Tag Archives: shitty drivers

The Goons Come Out in the Rain

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This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about driving in the rain with the Keystone Kops on parade…

The rain brings out the madness normally only seen during natural disasters. After all, this is California, where even the faintest hint of precipitation threatens the already thin veil of civility. And once it really starts pouring … well, then all bets are off …

I’m driving westbound on North Point when an SUV pulls up alongside me, also going westbound. There’s an Uber symbol in the window. When the light turns green, I keep pace, curious when he’s going to realize he’s driving on the wrong side of the road. As we approach Larkin, another SUV is traveling eastbound. Also an Uber. The original SUV, oblivious that he’s doing anything out of the ordinary, even though there’s a vehicle heading straight toward him, maintains his trajectory until both SUVs stop, face to face, and try to determine who has the right of way…

Later, I’m heading north on Sixth Street when I encounter an accident in front of Monarch. A Prius nailed a Porsche. Based on the positions of the vehicles, it looks like one of the drivers made an illegal left onto Mission. The accident is bad enough the cops showed up. As I’m trying to get through the light, a Lyft driver is waiting in the intersection, left blinker flashing. Once the rain lets up for a moment, I pull into the taxi stand at The Palace for a smoke break. Before I get out, though, a woman comes out of the hotel and gets into the front seat of my cab.

“Do you know the bar Kells?”

“Sure.”

Judging by her accent, she’s Australian, which explains why she’s in the front seat.

On the way to North Beach, she tells me an Uber driver had groped her earlier.

“What?” I’m aghast. “Did you call the police?”

“Yes. And I emailed Uber and my lawyer,” she says. “That bastard is gonna regret messing with me.”

“Were you in the front seat?” I inquire.

Of course she was. She’s Australian. I feel like an asshole pointing out that most Americans don’t sit up front in taxis or Ubers. Because, in an ideal world, women should be able to sit wherever the fuck they want to in a car. But this is America. Trump’s America…

Around 2:30 a.m., I’m heading down Van Ness. At Mission, two guys flag me.

The first one opens the front door.

“It’s better in the back,” I say.

“He rides shotgun,” the other guy snarls. “That’s his thing.”

“We’re going to Golden Boy,” Mr. Shotgun tells me. He seems less drunk than his friend.

“Must be nice, getting paid to drive recklessly through The City,” the guy in back says.

“That’s pretty much my job description.” I make a hard right onto Pearl and rumble over the brick pavement to Market Street.

“You know where you’re going?” he slaps the back of my seat. “We need ’za!”

“Is Golden Boy even still open?” I check my phone at the light. “Nope.” Closed one minute ago.

They seem dumbfounded by this turn of events. I suggest Escape from New York on Polk Street. But they’re closed, too.

“What about the pizza places on Geary?”

No, they don’t want Geary pizza.

“Where’s home?” I ask.

The Presidio.

“So Pizza Orgasmica then?”

As we careen over the hills on Franklin, the guy in back applauds my driving and knowledge of pizza joints. I can almost sense what’s going to happen next.

When we reach Pizza Orgasmica, both guys start to exit the cab.

“Hey, you have to pay me for the ride,” I point out.

“What do you mean?” the guy in back asks. “This is Lyft.”

“Man, this is the furthest thing from Lyft.” I point at the meter, which reads $12.30.
“That’s some false representation,” he slurs. “You’re a real asshole, you know that?”
“So you don’t like me anymore?”

“I never liked you. Dan, fuck this guy. Don’t pay him.” He jeers at me. “Fuck you!”

“Fuck you too, dickhead.” I laugh some more. We’re just having fun. Locker room talk.

His eyes are enraged, like he’s about to get violent.

Dan gives me a ten and a five.

“Change back?” I ask.

“Yeah, change back, asshole,” the guy in back seethes.

Sure thing. Happy to serve. I hand Dan back three singles. Once they’re clear of my cab, I take off. In my rearview I see the guy flipping me off.

It’s stopped raining. For now, at least.

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This column elicited some angry reader responses:

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Driving in the New San Francisco is the Worst

Scores Of Travelers Depart For Long Holiday Weekend

As an LA native, I know my way around a traffic jam. Driving in LA is a part of life. We take it seriously. Newcomers have a learning curve, but they quickly get indoctrinated into the LA style of driving or face dire consequences.

LA drivers are like wild animals trapped in cages. If you poke at us with your crappy driving, we will strike back viciously and get you in line. Road rage is the equivalent of an ape throwing his shit at a contemptible visitor to the zoo.

LA drivers know all to well the primal animosity that surges up through your body and overwhelms you to the point of violence when you have to deal with some moron’s shitty driving. I once stopped my car in the street, got out and banged on this asshole’s window for tailgating me when I was looking for parking. The terrified look on his face may or may not have been worth the potential assault charge, but it made me feel better at the time.

As a Lyft and Uber driver in San Francisco, I traverse almost the entire city over the course of a weekend. It’s a small place. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t perilous.

San Francisco’s narrow streets are filled with cars, buses, bicyclists and pedestrians. It’s much more difficult to navigate San Francisco than LA, where the streets are only clogged with other cars.

Many passengers have asked me how I’m able to deal with driving in San Francisco. I tell them it’s like mastering a video game. You’re always trying to get to the next level. But honestly, it’s really not that difficult. The hardest part of driving in San Francisco is Bay Area drivers. They are the absolute shittiest drivers I’ve ever encountered.

I have a list of grievances I log daily in my Moleskin. These are the most egregious examples of horrible driving I see on a daily basis:

1. Asleep at the wheel when the light turns green.

What the fuck? Pay attention! You’re in traffic! Be prepared to drive when the light turns green. Step on the fucking gas! I wanna get through the light too. It never fails, if I’m three cars behind the one at the light, I know I’m not going to make it through the intersection.

2. Four way stops.

Some basic shit here, folks. The first person to stop is the first person to go. It’s not every man for himself. As you approach the four way intersection, pay attention to who gets there first. Look at their wheels. Have they stopped before yours? Yes? Then let them go. If not, you go. Two people stop at the same time? The one on the right goes. Three people? The one on the right still goes! This isn’t rocket science! I know throwing pedestrians into the mix makes it a tab bit confusing. But even though I have to skip my turn to let somebody cross, I’m still in the queue, goddamn it!

3. Merging.

Okay, the concept of two lanes of traffic becoming one seems to be mind-boggling to everybody. Even though, like a four way stop, there is a basic rule: one car from one lane, one car from the other lane. Like folding cards into a deck. Or a zipper. This method keeps the flow of traffic moving and ensures everybody gets where they’re going without creating complete chaos. It’s fair and it’s the fucking law. But while drivers in every city fuck this simple method up, I have never seen cars in a merging lane perpendicular to traffic until I started driving in the Bay Area. East Bay drivers in particular seem to treat merge lanes as a free-for-all. And nobody respects a solid line! Solid means you can’t change lanes, asshole!

4. Double parking.

Sure, they’re nowhere to park in San Francisco and when you’re driving for hire, you have to pull over to pick people up and let them out in awkward situations all the time. But there are certain streets, namely the arterial thoroughfares, where double parking is not just impractical, it completely interrupts the flow of traffic. And yet it’s completely avoidable. Pull into a driveway. Let the person out on the corner. Do ANYTHING but don’t STOP in the middle of the street. Arterial thoroughfares are the closest things to freeways in San Francisco. They are the quickest ways to cross the city. So don’t fuck it up for everybody else because you can’t be bothered to find a safe place to pull over.

5. Blocking intersections.

Again, it’s a simple rule of the road: if the car in front of you has not cleared the opposite crosswalk, don’t enter the intersection. You are going to block opposing traffic. Do you enjoy feeling like an asshole stuck in the middle of the intersection as traffic backs up waiting for you to move? You know everyone hates you, right?

6. Changing lanes on the freeway.

Do you really think that changing into the lane that is moving slightly more than the one you’re already in will get you where you’re going faster? If so, you’d be wrong. And an idiot. Once you and all the other moronic drivers move into that lane, it will slow down the rest. There is no escape! Just accept the futility of traffic and don’t make it worse for the rest of us!

Those are the top six grievances. I could go on and on. Believe me…

I swear, the only thing worse than driving in San Francisco is dealing with San Franciscan pedestrians.