There is a cab.
“Cha-ching! – 5033 17th Street. Mr. Sweetness.”
There is a passenger.
With a strong Snagglepuss sing-song lisp, the highly manicured, old school Citizen’s Cab regular, Mr. Sweetness, settles in the back of ‘ol 137.
There is a destination…
“HeeeellOOO, Drivah. Pleessssse, mayy wee gooo tooo myy doctorrsss? Foooor-nineteee Possst?” Adding with ascending spittle, “Tttthhhhaaannk youuu!
‘Nnd ttthhhannkk goodnessss isss YOUUU, Drivah! Tha lass drivah I haaad wasss SSOOO grummpee! Ev’rybodeees SSOOO grummpeee thesssse daaayyss. I haaavee ah nepheww, weerks inn techh. Heees VERRY riiich. ‘Nnd VERRY unhaappeee! Eatss owt alll tha tiimme. Hasss ah niccee hooome… Buhhht hesss ALLWAAAYYSSS complaainin’!”
Drivah – getting a word in, “Yeah. It’s not about the money. It’s about community. And giving back. There was even an NPR report I heard recently where they took these toddlers and did some experiments that showed that they were happier when sharing their snacks and toys. Toddlers! So much for Freud!” Continuing, “Oh, and quality of life. That’s why I drive a cab.”
Mr. Sweetness, “Ooohhh, I aagreee COMPLEEEETELLYYY! Immah lannnndloord, drivah. ‘Nnd I donnn raaaaise myyy tenannnts reeennt, evvahhh! Whooo cann affooorrd daaat?? Doo youu owwnn, drivah?”
Drivah, “Oh, no. I was actually preapproved for a mortgage back in 2008, and bidding on houses on the edge of town. But this was while working my last straight job, at a clean tech engineering consultancy working ops. But that all fell apart when the economy took down the company. I’m not really sure I was getting anywhere, anyway. I kept finding myself getting outbid by Chinese real estate tourists who were here pooling cash and buying all of the homes outright, and for tens of thousands over asking! It’s a thing.” Drivah changing the subject, “Anyway, I’ve heard it can be tough being a landlord. Is it, Mr. Sweetness?”
Mr. Sweetness, “Ooohhh. Welll, I usse tah worrk inn retaailll, buht myy motheerrr tellss mee, ‘Whyy rennnt wheennn youus cann owwnnn???’ Sooss Iss boughhtah plaacce. I donn owwnn ah lahrrrge builldin’ tho. Iff I diid, I’dd paayy ah maanagerrr. Myy frriennd juss solld ‘err plaace tah moove tah Paaalm Ssprrinngsss. Buht tha taxxxess kiillllt ‘eerrr! Theeyy wass HALLFF AH WHHAAT SHEEE GAAAHHT!
Mr. Sweetness, continuing, “Nooo I donn raaisee tha rennnt onn myy tenanntsss. Theyyss goood peeplle. Myy neighhborrrs charrge TWIIICE whhatt III charrrgge! Fooor towwwsannnd! Whooo cann afffooorrd daaaat???
Wunce I haad somme baaad tenanntsss. Shhee wass pahhrt ah tha Foordd fammilee. I figurress, ‘Whhaaat kinndda prahblemss coouuldd shhee maaake?’ Buht den ‘err brothherr asskss mee, ‘Iss myy sisstah cauusin’ anneee prabhlemsss?’ I sayyss, ‘Noo, whhat kinndaa prahblemmmss??’
Welll, den ‘err BOYYFRIENND gettsss owttah JAAIILL! ‘N hee MOOOVVESS INN! Oohhh, BOYY! I telllss ya! DEN weesss gahht PRAHBLEMSSS!! ‘N deysss paaarttyinnn’ ALLL NIGGHHT! Onee tiimme I getss ah call FROMM THA COPSSS! Deyy wass inna figghht! ‘N DAH BOYYFRIENND JUUMMMPSSS OUTTAH DA KITTCHHENNN WIINNNDOWW!!!”
Drivah interjects, “WOW! Was the window OPEN???”
Mr. Sweetness, “NOOO!! Buht thhannk gooodnesss itt wasss ahn tha firsss floooorrr!!”
The cab bursts out in laughter.
Then, “Wheenn shhee mooove inn I tellss ‘err, ‘Ms. Forrrd, theere arre noo petss ann nooo kiidss.’ Welll, sheee gettss ah DOOOG! ‘N den sheee getss ah CAAAT!! ANN DEN SHEEE GETTSSS PRREEAGNANNT!!! Afftah all tha fighhtss ‘n da complaaiintss, I tellss ‘er , ‘Ms. Forrd, yoous havve tah leeve.’ Buht shee sayss, ‘I liikee itt heeere. Beesidess, wheeere cann I goh??’ Buht I sayss agaain, ‘Ms. Forrd, I dunnoo. Buht yoous HAVVE tah leeve.’ Well, sheee buyss ‘errself ah conndo. ‘N I aain’t haad nooo prahblemsss siinnce!”
As we cross the bar and restaurant nightlife haven of Polk Street, Mr. Sweetness reminisces warmly, “Isss THIIIISSS Pooollk Sstrreeeet??? Ahhh, tha tiimmesss dat Iss haaad!!”
Drivah, chiming in, “Oh! Polk Street used to be ground zero for San Francisco gay nightlife back in the day, right? But that’s long since moved to The Castro. I used to be a token straight waiter at Orphan Andy’s there. Boy, the bar rush after last call used to be something else! HA! But now, with all the changes in the city, even The Castro has grown kind of sterile. What with all the new heterosexual tech families moving in with babies, and complaining about the dildos and gay leather bondage gear, um…. erected before their children in the storefront windows. (Sigh.)”
Mr. Sweetness, gushing, “ORRRPHHAANNN ANNNDDEEESSS!!! I uss’d goh dere whenn da barrss woould closse!! Havve ah BIIIIG ‘olll hammburrgahh! Suuck upp ALLL da AL-CO-HOLLLL!”
And with this we pull up on Mr. Sweetness’ doctor’s office, strangely situated in the heart of the Union Square shopping district downtown, in the ornate 490 Post building.
Mr. Sweetness shuffles through a leather billfold for cash, and dramatically stops to wince at the window display of a clothier housed on the retail ground floor of his medical building.
“Ahhhh, such GAWWW-DI-NESSS! Dese peeeple neeeed HEEELLP!”
Drivah, “HA! Maybe you should go in there and offer your services, Mr. Sweetness!”
Mr. Sweetness, “Nooooo waayyyy! Dosssee dayys inn retaaill arre LLOOOONNGGG gonne!!”
The meter reads $15.60. Sweetness hands me up two folded bills, and exits… stage left.
“Youusss haave ah niiicce daayy, drivah! ‘Nnd sstaaayyy ssaaaafee!!
I unfold the bills, as I drive off. Two twenties!!
Photo by Alex SacK