Cabbie Guilt

Black

I’ve been having some weird sepia-tone dreams this past week. They’ve all involved escaping from one or some other long, drawn-out, violent and bloody urban drama. I don’t know if it’s the sickness I slogged through (which kept me home the first couple of days with chills, lethargy and a cough), or if it’s the craziness in our collective air that’s been so terribly self-evident. But SOMETHING is definitely off… these unsettling dreams even SMELL sepia-tone!

Once back out on the streets of San Francisco playing cabbie, on Thursday, I found that business (or rather, lack thereof) had proven a sad continuation of the previous week; an unusual and exceptional quiet for July. (I noticed even the “rideshares” were all rolling empty and desperate.)

I mean, where the HELL is everybody! HELLO!!! (O…o…o…o…) Anybody OUT THERE!? (Ere…ere…ere…ere…)

No.
Friday

5:50am:
Like I said, it’s been a scary-slow couple of weeks. And this gives a taxi man WAY too much time to think.

I round the left onto Valencia, from 16th in the Mission, sucking down some of the first of my day’s caffeine allotment. And here on Valencia, I find life!

It’s an older black dude with REAL thick coke bottle glasses, grayish dreads – hanging out from under a blue knit beanie, and suited up in an oil stained, navy blue, one-piece mechanics outfit. He’s flagging me from the bike lane, all hesitant, though. Probably thinks no taxi is going to stop for him. Or probably, he’s being trying to flag an empty cab and none HAS stopped for him!

I have to admit, this doesn’t smell like a regular fare. But it doesn’t smell like sepia-tone, either.

I pull over.

And, instead of going for the back seat of Citizen’s Cab 2976 – the best damn spare in the lot, Sanford slowly approaches my closed shotgun window, seemingly uncertain.

I roll down the window.

“Uhhh… Do you think you can help me with a jump? I’ll give ya twenty bucks…”

Taxi man looks past Sanford, to note a beat up early 90’s Ford Taurus suddenly come into focus, parked alone, alongside the west curb of Valencia Street. It looks like it’s street sweeping day, and Sanford is imminent for a $68 ticket if he doesn’t move, fast.

I begin to utter “sure,” happy for the chance to break some random, disturbing thoughts that had been occupying my undistracted head, prior to our encounter. And “sure,” happy at the chance to appease some pent-up cabbie guilt. But then, I remember: I don’t carry jumper cables in the taxi.

“Sur… Uh, um… Do you have any jumper cables?”

Sanford, “Yeah, I got cables.”

Cabbie, “Sure. No problem. You don’t have to pay me, though. It’s all good. I’ll go up and turn around for you.”

I roll forward a bit, readying to flip an illegal U on the barren early morning Valencia. And as rolling forward, verifying no traffic, I watch Sanford in the rear view, imagining that he’s praying I don’t just roll off and leave him.

I don’t. And I pull 2976 up – against the legal direction of the lane, until head-to-head with Sanford’s disabled Taurus. And I pop the hood.

Sanford seems to know what he’s doing. But I get out to help, anyway. I take one end of the cables and make sure the red and black clamps are separated, as Sanford affixes the other end to the positive and negative terminals of our patient. He then takes the clamps from me, and I jump back in the cab to rev the engine, to give her some juice.

And Sanford turns her over… His engine begins to sputter out some unenthusiastic chugs, and his windshield wipers come to life. Dude! When jumping a car, you’re other electronics are supposed to be off, and not sucking the juice from the effort!

Suddenly, I get a nervous flashback, to a couple of weeks ago, when I was circling my block after work looking for parking, and came upon a neighbor from the projects across the street dressed in her Sunday best (on a Monday) waving for me to stop and help jump HER beat up jalopy!

Note: And note that, even in THESE last two weeks, these are not the only jumps that I’ve been enlisted in to help! I keep stopping and thinking that I’ll get out of the deal, as I don’t keep cables. But my petitioners seem to ALWAYS have them at the ready! Whatever. I guess it feeds my Jesus complex. I DO seem to relish in delusions of crucifixion. And as I’ve mentioned before, “Alexander” does mean “helper of men.” Maybe I’ll just change careers, and become a tow truck driver. (Probably pays more at this point. Maybe even minimum wage!)

After trying in vain, for like fifteen minutes to jump Sunday Esther, I went to check her gas gauge and realized that she was just out of gas! But after trying to start her car repeatedly with no gas, even once fueled, she would still need a jump.

After alerting Sunday Esther to the sitch, I offered to grab a five from her and go get a spot of gas. But…

“Oh, damn. I don’t have a gas can! Shoot.”

Sunday Esther, “Oh! I gahts one rite he-yah!”

Future Tow Truck Driver, “Sure. No problem.”

But instead handing over a five, Sunday Esther only has a hundred dollar bill on her. And without hesitation, she hands me the hundred and a red plastic gas can. And I’m off!

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 14 and (a hormonal) 16. 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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