VIDEO: Short clip from an interview with Kelly Dessaint, filmed by John Han, about why people drive for Uber and Lyft.
An outtake from Han’s full-length Uber/Lyft/Taxi documentary “Driving for Hire.”
Watch the entire interview here.
VIDEO: So one Sunday morning I’m sitting in the National office after turning in my cab, waiting to make the long trek to the 24th Street BART station, when a call comes in. The person on the other line tells dispatcher Jesse that one of our cabs is blocking their driveway on York Street, just past Army.
“Do you know the cab number?” Jesse asks. “2977? Ok. Thanks for letting us know. We’ll take care of it.”
I laugh. “Fucking Toler…”
Jesse tries to get Toler’s attention on the radio, but it’s pointless.
“I’ll go wake him up,” I say. “It’s on the way to BART anyway.”
After making my way down Barneveld and through the Hairball, I approach Toler’s cab with my phone ready. The above video is the result.
What can I say about these videos of Toler sleeping in his cab?
That’s right… taxi drivers sleep in their cabs. Just like Uber/Lyft drivers.
Should I point out that Toler does NOT represent the SF taxi industry, except as an example of everything that’s potentially bad about it? I mean, he’s a big and burly, bearded and beady-eyed MAGA fan. He stinks, falls asleep at the wheel constantly and he’s been known to yell at people for using Uber and Lyft outside DJ clubs.
Without a doubt, Toler has got to be the worst spokesman for taxis imaginable. Maybe even worse than the mysterious public poopers in the SFO taxi holding lots…
But you know what? Fuck all that “positive optics” bullshit. Yeah, Toler is gross. And the Trump shit is about as dumb as it gets… Still, sometimes it’s hard not to love the chaos Toler spreads across the city.
In this second clip, taken shortly after the first, I’d just walked up 24th Street, kicking myself for not getting Toler to give me a ride to BART – especially after missing my train and thinking to myself, that’s what you get for being a supercilious prick.
Since the next Pittsburgh/Bay Point train isn’t due for another 20 minutes, I wander down Mission Street to smoke a cigarette and – lo and behold – what do I see? National 2977. I get my phone ready and start banging on the window…
AUDIO: Another story from Late Night Larry, recorded late one morning at the National barbecue. With chatter in the background from Juneaux, Daniel the Chef, Old Man John and myself…
“I’m coming down O’Farrell Street and I get flagged by this couple. And from the early conversation, I realize they were husband and wife. The guy says to me, ‘You know, you just look like the kind of cab driver we’ve been looking for…'”
When a bunch of cab drivers stand around talking, the conversation can be like a four-way stop. Everyone waits their turn, but it’s with a lead foot and a rolling stop.
The topic of a recent powwow was the news that a major medical association is moving their convention from San Francisco to Los Angeles, due to its members not feeling safe in The City, citing the blatant drug use on sidewalks outside hotels, the rampant mental illness on display 24 hours a day and the homelessness epidemic that’s only exacerbated by the futile efforts of the SFPD and the SFPW to somehow “sweep” them out of public view. “Futile” because human beings aren’t as easy to hide under rugs and furniture – or in this case, under freeway overpasses – like other things one might use a broom to eradicate …
“Can’t really blame them, though,” Artur says. “I mean, the city has become a shit hole.”
As taxi drivers, we see more than most of the city’s occupants. The average urbanite has the luxury of shielding themselves from the unpleasant realities of city life by not straying from their standard day-to-day trajectories. But when you’re job is moving people from one part of town to the next, it’s hard to avoid certain neighborhoods or streets, or intersections, or corners …
Still, as a way to offer a “no poverty” package, I try to use routes that avoid the more unpleasant sights. But now that everyone has GPS on their phones, you have to be careful not to seem like you’re running up the fare.
So when you pick up at the Orpheum on Market and your passengers are going to the Fairmont, what’s an honest cabbie supposed to do? Take Larkin, of course. Even though you risk exposing visitors to a long stretch of the Tenderloin and can only hope to make it through the timed lights, all the way to Bush, lest you end up stopped for the red at Geary, where the wall of the Motel 6 is one of the local crack depots.
It’s not easy to shield tourists from the madness of the streets. Try as you may.
Then there’s Turk Street, with the outspoken billboard on the corner, connected to the Kahn and Keville tire shop that Herb Caen once called “the world’s largest fortune cookie.”
After Trump got elected, the billboard seemed to reflect the collective despair of all progressive San Franciscans.
A quote from Lily Tomlin was a subtle dig at Trump: “Behind every failure there is an opportunity someone wishes they had missed.”
While the following one, “Where is Mark Felt?” was equally vague, but only insofar as most people had to Google “Mark Felt.”
The one that said, “Build the wall on the internet and make Russia pay for it” is my favorite from that time period.
As much as I’d like to point any of them out to my passengers, you have to be careful, though, in case the person you’re driving doesn’t share your political views. Yes, even in San Francisco. Shit, especially in San Francisco.
Like Artur said the other day, “This city has become a shit hole.”
— taken from the forthcoming zine Behind the Wheel 4: The Thin Checkered Line
This week’s column about driving a taxi is about a week spent not driving a taxi…
One advantage of writing this column each week is that I have notes on almost every shift I’ve driven in the past four years. With this plethora (or waste, some might say) of information, I can generally figure out what to expect on holidays based on previous observations. Such as Labor Day.
Of course, the week leading up to Labor Day is also Burning Man, when a noticeable percentage of the population in the Bay Area migrates to the Nevada desert.
Abandoned in the void are the alleged beneficiaries of the holiday — the workers. Especially those who toil in service, including numerous drivers, who, desperate or just overly habitual, spend the weekend struggling to make a couple bucks on the otherwise empty streets of The City.
Over the past four years, I have been one of those hungry and habitual motorists for hire, albeit mostly un-hired and oh so bored… until the only thing left to do was practice your road rage … Wheelin’ & dealin’
With past column headlines like “Burnt out without the Burners,” “The top light is on but I’m not” and “Hell is other cab drivers,” I don’t need to browse old Word files on my computer, search the Notes app on my phone or exhume discarded Moleskins from the Filing System of Hell to get a sense of the impact that Burning Man and Labor Day will have on cab driving.
[photo by Douglas O’Connor]
VIDEO: Everybody knows that Uber/Lyft drivers come to San Francisco far off locations like Sacramento and even Los Angeles. This particular impact of the “gig economy” has been covered extensively, from Bloomberg to The SF Chronicle and Business Insider, as well as discussed at length in this Uber/Lyft driver forum.
Due to an oversaturated market, drivers need to work long hours to make decent money. So instead of making the long commute back home, only to turn right back around, they sleep in their cars.
One morning, around 4 a.m., I’d just dropped a fare at Geary and Webster when I happened upon this scene. The Safeway parking lot was full of Uber/Lyft vehicles, many of which had sunshades or towels covering the windows.
I’ve seen this situation elsewhere, in other Safeway parking lots, as well at the rest area on 280, just outside the city. It seems that wherever there’s a place to park, there’s a place to sleep.
This one-sheet mini-zine is a preview of the next Behind the Wheel zine, subtitled “The Thin Checkered Line.” The two short pieces here describe in gripping detail the start of a taxi shift, from getting off BART and walking through the Mission to the National Yard, then heading out into the maelstrom of afternoon traffic and people during rush hour.
8.5” x 11” – essentially, one sheet of paper, folded in quarters.
Get Behind the Wheel here.
The Way of the Taxi Mini-Zine
The two short pieces in this mini-zine describe the start of a taxi shift, from getting off BART and walking through the Mission to the National Yard, then heading out into the maelstrom of afternoon traffic and people during rush hour. Measures 8.5” x 11” – essentially, one sheet of paper, folded in quarters. Includes a sticker and a taxi card (selected at random – or you can request specifics when ordering). Postpaid. (Be sure to include mailing address.)
Includes the “my other ride is a taxicab” sticker.*
Or choose one of the following:
“What would Herb Caen say?”
“taxi driving is not a crime”
“kill your smartphone”
“your uber driver hates you”
Get Sticky here.
Also comes with a taxi card.*
(Image selected at random, or choose from one the images below.)
* This is a limited time offer, while supplies last.