At 7th & Market, straddling the seedy Tenderloin district, a black hand rises through the bedlam.
Actually, TWO black hands… from the MUNI bus island.
It should be said that my trek west up Market has been challenging, as the buses and street cars have all been backed up. I suspect this is on account of that they still got Market & Van Ness closed off a half mile up with police, fire trucks and the bomb squad.
And my passengers, two older women, both short a few teeth, one with grey scraggly hair and a cane, and one with a paisley scarf covering her head, scurry into the back of ‘ol Citzen’s Cab 26.
And in raspy unison, Aeisha and Yalonda direct,
“We’z goin’ ta tha homliss sheltah, drivah. Sisteeth ‘n Val’incia!”
Ah, the City’s flagship navigation center.
Drivah, “Okay. But we’re going to have to take a funky route. They got Market and Van Ness closed off for an emergency situation.”
And with that, I hit the meter. And roll!
Yalonda, “Whatevah. Jus’ git us dere.”
And my passengers dive into their own private banter, as Drivah drives, fly on the wall…
Aeisha, “MmmHmm! Aht da sheltah, dey all be askin’ you, ‘Hay! Gimme ah dollah! Gimme ah cig-ar-ette!’ Hell! I ain’t gaht no cig-ar-aette! Er no dollah!”
Suddenly, Aeisha and Yalonda get quiet, REAL quiet, as both nervously make eye contact with Drivah in the rear view. And Aeisha adds, “‘Cept fer dis cahb riiiide!”
And Aeisha continues, “‘Ineeway, if I diiid gaht ah dollah, I wudnt be givin it tah YOU no how! Dey ain’t give ME nuthin’!”
And with a supportive nod and confirming rasp, Yalonda chimes in,
“Hell! If you waz in tha guttah… ON FIYAH! Dey wudnt even PISS AWN YOU!!”
And again, Aeisha and Yalonda get quiet, and check me in the rear view.
It seems Drivah is up.
“Well, I assure you. I’D piss on you!”
The jest goes ignored, as my fares go back into banter.
Aeisha, shifting to a new complaint, “Mmhmm. ‘N my sI-AT-I-Ca! Don git me stahted! Dey give me ah needle in da back! A NEEDLE IN DA BACK! Hmph!”
And again, Drivah is acknowledged via the rear view.
Aeisha, “Dis ride aint coss more den ten I hope. S’all i gaht!”
And Drivah, “Oh! It’s all good. I’ll just turn off the meter and we’ll call it ten, then. I got you.”
And the day rolls on, busy and nondescript. Until…
Cruising east down Market, empty, fresh from dropping some German tourist family in the Haight, I figure the Oracle airport scene should be getting pretty live about now. The offending rice cooker has long since been cleared from outside the bench in front of Goodwill, and I figure I ought to be checking out downtown.
Just past (a clear) Market & Van Ness, I’m rolling the bus/taxi-only lane, when on the sidewalk on my right, a cordoned-off bike lane and personal vehicle right turn-only lane away from me, a pretty woman in a short tight black-sequined skirt, with long straight shiny black hair, wearing a low-cut white silk blouse, gracefully lifts her supple wrist… to flag.
Hmm. That wrist action was a little TOO supple, I think.
And this woman, evokes “woman” WAY more than women actually do.
Whatever. I throw on my flashers, give her a thumbs up and stop dead in the taxi lane, as I grab my clipboard/waybill and start to document.
I also check the rear view, to see if I might be pissing off any trailing buses or street cars, as Juanita anxiously waits for a horde of cyclists and personal vehicles turning right, and…. Huh? Another taxi?? Empty! In the right turn lane!?!
It’s another Citizen’s Cab!
Ain’t NO way dude’s going to mack my fare! There’d be hell to pay at the lot’s next BBQ. I mean, at least amongst co-workers, there IS a cabbie code! And Dude can plainly see that sister and me have sealed the contract. And from the looks of her, Juanita seems to be honoring it, too.
The traffic clears and Juanita takes her chance, prancing sprightly across the divide, in shiny black heels and swinging a shiny black matching purse wildly from her arm.
And Juanita dives in back.
“Whew! Thhhhank you everrr ssso much fer ssstopping, drriver!” Juanita intones, in her deep, sexy Latin baritone. “Caaan you taaake me too 374 Baaaay Ssstreet, aaat Taaylorrr?”
Driver, scribbling and repeating “374 Bay. Fisherman’s Wharf, it is.”
And as classical wafts through the cab (I needed a break from NPR), Juanita digs into her purse for makeup and a small mirror, and begins to apply.
Aside: I’m always AMAZED how women can put on makeup in a moving cab. Especially, in this town, given the condition of the roads and all the construction!
Anyway, as mentioned, I picked up Juanita as I was headed EAST down Market. And I need to cut left to head north towards the Wharf. But there isn’t a legal left I can take for over a mile on Market, down at Drumm. And it is simply against my grain to be so inefficient as to take a right down to Mission, and then a left and ANOTHER left to come BACK and cross Market legally.
I check the rear view. Juanita is occupied in her mirror.
I scan the streets for police. Damn.
There’s a black & white cruiser heading towards me.
I slow… And just after the cop passes me heading west, and a big truck behind him passes, too, I pull an illegal U, and then a quick right up Lev.
And Juanita takes notice, as she only half breaks from her eye liner, to address Driver,
“Thhhhat wasss prett-y balssssy, Driverrrr. Doeeng thhhat inn front offf a coooop.”
Driver, nervously, “(Heh, heh.) You noticed. I figured that the truck that passed after the cop was shielding us from view, pretty good. Besides, the next left we could take would have been all the way down at Drumm! This DID just save you ten minutes and a couple bucks. Anyway, do you mean ballsy? Or, (Heh, heh.) stupid!”
Juanita does not speak to my question. But she does not seem to mind.
“Welllll, I apprecciate iiiiit, driverrr. Wellll done!”
As we cut up Lev through the Loin, stopped at a red at Ellis, I take note of a dirty homeless white dude walking down the sidewalk with ripped jeans, a ripped T-shirt, and a ripped up “white” comforter draped over his back.
Finally! This is my chance!!
Oh, I guess I have been remiss with you, passengers. Lately, I have been trying to be good and not drink at night, and eat less, and less at night. I still make myself a peanut butter sandwich to bring in the cab, half for breakfast/half for lunch, but I have been just not eating breakfast or lunch, and just giving it away to whatever destitute-looking homeless person I can find, when convenient. The problem is, while they are everywhere, every chance that I’ve gotten I would have been holding up traffic.
(I know, I know. Not eating breakfast is a bad diet. And bad for one’s metabolism. Whatever.)
I lean towards my shotgun window, holding up the Ziploc bag.
“HEY! … HEY YOU!!! … YEAH, YOU!!! … YOU WANT A PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH!?!”
And Pigpen stops in his tracks. He looks up from his daze, and then shuffles over to 26’s open shotgun window and takes the sandwich. Then, sans a word, he walks back off down the street fixed in his daze.
Juanita, having now moved on to her lashes, “Thhaaat wasss verrry niiiice offf youu, driiiverr. Buuht, he willll probabllly jusss trooow iiit ouuut.”
We run the gauntlet north that is Leavenworth, weaving through traffic – as competing with a convertible Porsche – and timing all of the lights, perfectly. At California, Porsche gets stuck behind a U-Haul truck, as Citizen’s Cab 26 zooms off into the sun.
Who da man!!
Juanita has competed her makeup, and looks beautiful, despite all the makeup. And despite the husky baritone, I find her voice soothing and enticing. I have to remind myself that I am straight. I find Juanita intriguing, and confident. And she relays her distaste for “rideshares” and her quite informed history of them and the legit taxi app, Cabulous. And Driver is impressed.
Right on cue, as we cross Columbus on Bay, and nearing Juanita’s drop, we pass a scene with a white Honda that has rear ended a black Camry. The drivers are both out of their vehicles and shaking their heads. The Honda still has the pink glowing mustache in its windshield, indicating Lyft. (He seems to be remiss in hiding any “rideshare” evidence for the usual commission of insurance fraud.) And the Camry is still rocking both the pink mustache AND its Uber signage. (Also remiss. Maybe there is honor among thieves! Or maybe they just both figure they can lie without having to worry about the other.)
Juanita cracks a wry smile out of the corner of her cherry red lips and remarks, simply, “Ssseee.”
And in short order I pull up on 374 Bay – Secrets Sensual Massage Parlor.
And I turn to address Juanita, for the first time outside of the rear view. As she digs for some bills to cover the $11.75 fare, I look into her deep brown eyes and gush, “It was a pleasure to drive such an informed woman.”
And with handing Driver up a ten and a five, saying to “keeeep thee chaaaange.” Juanita, blinks her long, thick, lashes as she exits 26, adding, “Yessss, driiiverrr. Soooome dooo nnoot realissse therrre iss mooore too meeee thaaan meetsss thee eyeee.”
Well, I do Juanita.
Now, back to the lot! And I better step on it. I’m all the way across town!
Twelve minutes later…
Zooming up Dolores towards Cesar Chavez, adjacent the Mission, I must slow to pass another scene of an accident. It’s a silver Toyota minivan, who has appeared to try and jump a left across oncoming traffic, and failed… much to the dismay of the Asian woman driving a black BMW SUV who has T-boned the minivan, who’s Uber signage is still clearly visible in her windshield.
Jeez! This new crop of drivers is getting sloppy! (With the insurance fraud, I mean.)
Ten minutes later…
I’m gassed up and rolling into the Citizen’s lot RIGHT at pumpkin time! 3:45!!
Recall: A driver can be charged $15 by the next driver for even being one minute late. (Which covers the first block of fifteen minutes, after which it is another $15.)
And Ivan, the Russian Citizen’s Cab manager is out in the lot. He asks me how I like 26.
Sack, “I LOVE her!”
Ivan, “Seee Ah-lex! I tell you I puut you eeen nice cahb! I tell you! Seee!”
Sack, “Yeah! And I only had to wait a year!”
At this, Ivan laughs heartily and shakes my hand… and then heads back towards the bowels of the Citizens Cab office.
And Ah-lex is walking with $210!
Photo by Alex SacK