Hands Up!

Wednesday

4am:
My phone rings, and wakes me up. It’s Kojak.

“Sack, you coming in?”

“Yeah. Jesus asked me to.”

“Ok. I got a cab for ya.”

It’s my day off. But, when Jesus calls on you…

Once there, I head back in the office, even though Tupac’s there. I don’t think he’s forgiven me (or forgotten) the off color jibe I made a couple weeks ago about his great, great grandma.

But there’s some kinda other drama goin’ on. What’s new?

Kojak is over at the cash register with Tupac. They’re discussing some kind of confusion. And Tupac is bitching.

“Aww, Tupac. Do you need a hug?” I razz.

But Tupac does not turn around to acknowledge. With his back still to me and still focused on the register,

“Don’t you start with me, Sack! I still haven’t forgotten what you said. If I ever get fired, I’m comin’ for you!”

(Gulp!)

Meanwhile, Kojak is silently and frantically waving for me to back off, behind Tupac’s back. It would seem that something’s really up with the drawer. I get wise and shut up.

Kojak hands me the keys and medallion for 1185 – a 4 ‘o clock Fusion. I slip him a five and head out of the office with my usual parting salutation,

“Ok. Have a good one, guys.”

Jeez. Since when can’t people have arguments!

Can’t we all just get along?

 

Thursday

4:30am:
I’m back in the Citizen’s Cab office, again. No Tupac. Yay!

Hmm. Wonder if he just has the day off. Or…

Tony’s working dispatch and Kojak the office. I go back and throw Tony a five bribe for an airport. (Yeah, I’m a gambling man today.) Anyway, Kojak throws me 137’s key and medallion (my regular 4:15 Prius) and Tony says he’ll call me. (But, I will not hold my breath.)

I’m in 137 and alcohol-wiping her steering wheel and innards. While doing so, a night driver in 624 pulls into the lot and up to me asking,

“You need a ride?”

Huh? I’m thinking I’m ok here. 624 then realizes my confusion and restates,

“Can you give me a ride home?”

Ohhhh.

“Sure.”

I wait for dude to turn in his keys, gate money, get a receipt, etc. It’s cool. I’m still prepping anyway. And dude won’t take long.

Rose (cab school teacher extraordinaire) said to ALWAYS get a receipt for everything; deposits, parking ticket payments, bridge tolls, gate, short tanks, etc. And Citizen’s has been good about offering them.

I don’t know 624’s name. But he’s a mellow, late 40’s-looking night driver of the Appalachian persuasion. (I think?)

624 comes over after a few minutes and gets in back,

“Hey, thanks. 88 Perry.”

Per cabbie etiquette, I do not turn on the meter.

Then 624 comes out with,

“Man! I jus’ threw up! Dunno why. Sumthin’ make me sick. Ya might need ta pull over. (Grrrooooaaaannnn)”

“Uhhh. Man, that sucks. Maybe it was something you ate? I’ll roll down the windows.”

Fuck.

I’m real sorry for 624. But PLEASE do NOT start my day with a fresh pile of vomit in my cab!

Night driver friend and bandmate Christian told me recently about a driver’s trick for getting the stench out; Arm & Hammer – Carpet & Room Pet Fresh Odor Eliminator. “The Green one,” he says, swearing by by it.

But I’m not looking to try it out anytime soon. And I don’t need to be catching some kinda virus, either!

So, I drive nice and even, do not change lanes or drive erratic-like. But I do drive fast! Not TOO fast, though. Windows are down. Classical music. Keepin’ everything niiiice and smmooootthh. OooOoomMMmm… This’ll be a long five minutes.

Of note: Joe Perry, an old day driver, ex-boxer that I believe I’ve mentioned before lives at 88 Perry. It’s in the industrial SOMA district near downtown and right under the Bay Bridge. The inside of his building is clean and the multitudinous apartments are small and cheap-ish. They do have bathrooms in each apartment, too. (Not an SRO.) I toured one once, when helping a homeless musician friend (who was dosed with LSD by Janis Joplin at age 13) buy a used guitar through Craigslist from a guy living in Joe’s building.

I get 624 to 88 Perry fast, and in event-less peace. Thank God!

Like I said, I never turned on the meter. 624 and I just work out that I’ll give him a ten back on twenty. I’m short on bank (change) this morning. But, I do have a ten. And 624 only had twenties.

“Hope ya feel better.”

“(Grrrooooaaaannnn!) Thaaaaankksss. (Guulp!)”

I’ll break the twenty at my old friend’s… the Starbucks at 4th & Brannan.

It’s just around the corner. And I haven’t been there in eons. Maybe Steinem (the liberal-arts dyke who marked me as a bathroom hog there back when) has finally gotten her Master’s in anthropology or has since joined the Peace Corps and is off somewhere helping Pygmies in Africa.

I’ll leave the bathroom key outside the door anyway, as she had requested – and had instructed other baristas to relay to me in her absence. They might still have my picture up behind the register.

En route, I stay on Perry alley and simply jaunt over to 4th under the bridge. It’s dark and somber here…

Suddenly, as bumping over potholes, my headlights catch on something moving through the desolate void… an animal scampering, running from my erratic light shine… What?? No! It’s flesh colored! Human! A human butt crack! It’s a stark naked homeless man with his back to me, cowering and shuffling through his encampment comprised of a black tarp and life possession-packed shopping cart.

I pass, as if it were all a dream…

Jeez.

I really need coffee now.

Later…

The morning proves slow, very slow. I actually see suitcases everywhere. Just not in my trunk.

Milford now comes whining over the radio. It seems Tony (having not made good on my bribe) had a short morning dispatching. And Milford is the one left to make up for it, and doing so in full whine.

I decide to turn off my radio when with fare – as to not destroy the vibe in the cab o account of Milford. But, dispatchers can now also come over the Cabulous phone when drivers don’t respond to communiqué’s over the radio. (The next plan of attack is calling your cell.)

The Cabulous phone’s audio sucks, too. It’s really loud and piercing, all mid-range like. And you have to hold down the phone’s slow-to-respond volume button every time the dispatcher re-keys to talk, which is every phrase!

Anyway, I’m not “with fare” now and Milford has been whining for 2404 to bring in his spare to exchange for the real cab. But 2404 must have his radio off. So you also hear Milford come bitching over the Cabulous phone and then modulating back to the radio in unrelenting torture. And this has been going on for about 20 minutes now.

Why doesn’t he just call 2404’s cell? Jeez.

Now we are getting occasional text messages on the Cabulous phone, too, admonishing all drivers to keep their radios on.

Now why would we turn our radios off?

Finally! It sounds as if Milford has made contact with 2404!

“Ok, 2404. When you bring it in, I’ll have a good fare for you right near the lot.”

Hmm. Guess he’s not mad at the driver. Usually, if you’re hard to get in touch with, the dispatchers get mad. And Milford certainly sounded mad this whole time… But you know, with Milford it’s hard to tell. He always sounds that way.

Maybe 2404’s a medallion holder, and Milford’s just trying to keep the peace. If 2404 is a medallion holder, he shouldn’t be in a spare to begin with – if Citizen’s hopes to keep him.

10:53am:
I’m driving up Sutter through Union Square, fresh from a Financial shuttle. A 20-something Asian dude dressed nicely in a suit with slicked back hair is flagging me at Stockton. Ok.

“Ghiradelli Square, please.”

And Ming gets on his cell,

“Yeah. He was smart. He just grabbed a stack of 100s. No… No… He didn’t have a bag. Yeah… We couldn’t put a tracer in with the bills. He would have known. Yeah… No… Yeah… He was wearing the black wig again.”

Huh? Again??

Ming gets off his phone.

“Man! I’m the assistant manager at the bank where you picked me up. We were just robbed for the second time in a week! Now I gotta go cover for my manager at a meeting that I never go to. Whew! The cops are slow, man. My manager has to stay back and do the paperwork. I screwed up, too. When the teller came back to tell me we were being robbed again, I yelled, ‘Did you hit the button!?’ and the robber heard me and ran away with the money.”

Wow.

Ming goes on to say that last week the guy had a gun. But, this week all he used was a note. Ming says all you need is a note. The tellers are trained to comply. But they do try to hit “the button”. And they try to make sure you leave with the money in a bag, so they can throw in a GPS tracer and/or dye pack. But, it seems dude was smart and wouldn’t take a bag. (I did not verify if he brought his own, or was just running around Union Square with a stack of 100s.)

Anyway, Ming says there were two clients in the bank at the time. But, they weren’t robbed and just kept quiet.

“They did good.”

So, Ming seems equally worried that he’s going to a meeting that’s above his pay grade. (Maybe it’ll be good for his career?)

So, we get to Ghiradelli and he hands me $12 on $9.55 – cash. I offer Ming a receipt and he is confused. He’s new to this, ponders, and then realizes that he should take a receipt.

Noon:
Milford comes out whining again, modulating between the radio and Cabulous. And I am currently “with fare”. I do turn off the radio. But, I have to repeatedly fight with the Cabulous volume… with each key of Milford’s dispatch,

“851!”

“851!”

“Close your hood!”

“851!”

“Close your hood!”

“I got a call that your hood is open!”

“851!”

“And leave your radio on!”

I must say, Citizen’s Cab is a real professional outfit.

2-ish pm:
I catch a flag just outside of the Presidio, on Lombard at the edge of the Marina. It’s two young 30-something Irish tourists. A guy and a girl.

“Can you take us to the crooked part of Lombard Street? We have been walking all day and can’t do that hill.”

Sure. Why not? It’s not far, though – a straight shot down Lombard from here. We will get caught at every light along the way, though. Whatever.

Once at the top of the Lombard squiggle Ireland gets out, leaving me $9 richer – cash. Then, two other sets of paparaz, er… tourists vie for my cab. They are amicable and agree to share the ride.

Two are going to Union Square, and the other two are going to the Marriott just south of Market on 4th, across from Union Square. A nice guy from Dallas sits up front and directs.

“My friends here are going to Powell & Market to Macy’s, then we’re off to the Marriott on 4th.”

Uhhh, Powell and Market do not actually meet – as Powell dead-ends there at tourism ground zero, the cable car turnaround. And there’s massive construction down there. I could be stuck on that one block for half an hour, with tourists and shoppers flooding the street and construction workers directing traffic and only letting one car by for every light cycle! Ugh.

“May I suggest Stockton & O’Farrell, instead? Macy’s is the whole block between Stockton & Powell. And I can easily cross market for the Marriott from there. It’ll also save us from getting stuck in construction.”

And my fares are amenable.

Whew!

Side Note: One time years ago, when I was taking a tourist to his cruise ship at Pier 37, we got on to talking politics and the efficacy of the Stimulus. Seems dude was a staunch conservative. He bitterly and mockingly laughed about the Stimulus “working”. Then, he asked me if I saw anything coming of it here in San Francisco. I had replied that I used to like Obama, and support the Stimulus. But, no more! As a cab driver I learned to hate it. The bane of my existence. Every street in S.F. at that time was (and still is!) congested with non-stop construction. And it keeps you on your toes, as it seemingly moves about the city like musical chairs. I can assure you, Limbaugh would NOT have been questioning the Stimulus if Pelosi were his rep!

All in all, it’s been a non-descript day. I head back towards the Citizen’s lot, to turn it in – sans airport. I did do roughly thirty-four rides today, though! (Albeit, short ones.)

Back at the lot, outside the window, Bobblehead (afternoon office guy) is smoking a cigarette and talking with another driver. I say “hi” to Bobblehead – hoping to sweep under the table all the threats he’s made to my job in the past, when mad about me switching out Cabulous parts on my own.

And Bobblehead reciprocates. Cool.

Suddenly, a Paratransit receipt blows out of my hand and Bobblehead jumps to stomp on it before it blows away, unsuccessfully.

I jump to stomp, too, and do finally chase it down after a couple leaps. We both laugh. (Our bonding is complete.)

We go on to talk about how I had no airports, but how I am still likely walking with around $205, due to a host of short local rides. (The $3.50 meter start of each ride can really add up.)

And Bobblehead goes on to say he’s done the math, and that he can make his “normal” day with 140 miles logged. I don’t quite get his math, though. That could be 140 miles driven sans fare. I note I logged 120 miles today.

Anyway, it turns out the other driver Bobblehead’s talking to was driving 2404 today! (Of Milford whine fame.)

“Dude! That was you?? What was that all about on the radio?”

This is an older driver that always seemed like he knew what he was doing…

Turns out 2404 was taking a fare down to San Jose – an hour ride, and he could actually hear all the Cabulous and radio calls out for him! But he was too far out of range for his replies to get through. It seems that the radios don’t broadcast with the same power from the cabs. And the Cabulous Talk To Dispatch button (which he tried) wasn’t working. AND he didn’t have his personal cell on him today! Jeez.

So, Tony is at the window and Jesus is back dispatching. I don’t bring up that I got no airport to Tony, throw him a five tip.

And I walk with $205.

 

 

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