Spontaneous Combustion


“Bloooop… Bloooop… Bloooop… Bloooop…”

My generic iPhone Harp alarm-tone eases me into the day. (Well, sorta.) You see, I set my alarm forty-five minutes early this morning, on account of that I REALLY need to make money! I only walked with $41 yesterday and it’s become mercilessly clear that my career has entered the death by a thousand cuts phase.

I figure I’m on about eight hundred ninety-nine.

In fairness, when I was young and somewhat more idealistic I consciously set out to engage my life as an adventure. And that meant not playing it safe or focusing on my “fall back,” as dad had implored… over and over. No. I actually aimed to be dirt poor for the first half of my life, with the idea that I’d becoming stinking rich later. (“Rich” materially, anyway.)

Well, I am happy to report to you that the first half is going totally according to plan!

It should be noted that I work a 4:15 medallion at Citizen’s Cab. This means that I can show up for my Prius – 137… er, excuse me, my “regular” spare, Ford Fusion – 2976, at 4:15am and return her as late as 4:15pm. By MTA regulation, a cab driver in San Francisco is only allowed to drive ten hours straight within a given shift. But there is really no one holding your feet to the fire. In earlier years I would arrive to the lot right at medallion time, and work the whole twelv…uh, ten hours. There was certain to be a business day tripper, or two, headed to the airport pre-dawn. But no more. That ground has long been ceded to those “sharing” their rides forty or more hours a week on city streets. It’s a real gamble now, whether one will score, well, ANYTHING that early. And driving around empty for those hours while thinking WAY too much about one’s life isn’t as charming as it used to be.

But today, I must risk the mind fuck. I got kids to feed.


I’m passing a sea of stagnant cabs out in the Citizen’s Cab lot, on the industrial edge of town, as I head back into the office to see Tony, Jr. about a horse.

Junior, “Sack! Waz up? You taking out ’76 today? I saved it for you.”

Sack, “Yup. How you doin’ covering for dad on the graveyard? He’s out chillin’ in Vegas with mom, right?”

Junior, “Yeah. It’s kinda rough. I’m not used to sleeping in the day. And then, there’s the baby. But my baby mama takes care of that, mostly. Thank God!”

I throw Junior a ten. That’s a five for tip, and a five for an airport bribe. (Haven’t risked THAT in a while!) And Junior says he’ll look out for me, as I head into the lot to set up and sanitize my taxi.

I find 2976 in the back of the lot, thankfully not blocked in by any other cabs. It seems I’ve dodged the early morning game of having to head back into the office and borrow the keys to another cab, or two, and move them, before returning the key, or keys, so to get out on the road.

Once in ’76, I proceed with my ritual: securing 137’s medallion into the holder on 2976’s dash, unpacking my backpack with my Taxi ID placard – to also affix to the dash, my San Francisco TAXI: Book 1 placard – which I duct tape over the credit card/ad screen on the back of the shotgun headrest, after turning it off, my Cabulous smartphone, its suction cup holder and charging cable – with 12 volt adapter plug, my hand towel, my clipboard – with waybill/pad, my Square credit card reader, my bottle of water, the peanut butter sandwich I made at home, and most importantly… alcohol wipes. (To chemo any and all surfaces inside the taxi that the night driver may have secreted one of several bodily fluids upon.)

Side note: I hope I’m not boring you all. You can stop reading, if you want. This week’s report is really not going anywhere. I promise.


Ten minutes later…

Whew! Done!!

And I start to roll out of the Citizen’s Cab lot, before I notice…


The meter’s dark.

I shake it. It blinks, then goes dark again.

I tug on the wires coming out of the meter’s ass that disappear down into the dash.



I pack all of my stuff  BACK into my backpack, and head back into the office to see Junior about another spare…

Junior, “Wha? The meter’s dead? Well, I got 2973, or 2977? Which do ya want, Sack?”

Sack, “Oh! I’ll take 2977! That’s the old 137! I liked that Prius a lot, before Ivan (Citizen’s Cab manager) made it a spare and put the new, shittier 137 into service, and stuck ME with it!”

I grab the key to 2977 and head out to set up, and sanitize.

Once out in the lot…

Damn. She’s trapped in between two cabs. Well, I’ll just do my ritual and get the key from Junior from one of the other cabs to move after, if one of their drivers doesn’t show up first.

I slide 137’s medallion into the holder on the dash and unpack my backpack, and sanitize.


Ten minutes later…

I go to hit the start button…





I re-pack my backpack, grab the medallion from the dash, and head BACK into the office to see Junior about 2973 now.

Junior, “Wha?? ’77 needs to be shopped? Sorry, Sack. I’ll look out for you.”

I hand Junior the key to 2977 and grab the key to 2973 – a Camry. And I head out to the lot…

Yay! She’s not blocked in!

But, will she start?? THIS, I will try BEFORE unpacking and sanitizing!

2973 STARTS!!!


I slide 137’s medallion into the holder on 2973’s dash, unpack my backpack, and go to sanitize.

Damn, 2973’s dirty as hell. The night driver has left all sorts of trash and food deposits in her every nook and cranny. And worse, there are Christmas tree and promo Crazy Horse strip club air fresheners hidden everywhere! I seek and destroy! And given my current mood, I just ditch the offenders out of the driver’s side window, instead of hauling it all over to the trash bin. I am officially over it.

As I proceed with my THIRD ritual du jour, I throw on the radio; maybe a little classical music will reset the day’s bad omen.

However, it would seem that I’ve caught a respite in the music. The announcer is rattling off some of the day’s weird news, which KDFC likes to wake its listeners with. Whatever. This is often good for a chuckle.

“Today in the news, folks, it is so hot in upstate New York that a fire broke out in the town of Throop, just outside of Syracuse. But this was not just any fire. Concerned residents called the authorities when a smoking stench inundated the town. And when traced to its source, it was found that the cause of the malodor was a large pile of horse manure that had spontaneously combusted in the heat. And that’s the news.”


Ten minutes (and four air fresheners) later…

I plug in the Cabulous (taxi hailing app) smartphone charging cord, as my last step, before FINALLY getting the hell out on the road!



There’s no DING! Or little green light on the adapter, indicating power from the 12-volt plug!!

2973’s 12-volt plug is dead!!! This means no smartphone, and NO Cabulous orders! And they make up half of my rides these days!! THIS AGGRESSION WILL NOT STAND, MAN!!!


What the HELL is going on??? WHY is the Universe fucking with me?! Is this some kind of blessing in disguise!? If I were to actually WORK today, would I get in some kind of fatal collision on the highway!? Am I SUPPOSED to be at home hiding under the covers for SOME BROKE and COUNTERINTUITIVE reason???

(Sure. Keep telling yourself that, Alex.)

I head BACK into the office, AGAIN, to see Junior. But this time, it’s NOT about a horse. It’s about the FLAMING PILE OF MANURE OUT IN THE LOT!!

Junior, “Wha?? ’73’s power plug is dead?”

But before he gets any further, I purse my lip and interject.

“THAT’S IT! I’m fucking going HOME! Tell Ivan that I left after forty-five minutes of dicking around with THREE DIFFERENT broken cabs! Remind him that he said he’d put me in decent WORKING cab SIX MONTHS ago, and that NOT ONLY is 137 a piece of shit, but my ‘regular’ spare 2976 is now FUCKED, TOO!! And make sure you ask him, after SIX YEARS DRIVING with Citizen’s Cab, what the HELL DOES IT TAKE TO GO OUT IN A WORKING CAB!? AND… he better NOT try and FUCKING charge me for GATE today!!”

And as I turn to leave, dejected and broken, and too pissed to even ask Junior for my ten tip/bribe back, I bark one last instruct.

“You tell Ivan, this is FUCKING HORSE SHIT!!”




Photo by Alex SacK


Check out Alex’s Book 1 – San Francisco TAXI: A 1st Week in the ZEN Life…
& Book 2 San Francisco TAXI: Life in the Merge Lane…

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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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