Death by Airport

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Originally appeared in the S.F. Examiner on Feb. 6, 2020.

Lately I’ve been trying to avoid the airport. Now that we’re even deeper into the thick of winter, taxi business is absolutely dismal. At SFO, the wait times are longer than ever.

There was a momentary respite from the bleakness two weeks ago when the JP Morgan conference rolled into town, but since then, driving a taxi has been mostly an exercise in futility.

I start my shifts before the sun comes up, canvassing the hotels downtown for any signs of life. Without tourists or suits, though, demand is minimal. You take anything you can get, while fighting the urge to deadhead to the airport.

At least you know there’ll be something decent at the end of the queue. If you’re lucky, that is, and don’t get stuck waiting several hours to reach a terminal.

That’s what happened to me last Tuesday night…

After dropping at the W, I check the TaxiQ app that provides information about what’s going on at the airport, including how many cabs are in the holding lots and how many flights are arriving each hour. Since the numbers look good, I jump on 101 and head south.

Three and one half hours later, I finally pull up to terminal two, frantically hoping for a decent fare. Fifteen minutes later, the starter directs someone with luggage towards my cab.

“Where you heading?” I ask the guy.

“The Marriott in Burlingame.”

Crap. A $14 short.

Fortunately, with short rides, you can go to the front of the line upon returning to the airport. But when I get back, there are seven shorts ahead of me. And only a few more flights coming in.

It takes 30 minutes to reach terminal three. This time, though, I get a ride within seconds, but after stashing the woman’s suitcases in my trunk, I’m dismayed to find out her destination.

“San Mateo, please,” she says. “Poplar Ave.”

Another short.

Disappointed, I can hardly talk during the ride. I drop her off and race back to the holding lots.

There’s only one flight left. And the short line is five cabs deep.

After 20 minutes and no movement, I give up and drive home. Dejected and angry.

This is what’s referred to, in Hacker parlance, as “death by airport.”

Read the rest here.


[Image from the San Francisco Postcard Collection – Street Scenes from Behind the Wheel.]

 


 

 

 

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