Tag Archives: tourists

An Ambassador on Wheels

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My column for The S.F. Examiner published on Nov. 15, 2018 …

Outside the Hyatt Regency, an Amtrak Thruway Coach idles in the bus stop, leaving just enough room for me to pull into the cabstand. A few seconds later, an elderly man approaches my cab.

“We need a taxi,” he tells me. “Can you drive us?”

In the side mirror, I notice suitcases. With a Thruway Coach on the scene, though, it’s unlikely they’re going to the airport.

While stowing the luggage, I ask for their destination.

“Travelodge. 1707 Market.”

The husband and wife are from a small town in New Jersey and plan to spend a week in San Francisco. To see the sights. But mostly to shop.

As we roll down Market Street, they stare out of the windows, marveling at the grandeur of The City. I go into tour guide mode.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

No Skin off the Meter

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This week’s column for The Examiner is about making money off cold tourists … 

Each afternoon, when the summer fog rolls into The City, so thick it casts a shadow and blots out the skyscrapers downtown, I start looking for cold tourists.

Depending on my location, I prowl the usual hotspots: Fisherman’s Wharf, The Castro, Upper Haight, etc.

Clad in t-shirts, shorts and miniskirts, the shivering out-of-towners are always grateful to see a taxi emerge from the monolithic gloom. And I’m happy to be of service.

The best rides begin with a sense of mutual appreciation. Just as they’re relieved to escape the frigid mist, I’m thankful that plenty of people still come here expecting to find the same weather they left behind in Houston or Atlanta.

It allows me to trot out the frequently misattributed quote about the coldest winter… which pretty much guarantees a laugh. Does it even matter who actually coined the phrase? Or that many folks leave San Francisco thinking they got a ride from the wittiest cab driver around?

Besides entertaining my passengers with anecdotes about weather for manic depressives and bumbling the science behind the omnipresent fog in July and “Fogust,” I take advantage of any opportunity to sell San Francisco out of the back of my taxicab by suggesting a detour. Or two.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Trevor Johnson]

An Accidental Tub-thumper

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In this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner, I pick up a family who’s exposed to San Francisco’s ugly side on 6th Street, AKA, the Dirty Six. Instead of letting them think the worst, I try to help them understand the consequences of the city’s epic income disparity.

As I wait for the light to change at Mission, a bedraggled woman on the corner is flailing her arms and bitching out the sky.

“Oh my god.” The lady behind me gasps. “What’s wrong with her?”

As I continue down, she points out the motley cast of characters hanging out on the sidewalks and expresses shock at the various displays of mental illness.

“How close are we to your neighborhood?” she asks her son. “I’m really not comfortable with you living around all this squalor.”

“It’s not my neighborhood,” he replies with obvious annoyance.

“It doesn’t look safe here at all,” she intones.

“Mom, I never even come down here!”

As they go back and forth on how much danger she thinks he’s being exposed to, despite his protestations, I feel the need to interrupt. Not that I’m feeling like much of a booster for San Francisco these days, but … someone has to do it.

Read the entire column here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

From the Wrong Sex Club to the Right Sex Club

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In San Francisco, you need the right cab driver to get you to the right sex club…

In this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner, I write about getting misguided passengers where they want to go:

I’m cruising down Folsom Street on a quiet Thursday night at about midnight. An arm goes up in front of Powerhouse. I pull over. A man with a strong accent gets in the back of my taxi. 

“Can you take me here?” He shows me his phone with the Google details for the Power Exchange on the screen. 

As I head up 7th Street, I ask nonchalantly, “Not the crowd you’re looking for back there, huh?” 

“Too many problems!” he exclaims. “I’m looking for women.”

“Well, you’re going to the right place now.”

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photo of the entrance to the Power Exchange courtesy of S.F. Weekly

Racing through the littered streets of the Tenderloin, I can’t help but wonder how this guy ended up at a gay cruising bar instead of the hetero sex club he was looking for. Poor communication with a cab driver? A mix up in a Google search? 

Whatever. These things happen. A few months back, I had a similar situation, albeit in reverse, while driving past the Power Exchange …

A guy flags me down and immediately tells me he’s a tourist and has ended up at the wrong place. 

“The doorman told me I should check out Blow Buddies,” he says. “Do you know where that is?”

Of course. I’m quite familiar with the place, I tell him. But instead of assuming that, as a night cabbie, I know where all the sex clubs are in San Francisco — gay and straight — he thinks I’m a regular and grills me on the details. 

“It’s all gay, right? Is it OK to just watch? Do I have to take off all my clothes? Are there condoms available? Showers?” 

“All I know is that, once you’re inside, they’ll explain everything.”

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Read the rest of the column here

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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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Being at the right place at the right time…

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It’s a quiet night. I’m close to my nut, but still in the red at 10 p.m. After dropping off near Telegraph Hill, I meander through the Wharf and North Beach, fighting off competing taxi drivers who try to usurp my pole position down Columbus. At Pacific, I cut over to Powell, for no other reason than I don’t usually take Powell.

At Clay Street, a man and a woman with suitcases flag me. I pop the trunk. Since I’m blocking traffic, I stay behind the wheel and let the man do the heavy lifting.

I’ve long since given up the notion that luggage means an airport ride, so I’m not surprised when the woman asks, out of breath, “Can you take us to 100 California?”

Read the rest of this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner here.

Selling San Francisco Out of the Back of My Taxi

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This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about taking two tourists to see the Golden Gate Bridge and not being able to find it…

“Welcome to summer in San Francisco,” I tell the two girls from Long Island in the backseat of my cab as we roll across the Golden Gate Bridge, shrouded in a thick blanket of fog. “I swear, there’s a bridge in here somewhere.”

Twenty minutes earlier, when I picked them up on Market Street across from the Hyatt Regency, the sun was shining. It was 6:45 p.m., and I was feverishly trying to make my nut while there were still hands in the air.

Read the rest here.

 

Photo by Jan Pöschko. Available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.