Tag Archives: taxi passengers

Awkward Casual Encounters

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Originally published in the S.F. Examiner on October 1, 2019.

I used to think nothing was more awkward than pulling up to someone standing on the curb with their arm in the air, only to realize they aren’t actually looking for a taxi, just waving down their Uber/Lyft driver.

The humiliation of feeling wanted one second and then rejected the next seemed to be the epitome of embarrassment.

That is, until I tried casual carpool and discovered a whole new spectrum of dejection.

Casual carpool works like this: passengers who need rides into The City wait at designated spots next to freeway ramps until drivers who need riders to access the carpool lane on the bridge stop to pick them up.

Even though I’ve known about casual carpool for a while, it never occurred to me to use the service until last week. I was running super late, trying to get out the door and into The City. It was almost 9 a.m. and I was looking at spending over an hour crossing the bridge. Most of the backup, as usual, was at the toll plaza.

Faced with such grim prospects, I suddenly remembered casual carpool and practically congratulated myself.

Read the rest here.


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.

 

Confessions in the Backseat

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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.

Remembrance of Things Taxi

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My column for the SF Examiner published on March 27, 2019 is about regulars from the past. 

Regulars come and regulars go. Sometimes the memories of them linger on, long after the final whiff of their stinky feet in the back of your taxi is gone.

The reality is, you can only tolerate so much of anyone’s presence for any considerable amount of time. Not just the guy whose MO was to impersonate a petri dish of party favors doing acid while stoned on another daylong Mission bar crawl.

Although the body odors of long-gone passengers may not inspire much nostalgia, flashbacks of the sweaty-palmed $20 bills I’d shove in my pockets at the ends of his rides can definitely lead to a prolonged search of lost time.

Good-paying customers always have peculiar demands, idiosyncrasies or preferred routes. Besides Mr. Stinky Feet, there was Sir Shop A-Lot and Miss “I’ll gladly PayPal you next Friday for a ride to Oakland today.”

That was my problem, actually, for being too accommodating. And not just with regulars. I’ve been kidnapped by random passengers several times.

Once, forced into giving this visiting artist a tour of The City at 1 a.m. Literally compelled by her local host, under threat of not leaving the cab without one. Since they were so nice about it and told me to keep the meter running, the only charges I pressed were in my Square app.

Sadly, the problem with good-paying customers is they usually make bad-paying friends.

Read the rest here.


 

A Ride for Everyone

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I Drive S.F. column published in the Examiner on February 7, 2019.

In a Yellow cab, you really stand out. Besides the distinctive, universally recognized color scheme, there are seven giant ‘3s’ plastered along each set of doors, along with an assortment of official decals. But it’s the illuminated ad topper mounted on the roof that leaves no doubt what purpose the vehicles serves.

While a Veterans cab is also an obvious form of conveyance, when the toplight is off, they can almost pass for a regular car. Albeit one with an unusual paint job.

That’s not possible with Yellow cabs.

At night, the ad topper shines through the darkness like a klieg light. Even when I have a fare, people will flag me. Or just walk up and try to get inside. Whether I’m loaded or not …

Read the rest here.

New Terrain in Familiar Places

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I Drive S.F. column published in the Examiner on January 31, 2019

Deep in the cut, I play the radio hard. Taking one order after another. Mostly short rides, along with some no-go’s, that push me further into the outlying neighborhoods of The City.

Since my shift began earlier that afternoon, I’ve been loading shopping bags, folding carts and walkers into the trunk of my cab and letting passengers guide me to their destinations through the unfamiliar streets of Visitacion Valley, Ingleside, Crocker Amazon and Balboa Park. Places I know, but rarely worked before switching to Yellow.

So far, most folks are happy to give directions. Except for one lady, who, despite limited English, ribs me for asking her the quickest route from the Glen Park Bart station to the Foodsco in the Bayview.

“You’re supposed to know that!” she responds with a chortle, then leans forward and uses hand gestures to show me the way.

It’s not that I don’t know how to get around, but with a meter running, the stakes are too high for detours. And this being their home turf, wouldn’t they know the best shortcuts?

Plus, deciphering broken English and heavy accents can be even more challenging than navigating new terrain. Especially with streets named Cayuga, Farragut and Onondaga. Or even Jones.

Read the rest here.

You Can’t Go Home Again

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After circumventing the 45 bus, the red carpet on Third Street is all mine. With an eye out for any interlopers who think they’re clever enough to access the transit lane, I scope out the W. and St. Regis for potential fares. At Mission, I see an outreached arm halfway down the block. I flash my high beams and go in for the kill.

“Clay and Battery,” the guy tells me, arranging a bunch of shopping bags on the backseat. “How’s your day going?”

Right as I’m about to respond, a van careens across three lanes of traffic, cuts me off and swervs towards Stevenson.

I hit the brakes and squeeze between the van’s rear bumper and the front end of the car next to me. “Ah, you know… Same old, same old.”

“Wow, that guy almost hit you!”

“Yeah.”

The real tragedy is missing the light at Market.

“Is traffic always this bad?” he asks.

“Eh. It gets worse.”


Read the rest here.

The Sharp-Dressed Kid Takes a Second Chance

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Originally published in the S.F. Examiner on December 27, 2018.

It’s a cold, blustery evening in The City. As I wait for a red light to cut me some slack, a tsunami of garbage drifts through the intersection. Competing tabloids wrestle in the street, while crimson and ocher leaves, plastic bags and stained fast food wrappers egg them on like hype men in a rap battle.

Even though the rain has finally let up, the sidewalks are vacant and most of the bars are quiet. Not much traffic either, which makes waiting so long for this light to change all the more frustrating.

“Come on, signal,” I mumble out loud. “Turn green already.”

I’m not long for this shift. With only fleeting moments of demand earlier that have since become few and far between, I don’t see much promise in the small hours ahead. Or the next few blocks, for that matter.

Should I waste my time circling through SoMa? I wonder. Or take a right and go straight to the bridge instead?

When the light turns green, I make a left.

After finding no love on Eleventh Street, I turn onto Folsom. Outside The Willows, there’s an arm in the air.


Read the rest here.