This is the full-length version of the I Drive S.F. column prior to the hatchet job that was published in the S.F. Examiner on October 4, 2018 about driving a taxi during the week of Folsom Street Fair and the Dreamforce convention.
Everything is a blur …
This morning, when I wake up to the sound of rain, the week before is a distant memory, even though just 24 hours have passed since I walked from the National yard to the 24th Street BART station and boarded an Antioch train. As we sped from one stop to the next and then barreled east through the Transbay Tube, I forced myself not to fall asleep. It wasn’t easy.
From MacArthur, I stumbled down Telegraph under an overcast sky. The coming storm was manifest in the tepid breeze that threatened to knock me down.
Five long days of cab driving had taken their toll on my body. I was exhausted, almost tempted to let the wind take me – just surrender to the current and drift like a broadside through the streets and avenues of Oakland, hoping not to get stuck in a tree, or impaled on the finials of the wrought iron fence around the Harmony Baptist Church.
In the distance, the sound of heavy machinery from a construction site brings me back to reality, and I continue moving forward. Only seven more blocks to go, I tell myself. Seven more blocks and then sleep …
After taking BART to 24th Street, I jump in a cab, but the driver refuses to take me to the Bayview. So I walk, with the sun directly overhead, peeling off layers along the way.
Once I’m behind the wheel of Veterans 233, I head over Potrero Hill into SoMa, to hunt for Dreamforce conventioneers, easily identifiable by the lanyards around their necks, and the gray backpacks over their shoulders.
I drive up Third Street, glancing at the people standing on the curb, holding
out their phones out like Geiger counters and looking forlornly in the direction of oncoming traffic.
At Market, I take a right and go down New Montgomery. On Howard, a guy yells into his phone, “I’m on the left side of the street, in a blue shirt. Do you see me? No? Where are you?”
Slowly, I meander up Kearney, then down Clay Street into the Financial. Around Battery, a man runs towards me, flailing his arms.
“Oh, I’m so glad I found you!” he tells me. “I couldn’t find a cab anywhere!”
“Yeah, it’s been really busy,” I say. “Dreamforce and all…”
“I’m going to a place called Absinthe on Hayes Street. It looks like you should probably take Washington to – ”
“We’ll take Sacramento,” I say, cutting him off. “There’s a taxi lane.”
“Yeah. Taxi lane.”
While the guy FaceTimes with his wife and kids, I charge up the hill, weaving between the two lanes to circumvent buses, cars turning right and numerous potholes.
“This place is amazing! Check it out,” he tells his wife while pointing the phone at the street. “We’re practically at a 45 degree angle.”
After fighting traffic down Gough and Laguna, I finally pull up to the restaurant. The meter reads $15.60.
“Make it… $42.” He hands me an Amex.
“That’s too much,” I say.
“You act like it’s my money.”
I run his card for $42.
That night, Metallica and Janet Jackson play a concert in Civic Center. On Thursday night, there are Salesforce related events all over Soma. I race from one venue to the next, usually with a passenger in the back.
Once Dreamforce is over, lanyards and business casual give way to leather jockstraps and bondage gear …
On Friday evening, I’m taking a regular to the Rumpus Room on Sixth, cutting down Stevenson to avoid Market. After driving past a guy sticking a needle in some girl’s foot, we encounter a long line of people at the corner. As we get closer, I notice several men have their butts exposed. Which can only mean one thing: Folsom Street Fair has begun.
From that point on, things get blurry. All I really remember are the butts. So many butts. Butts on Friday. Butts on Saturday. And butts on Sunday.
Around 2:30 a.m., I start working 1015 Folsom and Audio. I never wait very long. Once I’ve delivered my fares to their location, I head back to the SoMa clubs.
Eventually, the day begins. The streets downtown become congested with buses, cars and bikes. Bondage gear and leather jockstraps give way to jeans, hoodies, uniforms and suits.
“Sure looks like rain,” people say.
It’s Monday morning. As most people head to work under cloudy skies, I make the long trek home.
Originally appeared in a truncated version in the S.F. Examiner on October 4, 2018.
[photo by Douglas O’Connor]