No Quarter

Cal Hill


I awake to a drizzly San Francisco winter’s morning. Wait… It’s summer. And we’re in an historic drought.

Well, maybe the sprinkle will help… a little. On whatever rare occasion that the local news (incorrectly) predicts that we have rain coming, they inevitably go on to qualify how “it won’t be enough.” However, I did just catch on PBS’ The News Hour a show on Hetch Hetchy – the dam and reservoir system that brings San Francisco its water down from the Sierra Nevada. Hetch Hetchy is fed each spring by the melting snowpack from up around Tahoe, et al. Problem is this winter there was no snow.

But! The powers had been planning for several years now for a years-long drought. Consequently, they relayed that Hetch Hetchy is 70% full! Which said powers went on to qualify “is not enough”.

Well, we don’t have lawns and swimming pools here in San Francisco. It’s too compact and too cold. So, we really haven’t been feeling the drought. Eh… let the corporate farms in the Central Valley and the golfers down in L.A. worry about it. Don’t know why we’re irrigating deserts, anyway. But don’t you dare raise the price of my avocado! We San Franciscans love us our avocados!

I head out into the early morning quiet from my attic flat up on Post, bound for my van parked across the street. And right on cue, Aldo rolls by in his kempt ’97 silver Honda (with tricked-out wheels) cruising for a spot. Aldo is a nice mid-20’s Filipino guy who happens by each morning looking for parking for work, either at Kaiser or the UCSF medical complex that flanks my ‘hood – as evidenced by the early time of morning (shift change) and Aldo’s blue hospital garb. I sometimes feel like Aldo’s stalking me. He almost always zooms up from just around the corner right as I’m heading for my van. But he is a sweet man, and always shows real gratitude for the spot. Without fail, Aldo wishes me a good morning, and with a genuine smile. And I do understand his need. Parking is a real bitch in San Francisco. (Especially, in the thick of a medical complex!) On occasion, I have even come home from work to catch Aldo leaving his spot for me to snag! Ah, karma.

Anyway, this morning Aldo inadvertently passes me by in his Honda, as he’s rolling up Post Street and I’m walking down the street with keys in hand.

I yell after, “ALDO!!”


Hey! He heard me!

I look to see Aldo start-in to making a three-point turn way up the block, as I’m crossing the deserted pre-dawn Post Street and headed for my van… Well, usually deserted!

Suddenly, a big black Chevy Tahoe comes veering around the corner out of nowhere! (Ok, from Broderick.) Through tinted windows Big Black Chevy Tahoe spots me, with keys in hand! It slows to a stalk… If I don’t take evasive action, Aldo will get screwed! I finish crossing the street all nonchalantly … and walk past my van. I continue, walking on down the sidewalk and down towards Broderick, as I leave my van behind… and Big Black Chevy Tahoe, who is now roaring up Post, defeated.

I turn to jut back!

Aldo has securely come around now. He stands poised for the kill with his window down, a beaming smile and a,

“Thanks! Good morning!”

I shoot back a smile and a, “Good Morning, Aldo!” as I ease out of his spot and roll down Post. And as I do, I catch Big Black Chevy Tahoe once again come turning the corner from Broderick circling the block.

I continue my ride to the Citizen’s Cab lot with a clear mind and nary even an “OM”.


I’m post-Starbucks and on the road. The sun’s just peeking up over the Bay Bridge in my rear view as I head west down California from Cathedral Hill into Polk Gulch.

Three Minutes Later…

I’m still fare-less as I cross Van Ness on Union en route for the Cow Hollow strip.

Right as I cross, one of two white dudes waiting at the bus stop seems to be flagging me. His arm is waving. But his back is turned to me. And eye contact usually is what seals the contract.

Hmm. He seems to be negotiating with the other guy, like they’re still deciding on whether to cab it or not.

Eh, I pull over…

And back-turned flagging dude says goodbye to his cohort as he pops in back alone, smelling of liquor.

Ken, “21st & Geary, man. How’s business? I used to drive in Pittsburgh. Not Pittsburgh, California. Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh! People used to ask me, ‘What’s a white dude doing driving in Pittsburgh?!’ I’d have to tell them, ‘Pennsylvania!’ … You know, I tried to walk into a Target the other day. But I missed.”

What!? A Mitch Hedberg reference! (However awkwardly delivered.)

Exploring Cabbie, “Mitch Hedberg! Alright! Hey, why don’t you drive a cab in San Francisco?”

Ken, “Oh, I didn’t drive a cab! I have a DWI on my record. The cab companies would never have me. I drove for Lyft! Yeah, used to stay up all night doin’ blow and then go out early morning to do some airport runs.”

Interested Cabbie, “Oh! Hey, weren’t you worried about driving around uninsured? What if you got into an accident?”

Ken, “Well, then you just tell the passenger that you’re ‘just friends’. If they want to get paid for their injury, it’s in their best interest to not tell the insurance company the ride was for money! My pax were always cool with it.”

(Huh? Always cool with it?)

Ken (continuing), “I work at a restaurant in Hayes Valley now. All the CEOs from Lyft and Uber and their hedge fund backers come in all the time. Those guys are real douche bags! They live in a different world… Hey! I got some real bad dry mouth. Can I have some of your water?”

Confused Cabbie, “My wa-ter?? Uh… Uh… O-kay??

Then as if I were watching in slow motion and from outside of my body, I hand Ken back my water bottle and witness as he wraps his lips around the spout and guzzles… before capping his hydration with a loud sucking sound and the specter of hordes of bubbles of backwash as they flood back into my bottle.

Ken hands my water bottle back up to me as smacking his lips all happy and saturated with, “Thanks, man!”

I reach to accept it with two fingers and then stick the reusable water bottle back in the cup holder.

And I make a mental note, “Alex. Go home and alcohol-sanitize your bottle… post-haste, post drop!!

And Ken continues, “You know, I know a lot about cars. I can look at a car’s headlights and tell you exactly which way it’s going!” (Ok. Another Hedberg line.) “Ha! I’m a comedian, you know. You should look me up on the internet! But you probably wouldn’t find much. I just have a couple links up… for bookers to see.”

We roll up on Ken’s residential drop in the Outer Richmond and he hands me up a Visa for the $17.45 fare saying to put $21 on it.

Man, er… Cabbie, “Thanks, man. I’ll look you up! Oh, would you like a receipt?”

Ken, “We do not need to bring ink and paper into this transaction!” (Jeez. Another Mitch line.)

Cabbie, “Ha! You can file it under ‘C’ for cab! Have a good one!”

Ken stumbles out of my taxi as I mark my waybill.

Before I can roll, however, I am startled by a loud banging on 137’s hatch. I turn to look. It’s Ken! He’s patting the back, all bro-like and offering up one last awkward Mitch Hedberg rip, “I just can’t imagine a scenario where I’d have to PROVE that I bought a donut!”

Uh, ok.



I’m relaxing to classical, still. (Haven’t moved over to jazz, yet.) Hoyt Smith is DJ’ing now and going over some of the week’s weird news in his usual droll.

“In competition with a recent spate of ‘slow TV’ marathons from Norway, a la 12 hours of live knitting and 18 hours of salmon swimming upstream, Icelandic Public Television was not to be outdone this week with its 24 hour live broadcast of lamb birthing. Truly ‘must see’ TV, folks. And that’s the news. Now let’s hear from Aldona Dvarionaite performing Frédéric Chopin’s ‘Prelude in e Minor (Opus 28. No 4.)’.”


I’m heading up 101 north returning from dropping a quiet uneventful day tripper suit down at SFO, United. Fifty bucks courtesy of Cabulous. Sweet!

But, there’s a rumbling in my stomach. Hmm. I think I’ll hit the loo at Citizen’s Cab before rolling back into the city proper. The lot’s proximity to the southern edge of town and 101 is often times very convenient. Bathrooms for a cabbie are that pot of gold (so to speak) at the end of the rainbow. (You just gotta know the haunts of the Leprechaun.)

Random Digression: Back in my teens when I worked the register at a People’s Drug in the D.C. suburbs of Maryland, I would note the ebbs and flows of customer traffic in the store, who bought what cigarettes: Marlboro Red – white men, Marlboro Lights – white women, Virginia Slims 100’s – old white women, Newports/Kools (and all-things menthol) – blacks. Now as a cab driver, it’s the airlines I take note of: Virgin America – techies, Southwest – regular schmos, Alaska Air – hipsters, and United – business-class day trippers.


I’m done utilizing the facilities at Citizen’s and I’m ready to head back out again. Rush-hour oughta be starting to heat up about now. But as I head towards my Prius, I run into Vinnie; a cool night driver who I’ve been following on Facebook. He usually has some interesting insights and strong opinions on the highly-fluctuating state of the cab biz.

“Hey, Vinnie! How’s it going? Hey! I TOLD you Antoinette wasn’t a shill for the unions!”

Vinnie had mentioned on a recent ride home from the lot that he thought Antoinette (a female cab driver activist who vociferously advocates for taxi driver union membership) was a paid union rep, a “shill”. But Vinnie recently recanted and publicly apologized to Antoinette on the Facebook SF Taxi Driver group. I give Vinnie props for the public admission.

“Props to you for admitting it!”

Vinnie, “Yeah, I was wrong. Ya gotta stand up and own it when you’re wrong. Hey, you heading out? Can you give me a ride?”

Sack, “Sure. Get in. Home? To Golden Gate & Fillmore?”

Vinnie, “Yeah.”

Vinnie gets in back and we roll, sans meter. (Cabbie code.) He’ll look out for me at drop. Anyway, sweet! It’s good to score a fare on the edge of town that’ll bring you back to civilization!

En route, Vinnie glows and asks me if I’ve read Kelly Dessaint’s newest submission to the SF Examiner.

I grumble and mutter “not yet”. But Vinnie gushes on about it. (Ugh.)

“Yeah, he wrote ‘Momomomomomomomo’ for this passenger giving directions who he couldn’t understand a word of! Ha! I get passengers like that all the time!”


I don’t think Vinnie knows that I’ve been blogging about my cabbie adventures and the inherent “Zen” observations involved with said adventures for over five years now! (Yeah, marketing ain’t my thing.)

Anyway, Kelly is a pretty good writer who about a year ago started driving for “rideshares” and began articulately documenting the B.S. of it all over the internets and in book. He moved to legit cab driving only a couple months ago and immediately scored a weekly column in San Francisco’s daily free rag. Asshole! In his very first column he referenced the “Zen” of it all. Fucker!! (Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s an obvious descriptor of the cab life. And I don’t own “Zen”. But I do happen to know that Kelly bought my book at City Lights. And “Zen” is in the goddamn title!)

Cool! City Lights! Anyway, I know from the shelves in Rose’s cab school overflowing with books about driving by cabbie authors that we are all just stepping stones across the river Styx. (Or some shit like that.) But milking Buddhism for ego-inflation and financial gain with all its inherent cab-related glory is MY gig! (Ok, forget the “financial gain” part. And the “glory” part. Can I still keep “cab-related”?) Anyway, yeah… I “Accept.”

(Oh, Kelly. Let’s do lunch sometime!)

At Vinnie’s drop at Golden Gate & Fillmore I change the subject and ask if he saw the new documentary that (friend and night driver) Christian is in. Christian caught an Uber on his cab cam some weeks ago at this very intersection as Uber jumped the green trying to mack oncoming traffic for a left onto Golden Gate. Of course, Uber immediately went slamming into old woman in the crosswalk (36:20) who then proceeded to fly over Uber’s hood and windshield before landing back in the street bleeding from her head. Uber immediately instructed his passenger flee the scene for the nearby McDonald’s while he was ripping down his “U” signage and the phone from the windshield in the “rideshare” spirit of insurance fraud. Dude must have read all the Uber and Lyft forums where they coach “your friend with a car” to hide all indication of driving commercially while on personal insurance in a collision, lest a “rideshare” driver get dropped from their policy, and their and their passenger’s claim denied.

Vinnie gushes that he saw the documentary and offers up of Uber and their ilk,

“When I see those bastards on the road, I give them NO quarter!”

Hey. I like that! “No quarter.” I’m gonna have to look up the etymology on that one!

“No quarter! You said it, brother!” I blurt back all amped.

Vinnie hands me up thirteen ones as he exits my Prius, and he pats the roof as I roll off up Fillmore… on towards the disposable-income grounds that is Pacific Heights.


Just did a Cow Hollow run to Levis Plaza – thanks to my Cabulous app. After drop, I am divided on whether to head away from downtown – up Bay Street through Fisherman’s Wharf and into the Marina, or risk heading down to Market. Usually passengers are looking to go to Market at this time. But you can often times catch a ride outside a BART station, some east bay fare heading outbound to one of SF’s many hospitals. Hmm. My gut says Bay Street…

Eh, let’s head downtown.

Fifteen Minutes Later…

BIG mistake!! I’ve been stuck on this one block of Davis right before Market for over ten minutes now! What!? Is there some kind of accident at the intersection?? I do see a big commotion up ahead, with cops and EMTs and the like. As I only inch nearer with each passing minute I come to see that there’s a policeman sending all traffic east… towards the last block of Market! That’ll force me back the way I came!! Damn! What a waste of precious rush hour.

It’s finally my turn to get diverted. I am stunned to learn that this whole thing is due to a medium-sized protest blocking this one intersection. It’s a Black Lives Matter protest, with many more media and on-lookers than protesters. To be more specific, it’s a Black Women’s Lives Matter protest! Complete with a line of black women holding banners and signs and sporting body paint and colorful turbans as they’re all locked together and chanting, TOPLESS!

As I pass, I stretch to find some kind of sexual arousal in the free display of flesh. But somehow, the turbans and the body paint and just the whole utilitarian nature of the thing keeps bringing me back to the little boy hiding under his bed sheets with a flashlight gawking at his National Geographics.


I’m cruising west up Market fresh from a successful Financial drop! I catch a bad head as I’m passing Twitter’s headquarters. I ponder about the payroll tax breaks given them by Mayor Ed Lee in the effort to “create jobs”. Yeah, jobs were created… for every kid graduating college with a computer science degree from the mid-west in search of hipness in the move to housing-strapped San Francisco while willfully ignoring the collateral damage in their wake that is the 1000’s of working-class evictions and pricing-out of long-time residents who ACTUALLY VOTED for the very mayor who is now facilitating the turning of all the rent-controlled apartments in luxury condos!

(Oh, um… don’t forget to “Follow” me on Twitter for failed-rock star, non-practicing Buddhist one-offs at @digitAlSack)

In the middle of said head, a “rideshare” comes rolling up behind me as we stop for a red at Van Ness… in the VERY conspicuously bright-red painted bus/taxi-ONLY lane!

Bitch. Scab’s just trying to avoid the long line cars waiting at the light in the right (a.k.a HIS) lane! These guys spend quite a bit of time insisting that they are NOT taxis. I guess the insistence stops at the point where it does not serve.

The light turns green.

I stay put.


(Sigh.) Really.

I stay the course.


Uh, huh.

I should probably have mentioned that the bus-taxi lane here is sandwiched between a MUNI bus island and the double yellow – here on traffic cop ubiquitous Market & Van Ness.

The light turns yellow. I cross Van Ness.

And Scab cab runs the red behind me (as the bus/taxi-only zone now ends to become two regular lanes).

No quarter.

I casually veer right. Scab veers right to pass.

He can’t.

I casually veer left. Scab veers left to pass.

He can’t.


Scab guns his little blue Honda Fit over the double yellow and cuts hard back into my lane as he almost hits me!

And Scab immediately comes to a stop stuck behind an historic F train; wedged-in by yet another MUNI island and the double-yellow.

Coming up from behind now, I casually go around in the right lane.

But once free, Scab zooms to catch up!

He’s tailgating me, again!

And Scab yells out of his window while so doing,



Wait. Wha??

Scab actually thinks that my driving has been inadvertent?? WTF!? What an insult!

I stop dead in front of Scab; of course, only for fear that if I keep moving he will rear-end me while tailgating.

But Scab now feels empowered. For Scab is the proud owner of an iPhone!

Scab breaks out his cell and starts filming me while stopped in front of him. Scab is sticking his head out the window of his blue Fit now and is yelling all loud, authoritatively… if not entitled-whiny,


I snicker childishly for a second, pondering how my cab cam caught Scab rolling in the taxi lane behind me, before then going on to pass me over the double-yellow! Anyway, I believe that my work is done here.

I move on, rolling left down Valencia and into the Mission.

Hmm. Do you all think I should actually start practicing Buddhism?




“Cha-ching! – 1000 North Point. Martha. Dispatch.”

And I ‘Accept’.

But with some hesitation…

Martha is a high-maintenance regular. A nice woman. But always super stressed. And jittery as a cat on acid. (Not that I’d know anything about cats on acid.) Martha is heavy set and very white – except for the numerous varicose veins and surgery scars on her legs. A sexagenarian, she is always shaking like a leaf – almost as if to complete with the high-pitched wavering Olive Oyl-esque voice. Martha comes across as if she has Parkinson’s. But I don’t think she does. I think this is just her way. (She’s never listed it amongst her many afflictions before.) Anyway, last time she spent most of the ride to the doctor’s complaining about computers and asking if I’d come over to help teach her how to use hers. (Uh.)

I roll up on 1000 North Point lickety-split, to one of two complementing modern-ish monolithic buildings here that overlook Aquatic Park and play home to innumerable condos. Ralph the Reputed Fox News-Watching Doorman comes out to let me know Martha will be down “soon”. But I know from experience that “soon” means upwards of eight minutes.

Ten Minutes Later…

I gave in and turned on the meter five minutes ago. And Martha has only now made her appearance in a black overcoat – unbuttoned to expose a large flower-patterned mumu, fluffy blue bedroom slippers, bright red lipstick, and managing a HUGE purse and walker. Martha comes out on the arm of Ralph the Reputed Fox News-Watching Doorman as all shaking and oscillating in voice and flesh, the usual. Ralph shuffles her over towards the cab as Martha expresses a sustained and open fear of death, with each and every step.

She eventually approaches the cab’s open shotgun window. Per her usual routine, Martha asks,

“P-l-e-a-s-e,  d-r-i-v-e-r. I-I-I  n-n-e-e-e-d  t-t-o-o  s-i-i-i-t  u-u-u-p-p  f-f-f-r-r-o-n-t.”

Driver, “Oh, sure. Let me just move my office…”

I grab my hand towel, map book, waybill/clipboard and book, and shove them into the Prius’ center arm rest/glove box as Ralph the Reputed Fox News-Watching Doorman opens the shotgun door and begins working Martha wavering and groaning in front. Then, Martha suddenly falls sideways and her skirt goes hiked over her waist to expose her cooch all Paris Hilton-style! But she’s NOT Paris!!


I turn away as Ralph hands me Martha’s seat belt.

I plug it in blind.

Whew! Martha has now settled, however still shaking. She turns to address driver,

“T-h-a-a-n-n-k  y-y-o-o-u!  I-I  a-a-m  l-l-a-a-t-e  t-t-o-o  m-m-y  d-d-o-c-t-o-r-s  a-p-p-p-o-i-n-t-m-e-n-t! 2-1-0-0 W-e-b-s-s-t-e-r,  d-d-r-i-i-v-e-r!  F-f-a-a-a-s-t!!”


“W-w-h-y-y  d-d-o-e-s  t-t-h-e  m-m-e-t-e-r  s-s-a-y  $4-.6-0,  d-d-r-i-i-v-e-r?”

Driver, “Oh! Uh. It’s, um, protocol to turn on the meter after five minutes of waiting.”

Martha says nothing. She just frowns at this, and shakes some more.

We listen to classic rock along the way, and Martha seems to cheer up a little as she tells me that I look like Paul McCartney. I start to warm to Martha.

I ask what time her appointment is. Oops. Martha diverts back to her scowl and visible worry.

Martha, “M-m-y  a-p-p-p-o-i-n-t-m-e-n-t  i-i-s  f-f-f-o-r  1-1-:-4-5,  d-d-r-i-i-v-v-e-r.  O-o-h,  I-I-I  j-j-u-s-t  h-h-a-t-e  c-c-e-l-l-l  p-p-h-o-n-e-s!  Y-y-o-u  h-h-a-v-e  t-t-o  p-p-u-t  t-t-h-e-m  u-u-p  t-t-o  y-y-o-u-r  e-e-a-r.  C-c-a-n  y-y-o-u  c-c-a-l-l-l  t-t-h-e  d-d-o-c-t-o-r  f-f-f-o-r  m-m-m-e,  d-d-r-i-i-v-e-r?”

Martha hits the speed dial for Cal Pacific Medical Center on her cell and hands it over to me as I drive. I get a nurse on the phone as Martha yells aloud her name and appointment time of 15 minutes ago. The nurse tells me to get there soon, because they are all going to lunch at noon.

Huh? It’s noon NOW!

Martha jitters all stressful (well, more) at the news. Then, she digresses. Or so I think…

Martha, “A-r-e  y-y-y-o-u  I-I-I-r-i-s-h?”

Driver, “Uh. Actually, I’m half Irish-Catholic and half Jewish.”

Martha, “O-O-O-H!  I-I-I  c-c-a-l-l-e-d  f-f-o-r  a-a-a  J-J-e-w-i-i-s-h  r-r-i-i-i-d-e  s-s-s-e-r-v-i-i-c-e  t-t-o  t-t-a-k-e  m-m-e  t-t-o  t-t-h-e  d-d-o-c-t-o-r  a-a-n-d  t-t-h-e  w-w-o-m-a-n  w-w-a-s  V-V-E-R-RY  m-m-m-e-a-n!!  S-s-h-e  k-k-e-p-t  m-m-y  f-f-o-r-t-y  d-d-o-l-l-a-r-s  a-a-n-d  w-w-o-u-l-d  n-n-o-t  g-g-i-i-v-e  m-m-e  a-a-a  r-r-r-i-d-e  b-b-e-c-a-u-s-e  I-I-I  a-a-m  n-n-o-t  J-j-e-w-i-i-s-h!!  S-s-h-e  a-a-s-k-e-d  i-i-i-f  m-m-y  m-m-o-t-h-e-r-r  w-w-a-s   J-j-e-w-i-i-s-h  a-a-n-d  I-I-I  s-s-a-i-d, ‘T-T-H-A-T  I-I-S  A-A-A  R-R-U-D-E  Q-Q-U-E-S-T-I-O-N!!’  I-I-I  s-s-a-i-d,  I-I-I  k-k-n-o-w  J-j-e-w-i-i-s-h  p-p-e-o-p-l-e  a-a-n-d  y-y-o-u  d-d-o  n-n-o-t  r-r-r-e-p-r-e-s-e-n-t  t-t-h-e-m  v-v-e-r-y  w-w-e-l-l!’  A-a-n-d  s-s-h-e  h-h-h-u-n-g  u-u-p  o-n-n  m-m-m-e!!”

Martha goes on to marvel, commenting about how calm I am, “Y-y-o-u  a-a-r-e  v-v-e-r-y  c-c-c-a-l-m,  d-d-d-r-i-i-v-e-e-r…”

Driver, “Yeah, you gotta be real calm to do this job. Or REAL crazy! (Ha! Ha!)

But Martha does not laugh. She just stays the course, all stressed.

We roll up on 2100 Webster at exactly 12:05pm.

I process Martha’s paratransit card for the $11.55 meter (plus fixed 10% tip) and I get out to help Martha’s with her walker and get her on her feet… with eyes closed.


And Martha’s up!!

She turns to me. And,

“C-c-a-n  I-I-I  c-c-a-l-l  y-y-y-o-u  f-f-o-r  a-a-a  r-r-i-d-e  b-b-a-c-k? W-w-h-e-n  I-I-I  a-a-m  d-d-o-n-e?”


Driver, “Uhhh, I could be anywhere in the city when you call. It’s probably best to call the Citizen’s Cab dispatch when you’re ready. We’re all good people.”

Martha understands, as she sputters, “Y-y-e-s,  y-y-o-u  a-a-a-r-e!”

And Martha t-t-t-h-a-n-k-s me, before slowly shuffling away off towards the medical offices as mumbling something about nurses, cell phones and lunch breaks.

The next couple hours will see sporadic shoppers heading to Westfield Mall, as well as two groups of European tourists (French and German) both going from the Haight’s edgy boutique shopping to the Castro’s rainbow flare, to the Mission’s Mission Dolores and finally on to mural-infused Clarion Alley. It is the season after all. And thank God for these tourists… Now, if only the European guide books would tell them what a “tip” is!


I’m cruising up 18th into the Castro again, passing that food bank.

Suddenly, an old Mexican couple with bags and walkers flags me at the food bank.

Damn. Are they gonna pull out a Yellow Cab voucher? Should I ask? That didn’t go over too well with Flo last week! Nah, I’ll just risk it.

I pull over.

And I get out to help my couple load bags and the walkers in to cab 137.

Once in, Papa hands me up a piece of paper with “871 Hampshire” scribbled on it. Ok. No English. Anyway, their destination is not far. It’s a block of residential Victorians nearby in the heart of the Mission.

We roll.

Then, Papa’s phone rings. (No, La Cucaracha is NOT the ring tone.)

Papa answers,

“Uh, huh… Uh, huh… Sí… No… No! En Yel-low Cab ahora! En cab ahora! … Sí! Yel-low!”

Shit. This does not bode well for getting paid. Papa thinks I’m a Yellow. Surely, there is a yellow voucher waiting at the end of this!

We ride in silence, as I plot calling it a day after this bust. Their abode is close to the Citizen’s lot. And I’m done.

Papa’s phone rings, again,

“Sí… Sí! En Yel-low Cab! En cab ahora! … Sí! Yel-low!”


We arrive at Ma & Papas home and before I can jump out to help with their bags and walkers.
Mama hands me up a paratransit card and a dollar, and says,

“Por favor, ta-ke tip!”

Sweet! Not only am I actually getting paid the $7.85 fare plus 10% paratransit tip, but Mama is sweetening the pot! Paratransits do that sometimes. They often appreciate the help. And they know that the fixed 10% government-subsidized tip is kind of a rip.

Yes, I do ‘Accept’! And I call it a day, north of $200.

Well, HELLO summer!


Photo by Christian Lewis

Check out Alex’s book San Francisco TAXI: A 1st Week in the ZEN Life…
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Alex Sack

Alex Sack, born 1970, is a taxi driver who grew up in the Washington D.C. suburbs of Maryland. He attended several different colleges and universities around the D.C./Baltimore region as a music major for 4 & 1/2 years before quitting - pre-diploma - to the horror of his father. He tried his hand as a professional musician/songwriter seeing him through travels domiciled in New York City’s East Village, Los Angeles (where he scored a few songs on The Disney Channel's 'Even Stevens') and San Francisco - where he's ultimately put down roots. Alex is a single dad to two boys, currently ages 15 and 17. His post-natal fallback occupation as Operations Assistant at a start-up clean-tech engineering consultancy came to a sudden end with the one-two punch of the owner’s fatal skiing accident in Tahoe and the subsequent downturn in the economy.This - and an acquired nervous twitch to cubicle work - has led to his latest job...

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