Author Archives: piltdownlad

About piltdownlad

S.F. Examiner columnist, author, zine maker, LA native exiled in Oakland, aspiring luddite, proud papa.

Uber/Lyft Drivers Behaving Badly: Blocking Traffic

VIDEO: In this first video, we have an Uber/Lyft driver doubleparked on Van Ness Ave (Hwy 101) waiting for his passenger to arrive. Nothing new there, but this driver is next to a massive open parking space, in which two Priuses could fit. Why doesn’t he pull to the curb instead of inconveniencing other drivers? Because what they’re doing is obviously more important than what anyone else needs to do.

In this second video, the passenger has finally arrived and gets into the backseat, but the driver continues to block traffic, obviously screwing around with the GPS. Since they’ve already been blocking a lane of traffic on one of the most congested streets in the city for several minutes, why stop now? As anyone who drives in San Francisco knows, that’s the Uber/Lyft way. You’re just not a true Uber/Lyft driver unless you’re inconveniencing as many people as possible while doing your “job.”

While the Prius in this third video looks identical to the previous one, it’s actually a second Uber/Lyft driver following in their equally inept footsteps. Except this one has pulled slightly into the open parking space. Not enough to actually allow vehicles access that lane of traffic – again, on Van Ness, a major artery in the city – but you know… I guess it’s the thought that counts.

All this happened within a few minutes, after I’d grabbed a coffee at the Philz on Van Ness, between Turk and Eddy.

Listen to “Now She’s Shy” by Late Night Larry

marty-fire-national-bbq

AUDIO: Another Late Night Larry story recorded at the National barbecue … With chatter in the background from Daniel the Chef, Colin, Juneaux and myself…

So it’s Sunday night and there isn’t anybody anywhere and I pick up this couple. The guy’s in leather and the girl had a miniskirt…

“Hey, cabbie! You mind if I fuck this chick in the back of your cab?”


[photo from the National barbecue – Marty in the foreground next to the bonfire with Larry and Colin behind him]

Watch Toler Make Taxi Driving Great Again

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.

NOW …

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.

ANYWAY …

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…

Listen to Late Night Larry Talk about “The Picky Couple”

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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…'”


 

The Billboard Heard Around the City

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“Build the wall on the internet and make Russia pay for it.”

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

 

 

Burning Down The House

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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.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]