You Talkin’ To Me?


Tricking Passengers,

Your driver spent the week working on a treat, getting San Francisco TAXI: Life in the Merge Lane… (Book 2) out the door. (See cool promo vid at end of this blog!) Thus, please indulge as we ride along with a Halloween scare of yore…



I call-in to Citizen’s to let whomever know I’m coming in. I’m on the schedule today, but with no assigned medallion.

Bryce answers the driver’s line and sounds frazzled. I write it off to the busy time of the morning – getting day drivers out on the road while at the same time processing incoming night drivers’ keys, medallions, and gate money, etc.

So, Bryce tells me I “can sleep-in and have a cab later… or come in now and screw someone”.

Only half-awake I return all groggy,

“Wait. What are my options?”

I did Halloween with the kids last night and I really need the sleep. But, priorities.

As I’m actually on the schedule, protocol has me wielding priority over someone just hanging out waiting for an open cab. But it seems Bryce has already promised out all the cabs; he’d have to call someone back.

Anyway, my landlord’s getting antsy and thusly I tell him, “screw someone, I’m on my way”.

I’m in the lot and notice a new guy out in his cab just in from the night shift. He’s a strange-looking dude: sunglasses (it’s dark out), army jacket, short Mohawk. Anyway, I pass new guy and head back to the office to find Bryce alternating between playing office guy (processing the incoming/outgoing the aforementioned keys/medallions/gate $) and dispatching. Apparently, Milford was scheduled to dispatch alongside Bryce working the office, but Milford held this in dispute when Bryce called to ask about his being late. Milford left it all with that he was not coming in. Wonder what Jesus WILL do!

So, Bryce was thirdly tasked with trying to call-in other dispatchers to sub at 4am, only to find no one was answering their phone.

Smart people.

Today I am graced with 2965, a Ford Escape spare pushing 300K.

It’s clunky, and half the time the clock/radio display doesn’t work on the Escapes – as is the case with this one. (FYI, I need clock for logging fares on my now personal waybill. Waybills have gone electronic, but I like things old school/analog, and hence, keep a pad of my own to track money, rides, time.)

All said and done, if it has a Cabulous phone, I’ll take it. Without, my ability to take dispatched and mobile-to-mobile calls over the course of the day will be severely hampered. Money would be lost.

Leaving the office I again pass the strange-looking new guy at the window handing in his waybill, etc. from the Halloween night shift.

I suddenly realize its Bob! Bob Valor!

Bob’s a late 20’s educated (and all around nice guy) dispatcher/driver who also hails from Maryland. Bob turns to address me all serious and morose with,

“You lookin’ at me?”

Then Bob cocks his head to look around before adding,

“I don’t see anyone else around here…”

Oh, shit! He got a real Mohawk to do DeNiro from Taxi Driver. His fares must have tripped! Best costume ever.

Word on the street is Bob lives in some neo-hippy bi-sexual orgy-loving art commune in the East Bay, and that’s how he rolls. Rock.

Bob is likewise very Zen. Often times he says he doesn’t turn on his meter for the whole of his shift and just let’s his passengers pay what they want. (Bet he has a liberal arts degree.) Bob started dispatching in the last few months. At first, he wouldn’t take bribes for airports, but this has gone the way of the Dodo. It’s like when I started working daycare years ago and went into the whole deal as a pacifist. Right.

I’m on the road and setting my radio station presets.

At NPR, I hear an early morning traffic report… the usual,

“CHP reports a deer hit at the center divide of 280, at 92 west.”

I have recently come to the conclusion that man was put on this earth to eradicate the entire deer population.

I had worked on Halloween day and it was scary (no pun intended). REALLY dead🙂 I was worried the slow season might have kicked-in early. At 2 o’ clock, I was only $37 past my nut (profit) and was working a 4:30 medallion. I was sure I wouldn’t crack 100. But then while dropping in the Tenderloin, a middle-eastern guy on the sidewalk walks up to the shotgun window asking if I could go to San Mateo.


San Mateo is a few miles south of the airport and anything outside 15 miles of the city is meter and a half. I told Moe I thought this could be arranged, schooled him on the meter and a half deal, and we were off!

Moe stayed on his cell the whole time as I mulled figuring out where he was from. I thought maybe Israeli, but there wasn’t enough phlegm in his speech. Anyway, we finally arrived – 30 minutes later – at some cookie cutter townhouse complex and Moe says he needs to go inside to get cash from his significant other.

Aside: Now, Rose – cab school teacher extraordinaire – had said to NEVER let people leave the cab without leaving some kind of collateral (of which an empty backpack does not constitute). But I am not Rose. And I didn’t have a bad vibe on this one. OMmmMMm.

So, Moe goes in, and did indeed come back out within a couple minutes, asking again how much was the fare.

“80 bucks,” I reiterate.

And Moe hands me five 20s, saying to keep the change.

Allah Akbar!

Yes! I would be walking with over $100 after all! With Moe and two last minute $30 fares, I ended up cracking $200 (my usual hoped-for minimum).

Ya know, it seems to almost always work out in the end.

But today, I was wondering how it would play.
Was the slow season now early upon us?

Not yet.

The day progresses normally, minus a few tourists…

“Cha-ching! – 2596 Market. Dispatch.”

This is a chiropractor’s office where I often pick up a cabaret singer chick. She’s a late 20’s heavy-set extrovert who tips very well and apparently makes good money singing. Turns out today I’m driving her to KPOO 89.5 FM for an on-air interview. Cool. She tells me to tune-in in 15 minutes and I do. She doesn’t sing, but plugs her show at the Hotel Nikko, describing how it’s themed around how being 27 is a bitch and vastly overlooked as a significant age. I would normally think this kind of thing hack, but have often said the same thing myself! Still don’t know why we didn’t get to sample her singing. Whatever.

Early afternoon:
I’m driving up 3rd Street in SOMA (passing my old job in Ops) when I get a Cabulous call, but not from dispatch. It’s from “Mobile – iPhone”.

As with many of these direct-to-Cabulous calls, I wonder if it’ll be a no-go. If I’ll be dissed for the first cab that passes my smartphone hail. But, I am close to “599 Third Street” and so am hopeful.

I pull up to 599 Third – a live/work loft – in no time, and after a minute, a stereotypical white youngish biz-casual start-up exec comes out to inform that he and a co-worker will be right out.

I start the meter…

Five minutes later they do come out, asking to go to the Palace of Fine Arts.

Ok. This is a tourist spot near the Marina and I wonder why they’d be going there. But instead of inquiring, I decide to just shut up and drive.

It’s a “good load” and my fares and I have an unspoken mutual understanding to ignore each other.

Exec #1 briefly discusses “numbers” with Exec #2, before starting to go into detail with a story about a recent sexcapade in Chile.

Seems Exec #1 and a travel mate met two Catholic girls (who apparently “aren’t Catholic when it comes to Americans”) who spoke no English, and they ended up having sex all over Chile during the course of a night and even their Chilean cab driver didn’t acknowledge the hanky-panky goings-on in the back and it turns out Maria doesn’t live with her mom after all and actually has a really nice apartment but with no electricity, strangely, and is really confident with her body (unlike American girls), but to Exec #1’s shock oddly has no problem pissing with the bathroom door open. And there’s apparently something called “The Santiago Special”.


Still, I stand jealous.

(Oh. And Jerry, if you’re reading this, you should be looking for a new job.)

So, we get to the Palace of Fine Arts and pass a couple tourists emphatically flagging me at the entrance, but I am of course asked to drive steadfast about 40 yards further to the door proper.

Most fares would acknowledge the tourists flagging and offer to get out there, but I’m glad my execs don’t as I really need to go to the bathroom – and one of my public favorites is nearby, adjacent the St. Francis Yacht Club.

As we pull up, I notice signs stating “CEO Conference” at the door and drop my start-up guys there, rolling $22 richer – via AMEX.

Jeez. It’s been credit cards all day! I usually don’t allow myself to care, but there is that 5% Verifone robber… er, “fee”.

Time for one more fare.

I’m driving up Polk Street and if I don’t get a flag or dispatch here, I will find myself in the oft-lucrative Marina. I do indeed get a flag at California, however.

It’s a large sparkly-dressed tranny and her guy. (Hmm. Must be for real. It’s too late in the day to be remnants from Halloween.) I go on to wonder if “she” is a prostitute and if maybe he her John or pimp. It’s kinda late, but still light out; don’t usually see streetwalkers on Polk during daylight. And so, as a day driver, I haven’t really dealt with this kind of thing, yet.

I pull over, and a glittering Lady Polk and John Pimp pour into the back as the cab immediately floods with the potent vapors of an assaulting strawberry gum-ish perfume.

Right away Lady Polk bubbles out all giggly,

“Awwww. Are those your kids?”

I return with the usual,

“There’s been no genetic testing.”


After a minute, a confused and disturbed Lady Polk inquires,

“Why would you need genetic testing??”

I smile back in the rear view and show mercy on my Lady, telling her I’m just kidding.

And with this, Lady Polk drops her look of confusion to resume giggling, and to now tell me how she’s drunk.

I crack my window hard at this juncture, and now decide it best to not look in the rear view again (if I can help it).

So, Lady Polk and John Pimp are headed to North Beach, and Lady proceeds to shift her attention from me to telling J.P. all about how she just beat the crap out of two guys the night before in the Tenderloin. (Hmmm. She does have some arms on her.) In reply, John Pimp grins and asks Lady Polk to beat him up. But Lady just giggles some more and says, “No.”

We make it to Union & Columbus soon enough… and John hands me a credit card.


Now, back to the lot. I got the day off tomorrow.



Stuff THIS in yer stocking! San Francisco TAXI: Life in the Merge Lane… (Book 2) out now!!

Photo by Christian Lewis

Check out Alex’s Book 1! San Francisco TAXI: A 1st Week in the ZEN Life…
And Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for your non-practicing Buddhist one-offs. 

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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