While cruising through the Duboce Triangle, I get a request on Market Street. Pick up a middle-aged tourist guy and his twenty-something daughter. They’re in town from Texas. Ron and Lisa. They ask if I know George.
“George was our other Uber driver before you,” Ron tells me.
“I don’t really know any other drivers,” I say. “We basically stay in our cars.”
“George drives for Uber to support his wife and three kids,” Lisa says. “He never has time to even see them because he drives all the time. Not like you. You’re probably just doing this to support your marijuana habit.”
“What’d you say?” I ask with an uncomfortable laugh.
She doesn’t reply.
“Poor George,” Ron goes on. “He probably saw us together, father and daughter, and felt jealous of our close relationship.”
Lisa scoffs. “Well, looks can be deceiving.
Ron keeps making small talk with me. They’re Airbnbing a place in Telegraph Hill. Spent the day going around town drinking and shopping. I’m taking them to the Macy’s on Union Square where Lisa saw a purse she liked earlier but didn’t buy.
“It’s a tote!” she clarifies.
Traffic around Union Square is always the perfect example of a clusterfuck. On Saturdays, it’s the epitome of a clusterfuck.
I point out the traffic when we’re two blocks away.
“Don’t worry about it,” Ron tells me. “We’re in no hurry. Long as the purse is still there.”
“It’s a tote!”
Five minutes later, about a block away from Macy’s, I tell him, “It’s gonna take forever to get there with all this traffic. Macy’s is right there.”
I point at the giant sign looming over the street.
“I suppose we can walk one block,” Ron says. “Maybe hit up this place over here… Johnny Foley’s.” He reads the sign on the Irish pub across the street.
I take a left on Powell and a right on Ellis. Go offline and drive away from downtown as quickly as possible. I’ve made the mistake of trying to get rides downtown on a Saturday before. Never again. Let the cab drivers have the business. They can take all of downtown as far as I’m concerned. Since all the one-way streets are split into taxi and bus lanes, it’s designed for cabs anyway, not regular cars.
I go back online after I cross Van Ness. Pick up a guy going to the Haight. Drop him off and track down a woman with an accent and her gentleman friend.
“Oh, is this your bag on the seat?” she asks.
I reach around. It’s a paper shopping bag from a boutique. Look inside. See a scarf and a flask. Instantly realize that girl Lisa must have left it behind. I remember she had several bags when she got in.
“I know who this belongs to,” I say.
“What’s in the bag?” asks the gentleman. “Lingerie?”
“No, a scarf.”
I drop them off in the Mission and email Uber. Parked on 24th, I look through the bag for the receipts to see if it has her name on them. There’s a stuffed porcupine and a swimsuit bottom as well as the scarf and flask. About $100 worth of stuff. I feel bad. She must be freaking out. She seemed too uptight not to have a cow over losing her hard-earned purchases.
Oh well. There’s a link on the confirmation email from Uber to click if you think you might have lost something in a car. Perhaps she’ll notice it when she realizes she’s one bag short.
I put the bag in my trunk. Smoke a cigarette. I’m about to go back online when my phone rings. The generic Uber number.
“Is this Kelly?”
“Right. I have your bag.”
“Oh, thank god!”
I get her address in Telegraph Hill and her phone number, just in case. “I’m in the Mission, so it’ll take a little while to get there. I have to drive all the way across town.”
I take Cesar Chavez to Guerrero, cruise to Market Street, down to Franklin, up and over Pac Heights to Broadway, through the tunnel and into Chinatown. I forget to turn on Powell, so I have to circle around on Kearney to Columbus. My phone rings. It’s Lisa.
“Just checking to make sure you didn’t get lost.”
Uhmmm… Is that another stoner crack?
“Sorry. It took a while to get to North Beach from the Mission. I’m just a few minutes away.”
Slowly, I head up the hills, dodging several rambunctious taxis and maneuvering around lost tourists.
Lisa meets me outside the apartment building.
“Nice view you got here,” I say. Take the bag out of my trunk.
Lisa thanks me and hands me a folded ten dollar bill.
I acknowledge the tip. “Happy to help.”
Ten’s alright, I think as I make a five point conversion out of the dead end. A twenty would have been even better…