Juanita & the Carmageddon


Well, Alex has been a good boy. He’s been consistently rolling into the Citizen’s Cab lot around 4:15am, and bringing it back just before 26’s 3:45pm pumpkin time. And it seems the shoe fits. Alex is making a living.

It doesn’t hurt that this week has seen the annual Oracle OpenWorld conference down at Moscone Center, with its 60,000 plus attendees. This is the City’s second largest annual conference. (Behind Oracle’s arch cloud-computing competitor, Salesforce.) Every cab driver and their mother has been down in SOMA all week, anxiously salivating while waiting in long cab stand lines with the hopes of scoring an airport.

But not Alex.

He knows that nobody starts leaving the conference until today. And that all of those earlier-in-the-week rides have all been nothing but short shuttles, between the proximate hotels and lunch meetings around SOMA, Union Square and the Financial. And with several key street closures designed to handle the overflow of participants, by way of open air conference booths, it is a shit show of traffic down there. And with little return.

Most notably, however, is that this scrum leaves the REST of San Francisco… to Alex.


It’s been an early morning of sporadic rides with the usual; Mexicans headed across town from the Mission to their restaurant jobs up in North Beach, and nurses off to various medical complexes to relieve their counterparts from the night shift.

I’m taking a break and messing with my iPhone, trying to work the panoramic shot feature for the first time. I’m attempting to capture this sublime sunrise over Dolores Park, with its breathtaking view of the City. And as you can see, I have failed. (What the hell does this arrow on the screen mean!?)

“Bada-Ding-Ding-Boop-Ding-Ding! Bada-Ding-Ding-Boop-Ding-Ding! Bada-Ding-Ding-Boop-Ding-Ding!”

My generic iPhone ringtone goes off, disturbing another shot.

Alex, “This is Alex.”

Tony Jr., “Sack! What are you doing?”

Sack, “Eh, just jerking off at Dolores Park.”

Tony Jr., “Go to 712 Chenery in Glen Park. Right now.”

Sack, “Sweet! Thanks, Junior!!”

I’ve been taking a chance with paying out an extra five for bribe with Junior in the mornings this week, old school. He’s been pretty good lately about calling me while out on the road with the code for airport; “right now.” So, I figured it’s probably safe to hook him up in the morning now, up front, as opposed to just the next time I see him. And the gamble has been paying off!

Side note: I have been getting looks askance, though, from Junior’s dad, Tony, Sr. (A.k.a., The No-go King.) When Senior is working, I can now FEEL his brain questioning why I’ve been giving his son a ten during his morning office shifts, and float only a five to dad. Oh, well.

I jump back in 26, my trusty Prius… and I ROLL!!

Forty-five minutes later…

I’m back in the city and forty dollars richer, cash.

My fares were an older erudite couple flying to Ontario for their son’s wedding. The wife moved the husband’s backpack with his laptop in it away from the doorway, and consequently, the husband left it at home.

Later, Husband comments on a loud Porsche, on 101 south, crawling alongside us in traffic.

“I bet he doesn’t get it out of second gear.”

Then, Wife sees the placard hawking my book that’s covering the back credit card screen.

“Are YOU… Alex… Sack??”

Alex Sack, “Why, yes. Yes I am. I see you have heard of me!”

Wife, “Tell me about your book!”

Alex Sack, “Well, it comes with a money back guarantee. All you have to do is find me.”

Wife and Husband, “Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”


Anyhow, I’m currently rolling with a “Cha-ching!” Cabulous app-hailed ride that I scored right in the Mission, fresh from the highway. THIS is how it should be.

My passenger is a nondescript techie headed to a nondescript startup at 2nd & Howard, downtown. We do not talk, as he has his head stuffed in his smartphone screen. To be clear, he has not told me that he’s a techie, or going to his job at a startup. But, he is.

I strategize our path, as the Oracle OpenWorld cluster is smack between dude’s pickup and his drop. Eh, I guess we’ll just do Mission down, until it gets bad.

Approaching South Van Ness on Mission, it gotten bad. REAL bad! This does NOT smell right, though. This isn’t Oracle traffic. It’s WAY too soon. It’s gridlock. And I hear helicopters flying overhead. This is NOT good.

I prostrate before NPR: “If you’re anywhere near Mission and South Van Ness in San Francisco, stay clear. Several blocks surrounding are closed off due to reports of a bomb threat.”


Great! New York and New Jersey get some dork playing with pressure cookers, and everyone else has to go flying off on a hair trigger. I STRONGLY suspect the “bomb” will turn out to be something innocuous.

It should be noted that about a year after 9/11, I was working in admin at an insurance company downtown, at 1 Market. (Shoot me now!!) Part of my job was to play the role of emergency manager and take various emergency training, and to put on drills for the office based on that training. In the classes we learned that, at that time, SF had an average of eight bomb threats a day! But no one ever heard about them, as they all turned out to be hoaxes and somehow didn’t make the news. I was given a sheet in the classes, too, with a list of questions, should someone call in to the company with a bomb threat.

The top questions were:

  1. What is your name?
  2. Where is the bomb?
  3. When will the bomb go off?
  4. What is the bomb made of?
  5. Where are you?

Now, you’re all probably laughing at this. But it turns out that a great majority of the time, the caller will actually ANSWER the questions! Go figure, these are just sad people who are desperate for attention.

But I am NOT laughing STUCK in this cluster!

Twenty minutes later…

Whew! I’ve JUST dropped Larry! I had to cut off more than a few “rideshares” and finagle a highly circuitous route that will unquestionably cement PTSD in me, if I recount it here.

En route, we got another update from NPR. It turns out a MUNI bus driver saw a rice cooker on a bench outside of the Goodwill store and called it in. The damn thing wasn’t even in a bag. Jeez!



Hmm. Think I’ll roll back out of the Financial up Market. I can work the bus/taxi-only lane. I’ll just veer off up on a northbound street, if approaching Van Ness still proves Carmageddon. Anyway, there’s probably a good chance of scoring a flag heading out on Market, what with Oracle going on, rush hour, and the ensuing traffic chaos from the “bomb.”

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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