The Phoenix of San Francisco

Cruising the Lower Haight, I spy a super dusty Subaru station wagon parked on the side of the road with its hatch up and doors ajar. And there is a dread-locked couple in shiny silver space bag clothing vacuuming out its insides, with a cooler, some luggage, and two dusty mountain bikes on the curb, each wrapped in brightly colored green and pink neon feather boas. And with each bike sporting fluorescent, glittery stuffed-animal horse heads mounted to its handle bars!

This is the third such dust covered vehicle with vibrant adornments I have seen this morning! With all of the occupants in varied Flintstones’ fur vests, gaudy necklaces, knee-high combat boots, space helmets, LED flashing walking sticks, and Googles… er, I mean, goggles galore! Yes, this can only be Black Rock love…

Burning Man is adjourned!

The day rolls on quite nicely.

Your driver has been busy with rides from all walks of life, and fares running the range: from five dollar rides of paratransits to medical appointments – just blocks from their home, to twenty dollar European tourist rides from Union Square to Golden Gate Park, to business folk jaunting from one end of the Financial to the other, in hopes of making that power lunch on time.

Nut has long been cracked. And it seems that plans for this cabbie’s homeless stake have been put on hold, for now. With days like today and those of the last couple of weeks, your driver has risen from the ashes and been pulling in sustainable money. Sorry, tech disruption. (Sorry, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.)

As this week’s report has gone on a bit, we’ll drop you curbside after one… last… ride…


Rolling the Haight, it is now alive. it should be noted that many a visitor to San Francisco comes several hours too early for their peace sign-throwing selfie snap at the corner of Haight & Ashbury, not realizing that the hippie Haight does not open until way later in the morning, until after, um… high noon.

Mid-block between Cole and Shrader, almost at the end of the strip – which dead ends at Golden Gate Park, a thin, middle-aged grey-haired man, with a newspaper under his arm, casually pops out into the street and lifts a hand, half way, to flag me.

I throw on my hazards and pull over beside him.

I know this man. He’s an English guy who I have scored flagging me several times before over the years. He takes a regular, $22 cash, solo ride across town to Jefferson and Lev, in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf. However, it seems that today he is not riding solo. There is a woman standing by his side.

I have no idea who this guy is, or what he does. He’s always pretty stoic and quiet, and just buries his head in his newspaper for the whole of the ten minute ride. Whatever his deal, I don’t suspect that he’s going to Ripley’s, or the Wax Museum.

After first holding the door for Elizabeth to slide in, Grant gets in back. (By the inflection in Elizabeth’s “thank you” I have surmised that she, too, is English.) Then, Grant simultaneously rolls down his window half way, as usual, and curtly directs, as usual, “Jefferson and Leavenworth,” before unfolding his newspaper and disengaging himself, as usual.

I often wonder if Grant realizes that I have driven him no less than six times previously. Alas, whatever.

We roll down Oak, left onto Masonic, and veer onto Bush, all thoroughfares, with The News Hour giving us the latest on Trump’s ongoing bromance with Putin.

As we proceed down Bush, traffic thickens. And it is NOT due to the usual, construction of that new, gaudy apartment building at the corner of Divisadero. (Coincidentally, just a couple blocks from my flat AND the Full House house. (Which is notably for sale, or for rent at a low $13,950 a month.)

No, it is yet another gory scene. The second of the day.

As we crawl towards the intersection, we come across what appears to be a solo vehicle collision. And it is bad. There are ambulances all around, and hospital staff in blue scrubs and blue gloves all congregated from the UCSF and Kaiser medical buildings that comprise these blocks.

The vehicle? A badly smashed up silver Camry, with no plates, spun out and facing the wrong way up Bush in the middle of the intersection. And with no visible sign of a second vehicle involved. No, it definitely is a solo collision, which appears to have involved the median and a light pole.

Even more notable, is that the smartphone and Lyft badge are both still visible in the shattered windshield of this sub-prime lease. You KNOW it’s bad when the driver doesn’t even have the cognitive wherewithal to rip down the phone and “rideshare” signage in the online forum-schooled attempt at insurance fraud.

I break radio silence with Grant, by reinforcing, “THIS is why you take REAL taxis!”

Grant looks up and chuckles, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those pink mustachioed monstrosities!”

In response, I openly wonder how many years Lyft’s surreptitious insurer will take in staving off payment of THIS claim, if anyone is indeed alive, or eligible, to make one. As the first test of Lyft’s illusive million dollar policy, from two years ago when they killed a guy, is still hung up in court as the James River Insurance Company continues to investigate whether or not the dead passenger was wearing a seat belt. (Not sure why the driver – who lived, or the gay lover of the deceased – who was badly mangled but lived, could not attest to the status of dude’s seat belt.)

But then, I do not want to bore my passengers, so I just brush it off as we pass through the carnage with one last crack, to laughs, “At least they had the decency to total near a hospital!”

Okay, TWO last cracks!

“I wonder if the ‘friend with a car’ gave his pax one last of Lyft’s signature fist bumps before they got hauled off in the meat wagon.”


Anyway, apologies readers if this phoenix seems somehow aloof, or unsympathetic. It’s just that I am.

Meanwhile, this driver drives on, walking with $201… And once again, a living.



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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