One of the perks of driving a taxi is being able to drop everything to take your kid to school. Despite the opportunity cost, I very much cherish these times. And I know that they will not last forever.
“Have a good day at school, boy!” I gush to the half awake 13-year-old riding shotgun, stoic and still cute with his cherubic cheeks popping out from under a middle school-obligatory 49ers beanie.
“Huh?? Whatever, dad.”
With this Boy exits curbside, as I go “green” on the Cabulous dispatch app/smartphone mounted on my dash.
Fares are usually slow coming prior to taking Boy to school. But rush hour invariably starts to pick up right around drop. And down here in the well-off Marina district, I can usually count on scoring a flag or dispatch within a few blocks of leaving Boy’s school.
“Cha-ching! – 1030 Girard. Presidio. The General.”
Another perk of driving a cab is the social service aspect. Believe it or not, many a cabbie actually relishes in giving back to those in need. And to those who have served… The likes of 1030 Girard. This dispatch is to the Veterans Academy in The Presidio; a Swords to Plowshares-sponsored home for otherwise would-be homeless vets.
And ‘I Accept’.
A quick jaunt from the Marina, in no time I enter the gates of the historic Presidio; a decommissioned military base founded by the Spanish army in 1776, and won by the U.S. in 1848 in the Mexican-American War. The Presidio is federal land and current home to many a start-up, museum and housing rental – all unbound by San Francisco, or even California taxes.
Lickety-split, I turn the corner from Lincoln onto Girard. And I immediately spot The General.
Asserting myself, I force a U across a gauntlet of Marin County residents flooding in from over the Golden Gate Bridge, as all cut through The Presidio en route to their day jobs in the City.
Oh… How do I know I’ve spotted The General? Well, there is really no question that this old man with the long white locks and goatee in his navy blue bathrobe and mismatched bedroom slippers waving his cane at me is The General. (However much more he may be evocative of a Colonel… Sanders.)
I cut between an Audi and a slacking Beemer, who only now decides to speed up and HONK!! And I zoom right up to The General.
This old veteran hobbles the all of three feet over to my cab. He slowly opens the rear door and tightly clenches the roof, before throwing in his cane gasping and beginning to VERY carefully place one sheet-white varicose vein-covered leg after the other into ‘ol Citizen’s Cab 137.
And with a great GRROOAANN, CRREEEAKK and OW!! FUCK!!!, The General collapses in back.
Over the sudden assault of stench of un-showered groin, The General now speaks.
“I wouldn’t be in my FUCKIN’ bathrobe if my car didn’t GET STOLEN! Do you know where 478 Turk is, driver?? The cops got my car ‘n said they’re gonna tow it if I don’t make it there in twenty minutes. You got here in five, thank God. MOTHER FUCKER STOLE MY CAR!! The cops said the guy was on a COCAINE BINGE!”
I prop my clipboard/waybill up on the steering wheel. Driver marks down and repeats back “478 Turk”. And I hit the gas. It’s not far, but it’s not close. Fifteen minutes oughta be enough time. But it is rush hour in San Francisco.
Suddenly I am jarred, as LOUD moans, groans and expletives attack from the rear detachment.
“OW!! FUCK!!! I can’t BELIEVE how DAMN UNCOMFORTABLE they make these FUCKIN’ things!! SON OF A BITCH!! The last ride I took that was this uncomfortable was in a GOD DAMN ambulance! And I didn’t pay those SONS OF BITCHES!! They wanted $1800!! FUCK ’em! Let ’em try ‘n get it outta me!!”
O-kayyy… This ride suddenly does not bode very well for Driver. Does it??
The General continues, “Where the hell is 478 Turk anyway, driver!? Are we close???”
Driver, “Uh, no sir. Not that close. Your car is in the Tenderloin. You’re lucky it hasn’t been dismantled and sold for parts already, sir. The TL is across town, over by City Hall. But we should have you there before they tow your car. You called the right people, sir.”
The General, “They said the fucker was busted buying cocaine! … OW!! FUCK!!! Do you HAVE to HIT EVERY POTHOLE!! How much is this ride gonna cost me, anyway??”
Driver, “Uh, I don’t know, sir. It’s metered. It ought to be around $15, though. Yeah, the Tenderloin is pretty much known for drugs, break-ins and robberies. Yeah, you’re lucky the guy didn’t sell your car for crack.”