Tag Archives: tourists

An Accidental Tub-thumper

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In this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner, I pick up a family who’s exposed to San Francisco’s ugly side on 6th Street, AKA, the Dirty Six. Instead of letting them think the worst, I try to help them understand the consequences of the city’s epic income disparity.

As I wait for the light to change at Mission, a bedraggled woman on the corner is flailing her arms and bitching out the sky.

“Oh my god.” The lady behind me gasps. “What’s wrong with her?”

As I continue down, she points out the motley cast of characters hanging out on the sidewalks and expresses shock at the various displays of mental illness.

“How close are we to your neighborhood?” she asks her son. “I’m really not comfortable with you living around all this squalor.”

“It’s not my neighborhood,” he replies with obvious annoyance.

“It doesn’t look safe here at all,” she intones.

“Mom, I never even come down here!”

As they go back and forth on how much danger she thinks he’s being exposed to, despite his protestations, I feel the need to interrupt. Not that I’m feeling like much of a booster for San Francisco these days, but … someone has to do it.

Read the entire column here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

From the Wrong Sex Club to the Right Sex Club

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In San Francisco, you need the right cab driver to get you to the right sex club…

In this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner, I write about getting misguided passengers where they want to go:

I’m cruising down Folsom Street on a quiet Thursday night at about midnight. An arm goes up in front of Powerhouse. I pull over. A man with a strong accent gets in the back of my taxi. 

“Can you take me here?” He shows me his phone with the Google details for the Power Exchange on the screen. 

As I head up 7th Street, I ask nonchalantly, “Not the crowd you’re looking for back there, huh?” 

“Too many problems!” he exclaims. “I’m looking for women.”

“Well, you’re going to the right place now.”

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photo of the entrance to the Power Exchange courtesy of S.F. Weekly

Racing through the littered streets of the Tenderloin, I can’t help but wonder how this guy ended up at a gay cruising bar instead of the hetero sex club he was looking for. Poor communication with a cab driver? A mix up in a Google search? 

Whatever. These things happen. A few months back, I had a similar situation, albeit in reverse, while driving past the Power Exchange …

A guy flags me down and immediately tells me he’s a tourist and has ended up at the wrong place. 

“The doorman told me I should check out Blow Buddies,” he says. “Do you know where that is?”

Of course. I’m quite familiar with the place, I tell him. But instead of assuming that, as a night cabbie, I know where all the sex clubs are in San Francisco — gay and straight — he thinks I’m a regular and grills me on the details. 

“It’s all gay, right? Is it OK to just watch? Do I have to take off all my clothes? Are there condoms available? Showers?” 

“All I know is that, once you’re inside, they’ll explain everything.”

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Read the rest of the column here

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What Taxi Dreams Are Made Of

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My previous column for the S.F. Examiner ended with a cliffhanger. This one ties that up a bit and extends the theme of obstacles taxi drivers must face… but with a happy ending.

Every once in a while the sun shines on a taxi driver’s ass. 

After getting some leeway from the very understanding Officer Yuen last Saturday night, I start my workweek on Wednesday afternoon feeling optimistic. That night, U2 is performing at the Cloud (née Cow) Palace, as part of the Dreamforce convention. With 170,000 attendees at the annual tech extravaganza, there should be a decent crowd at the arena. Maybe even a few people looking for cabs. 

Just like last year, the concert ends with a traffic tsunami as a massive influx of Uber and Lyft cars descend upon the area and cell networks go down, leaving riders and drivers stranded in the ensuing congestion. 

And just like last year, taxis come to the rescue.

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Lauren Bacall hailing a taxi in Rome, circa 1960

Read the rest of the column here

 

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Being at the right place at the right time…

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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.

Selling San Francisco Out of the Back of My Taxi

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This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about taking two tourists to see the Golden Gate Bridge and not being able to find it…

“Welcome to summer in San Francisco,” I tell the two girls from Long Island in the backseat of my cab as we roll across the Golden Gate Bridge, shrouded in a thick blanket of fog. “I swear, there’s a bridge in here somewhere.”

Twenty minutes earlier, when I picked them up on Market Street across from the Hyatt Regency, the sun was shining. It was 6:45 p.m., and I was feverishly trying to make my nut while there were still hands in the air.

Read the rest here.

 

Photo by Jan Pöschko. Available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

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…