It’s 2:65 in the morning. And I can’t sleep, damn it!!
Eh, if I’m gonna be up, I might as well work. Despite its 4:15 medallion, I suspect my beautiful Prius, Citizen’s Cab #26, will be at the lot waiting idle and lonely for its driver. Me.
Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of condition downtown San Francisco is in, after yet another night of Trump protests. And the earlier I get out onto the streets, the fresher the scene oughta be. But if history is any guide, any rioting and looting will have been confined to Oakland, across the Bay. That’s their M.O. (But rest assured, coming soon to a theater near YOU!)
On THAT note, I have been on a self-imposed media blackout since Tuesday night. I just CAN’T bring myself to do it. I just cannot, in slow motion, watch as the world descends into holocaust.
Aside: No, this is NOT hyperbole. And we’re not “giving the guy a chance.” “Maybe he’ll surprise us.” “Good news! He’s pivoting!” The first 70 years of this man’s life were NOT a fluke, people. Look at his team! (Missionary General Michael Flynn? White Nationalist Steve Bannon?) Makes Cheney look eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize.
I mean, I was already having a mid life crisis. But now, for good or ill, THAT gig has been superseded by a full blown identity crisis! Yes, for your driver, no news is NOT good news! No, it is… Um, yes??
Damn! I’m ADDICTED!!!
No! NO! NO!! No NPR!!! It’s soft rock ONLY in the cab from now on, 24/7… 98.1FM. The day has come. It is time for a ‘Cool Change.‘
I’m strolling across the Citizen’s Cab lot, out in the industrial Bayview district at the edge of town. And… yes! There’s my girl, 26.
I pop back into the office to find Tony Jr. sitting slouched in his chair at dispatch with his baseball cap pulled down low. He’s playing some video game on his phone. Meanwhile, there’s an irate driver filling the speaker phone addressing Junior with an unceasing explicative laden rant about how Dmitry (new Russian dispatcher) has been giving away dude’s regular cab the last few nights, I think?
“FUCKIN SHIT!!! That FUCKER has been XXX!! With my XYZ!! AND I’m FUCKIN’ SICK of that DUMB SHITHEAD FUCKIN’ with MYYYY XYZ on MY GOD DAMNED XXX!!! I am NOT FUCKIN’ taking that SHITHEAD’s FUCKIN’ XYZ any… GOD… DAMNED… MORE!! And YOU make SURE to TELL that STUPID MOTHER FUCKER THAT!!! YOU HEAR ME!?!”
Anyway, Tony Jr. seems to be just casually waiting out the rant while ignoring it with his head in Angry Birds, or some such. (The current trend in video games is not my forte’.)
I slip Tony Jr. a ten under the dispatch keyboard, while banking on five of that going towards a phone call later with an airport. Junior’s been pretty good about that, without me paying him first. But he knows the hook up is in the mail, when I see him next. Our relationship has given me enough confidence to, once again, gamble on that extra five in advance. Let’s see what happens…
4:15am – Starbucks:
I stumble up to the line. And immediately, the older white dude in front of me with the white sneakers, blue jeans, navy windbreaker, baseball cap, Bluetooth headset and white trimmed mustache barks out, “Come on! What’s the hold up here, people!!” And then he turns around to look to me for support.
I turn away, and yawn.
First, I just got here.
Second, I’m only fourth in line.
Third, one does NOT bite the hand that caffeinates!
I don’t know what dude’s deal is, but these are my regular baristas. My people!
It is clear, that THIS is the guy who rolls three cars back from a halt for construction, or for pedestrians in a crosswalk, and HONKS impatiently and repeatedly – as if the cars ahead will suddenly heed his HONK and run down whatever is the obstacle. Jeez.
Hey! Desperate asshole? Bluetooth headset?? Hmm.
The line opens up. Dude gets his coffee and huffs over to the creamer station. My people already have my “tall” coffee at the ready. And I follow suit.
But Angry White Bluetooth is now standing SMACK in the MIDDLE of the creamer station, which is CLEARLY set up for two! I squeeze to his right.
But Angry White Bluetooth does not flinch.
Instead, he reaches in front of me and violently grabs a wooden stir stick, while pulling out eight more in the process – several of which jut up out of the container, and several of which spill out over the counter top.
Angry White Bluetooth just ignores it.
He huffs off out of Starbucks – yup, to the driver’s seat of his Uber, as I fix the mess he left behind, pour some milk and head out onto the road myself.
I’m rolling the Haight, yet to break the ice, when my generic iPhone ringtone sounds.
Hey! It’s Citizen’s Cab!
Tony Jr., “Sack. Go to 35 Buena Vista East. Now.”
Sack, “Will do! Thanks, Junior!!”
Now THAT’s what I’m talkin’ about!
I roll up on this very well-off, manicured home adjacent the Haight and Buena Vista Park.
I radio Tony Jr. for a call-out. And lickety-split, a rich earth momma hippie chick with purple lens glasses, a paisley dress and a safari hat comes out with luggage. I jump out and help load the hatch of ‘ol 26. And both jump back in the cab.
Stevie, bubbling, “Thanks for picking me up! We’re headed to the airport. Virgin America, please.”
Driver, with pen and waybill at the ready, repeating back, “SFO. Terminal 2. Virgin.”
It’s still quiet and dark out. And to the tune of The Commodores ‘Sail On‘ all seems peaceful in the world.
As we hit the highway, Stevie breaks out proudly with, “I’m going back to Standing Rock. I just raised $5000 in a Facebook fundraising campaign for the Sioux.”
Driver, “Oh? Wow. That’s great! I heard a pretty interesting hour of Forum on NPR with Michael Krasny on that whole Dakota Pipeline deal just last week! I really feel for the Native Americans. But what’s the deal with the pipeline company having a permit? If that’s true, it kinda muddies the waters. Er, so to speak.”
Stevie, “There was no permit! They got a permit for other parts of the pipeline, but NEVER for one running under their water! And they called eminent domain on a lot of other areas, too! That’s crap! Anyway, the money I raised will help with a lot of tents and other logistics. That’s what they need, tents and people!”
Driver, “Yeah, that’s what I heard! They want enough people to form a barrier that outnumbers all of the cops arresting them! Uh, the pro-pipeline advocate on the show made a point, though. Uh, how most of the people protesting are from out of state. And that are not really versed in the situation and don’t know the actual circumstances? Um, how did you come to, uh, get involved?”
Stevie, “Oh! I was in New York a couple of months ago visiting a friend. And when I was flying back, I looked at a map and thought to myself, ‘Hey! North Dakota is kind of on my way home.’ So, I changed my flight.
But when I got to Bismarck, all of the rental cars were taken! They say that happens a lot. Well, I thought, ‘I didn’t come all this way to stay in a hotel room two hours from the action!’ So, I got the idea to rent a U-Haul truck! And that worked out GREAT! I drove out to the reservation and slept in it that night. It got a lot of use transporting gear for the Sioux, also!
Anyway, yeah, there are a few outsider, white, protesters who have the wrong idea of what they’re doing out there. They come thinking that they’re gonna run the show. But the Standing Rock have been doing this for a LONG time. They really know how to most effectively approach it all. And I think they trust me now. They know I’m an asset.”
Driver, “Well, God bless.”
We drop Virgin, and Driver rolls $50 closer to nut. And with the day begun.
Random Digression: It’s rush hour. I find myself at a four-way stop in the Mission, 18th & Capp. And, there it is. That classic move where the opposing car pulls up fast to the stop and does NOT stop! But slowly rolls into their crosswalk, sweating any opposing traffic that might be the rightful heir to the yield.
It’s an Audi. Ski racks. Tinted windows. New tech money. (Trust me.)
As I was there first, I start to go. But, Audi has other ideas. He guns it into the intersection, and then brakes HARD, to slow as he crosses me, with me already having entered the intersection.
No, Audi. Giving me a dirty look as you slow through the four-way stop does NOT work, when I can’t see inside your tinted windows.
CAN’T … HELP… IT!
I turn on NPR: “And now, we turn to traffic, with Joe McConnell. Joe?”
Joe, “It’s a mess downtown. Stay away, if you can. Kids from high schools across the city have staged a walk-out and are marching from the Ferry Building, up Market, and with plans to terminate at City Hall. It’s gridlock all around Market, folks.”
Hmm. Good to know.
Now, back to 98.1FM – The Breeze, and ‘The Lady in Red.‘ The theme song from that ’80’s romantic comedy, starring Gene Wilder.
So sad, that he just died. R.I.P Gene. You are in a better place now… a much, much, better place.
Then, suddenly, “Bada-Ding-Ding-Boop-Ding-Ding! Bada-Ding-Ding-Boop-Ding-Ding!”
I check my phone… Washington High School? I hope my boy’s ok!
“This is an automated message from the San Francisco Unified School District calling with information that a walk out has been staged today by a number of students within the district.
This call is to inform you, the parents, that any absences due to the walk out are not sanctioned by the district and will be marked as unexcused. Please call your school, if you have any questions regarding this matter.”
I hang up.
And, I immediately IM the boy, with, “Boy. Did you leave school? Are you downtown protesting?”
Boy, “No, dad. My Spanish teacher wouldn’t let me leave.”
Really? The Spanish teacher?? Hmm. Irony of ironies.
Another Random Digression: Rolling between the Castro and the Haight while cruising for flags, I take note of a couple new musicians out on the road today, literally. These two troubadours, about a mile apart, are each sporting rolled up sleeping bags, guitar cases, and one rolling suitcase, each. Their clothes are not dirty, or ripped. And the chrome accoutrements on their flat black guitar cases are still shiny and free of rust, for now.
I’m headed through the Mission, up 18th again, fresh from dropping some dude who works valet parking at VCA Veterinary Specialists – a pet hospital in the Mission. (Yeah, you read that right. Valet parking at a veterinarian’s.)
Dude says at drop, a little too late for mining, that the job can get “interesting.” Sorry, I didn’t glean his vocation sooner, folks. Here we’ll just have to wonder, and imagine left behind snakes and the like.
After rolling off, a bit up 18th – at Mission, an older, stocky Mexican guy with a thick, dark, handlebar mustache, big, dark, bushy eyebrows, and a big, square jaw standing at the corner with a cane, holding a bunch of bananas, raises said cane to flag.
And Citizen’s Cab #26 pulls over, hard to the curb. And Driver preps his pen and waybill.
Miguel squints his eyes and begins speaking out of the corner of his mouth, with only his bottom jaw moving and exposing only his bottom row of teeth,
“Dios mio! Thank you for stopping, driver. I need to go to St. Francis Hospital, Hyde & Pine. They got my old man there. He was robbed recently. Beat up pretty bad. I’m bringing him these bananas.”
Driver, “St. Francis. Hyde & Pine… Wow! That sucks. Sorry to hear that!”
Miguel squints his eyes harder now, and looks off into the distance, before expounding, “Yeah, he’s a trusting old guy. A good soul. Ninety-four years old, my old man. And a World War II vet. They don’t make ’em like that, anymore. But yeah, he’s too trusting. He gives money to the vagrants and drug addicts around here in the Mission. And they know he always carries cash. Hundred dollar bills. They see his wad when he’s handing out fives and twenties to the local criminals. He gets his checks cashed and then just keeps the cash in his wallet. I told him not to do that. But he’s old, and doesn’t listen.”
Driver, “Wow! Who do you think…”
But Miguel just cuts Driver off, mid-sentence. He is in his own world. And Driver is just incidental within it. He squints harder now, and stares out the window, as if in a trance. And Miguel continues, all monotone.
“The people in this city now, they’re all crazy. They stabbed him in the head. He was bleeding something bad. And now they got him in the hospital. He fell down the stairs of his apartment building, when he went home, after. Yeah, a tough old dude. Times have changed. People have changed. Anyway, he starts therapy today.”
Suddenly, Miguel’s eyes start shifting, left to right.
“Hey,” Miguel makes eye contact for the first time with Driver, via the rear view, “My father can’t eat all these bananas. Here, you take a couple.”
Driver, “Uhhh. Thanks, but I…”
Miguel ignores that I’ve begun a sentence, and once again cuts me off midway, as he hands me up two ripe bananas.
I’m pretty sure there’s a Rose (cab school teacher) Commandment about not eating food passengers have bestowed upon you. Actually, I KNOW there is.
Driver, receiving the bananas, “Uh, thanks.”
And we pull up to the entrance to St. Francis. Miguel hands me up a Paratransit card to swipe, saying to add the government-subsidized fixed 10% tip to the government-subsidized $10.10 fare.
And he exits my cab.
Driver leans out the window as Miguel canes off toward the entrance, and yells, “Thanks for the bananas! And I hope your dad gets better!”
Now, I figure I’ll roll down Hyde toward Market, through the Tenderloin. There will unquestionably be a few homeless drug addicts and/or schizophrenics en route that I can unload these bananas on.
Or, hmm. NO! There’s that PROTEST!! No, best to head north up Polk, instead. There is no dearth of homeless out there in need in this town.
Getting… tired. My next ride will be my last. I’ve been pretty good about milking 26’s medallion for all her 4:15 pumpkin time is worth. And I can justify calling it after one more ride. I HAVE made sustainable money. And not to be greedy, but hopefully, the Lord will end this day with another airport.
“Cha-ching! – 1562 Grove. Amanda. iPhone.”
My Cabulous taxi-hailing app rings to life with a mobile order. It’s over in NOPA, by the Panhandle to Golden Gate Park.
I jut over from the Haight and arrive at the order fast, before hitting the ‘Arrived’ button on the Cabulous smartphone mounted on my cab’s dash.
And in short order, Rachel Maddo… er, Amanda, a twenty-something sporting thick, black-framed glasses, with short cropped hair and a black sport coat pops out of this Victorian apartment building… with luggage.
Amanda, “Thanks for coming, driver. SFO, please. Delta.”
Driver, marking his waybill and repeating back, “SFO. Delta.”
And we head for the highway in silence, but for 98.1FM and the soothing sounds of Air Supply’s ‘All Out of Love.‘
As we approach the Octavia on-ramp to 101, I have had surprisingly good luck in avoiding Trump Carmageddon. That aside, I smell something. But, I am afraid to broach. Eh, what the hell. A cabbie KNOWS these things. And this cabbie prides himself on knowing that he knows that which is unknown…
Driver, “You headed out of town for a wedding?”
Amanda, “Why, yes. I am! How did you know?”
Driver, “A cabbie can smell these things.”
Amanda, “Well, I’m impressed. That’s amazing! I’m heading back to Atlanta, for a friend’s wedding. I just moved back to Sn Francisco from there.”
Driver, “Oh? Atlanta’s beautiful, vegetation-wise. How did you like living there? Was there any kind of culture shock? Or, is there a lot going on… I know that Atlanta’s historically had a great music scene.”
Amanda, “Yeah, well mostly in Athens and the other college towns. But it has been getting gentrified. And culture usually comes with that. I really loved it. But I’m glad to be back in San Francisco. People were REALLY nice while I was there. But… you always somehow feel… like an outsider.”
Driver, “That reminds me of a woman I used to drive a lot. She was a social worker. But then she retired and moved to what she describes as her dream home, a cute little house in a rural area in North Carolina. She said everyone was nice there, too. But she said the first question out of everyone’s mouth was, ‘And what church do you attend?’ They say you can’t move to somewhere that doesn’t suit your politics. She was trying to sell her house and back in the Bay area within a year.”
Amanda, “Yes! That’s EXACTLY how it is! For me, I’m a Lesbian, and all the housewives were like, ‘And where is your husband?’ But if you don’t have a husband, they really go out of their way to
look out for you, to invite you to dinner and stuff. Great food. Real Southern hospitality.
But you know what it’s like? It’s like, when you move there, they will all invite you into their homes, and cook you dinner. But… they won’t give you the recipe.”
Photo by Alex SacK