron keeps making small talk with me. They’re Airbnbing a place in Telegraph Hill. Spent the day going around town drinking and shopping. I’m taking them to the Macy’s on Union Square where Lisa saw a purse she liked earlier but didn’t buy.

“It’s a tote!” she clarifies.

Traffic around Union Square is always the perfect example of a clusterfuck. On Saturdays, it’s the epitome of a clusterfuck.

I point out the traffic when we’re two blocks away.

“Don’t worry about it,” Ron tells me. “We’re in no hurry. Long as the purse is still there.”

“It’s a tote!”

Five minutes later, about a block away from Macy’s, I tell him, “It’s gonna take forever to get there with all this traffic. Macy’s is right there.”

I point at the giant sign looming over the street.

“I suppose we can walk one block,” Ron says. “Maybe hit up this place over here… Johnny Foley’s.” He reads the sign on the Irish pub across the street.

I take a left on Powell and a right on Ellis. Go offline and drive away from downtown as quickly as possible. I’ve made the mistake of trying to get rides downtown on a Saturday before. Never again. Let the cab drivers have the business. They can take all of downtown as far as I’m concerned. Since all the one-way streets are split into taxi and bus lanes, it’s designed for cabs anyway, not regular cars.

I go back online after I cross Van Ness. Pick up a guy going to the Haight. Drop him off and track down a woman with an accent and her gentleman friend.

“Oh, is this your bag on the seat?” she asks.

“Bag?”

I reach around. It’s a paper shopping bag from a boutique. Look inside. See a scarf and a flask. Instantly realize that girl Lisa must have left it behind. I remember she had several bags when she got in.

“I know who this belongs to,” I say.

“What’s in the bag?” asks the gentleman. “Lingerie?”

“No, a scarf.”

“Boring. ”

I drop them off in the Mission and email Uber. Parked on 24th, I look through the bag for the receipts to see if it has her name on them. There’s a stuffed porcupine and a swimsuit bottom as well as the scarf and flask. About $100 worth of stuff. I feel bad. She must be freaking out. She seemed too uptight not to have a cow over losing her hard-earned purchases.

Oh well. There’s a link on the confirmation email from Uber to click if you think you might have lost something in a car. Perhaps she’ll notice it when she realizes she’s one bag short.

I put the bag in my trunk. Smoke a cigarette. I’m about to go back online when my phone rings. The generic Uber number.

“Is this Kelly?”

“Yeah, Lauren?”

“Lisa.”

“Right. I have your bag.”

“Oh, thank god!”

I get her address in Telegraph Hill and her phone number, just in case. “I’m in the Mission, so it’ll take a little while to get there. I have to drive all the way across town.”

“That’s fine.”

I take Cesar Chavez to Guerrero, cruise to Market Street, down to Franklin, up and over Pac Heights to Broadway, through the tunnel and into Chinatown. I forget to turn on Powell, so I have to circle around on Kearney to Columbus. My phone rings. It’s Lisa.

“Just checking to make sure you didn’t get lost.”

Uhmmm… Is that another stoner crack?

“Sorry. It took a while to get to North Beach from the Mission. I’m just a few minutes away.”

Slowly, I head up the hills, dodging several rambunctious taxis and maneuvering around lost tourists.

Lisa meets me outside the apartment building.

“Nice view you got here,” I say. Take the bag out of my trunk.

Lisa thanks me and hands me a folded ten dollar bill.

I acknowledge the tip. “Happy to help.”

Ten’s alright, I think as I make a five point conversion out of the dead end. A twenty would have been even better…