Valentine’s Day (A delayed reaction.)
I’m rolling west up Market fresh from a Financial drop. Well, semi-fresh. I’ve made it all the way up past Westfield Mall and am straddling the Loin, with all of its dregs.
I screech to a halt at U.N. Plaza aside a bustling drug and stolen goods fencing scene. And I scan the gaggle for my suitor.
Ah! Some Indian looking dude runs up from behind my cab and leans in the open shotgun window, with a query.
Indian Dude, with a heavy Indian accent and a street smart attitude,
“How much to Redwood City, man? I nee’ to make it dere before 9 ‘o clock!”
Driver, “Well… that more than fifteen miles outside of the city. So, it’s meter and a half. I can get you there in like 40 minutes, if traffic is good. But let me ask my dispatcher how much the fare would be.”
Driver reaches for his CB radio and queries dispatch, “1015. Over.”
Tony Jr. comes back, “1015, what’s your over?”
Driver, “How much is it from U.N. Plaza to Redwood City?”
Tony Jr., “1015. With meter and a half you’re lookin’ at about $120 or $125.”
Driver, “Thanks, Junior.”
Indian Dude, “What is dis’ meter ‘n a haff business, maaan?”
Driver, “Well, San Francisco taxi drivers can’t pick up outside of the city, except for the airport. So, it’s MTA rules for when it’s more than fifteen miles outside of the city. I guess it’s so we split the difference of my time and gas coming back.
You want to go?”
Indian Dude, “Shit, man. I nee to get dere, fas’! I’ll give you a hundred.”
Driver, scratching his chin and thinking it over…
“Ok. Get in.”
But instead of reaching for the back door, Indian Dude turns around and starts yelling back to a heretofore unbeknownst associate,
“Babee! I got us a taxi! Come on!! Moooove, babee!!!”
Driver checks the rear view… to witness a well-endowed Babee running up from behind in a pretty flower patterned dress, pink high heels, a big poofy afro and nursing a shiny black hand purse in her delicate limp wrist. Babee immediately strikes Driver as a black, bubbly, package of cute.
Babee, “Baby, we can’t afford a cab! Let’s take the train!”
Indian Dude, “Come on, babee! I hocked some jewelry for dis’ ride! Your gonna be late! ‘N dey gonna put you in jail, babee! GET IN!!”
And Babee and I.D. scramble in back, as I.D. throws up five twenties to Driver in advance
Then, I.D. directs,
“Redwood City cour’ house, man! 400 County Road! ‘N step on it! We gotta beat rush hour ‘n make it dere by 9 ‘o clock, man!”
Well, hmm. I’ve never driven anyone to Redwood City before. I know you would USUALLY take 101 south, straight down. But traffic invariably locks up just past SFO at this time with Silicon Valley commuters. I’m thinking 280 south might be a safer bet. It’s parallel to 101 and a little less trafficky. But, I’d have to plug the address into my iPhone for directions to 400 County Road, and how to access the courthouse from there. Hell, I’d have to plug it in regardless. I’ve never been!
Driver, “I think 280 might be a safer bet to avoid rush hour traffic. You cool with that?”
I.D., “Sure. Whatevah, man. Jus’ GO!”
I plug ‘400 County Road, Redwood City’ into my iPhone. And Steve Jobs lights our way.
As we roll, I find my passengers to be cute, if not an odd couple. I mean, an olive skinned, street smart Indian dude? With a cute, bubbly, black chick with a BIG afro? As well, they start bantering and jabbing at each other, but very good natured. I like them.
I.D., “Don’ woree, babee. I got enough monee from the hock to pos’ your bail, when they lock you up! HA!”
Babee, “Honey, come on! I’m stressed enough, as it is. Don’t play like that!”
At the jab, Babee groans all cute, as I.D. now leans forward to address Driver.
I.D., “Man, lemme smoke in your cab. Can I smoke?”
Driver, “Smoke what?”
And at the question, I.D. and Babee both smile and break into laugher, before I.D. turns to Babee all assuredly, with,
“I like dis’ driver, babee. We got a GOOOD one!”
As we roll onto the highway, I.D. cracks open his window and lights up a cigarette. And then, he poses another question.
“Hey, man. Do you min’ if we do more den smoke?”
Unsure of what I.D. means exactly, and being a pretty amenable guy in general, Driver shrugs, as replying,
“Uhhh. Sure. Whatever.”
Shortly thereafter, emanating from the back of the taxi come the alternate sounds of a card chopping on glass, and sniffing, as the passengers of Citizen’s Cab 1015 grow a bit more animated, a little less anxious, and ever more sociable.
I.D. begins to get philosophical about life, fate and God.
“Maaan, I KNOW I am meant to be here! Or, I’d be dead by now! God has a plan for me, man!”
Driver relates, “Yeah, me too! I’ve been in three car wrecks in my life! And I should have died in ALL of them! But, I walked away from ALL three! I think it was so that I could bring my boys into this world.”
I.D. jumps on this, upping the ante with that he has been in FIVE car accidents in HIS life, all of which HE should have died in, as Babee interjects cooing, all girly, before jumping on my kids comment with a deep, motherly affection.
Babee, “Awwww. You have kids? How old are they? I have a girl. I love her SO much! She’s beautiful! A real light in this world. And she is SO pure! She’s eighteen and just got her FIRST boyfriend! And they believe in Jesus. They go to church together! Awwwww.”
Driver, “I have two boys. A fourteen year-old and a sixteen year-old. They’re doing pretty well, too… Actually, MUCH better than I was at their age. HA! And I hope it STAYS that way!”
Driver, adding, ” I hope your girl keeps the faith. I had a niece who got pretty disillusioned with the church, after she was VERY devout, for YEARS! She also had a boyfriend that she went to church with. They had promise rings and everything!
But one day, when she was in confession, after she was done confessing all of her sins, the priest went on, pushing her and asking, ‘And do you have anything ELSE to confess?’
To which my niece got confused and simply replied, ‘No.’
To which the priest came back all incredulous, with, ‘Oh? Come on. What about premarital sex?’
To which my niece responded with that she was a virgin!
But the priest kept pushing, harder and harder… and ACCUSED HER OF LYING!
RIGHT THERE in the CONFESSIONAL!!
Needless to say, she left the church after that. And she’s been atheist ever since.”
As we continue rolling down 280, I.D. starts gushing warmly at Babee, and wishes her a happy Valentine’s Day. He kisses her, as all succumb to the pretty ride that is 280 south, with its bounty of trees, cows, mountains, and the lake…
I got so caught up in talking that I PASSED OUR EXIT!!
SHIT! THIS might make us LATE now!!
Hmmm. I look down at my phone, as Steve Jobs is now rerouting us for 400 County Road. And I.D. NOW TAKES NOTE!!!
I.D., “Hey, man! Which way are you taking us, anyway?? Dis’ ain’t da right way to the cour’ house, man!”
Driver, nervously, “Uhhhh, sorry! I got all caught up talking and missed our exit. It’s ok, though. We’re STILL making good time. We did the right thing avoiding 101 traffic. My phone is rerouting us to the next exit. We’re cool.”
I.D. perks up in his seat as we veer off on the next exit, and head west up into the hills and onto Skyline Drive, with its majestic view of the ocean.
Hmm. West?? This is odd. Redwood City is to the EAST of 280. I check my phone…
Well, it still says ‘400 County Road, Redwood City.’ Maybe it’s to avoid traffic?
I.D., “Where da hell you taking us, man?”
Driver, “I’m following my phone, man! Maybe it’s a traffic thing.”
I.D. hesitant, but assuring, “Well, I tink I’ve been dis’ way, before. Okay.”
As we wind through the beautiful redwoods of Skyline Drive and smell the greenery and fresh mountain air, I consider how odd this route is. I mean, this is the route the kids and I take when we go camping at Big Basin, to get away from it all! Cell signals even drop out a bit further down! Hmm.
Eight minutes later…
We pull up on 400 County Road. And it’s a dirt road leading to… NOTHING… IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WOODS!!!
This ISN’T REDWOOD CITY!!! There is NO court house ANYWHERE NEAR HERE!! We’re WAY up in the SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS!!!
I.D., “WHA DA HELL, MAAAAN!! DIS’ AIN’T NO REDWOOD CITY COUR’ HOUSE!”
Then, I.D. turns to Babee, with,
“Babee, you goin’ to JAIL!!! But, I got monee to bail you out, babee… Don’ woree! I got monee!!”
He looks at his watch.
I.D., “DAMN! It’s 8:50! We supposed to be dere at 9 ‘o clock! Dis’ is her TIRD failure to appear!! She goin’ to JAIL!!!”
And at this, Babee starts moaning, hunching over and grabbing her stomach, as I.D. begins to scheme…
I.D., “Man, dere’s a fire department up the road. I know dis’ place. Pull in dere and we ask a fireman for directions. Dat way, I can tell da judge we try ‘n he can call da fire department to see we try, for proof! Man, I hope you don’ mind, but I’m gonna tell da judge dis’ wa ALL your fault! Nothin’ personal, but we gotta keep Babee outta JAIL!”
Driver, “Oh! I don’t mind. You blame it ALL on me! No problem. We’ll hit the fire department up the road for directions, and the proof that you tried, and then we’ll head back east as fast as we can! I’ll look up directions for the court house, proper. I hope your plan works.”
Yeah, right. That plan will NEVER work. Like the judge is going to give a shit that they asked a fireman for directions on Babee’s THIRD failure to appear… Babee’s going to jail!
I check my phone, as we wind down beautiful Skyline Drive, with its lush ferns and tall redwoods, and with the sun now dancing through the leaves, as it casts soft shadows on this curvy mountain road.
My iPhone blinks with a hit on the Redwood City Court House… Hey! That courthouse is at 400 County CENTER! NOT ‘ROAD’! This wasn’t MY fault! I.D. gave me a BAD ADDRESS!
Hmm. But, still. WHY did Steve Jobs say County Road was in Redwood City?? We’re easily a HALF HOUR WEST of Redwood City up here! This was a totally CRAZY out of the way deviation WEST from 280!!!
We pull into the dirt drive of this country fire department behind Alice’s Restaurant, at a crossroads in La Honda. (Yes, THAT Alice’s Restaurant.) And a young, fit, guy in a fireman’s bib and suspenders approaches the cab, as Babee gets out and pretends to ask for directions. (Even though we already have a new route for the CORRECT address on my phone.)
The fireman looks at all of us quite curiously, pretty confused, like we’re crazy. This must be an unusual sight for around these parts. I watch through the windshield as he slowly gestures his arms and hands, guiding Babee back out, and towards the crossroads, towards the same direction my phone has already mapped out.
I.D. yells out the window to Babee,
“Babee! Babee! Get a business card from him! We nee’ to show the judge!!”
Our fireman hears I.D.’s plea to Babee, and actually has a business card at the ready, in his pocket! He hands it to Babee, as squinting and looking even MORE confused.
Babee thanks the fireman, before turning around to scamper back to the cab, with her high heels, kicking up a cloud of dust and her ample breasts bubbling out of her dress.
We back out of the dirt drive and zoom over to rural Highway 84, before coming to a dead halt, post haste aside a sheer mountainous cliff… for Caltrans cleanup work. It’s for a rock and mudslide on this carved out mountain road, on account of the recent deluge that’s been flooding the Bay Area. As we’re stopped, we surmise that Caltrans seems to be allotting about five minutes each for LONG lines of backed up cars, each poised and waiting to head in opposite directions. And all taking turns on a now single track lane!
As we’re stuck waiting, I.D. starts to joke more about how Babee is now UNQUESTIONABLY going to jail, and jibbing her about how, “If you go lesbo in jail dere, babee, don’t be coming home aftah! HA!!”
And now, Babee starts sniffling. Though, I’m not sure if she’s crying, or if it’s on account of the cocaine. (Probably a little of both.)
Babee, suddenly testing all hesitant, “(SNIFF!) Driver, do you ever pass people on these single lanes?”
But before driver can answer, I.D. jumps in to smakc down this brilliant idea, “Babee! He CAN’T pass dese cars! Da cops will be ALL ovah us! ‘N den we BOTH be goin’ to jail! With what we got on us! Das’ the WHOLE reason you in this mess IN THE FIRS’ PLACE, BABEE!!”
And with this reminder, Babee perks up and starts emptying out her purse and pockets onto her lap.
Babee, “You’re right, honey! I better make sure I can get through the metal detector!”
She digs through the mess in her lap, and promptly hands up Driver a cork screw, and pair of wire cutters, pleading,
“Here! Do you want this corkscrew, driver? And these wire cutters! I can’t bring them into jail! PLEASE! Take them!”
Driver, obliging, “Oh! I’m sure my fourteen year-old would be happy to have these things. No problem. Thanks.”
At which Babee again glows and coos, “Awwww. You’re SUCH a GOOD daddy!”
Meanwhile, I.D. has started trying to call Babee’s lawyer on his cell, to no avail. It’s 9:25am.
I.D., “Damn. He’s not answering. Cour’ mus’ have already started. DAMN, babee. You goin’ to JAIL!”
And Babee moans and hunches over some more, as Driver tries to offer the light of the situation, while at this point struggling to hold back tears, and laughter, BURSTING at the seams!
Driver, “(Snicker!) Well, look on the bright side. It’s a pretty scenic view around here. (Snicker!) You can see the whole of the basin out there! All of those trees! I mean, (Snicker!) while we’re stuck here with the clock ticking and waiting for Caltrans to let us through, look at ALL the beauty out there! (Snicker!) The water trickling down the clay carved in the mountain side, right outside of our window! (Snicker! Snicker!) And the ferns sticking out of the clay! I mean, (Snicker!) listen to all of those birds chirping! We couldn’t ASK for better scenery!”
Driver is now virtually in TEARS, trying not to laugh at Babee’s misfortune! HA!!!
I.D. interjects, however, in not so reassuring fashion, “Yeah, babee. Look outside at all da beauty. ‘N you better remember it. Cause pretty soon, all you’re gonna be seein’ is da concrete ‘n steel… INSIDE JAIL!!”
Babee moans and hunches over yet AGAIN, as Caltrans FINALLY flags our line of cars through the single track lane, and onto FREEDOM!
We soon approach civilization, as we begin passing though the immense wealth of Woodside, California, with its rich ranch style homes, horses and tranquil, rustic small town charm.
As we gawk at the splendor and wealth, I.D. comments that Babee’s judge probably lives here. And he’s likely right. This charming, affluent town, with its proximity to Silicon Valley and the beauty of the Santa Cruz Mountains, is home to the likes of Joan Baez, Bill Walsh – ex-coach of the 49ers, Larry Ellison – of Oracle fame, and Steve Jobs’ widow. (Who I’ll have to stop by and thank with a piece of my mind!)
Soon enough, well NOT even close to soon enough, really, AT 9:50AM! And WELL PAST Babee’s court time! We roll into downtown Redwood City, and into the government complex that is 400 County Center.
The meter reads $171! But, despite the bad address given Driver by I.D., I can’t help but accept some of the blame for this fiasco. A fiasco that will No DOUBT see my lovely Babee headed off TO JAIL!! (Snicker! Snicker!)
I do REALLY feel bad for her! (Snicker, snicker.)
SERIOUSLY!!! (Snicker, snicker.)
It’s just that’s it was all… so… ABSURD!!! (Snicker,! Snicker!)
And I.D. and Babee seem so damn COOL about it all! And they STILL LOVE me! And THANK me for driving them!! HA!!! (Snicker! Snicker! Snicker! Snicker!) HA! HA!! HA!!!
I.D. takes note of the meter, but ignores it, making no pretense to offer more money, as they throw open the back door to make a mad dash for court And I do not expect more money. We DID have a deal for $100. Besides, maybe he can post Babee’s bail with the cash he has left, the cash he initially set aside for that purpose… when he thought she’d be on time!
Before my passengers begin the dash, though, I yell to stop them.
“WAIT! HERE!!” Driver prints a receipt from the meter. “Take this receipt! Show it to the judge! It shows the time I picked you up in San Francisco, the $171 meter, and the time I got you here! Maybe it’ll help! Show some kind of good faith?? And like you said, you can blame it on your driver!”
I.D. snatches the receipt from my hand, says nothing more. And DARTS!!!
As Driver shouts out after, snickering with sincerity, and warmed by the love of I.D. and Babee,
And, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!
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Photo by Alex SacK