People who ride in the back of unmarked sedans look foolish, as if they’re mother is driving them to soccer practice. Riding in a taxi, however, is part of the urban experience. It’s also stylish.
“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.
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“So … what kind of drugs did you take?” I ask the guy in my backseat. He’s older, bespectacled, dressed in jeans and a V-neck sweater. Has the air of a successful middle manager.
“No drugs. Just weed.”
“Just weed?” I ask, like a dubious parent.
“Strong weed!” He laughs and then goes quiet.
As I head down Mission Street, I think about the possibility of getting so high on marijuana I forgot where I lived …
It hardly seems probable, although there was that one time in college when I smoked a joint with a co-worker and ended up in bed, swaddled in my duvet, rocking back and forth and chanting, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.”
Must be nice, though, to forget everything. Personal and financial problems, the constant tragedies in the world and the possibility of a future overrun with technology straight out of a dystopian movie.
But it seems impossible to escape, what with Facebook and Twitter. My phone is like a needle I use to mainline the distorted fire and brimstone of the 24-hour news cycle into my brain — a speedball of conflicting narratives — until I can’t turn away from the strobe light of information
I’d love to forget all that. Even for just 10 minutes …
Halfway up Kearney, the guy in back leans forward.
“OK, I know where I am now,” he says.
I realize I’ve been holding my breath and sigh with relief.
Read this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner here.