This summer’s borne out all hot or cold, business-wise. And it’s been wearing on me. Increasingly. It’s late in my Friday day shift now, on a cold one. I’m currently rolling west on Market in ‘ol Citizen’s Cab 1015, and I’m desperate for a fare. Though, I am still somehow able to find sublime this view of the Indian Maiden’s Breasts west on the horizon. (Los Pechos de la Chola – as the Spanish conquistadors who settled San Francisco had dubbed Twin Peaks, before…)
Approaching a red before Market & McAllister, there’s a scene at the curb in front of the congregated drug dealers and pay day lender’s. It’s a couple of cops who it seems are harassing some old guy with a long white beard sitting on a fire hydrant. Behind him is a black granny cart full of blankets and plastic bags, with a cane sticking out of it. Santa’s sporting a backwards baseball cap reading “Misfits” and is yelling indecipherably at the cops in a deep raspy voice.
Suddenly, the police surrounding him point over in my direction. Santa maneuvers on his hydrant towards me, dipping his dark ZZ Top sunglasses, as he and the cops all begin vehemently waving to flag.
Well, what have I got to lose?
I zoom towards the curb as readying my waybill, when suddenly, some semi-pretty forty-something black chick in stylish sunglasses and a curly disheveled wig starts running up from behind them all… to also flag.
Aside: Apparently, wigs are a black chick thing. No, really. I learned that from a white college chick reporting on NPR. She embedded herself off campus with her black dorm mate’s family over a spring break, in some kind of kumbaya experiment, and she had her eyes opened to the whole black wig thing. She said if a black chick wants to go au naturel to some event, she has to spend most of the night before styling her real hair, and then sleep in a chair that night to not mess it up.
Anyway, sorry B’yonce’. (Really.) But, ZZ Santa got me first.
I jump out to open 1015’s hatch for dude’s granny cart, as I just now realize that B’yonce’ is in cahoots with ZZ Santa.
As I settle the granny cart, ZZ Santa canes his way in back and B’yonce’ runs around to sit in back behind my driver’s seat.
Now, pen and waybill propped on the steering wheel, ready, “Where to, guys?”
ZZ Santa and B’yonce’ speak at once.
ZZ Santa, gruff and raspy, “6th & Mission. The Sunnyside Hotel.”
B’yonce’ disagreeing, but in a calming, soothing rasp, “No, driver. Go straight up Market, right.”
ZZ Santa, “Nah! Tha Sunnyside! 6th… and Mission!”
B’yonce’, still calm, soothing, and raspy, “Straight. Right, driver.”
Well, now. The light is now green. And we are at a fork here, at Market and McAllister. Straight up Market? Or right up McAllister? By her calm demeanor, I am inclined to listen to B’yonce’. At least, if her directions were coherent. But who the hell is paying here, anyway??
Driver, “Uh, straight up Market? Or, right up McAllister?”
B’yonce’ laughs adorably, embarrassed, “(Heh, heh, heh.) Sorry, driver. Straight right. Um, up McAllister. There’ a hotel a few blocks up. The Abigail.”
Driver, “Damn. I want what you’re having!”
As I veer up McAllister, B’yonce’ laughs again, before holding up a sticky, tarred bud of pot in my face to smell, with, “(Heh, heh.) And I haven’t even smoked any, yet! But don’t it smell good? And I like the sticky way it feels between my fingers. Yup.”
ZZ Santa, “Bitch, I TOLD you we’re stayin’ at The Sunnyside! You always takin’ my money. WHO got you off the street? WHO gave you a hot meal? WHO gets you high??”
B’yonce’, a little less cool now, “You don’t call me a bitch, you Grinch. You don’t need to be so negative all the time. And I don’t need to be talked to like that.” Turning to Driver, “And it ain’t his money, neither. He got it from the loan sharks!” Back to ZZ Santa, ” I don’t care if the Sunnyside is $80 a night. They don’t got no bathroom, they don’t turn the sheets, and they DON’T bring no towels unless you ASK for ’em!”
In all of the back and forth, I have gotten distracted. It seems that we have passed the Abigail.
ZZ Santa, “Damn. Where are you going? You passed the hotel!”
Driver, flush, “Oh! I’m sorry! I didn’t see it! Uh, don’t worry. I’ll just back it up a little.”
Driver throws his taxi into reverse, gunning it most of the block backwards on one-way McAllister Street, right in the thick of Civic Center’s multiple court houses, and in close proximity to City Hall. E.g., POLICE CENTRAL!!!
ZZ Santa, “Damn. You drive better in reverse than you do straight!”
Out in front of the Abigail, B’yonce’ and ZZ Santa work surprisingly well together in figuring out who is going to go in to investigate. It appears that yours truly is not yet off the hook. I glean that despite all the bickering, and the seemingly odd pairing of these two there is a deep love and chemistry between them. Possibly even a history.
B’yonce’ goes in.
ZZ Santa, “I’m thinkin’ we should just leave that bitch HERE, driver. We should just DRIVE! You know how you see on the news, when a woman gets killed, how the guy stabs her like eighty-six times? I get it, man. I’m gonna stab that bitch tonight!”
ZZ makes stabbing motions.
ZZ Santa, continuing, “EIGHTY-SIX! It’s cause he can’t stab the bitch enough! Ain’t NO pussy worth all that, man! ‘N this one’s a whore who don’t put out! Known that bitch for six years! SIX!! Takin’ all my money. ‘N NOTHIN’, man!”
ZZ digressing, “People think I’m some old white guy. But I’m not. My family’s from Mexico, man! ‘N I’m from the street! I shoot straight. ‘N I don’t take no shuck ‘n jive. Don’t play with me. Shit! I’m gonna end up stabbin’ that bitch and gettin’ the pen!”
ZZ Santa clutches his cane, before looking stoically out his window. Aww. He doesn’t mean it.
B’yonce’ comes out with a paper from the Abigail, some kind of room rate and amenities list. She settles back in 1015.
B’yonce’, “They’re $130 a night. And they won’t take a cash deposit.” Suddenly reminded, she notes the $9.00 meter and looks at me in the rear view to address, “Do you think we could work something out, if the credit card doesn’t go through?”
Driver, not surprised, “Uh… Weed? I can’t. It’s been a rough day. If I don’t get paid, I’ll be joining you in your hotel room!”
B’yonce’ laughs, raspy and adorable, flashing her perfect white teeth via the rear view, which beam out in contrast to her dark shades, chocolate skin and curly light brown wig.
B’yonce’ to ZZ Santa, “Where should we try next? You been 86’d from just about every other hotel in town…”
ZZ, “Shit, bitch! I TOLD you! The Sunnyside!” Turning to me, “6th & Mission, driver!”
B’yonce’ to Driver, “Let’s try the Rodeway, up on Eddy past Van Ness.”
Ah! The good old “Road Rat Inn” as my kids and I called it, back when we were “clients” of the Red Cross for a few weeks, after our crack dealing downstairs neighbors burned out their flat with the poor placement of an electric space heater on a padded chair.
Driver, “Yeah! The Road Ra…, uh, Rodeway will probably let in with a cash deposit! And if they don’t, there’s The Oasis right next door you could try!”
ZZ Santa crosses his arms and looks out his window again, as we drive.
Once out in front between the two hotels, B’yonce’ gets out to investigate as ZZ Santa dives back into talk of leaving her here, and again going on to bitch about women.
ZZ Santa, “Ain’t NO bitch worth the pussy. Whatchu into anyway, driver?”
Driver, with a nervous chuckle, “Who? Me?? (Heh, heh.) Oh, I like women. But it’s been a while. I got burned last time. And I’ve got too much on my plate right now to deal with all of that.”
We see B’yonce’ come back out of the Road Rat shaking her head at us, and then continuing up the block to check out The Oasis.
ZZ Santa, repeating, “That woman would be on the street if it weren’t for me. I feed her. Get her high. Takes ALL ah my money.”
And once more, B’yonce’ is back in the cab, rejected.
ZZ Santa, “Let’s go down and try the Civic Center Inn. And THIS time, I’LL go in!”
I check the clock: 3:30pm. Pumpkin time is 4pm.
Driver, “Guys, I have to have the cab gassed up and back at the lot out by Bayshore by 4. We’re going to have to figure this out soon. Okay?”
ZZ notes the meter, which reads $11.65.
ZZ Santa, “Driver, you got your meter off all this time, man.”
Shit! I must have turned it off back at the Abigail, thinking that was it. It’s still been marking up for mileage. But, the time has been on hold. And we haven’t left an eight block radius! The meter should be pushing $20 after all of this. Shit!
I flip the meter back on, as we roll the two blocks down to The Civic Center Inn.
ZZ Santa grumbles and canes his way out of the taxi, and into the office – unaware of having left his door ajar and my Prius beeping in protest. Ugh.
But B’yonce’ is on the case.
B’yonce’, “Stupid old man.” She reaches over and shuts his door. “If I had his money, we’d be leaving him here. I’m only in this position ’cause I got evicted from 142 Mason. They say I stabbed my neighbor. I didn’t stab my neighbor. They all just know I carry a knife, and pinned it on me.” Digressing, “I used to drive a cab you know, driver. Back in the early 2000’s, for Veteran’s. Back when they were down at 11th & Division. Those were the days. So, you know, I know how it is.”
B’yonce’ again smiles in the rear view, again flashing her pearly whites.
Hmm. I could actually see B’yonce’ as a cab driver. And the hacks today all still talk about the scene at Veterans Cab when the lot was in town, down on 11th.
ZZ Santa comes swaggering out of the Civic Center Inn with his cane. But it’s the kind of swagger where one is trying to save face. Rejection. But, I wonder. This is DEFINITELY the kind of place that would take a cash deposit, if any would. It’s probably more the case that he is on their list as 86’d for some reason, as B’yonce’ was talking about.
ZZ leans into the open shotgun window, with, “I’m gonna walk across the street and try that hotel on the other side of Polk there. Just drive over and wait for me to see if they got anything.”
Uh, that’s the Alexis. I don’t think that’s a crack hotel…
B’yonce’ and I roll and pull into the parking lot of the Alexis, which is actually kempt. And B’yonce’ senses another rejection, as she broaches, “Hey. Maybe you could go in for us. I mean, you’re white. People think that old man is white. But he’s not. They ain’t gonna let him in.”
I ignore the suggestion, as ZZ Santa comes swaggering out, dejected again. He pops in back.
ZZ Santa, “They told me they ain’t got no rooms. But I heard ’em talkin’ in Spanish. In slang. They figured me for a white guy. Didn’t think I knew what they were sayin’. They were whispering shit about me.”
ZZ mimicks, “‘Gringo estar en pedo. Mira la bottela.’ They were talkin’ about the bottle in my back pocket. Sayin’ I was a drunk. Shit. It ain’t even open!” ZZ Santa continuing, “I just let ’em have their fun. Happens all the time. I wait ’til I call ’em on it. That way, I can listen to everything they’re saying first. And THEN call them on talkin’ shit! Pedo my ass!
Back when I was workin’ as a MUNI driver, I drove the 22 Fillmore on the night shift, there was these two Mexican women sittin’ up at the front of the bus. And the only other passengers were these two young white kids, sitting way at the back. The women didn’t think anyone else spoke Spanish. And you shoulda HEARD these bitches! MAN! They were talkin’ so DIRTY! I never HEARD talk like that! Shit. MEN don’t talk that dirty! I just kept my mouth shut, and listened.
I was huffin’ and pantin’ drivin’ the bus, gettin’ all hot! You shoulda HEARD what these chicks were sayin’! Then, when it was time for them to get off at their stop, I turned to them with, ‘Gracias por un buen tiempo, damas!’ Thanks for the good time, ladies! HA! They got all crazy and turned red in their faces, screaming as they got off the bus, ‘DIOS MIO!! DIOS MIO!! Nos entendió!!!’ He understood us!!! HA!!”
Driver, “Guys, I really have to get the cab back. It’s 3:40 now. Let’s try the Travelodge, at Market & Valencia. I bet anything they’ll take a cash deposit.”
Judging by all the crack and meth heads I’ve picked up from, and driven to, there in the past. (And with its repute for bed bugs.) Anyway, the Travelodge puts me a lot closer to the Citizen’s Cab lot.
Driver adding, “If the Travelodge doesn’t pan out, I’ll have just enough time to take you guys to the Sunnyside.”
I start to drive, as B’yonce’ wonders aloud, “Remember? You got 86’d from there last time, old man. After your wild night with Bobby. They probably got your name on the list at the desk.”
This, apparently is an allusion to some gay sexcapade, as ZZ Santa takes serious exception and starts in yelling at B’yonce’ denying he’s a “faggot” and calling her a bitch, over and over.
We quickly pull into the parking lot of the Travelodge, as ZZ Santa, still fuming, throws open his door to go try his luck. And as he does, B’yonce’ reaches over and pulls a folded packet of papers out of ZZ’s back pocket, unbeknownst to ZZ Santa.
Damn. That’s cold.
Am I supposed to do something here?
B’yonce’ opening the wad, “Shit. I thought this was the old man’s envelope with the money. It’s just a bunch of papers. If it WAS the money, we’d be outta here!
He gets $6000 a month from being a Viet Nam vet. And from his pension from drivin’ that bus. I earned that money, though. That’s MY money. You see how he is? That old man is a pill to swallow. My mother warned me about him. Known him six years now. SIX! And he is a PILL to swallow! I don’t need all of that negativity. And aggression. You see it, driver. Don’t you? I cannot take much more from that Grinch.
Yeah, I may turn tricks,” B’yonce’ smiles wryly through her dark shades, and again beams her perfect teeth in the rear view, “But I do NOT put out!”
As we sit in the cab wondering if the Travelodge is going to call ZZ Santa on having been 86’d, B’yonce’ lights up, albeit hesitantly, with a rehash of her previous, bad idea.
“Driver, uh… you think if they don’t let us in, maybe you could go in and book the room for us?”
Driver, “Uh… that would mean me giving them my driver’s license, wouldn’t it?”
B’yonce’, “Yeah, it would. That’s okay. I wouldn’t do it if I was you either.”
Right on cue, ZZ Santa comes swaggering out, but a little more proud this time, with a spring in his cane. He approaches the open shotgun window.
ZZ Santa, “Okay, this is our stop. How much do I owe you?”
Driver JUMPS out of the taxi and RUNS around back to the hatch to retrieve ZZ’s granny cart, as B’yonce’ looks at the $21.10 meter and answers for Driver.
B’yonce’, “You owe him $25 old man. And DON’T forget to leave him a GOOD tip!”
ZZ Santa just ignores B’yonce’, dips his cheap sunglasses to make eye contact with Driver, and again asks how much for the ride. But now, with an open white envelope FULL of bills in his hand.
Driver begins to open his mouth. But, now out of the cab, B’yonce’s voice comes out instead.
B’yonce’, “TWENTY-FIVE DOLLAHS old man! And DON’T forget to tip GOOD!”
ZZ Santa drops his query, and shuffles through the twenties and hundreds filling his envelope to pull out two crisp twenties, with, “Here. You take this. You earned it after having to deal with all of that bitch’s bullshit.”
I accept the $40 with grace, and then awkwardly go to hug B’yonce’.
Driver, “Wow. Thanks, guys. I really needed this today. Good luck to you both!”
And be good to each other.
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Photo by Alex SacK
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