Tag Archives: salesforce

From One Soma to the Next

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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.

Taxi, anyone?

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.”

“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.”

“Fair enough.”

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.

“Sure does…”

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]

What Taxi Dreams Are Made Of

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My previous column for the S.F. Examiner ended with a cliffhanger. This one ties that up a bit and extends the theme of obstacles taxi drivers must face… but with a happy ending.

Every once in a while the sun shines on a taxi driver’s ass. 

After getting some leeway from the very understanding Officer Yuen last Saturday night, I start my workweek on Wednesday afternoon feeling optimistic. That night, U2 is performing at the Cloud (née Cow) Palace, as part of the Dreamforce convention. With 170,000 attendees at the annual tech extravaganza, there should be a decent crowd at the arena. Maybe even a few people looking for cabs. 

Just like last year, the concert ends with a traffic tsunami as a massive influx of Uber and Lyft cars descend upon the area and cell networks go down, leaving riders and drivers stranded in the ensuing congestion. 

And just like last year, taxis come to the rescue.

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Lauren Bacall hailing a taxi in Rome, circa 1960

Read the rest of the column here

 

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Brains top Apps at 2015 Dreamforce Convention

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Originally published on September 25, 2015 in the S.F. Examiner

Taxis Come to the Rescue when Technology Fails

Dreamforce, Dreamforce, Dreamforce… That’s all everyone talked about on Thursday, the last day of the Salesforce conference that consumed SoMa and most of The City with a reported 160,000 attendees.

Earlier that week, I was walking up 3rd Street to BART from my friend’s vintage shop in the Bayview when I stumbled into a throng of business-casual rank-and-file with laminated badges hanging from lanyards.

The entire area around Moscone Convention Center was a madhouse. Howard was closed off and the archway they’d constructed over the street was heavily guarded to prevent anyone without a badge from entering.

Traffic was, of course, gridlocked. Sidewalks were jammed. From every angle, advertisements begged to be noticed. Booths were set up on the periphery promoting various tech companies, some with food trucks offering free chipotle burritos and pulled pork sandwiches—for those with a badge, obviously.

I’d heard reports from cab drivers that some conventioneers were even taking taxis. So when I started my shift Thursday afternoon, in a sparkling clean Prius, I had high hopes.

That night, Salesforce was throwing a huge blowout at Pier 70 with performances by the Killers and the Foo Fighters.

The two guys I dropped off at the event around 7pm—or tried to drop off, rather, since 3rd Street was a parking lot and they ultimately had to get out at Mariposa Street and walk the rest of the way—told me 70,000 badge-wearers were expected to show up.

After that first foray into the Dogpatch, it was apparent getting people out of the area when the concert ended was going to be a strategic nightmare. I envisioned a scenario similar to Outside Lands, but in an even smaller, much more difficult to navigate space.

Unlike most tech conferences, the event planners anticipated the need for taxis and arranged with SFMTA for a cabstand at 23rd and Illinois. But there was no way to get that close to the venue. The congestion was impenetrable.

Hey, it’s the thought that counts…

Like the electronic traffic sign on 3rd directing both taxis and Ubers to 23rd… Nice try, guys, but taxis and Ubers are not the same.

Since Uber and Lyft rely on GPS to connect drivers with riders, and since these GPS systems tell drivers to all go the same exact route, from the beginning to the end of the concert, Uber and Lyft drivers were stuck on 3rd and Mariposa like bumper cars piled up on the track.

The SF Hackers, on the other hand, had the game plan all worked out.

Instead of taking the Mariposa exit off of Highway 280, as GPS would recommend, we used the Army/25th Street exit, went down Pennsylvania to 23rd and turned right.

Worked like a charm.

Once I hit Indiana Street, a frenzied crowd greeted me with their arms in the air.

“We’re so glad to see you!” the first group told me effusively. “We’ve been trying to get a ride for fifteen minutes.”

Apparently, even with a 3.1 surge, the Uber and Lyft users were struggling to get rides.

“That’s too bad,” I said, as I flipped around, leaving the trapped Ubers and Lyfts to the clusterfuck of their own making.

I spent the next couple hours rescuing stranded concertgoers, utilizing the dark, secluded streets along the industrial side of Potrero Hill and overriding the “logic” of GPS with basic common sense: always follow the path of least resistance.

At one point, I was racing down Pennsylvania with a full load when I came upon the part of the road that went around a blind curve to 17th. I barely slowed down.

“Are you sure this road is going somewhere?” the guy up front asked, holding up his iPhone. “It says we should have taken a right back there…”

As I made a hard right onto Mississippi and crossed 16th to 7th, the lights of downtown getting closer with each block, I replied, “Where we’re going, we don’t need apps.”

Like having a candle during a power outage, experienced cab driving comes in handy when you just need a ride to your hotel in an unfamiliar city. Even if it is based on such atavistic technology as a taximeter. And a brain.