Tag Archives: sf taxi

Confessions in the Backseat


Originally published in the S.F. Examiner on June 26, 2019.

I’m rolling steady. One ride after another. For the past few weeks, the theaters have been breaking sequentially, making it easy to get more than a couple fares before the fury of “needs” becomes “possibles” and the crowded sidewalks outside the venues return to their usual configuration as campgrounds for the homeless.

First, the Jazz Center empties out, then the symphony, followed by the Orpheum. Shortly after 10 p.m., I’m taking a guy who works in the kitchen at the Opera House to Webster and Hermann. When I pull up to the intersection of Church and Market, someone on the corner flags me.

“I’ll jump out here so you can grab this dude,” the guy in back says.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” He hands me $12 on $9.55. “Make that money.”

The second guy is going to Noe Valley. The signal is green and the streetcar is still loading and unloading, so while my new fare gives me directions to 26th and Sanchez, I bust a move into the turn lane and make the light onto Church.

“Or go that way, I guess.”

He doesn’t seem that drunk, but after a few blocks, he’s slurring his words, as if the booze didn’t kick in until he was in motion.

“I just saw my brother and… Man, things are really messed up.” His voice trails off.

“What’s going on?” I inquire.

“I love him, he’s my little brother and everything, but … he’s schizophrenic.

I don’t know what to do.” He starts to cry.

Some passengers bring more than a destination and the occasional suitcase into a taxicab. Oftentimes it’s like they’re continuing a conversation they had with their last driver, divulging the secrets they can only reveal to a stranger with whom they’re confined for a brief period of time. In the modern world, where religion is an anachronism, a dimly lit vehicle is the new confessional. And the compassionate driver, a captive audience.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

Wanna Go for a Ride?

Just released: Dispatches from Behind the Wheel: The Omnibus –
The Complete Zine Series about Driving for Hire in San Francisco

A Phony Lid paperback original. Includes all four issue of Behind the Wheel, revised and expanded with additional content. A Lyft Driver’s Log • Notes from an Uber/Lyft • From Uber/Lyft to Taxi • The Thin Checkered Line

Get all the details here.

The Will & Willie Show Live at the Marsh Theater


I’m going to be a guest on the Will & Willie Show on Tuesday, September 13. Here are all the details:

We’d love to have YOU in the audience!

FREE Admission to our Live TV/Radio Show. An hour full of political gossip, insights and laughs from Will Durst & Willie Brown. We had a rockin’ house in August, and things are igniting! It’s the final countdown with 3 more Tuesday evening 6-7pm shows before Election Day: Sept 13, Oct 11, Nov 1.

Don’t miss it!

The Marsh Theater
1062 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Facebook event page

“We pack a lot into one hour in this show…”   -Willie Brown

Our 3-Part program opens with Will & Willie riffing on the news of the day. Considering the Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton Presidential Race, a lot can change by showtime. 

Part 2 is with this month’s guest, Kelly Dessaint, SF taxi driver & writer, who pens a weekly column, I Drive SF, for the San Francisco Examiner. 

Part 3 is a freewheeling Q&A with the audience. 

Your FREE Admission to the Will & Willie Radio/TV Talk Show also entitles you to $10 off tix to Will Durst’s Elect to Laugh Solo performance at 8 pm.

For more info here.

Box Office 415-282-3055 (M-F 1-4pm)


Hope is Better than Nothing: A Late Night Larry Story


This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner:

“San Francisco is always changing. So are we.”

While I’m idling in gridlocked traffic on Third Street, trying to get my fare to the St. Francis, I read the advertisement on the wooden barricades shielding the construction at Moscone Center. The statement feels more like a threat than the typical “pardon our dust as we make improvements” disclaimer.

It’s hard not to feel uptight when “change” is used in the same sentence as “San Francisco.”

And yet, you can almost watch The City change before your very eyes — like the weather, when the fog rolls in on a sunny day and wraps itself around the top of the Pyramid like King Kong, or you turn a corner and the wind blows so cold you can’t even remember how it feels to be warm…

If you want to live in San Francisco, you have to accept the flux. And those city dwellers who want the urban life and end up displaced by all this change should just accept inevitability and move along, right?

That’s what an advertisement like the one at Moscone Center seems to be saying. Or at least that’s how it feels in a cab yard, after a long shift, when we’re standing around a dormant barbeque grill trying to make sense of what’s become of the taxi industry.

“I still believe things will turn around,” Colin says.

“Something’s gotta give,” Juneaux points out.

“Ah, fuck this… We’re all doomed,” Jesse decrees as he tosses his cigarette and returns to the office.

“It does feel rather hopeless,” I admit.

“Speaking of hope,” says Late Night Larry. “Have I told you guys the one about the male hooker and the missing $100 bill?”

No one turns down a story from Larry …

Read Larry’s story here.


What we talk about when we talk about Uber and Lyft


Last week’s column (I’m just getting around to posting this due to working more shifts lately) takes on the hypocrisy of Uber/Lyft users.

No, you can’t be progressive and support exploitation.

Read it here.

And watch D.C. Cab:


SF Taxi Views: Finding Old San Francisco in the New

Sometimes in a taxi, if you squint your eyes just right, you can see traces of what used to be…national-cab-polk-street

Like smoking next to my cab with this homeless guy outside the Hilton in Union Square when a group of tourists fresh off a tour bus offer us their Buca di Beppo leftovers…


Or giving a skanky hooker a free ride from Mason to Polk as she propositions me the whole way and then, after I repeatedly reject her offers for “sexy time,” bums my second to last cigarette and insists I drop her off right on the corner so the other girls can see her get out of a cab…


Or waiting for the green light at Market and 5th next to a burning trashcan, pretty as you please, like that’s just what trashcans on Market do…


Or cab-standing in front of the Gold Club at 2am, only to get a businessman burning the midnight oil who walked down from New Montgomery because he knew he could always catch a cab that late in front of a strip club…


Or hanging out at a taxi driver cocktail party in yard, which is a cross between a hobo campfire and a bunch of pirates getting drunk after a night of pillaging and plundering…


Or driving to Tiburon as the fog rolls through the Golden Gate and you can’t even see the bridge, but still confident that somehow you will make it to the Marin Headlands safe and sound…


And especially, coming back to the city on the 280 after an airport run, taking the 6th Street exit and seeing San Francisco spread out across the sky, not like a patient etherized, but a stately pleasure-dome… an ascetic’s Xanadu.