Deadbeat Driving the Universe

Okay! Sold my Marshall JCM800 2×12 100 watt Lead combo guitar amp, without the suit coming direct from his job down in the Financial even haggling her price. Ten crisp, new hundreds, and five old twenties. This will do. I am back to only one month late on rent! And with a 2009 Gibson Les Paul still sustaining her high E on Craigslist…

In hack news, the taxi biz has been okay this past week. Your driver scored three airports on Thursday, and was nicely busy outside of that to the tune of $245! This, as successfully avoiding the marijuana celebratory hajj on the Haight that is 420 Day. (Sigh.) These kids, today.

To boot, there’s been no three-day notice from the landlord. (Er, as of yet.) And so, your driver is not currently faced with any immediate threat of having a change in status to “domestically challenged.” Although, my old school Irish Catholic, semi-conservative (well, old school) mother is just a wee bit livid with your driver’s status currently stuck at “deadbeat.” She’s not talking to me, nor editing these reports now. Hence, any typos or social faux pas from last week and going forward are all her fault. (Bridgegame@gmail.com)

Eh, I can drive with that…

 

Friday – San Francisco, Citizen’s Cab #1015

Rolling the early, fogless morning though the city, with Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1 wafting over classical KDFC 90.3FM, I await with anticipation the first of the day’s Cabulous taxi-app hails, or order from dispatch crackling on the radio over which to bid, or that random hand rising up desperately into the air flagging, as I introspect.

But this week, I’ll spare you passengers any details of the navel gaze. (No doubt, I have met my quota in with my most recent report.) No. We’ll get right to the meat.

5am:
Fresh from Starbucks, I find myself on 18th Street idling behind some Uber at a stop sign who is, apparently, waiting for the light to turn green. Hint: It won’t. I take a sip of coffee, exhale and HHHOOOONNNKKK!!!

And this new, Uber-facilitated sub-prime leased Camry DARTS ahead at the protest, before proceeding to run an ACTUAL red light up at the next block, at Castro.

Welcome to my world.

Still fareless as I enter the Haight, I take stock of all the trash from yesterday’s epic pot festivity still lining the streets and sidewalks along Buena Vista Park here. And at Central, it looks like my day just might begin. (Er, maybe.) It’s some 20-something dude with long, wavy blonde hair, in black jeans, and a black Metallica T-shirt.

Lars stumbles out from the darkened curb, more waving his arms at me, than actually flagging.

Hmm.

And Lars jerks for my unlocked back door (sorry, Rose) and starts in huffing, all animated with his story.

Lars, “Man! Thanks for stopping! (Hic!) I was robbed last night, dude! They got my phone. And (Hic!) my wallet! Can you take me to Jones and Chestnut, over in North Beach (Hic!) dude? I still got my house keys. Dude, I’ll pay you tomorrow. (Hic!) K?”

Ah, the ‘ol “gladly pay you on Tuesday, for a hamburger today” pitch. But before I can relent, I take note in the rear view that Lars has already given all he could, and is now comfortably slumped over in back and starting to snore. North Beach, here we come…

I roll over, um… with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor paving the way.

Several times over the course of this ten minute ride, Lars will grunt, and then shift his slump across the back seat, fumbling with and then ultimately dropping his house keys on the floor.

Jeez. Well, if Lars really was robbed, as opposed to just losing his shit, he undoubtedly made for an easy mark.

At drop, I have to shake Lars to consciousness. He dutifully grunts, and then (Hic!) thanks me as he fumbles for the door handle. I start filling out a Citizen’s Cab business card with my phone number and the amount of the fare, so Lars can contact me later for remittan… Eh, who am I kidding?

As he shuts the door, I call after Lars, alerting him to that he has left his keys on the floor of my taxi, and has not yet taken my contact info. Lars stumbles back to retrieve both, and parts with a grunt.

Thusly, the day’s ice is cracked.

 

9:15am:
“Cha-ching! – 230 Central. iPhone. Don. $5 Guarantee.”

The Cabulous smartphone velcroed to 1015’s dash comes cha-ching’ing to life, with a mobile app hail.

And with a $5 guaranteed tip! Sweet! Cabulous has been pushing passengers on the first screen on their app to offer a $4 and $5 and even $10 guaranteed tip! I didn’t even know it was an option, but one time I even got a $15 guarantee! And it was a short ride! Usually, these guarantees mean a longer ride, often an airport. And legally, Cabulous can NOT take their 13.2% cut out of the tip. So, like I said…

SWEET!

I’m close to the order, which is pretty much the point of the app, after having rolled all the way up Haight to its termination at Golden Gate Park, and back here to Buena Vista with the back seat cold.

I flip a U, and turn down Central, and immediately hit the ‘Arrived’ button on the phone, alerting Don that I’m out in front of his Victorian.

In short order, a short, thick kempt grey-haired man with a briefcase, in a neatly pressed golfing outfit – white slacks and salmon Polo – skips sprightly down his steps and into the back of my taxi. And a good natured (possibly gay?) Don asks me how I’m doing, before he directs,

“Green & Lyon, please. Over in Cow Hollow, driver. And can you take Bush to Presidio, and then in through the Presidio, please?”

This, being more a polite way of micromanaging the ride, than a question. But, it’s all good.

Don now apologizes, as he gets on his cell to make a call.

Aside: I’ve noted how good people often apologize to their driver when they’re making a call in the cab. I appreciate the sentiment, but it’s really not necessary. I do not see this as rude. It is your ride. And this is a service industry. But it does say something about a person, considering “the other.” We need a little more of that these days, I think. But, enough of my preaching.

I play fly in the cab to Don’s conversation with his assistant. And, I pretty quickly glean that Don is a sports therapist. And it sounds like a successful one, at that. Ah! That would explain the neat, Coach Ditka hair, and the golf outfit!

Once off of his call, Dr. Don smiles warmly, and gets talky.

Dr. Don, “Well, I guess you could tell from my call that I’m a sports therapist. That’s where we’re going now, to one of my offices. I have second office down at Stanford. You would never know from the facade of this one that it’s a sports therapy office. The front is completely covered in ivy. And it’s nestled pretty discreetly on a quiet, residential block down there on Union. But, there is an armed guard! I have a lot of famous clients who come in from all over the country. And my office has to be secure, as well as discreet. There isn’t even a sign outside for my practice. But, you will commonly see Lamborghini’s and Maseratis parked right out in front. They fit in well, though. I’m just below Billionaire’s Row.”

Driver, biting, “Oh? Yeah, I guess they would fit in… Uh, who are some of your clients? If you don’t mind I ask.”

I ask, as we have just breached the Presidio gate, and begun the wind down Presidio Avenue here in this decommissioned military base-turned national park, with its historic Spanish adobe barracks, and thick groves of Eucalyptus flanking our every weaving maneuver, as the lulling California sun beams softly through their gently rustling leaves, casting warm shadows to dance across a glistening morning’s pavement.

Huh? Oh, sorry… Got lost there for a second.

And Dr. Don is forthcoming, “Oh, I work with quite a few Olympians, internationally, actually. Tiger Woods is also one of my clients. Poor guy. He’s having a hard go of it. Oh, and Lance Armstrong was my client, too. That one really breaks my heart. If you go to the Tour de France website today, you’ll see Lance’s name with a line through it. When I saw that, I thought to myself, ‘No! That was MY race!'”

Driver, now rapt, “Lance Armstrong was YOUR client? Uh, I understand if you don’t want to answer this… but, uh… did you know he was doping?”

Dr. Don, cracking a wry smile via the rear view, “Of course I did! Where do you think he got the hormones! I had detectives down my throat for years! I even had to give a deposition under oath. I totally lied. It would have been a hard case for them to prove I was the source. Anyway, it’s all part of my job. Helping clients obfuscate, and keep things from the press. I mean, these are multi-million dollar contracts and endorsements we’re talking about!”

Well, hmm. I’m guessing Don has been somewhat remiss in noticing the placard there in his face, the one covering the back credit card screen, hawking my taxi book and promoting me as a writer.

Driver, digging deeper, “How much of the cycling team dopes, if you don’t mind? It’s widely reported that it’s all pretty wide spread.”

Dr. Don, “Oh, about half the team. Yeah, it’s all over professional sports. You HAVE to dope in this day and age! Otherwise, you’re at a total disadvantage. The rest of the team all knew Lance was doping. Half of them would bitch and whine about it to me, about how unfair it was. And the other half I was injecting.”

With this, we pull up on Dr. Don’s practice nestled discreetly on Union, just as advertised. And right adjacent the Presidio. One would NEVER know what goes on inside, but for the rosso corsa Ferrari parked out front.

I plug in Dr. Don’s $11.20 fare into the Cabulous smartphone, and notate my waybill – factoring in Dr. Don’s guarantee.

And I drive.

 

Noon:
It’s been hours since the radio has come to life. But now, Tony comes over with an order from dispatch. Holy mother! Someone actually CALLED Citizen’s Cab! No flag. No app. We’re talking a LAND line here! It looks like SOMEONE’s still sporting a rotary phone, and is in need of a ride to their geriatrician.

Tony, “17th ‘n Stanyan. 17th ‘n Stanyan. Who I gaht fer 17th ‘n Stanyan? Aneebodee?”

Sack, “1015. Haight & Ashbury.”

Tony, “Okay, Sack. Why donch you goh get 5033 ahn 17th.”

Sack, “1015. Copy. 5033 17th Street.”

Hey! That’s Mr. Sweetness! With the Snagglepuss inflection! That old school San Francisco, skinny, flamboyantly gay landlord. I haven’t driven him in well over a year! Dude’s a trip.

I zoom through the Haight, and up Stanyan, to find Mr. Sweetness already waiting out in front.

And Mr. Sweetness pops in back, with his usual sing-song,

“Heeeelloooo, Drivah! ‘Nnnd hooow arrre WEEEEE dooooiiing todaaay? Pleessssse, mayy wee goh tahh myyy baaaank, aaaht sevennnth ‘n Irrrviiing?” Adding, as always, with ascending spittle, “Tttthhhhaaannk youuu!”

Drivah notates his waybill, and repeats back, “7th & Irving. The bank.”

And, as always, Mr. Sweetness immediately dominates the conversation. But, Drivah wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mr. Sweetness, “Ohhhh! Desssse DAAAM baannnks! Dey ARRE dah SHIIITTSS! Alll deyy waaanntt iss yer monnneee! ‘Nnd deyy NEVAHH giiivvee itt baaaackk tah youu! NEVAHH!

Onee timme I gaht ah biiiilll inn dah maiill fer ONE cennt! Deyy saaaiid I owwe dem ONE PENNNEE! Kiinn youu juss IMAGIIINNNE daat??

Sooo, I wenn inntah dah baannnk ‘n I saaaiid, ‘Lemmeee taaallk tah dah mannnagahh!’ ‘N I showt hiiim dah biiill… fer ONE CENNT! Welll, hee haad ah goood laaaaff. ‘N hee calllt dah othah tellahs alll ovaaah tah seee! ‘N dey ALLLL haad ah gooood laff! ‘Nnd I paaaaiid myy biiill… fer ONE CENNT! Iit mustah cosss ’em tenn tiiimes dat tah maaiill dah biiill!

Ev’rybodee’s gottenn sooo daaam greeedy dese daaaays! I liiive inn diss citeee aaaall myyy liiifee. ‘Nnd iit din’t ussse tah beee liiike disss!

‘Nnd donn gett mee staaahrt’d ahn Commcasss! Alll deyyy waaanntt iss yer monneee! I calllt dem fer helllp wiit ah brokenn baahhhx. ‘Nnd deyy sennnd ah guyy ovahh, ahsk iff I tryy turnnin itt ahn! Ah corrrsee I tryy dat! Whaddyaah tinnnk? I’mm ah dummeee!? Doo deyy tinnk I’mm stooopid!?

And with this, we roll up to 7th & Irving, and the bank of Mr. Sweetness. He punctuates this short ride from his home with one final lament, on the death of old San Francisco.

Mr. Sweetness, “Ohhh! ‘Nnd donn gett meee staaahrt’d ahn dese, whaaattah dey caaall ’em? Gooobers? I beenn caahllin Citizenn’s Caahhb fer tiiirrrteee yeeers noww! Youu guyss taake REALLL goood caaare ah mee. REALLL goood caaare. Youu guyss toook mee homme onnnce whinn I wass SOOO druunnk, I din’t eveenn knooo wherrre I waaaas!

Nevaahminn dosse Gooberss! Ev’rybodee’s gottenn sooo daaam greeedy dese daaaays! I liiive inn diss citeee aaaall myyy liiifee. ‘Nnd iiit din’t ussse tah beee liiike disss!

Whass dah faaare, drivah? $8.45? Heere’s ah twinnnty. Youu keeep fifffteeeen.” Before Mr. Sweetness adds, dutifully, with ascending spittle, as he exits Citizen’s Cab 1015,

“‘Nnd ttthhhhaaannk youuu, drivah!”

 

3:15pm:
Overall, it’s been a busy day. Mostly short rides. But, one after the other. And though I’m not really a sports fan, I do recall getting out of high school just about every other week for a Redskins parade back in the eighties, after having won yet another Super Bowl. As it’s been told to me, Joe Gibbs’ Redskins were all about foregoing the big passes and just inching towards the goal line, yard by yard.

Maybe today’s good fortune has been due to some kind of good karma I incurred, for helping out Lars this morning. Or, for giving away my peanut butter sandwich to the homeless du jour. Anyway, whatever the cause, I accept.

Rolling west up Market now, fresh from a Financial drop, I likewise accept this one last ride. It’s some skinny white guy hailing me up at U.N. Plaza. He’s mixed in amongst the drug dealing and fencing stolen goods riff raff, smoking a cigarette and nursing an Arizona Iced Tea.

I pull over. And Tim puts out his cigarette, as he gets in back all casual. And once in… Hmm. I sense… something. Sketchy? Well, we ARE pretty much abutting the Loin. But, no. Not sketchy.

Hmm.

Driver, with waybill and clipboard perched on the steering wheel, and at the ready, “Where to?”

Tim exhales the remnants of his cigarette and returns a short, “The Stanford Court hotel.” Then, he coolly, calmly, turns his gaze out the window.

I hit the meter, and drive.

Checking the rear view, hmm, well, Tim doesn’t strike me as a tourist. Not a normal one, anyway. And he doesn’t strike me as homeless. But he doesn’t strike me as having means, either. And the Stanford Court is a pretty nice hotel, up on Cathedral Hill, situated across from the Fairmont. Maybe he’s some hold over still in town from 420 yesterday?

A few quiet blocks’ ride on, Tim breaks finally radio silence and comes clean, “I’m tripping LSD. It’s my first time.”

Well. Nice weather we’re having…

Tim expounds, “I’m peaking right now. And I’m looking for something to do. Do you have any ideas?”

Driver, doing his cabbie job listing off the wonders of San Francisco, “Well, uh, you’re pretty close to Grace Cathedral. They have two labyrinths there. One inside, and one out. It’s a beautiful day, too. Maybe you could just walk around Chinatown? Or, head down to the Maritime Museum pier at Fisherman’s Wharf? If I were you, though, I’d head for the woods somewhere. Maybe Golden Gate Park?” However, it just HAS to be noted, “Uh, you seem pretty cool for tripping acid your first time, I have to say.”

Tim, “Well, I’ve done mushrooms before. Thanks for the ideas. I guess I’ll just see what happens.”

Driver, “Indeed. You know how it goes. I’m not really sure that any of us really make any plans.”

No. If there’s anything that I’ve learned from life. And from behind this wheel. It’s that, whatever we do, the Universe always has its own ideas…

 

_____

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Photo by Alex SacK

www.AlexSacK.com

Check out Alex’s Book 1 – San Francisco TAXI: A 1st Week in the ZEN Life…
& Book 2 San Francisco TAXI: Life in the Merge Lane…

 

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