Casualties of Halloween

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As last call draws near, the lost souls of Halloween wander drunkenly through the late night/early morning fog, in tattered costumes and feeble disguises. And even though my top light is bright enough to guide them out of the thick gloom, nobody extends a hand in my direction.

So I keep driving.

After hunting for fares in the Haight, I cruise up Fillmore. At Geary, a sexy nurse holds onto the side of a building, as if she were taking its pulse.

A few blocks away, on Post, Luke Skywalker tries to use the Force to retrieve his broken phone from the sidewalk.

In the distance, a park ranger chases after a grizzly bear, whose companion is a cheese head.

At Gough, I contemplate venturing onward to Polk Street, and the inevitable shit show. But alas, I don’t have the guts.

Instead, I head towards the Mission, and the usual Friday night haunts.

Read the rest here.

A Very Strange Reaction

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“Hey, cabbie! Can you turn up the music?”

“Oh, sure,” I grumble and twist the volume knob to the right. At least the hip-hop is drowning out the chuckle fest between the guy and girl. I don’t even want to imagine what they’re doing back there. I just keep my eyes on the road and the side view mirrors, grateful it’s a short ride.

“Hey, cabbie! Take Grove!”

“That was the plan,” I say under my breath.

The guy has been shouting directions in my ear all the way from the Travelodge on Valencia and Market, as if there were more than one way to get to Civic Center.

“Hey, cabbie! Stop here!”

I slam on the brakes in front of the library.

“Keep the change, cabbie!” The guy hands me $6 on $5.90.

“Oh, thanks.”

“I always like to support you real cabbies. I don’t fuck with Uber, man.”

“That’s cool.”

It takes a few minutes for them to extricate themselves and all their possessions from the cab. Once they’re clear, I speed away and take McAllister to Polk. I’m still grumbling to myself when the dispatch radio crackles to life.

“Drivers, the opera is breaking. They need cabs on the Grove Street side.”

“Sweet!” I make a beeline to Van Ness and catch the light. Before I can pull into the driveway, where a line of people are waiting for rides, two elderly men in matching black tuxes flag me down on the corner.

As they open the backdoor and the dome light comes on, I look over my shoulder and gasp. The seat is speckled with white powder.

“Ahhhh…” I stammer and try to think of a way to deal with the situation. Do I just say something?

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

Losing My Edge

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Not working for ten days really threw me off my taxi game.

Once I’m finally behind the wheel of Veterans 233 again on Wednesday, it’s a struggle to get my groove back. Everything feels awkward. The seat’s out of whack. The mirrors are positioned wrong. There’s a painful crick in my shoulder. And a fog encircles my thinking.

Can I even still drive a taxi? I wonder. Or was that fever dream last week, which involved negotiating a complicated matrix of Jenga blocks and TV boxes, a harbinger of things to come?

On the streets, I’m riddled with doubt. Each set of cross streets is a pop quiz.

Fortunately, instinct takes over and I manage to navigate rush hour traffic without incident.

Still, something feels off. I’ve lost my edge. Which is a problem when driving a taxi in San Francisco. This job is not for the meek. Without a thickarmor, you’ll get eaten alive …

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

One Step Over the (Picket) Line

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If anyone happened to be surprised by the SFMTA’s recent decision to limit the number of taxicabs allowed to work at SFO to only those with paid medallions and wanted to know how the transit agency could pit cab drivers against each other so easily, you wouldn’t have to look much farther than Powell and Post. Or Fourth and Market. Or Howard and Third. Or New Montgomery and Market.

At each of these locations you’ll find a hotel owned by the multinational hospitality company Marriott International. And, over the past three weeks, you’ll see two things that shouldn’t be happening simultaneously: workers on strike, and taxis in the hotel cabstands, waiting for fares.

Last Wednesday, after picking up Veterans 233 from the National yard, I head out into The City, making the usual rounds. I cruise through the Mission, drop down into SoMa, check on Caltrain and then meander up the Embarcadero to investigate the Ferry Building and downtown hotels.

In Union Square, the picketers outside the St. Francis have upped the ante, making a full-on ruckus outside the erstwhile opulent hotel. Besides the usual bullhorn-led chants, they’re stomping, banging, rattling and creating a spectacular percussive racket. It’s awe-inspiring. But then, spotting a bunch of cabs queued up along Powell Street, as if business as usual, I’m immediately disgusted by my fellow cab drivers.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

Uber/Lyft Drivers Are Committing Insurance Fraud

VIDEO: Short clip from an interview with Kelly Dessaint, filmed by John Han, about the insurance question when driving for Uber and Lyft.

An outtake from Han’s full-length Uber/Lyft/Taxi documentary “Driving for Hire.”

Watch the entire interview here.


 

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

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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]