Okay… I lied about last week’s “quitting cab driving” assertion. (Sue me.) It’s just that I can’t seem to shake this martyrdom thing. Besides, surely SOMEONE out there needs a jump star… er, ride!
WARNING: This week’s cab report is Nice, ISIS, Turkey, Trump, Dallas, Black Lives Matter and Pokémon Go-free! (Besides, the players of the latter have all fallen off cliffs or walked in front of moving vehicles over the weekend.)
Okay… I lied about the warning, too.
I’m rolling the Union Street strip in Cow Hollow in my “regular” Citizen’s Cab spare, 2976.
It’s a trickle of early morning bottle blonde Millennials out in their yoga pants, all headed to one or another of the ubiquitous gyms that have overtaken the boutiquey strip down here. The only ride these people are looking for, to one cabbie’s dismay, is atop a stationary bike at Soul Cycle. And this is more Zen than I am prepared to meditate upon.
However, as I cross over Octavia, I do take note of an overturned trash bin that’s been spilled into the street. (Overnight, by a frat boy-turned-Financial worker after having failed to secure an exploit before last call, no doubt.) The rising sun catches this discounted soldier in a yellow light and shadow in just such a way that it makes the abused receptacle look… sad.
Ah, maybe it’s just Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata wafting over the radio, on classical 90.3FM.
Anyway, I don’t know why, but this brings me back to when I was a child, about five, getting ready for bed. You see, I had a stuffed Snoopy that you would not find separated from me, ever. Of course, he got quite dirty over time. And once, when ma put him in the washing machine, his head came off. (This is when I got versed in needle and thread.) So, for many Christmases and birthdays around this period, I would get more and more stuffed animals as presents. And as I was used to sleeping with my Snoopy, I did feel a pretty deep obligation to not neglect each new addition to our stuffed family. Each night, I would carefully tuck every new animal into bed alongside their brethren (sorry, ladies) and sing to them, before getting into bed myself and going to sleep. Eventually, the bed grew too full for the significant girth (comparatively) of a five year old human boy. And I ended up sleeping on the floor.
As time passed, the boy grew, until one day is was time to give them all away, save the original Snoopy. (He was later to be stolen by my parents; as an act of tough love, as it was explained.)
What this all has to do with an overturned trash can on the dawning streets of San Francisco, I cannot tell you. But, I just thought that you should know.
NPR: “And now, to Joe McConnell for some traffic… Traffic is Friday light so far, but for some reports of an injured, or dead, mountain lion in the left lane of 280 south, near San Bruno. So, be careful of that.”
I am, again, cruising the Union Street strip. But it is now bustling with life, as the Millennials are all now standing along the sidewalks with their heads down in their smartphones, waiting for their Uber or Lyft to come and chariot them to the Financial.
Suddenly, what’s this I see? An older man in a tan fedora and stylish tweed jacket, at Buchanan… with his hand in the air! YES! A fare! A FARE!!
Cabbie ZOOMS to the curb!
And Henry gets in…
“Driver, I am going to Ernesto’s, on Clement. Do you know it? I suspect you do not. 24th and Clement. The best Italian in the city. And I have lived here for many years. So, I know… How were you planning to go, driver? Do not take me through the Presidio. As I said, I have lived here for many years.”
Driver, “However you’d like to go is fine with me. It’s your ride.”
Henry, “Work your way up to California, and straight out to the Richmond district. You would be surprised how some drivers have tried to take me in the past.”
Driver, “Okay, I’ll take Steiner up to Cal. You got it.”
Then, Henry just HAS to broach a very tired subject. (Sigh.) They ALL do…
Henry, “Driver, what do you think of all of these Ubers and pink mustachioed cars for hire? What is it? Lyft? Have they hurt your business?”
Driver, “Yes. When you throw out regulations, commercial insurance, FBI background checks, and flood the streets with unlimited numbers of vehicles by way of sub-prime loans, it’s a simple matter of supply and demand. I’ve read that even THOSE guys are complaining about too many of them, that THEY are making no money out here. To be honest though, sir, I’m pretty tired of talking about it.”
Henry, “I have heard that Mayor Ed Lee’s daughter is invested in Lyft.”
Driver, “Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot. But, as much as I’d like to propagate that story, I haven’t been able to substantiate it. It didn’t help that the mayor declared “Lyft Day” early on, back in 2013. But I drive a woman to City Hall a lot who works for him. She’s our emergency manager. And she says all that stuff about Ed Lee’s daughter is bogus. She would know.”
Henry, “Ah! Still, one wonders.”
As we roll up Steiner into well to do Pacific Heights, Driver deftly changes the subject, and wonders if there’s a bit of San Francisco that he can enlighten his old school passenger with. We’re passing the Mrs. Doubtfire house. And there’s more to tell about it than as just part of the set of a Robin Williams movie.
Driver, “We’re about to pass the Mrs. Doubtfire house, from the Robin Williams movie. Have you seen it?”
Henry, “No! It is a tragedy what happened to Robin. A real shame. What a good man. Which one is it??”
Driver, “There! 2640 Steiner. But there is a salacious story about the house that is WAY more interesting than just being in the movie! It seems a world famous sex change surgeon has been living there for some years now, and a disgruntled client tried to murder him not long ago, by trying to burn down the house! There! See that brass kick plate at the bottom of the front door? They just recently installed that, to cover up the char marks! Crazy, eh?”
Henry, “Indeed! It seems that you have taught this old dog something! And I have seen a lot in my lifetime! I was a Navy brat growing up. And then, after that, I was traveling with my dad in the circus. And later, I went to Viet Nam.”
Driver, “Wow! I bet you have some stories!”
Henry, “Well, when I was nine, and traveling with the circus, my father once told me NOT to stand behind Grace, the elephant. As young boys do, I became curious as to why. And so, I went to investigate from what I thought was a safe distance… Well, lo and behold, who knew that a female elephant could piss twelve feet behind it! My father was so upset, he would not let me in the car and I had to walk back to our sleeping quarters! I cannot say that I blame him, either. The urine stench was practically unbearable!”
Driver, “WOW! Who knew?”
Henry, “Then, let me tell you, Viet Nam was no picnic. I was there early on, in ’59. And we were NOT ready for the pogo sticks!”
Driver, “Pogo sticks?”
Henry, “Yes. The pogo sticks were sharpened bamboo shoots that the Viet Cong would hide in the ground. And they would smear shit on the tips, so when they went through your boots, which they would, a soldier would end up with a serious infection! That and the pop-ups really took us by surprise!”
Henry, “Yes. The VC would hide in dug outs with a foliage door over top of them, and then pop up from the ground and shoot at you! It was quite a surprise!”
Driver, “Oh, right! Those things! You see it in movies. Damn!”
And Driver and Henry roll up on Ernesto’s, which I am surprised to find open this early. (However, Henry seems to know his stuff.)
The meter is at $16.70. And Henry hands me up a twenty, saying to keep it, as we part warmly.
Adding, “You absolutely MUST give Ernesto’s a try sometime, Driver. You will NOT regret it! And thank you for the pleasant ride. It seems that we BOTH have learned something!”
And Thank YOU, as well, Henry.