Dios Mio!

Random Digression: It’s rush hour. I find myself at a four-way stop in the Mission, 18th & Capp. And, there it is. That classic move where the opposing car pulls up fast to the stop and does NOT stop! But slowly rolls into their crosswalk, sweating any opposing traffic that might be the rightful heir to the yield.

It’s an Audi. Ski racks. Tinted windows. New tech money. (Trust me.)

As I was there first, I start to go. But, Audi has other ideas. He guns it into the intersection, and then brakes HARD, to slow as he crosses me, with me already having entered the intersection.

No, Audi. Giving me a dirty look as you slow through the four-way stop does NOT work, when I can’t see inside your tinted windows.

 

10:45am:
CAN’T … HELP… IT!

I turn on NPR: “And now, we turn to traffic, with Joe McConnell. Joe?”

Joe, “It’s a mess downtown. Stay away, if you can. Kids from high schools across the city have staged a walk-out and are marching from the Ferry Building, up Market, and toward City Hall. It’s gridlock all around Market.”

Hmm. Good to know.

Now, back to 98.1FM – The Breeze, and ‘The Lady in Red.‘ The theme song from that ’80’s romantic comedy, starring Gene Wilder.

So sad, that he just died. R.I.P Gene. You are in a better place now… a much, much, better place.

Aside: And R.I.P. Leonard Cohen. And Leon Russell. (Man, they’re all dropping like flies, now.)

Then, suddenly, “Bada-Ding-Ding-Boop-Ding-Ding! Bada-Ding-Ding-Boop-Ding-Ding!”

I check my phone… Washington High School? I hope my boy’s ok!

I answer.

“This is an automated message from the San Francisco Unified School District calling with information that a walk out has been staged today by a number of students within the district.

This call is to inform you, the parents, that any absences due to the walk out are not sanctioned by the district and will be marked as unexcused. Please call your school, if you have any questions regarding this matter.”

I hang up.

And, I immediately IM the boy, with, “Boy. Did you leave school? Are you downtown protesting?”

….

Boy, “No, dad. My Spanish teacher wouldn’t let me leave.”

Really? The Spanish teacher?? Hmm. Irony of ironies.

Another Random Digression: Rolling between the Castro and the Haight while cruising for flags, I take note of a couple new musicians out on the road today, literally. These two troubadours, about a mile apart, are each sporting rolled up sleeping bags, guitar cases, and one rolling suitcase, each. Their clothes are not dirty, or ripped. And the chrome accoutrements on their flat black guitar cases are still shiny and free of rust, for now.

 

1:15pm:
I’m headed through the Mission, up 18th again, fresh from dropping some dude who works valet parking at VCA Veterinary Specialists – a pet hospital in the Mission. (Yeah, you read that right. Valet parking at a veterinarian’s.)

Dude says at drop, a little too late for mining, that the job can get “interesting.” Sorry, I didn’t glean his vocation sooner, folks. Here we’ll just have to wonder, and imagine left behind snakes and the like.

After rolling off, a bit up 18th – at Mission, an older, stocky Mexican guy with a thick, dark, handlebar mustache, big, dark, bushy eyebrows, and a big, square jaw standing at the corner with a cane, holding a bunch of bananas, raises said cane to flag.

And Citizen’s Cab #26 pulls over, hard to the curb. And Driver preps his pen and waybill.

Miguel squints his eyes, and begins speaking out of the corner of his mouth, “Dios mio! Thank you for stopping, driver. I need to go to St. Francis Hospital, Hyde & Pine. They got my old man there. He was robbed recently. Beat up pretty bad. I’m bringing him these bananas.”

Driver, “St. Francis. Hyde & Pine… Wow! That sucks. Sorry to hear that!”

We drive.

Miguel squints his eyes harder now, and looks off into the distance, before expounding, “Yeah, he’s a trusting old guy. A good soul. Ninety-four years old, my old man. And a World War II vet. They don’t make ’em like that, anymore. But yeah, he’s too trusting. He gives money to the vagrants and drug addicts around here in the Mission. And they know he always carries cash. Hundred dollar bills. They see his wad when he’s handing out fives and twenties to the local criminals. He gets his checks cashed and then just keeps the cash in his wallet. I told him not to do that. But he’s old, and doesn’t listen.”

Driver, “Wow! Who do you think…”

But Miguel just cuts Driver off, mid-sentence. He is in his own world. And Driver is just incidental within it. He squints harder now, and stares out the window, as if in a trance. And Miguel continues, all monotone.

“The people in this city now, they’re all crazy. They stabbed him in the head. He was bleeding something bad. And now they got him in the hospital. He fell down the stairs of his apartment building, when he went home, after. Yeah, a tough old dude. Times have changed. People have changed. Anyway, he starts therapy today.”

Suddenly, Miguel’s eyes start shifting, left to right.

“Hey,” Miguel makes eye contact for the first time with Driver, via the rear view, “My father can’t eat all these bananas. Here, you take a couple.”

Driver, “Uhhh. Thanks, but I…”

Miguel ignores that I’ve begun a sentence, and once again cuts me off midway, as he hands me up two ripe bananas.

I’m pretty sure there’s a Rose (cab school teacher) Commandment about not eating food passengers have bestowed upon you. Actually, I KNOW there is.

Driver, receiving the bananas, “Uh, thanks.”

And we pull up to the entrance to St. Francis. Miguel hands me up a Paratransit card to swipe, saying to add the government-subsidized fixed 10% tip to the government-subsidized $10.10 fare.

And he exits my cab.

Driver leans out the window as Miguel canes off toward the entrance, and yells, “Thanks for the bananas! And I hope your dad gets better!”

Now, I figure I’ll roll down Hyde toward Market, through the Tenderloin. There will unquestionably be a few homeless drug addicts and/or schizophrenics en route that I can unload these bananas on.

Or, hmm. NO! There’s that PROTEST!! No, best to head north up Polk, instead. There is no dearth of homeless out there in need in this town.

 

3:25pm:
Getting… tired. My next ride will be my last. I’ve been pretty good about milking 26’s medallion for all her 4:15 pumpkin time is worth. And I can justify calling it after one more ride. I HAVE made sustainable money. And not to be greedy, but hopefully, the Lord will end this day with another airport.

“Cha-ching! – 1562 Grove. Amanda. iPhone.”

My Cabulous taxi-hailing app rings to life with a mobile order. It’s over in NOPA, by the Panhandle to Golden Gate Park.

I jut over from the Haight and arrive at the order fast, before hitting the ‘Arrived’ button on the Cabulous smartphone mounted on my cab’s dash.

And in short order, Rachel Maddo… er, Amanda, a twenty-something sporting thick, black-framed glasses, with short cropped hair and a black sport coat pops out of this Victorian apartment building… with luggage.

SWEEEET!!!

Amanda, “Thanks for coming, driver. SFO, please. Delta.”

Driver, marking his waybill and repeating back, “SFO. Delta.”

And we head for the highway in silence, but for 98.1FM and the soothing sounds of  Air Supply’s ‘All Out of Love.

As we approach the Octavia on-ramp to 101, I have had surprisingly good luck in avoiding Trump Carmageddon. That aside, I smell something. But, I am afraid to broach. Eh, what the hell. A cabbie KNOWS these things. And this cabbie prides himself on knowing that he knows that which is unknown…

Driver, “You headed out of town for a wedding?”

Amanda, “Why, yes. I am! How did you know?”

Driver, “A cabbie can smell these things.”

Amanda, “Well, I’m impressed. That’s amazing! I’m heading back to Atlanta, for a friend’s wedding. I just moved back to Sn Francisco from there.”

Driver, “Oh? Atlanta’s beautiful, vegetation-wise. How did you like living there? Was there any kind of culture shock? Or, is there a lot going on… I know that Atlanta’s historically had a great music scene.”

Amanda, “Yeah, well mostly in Athens and the other college towns. But it has been getting gentrified. And culture usually comes with that. I really loved it. But I’m glad to be back in San Francisco. People were REALLY nice while I was there. But… you always somehow feel… like an outsider.”

Driver, “That reminds me of a woman I used to drive a lot. She was a social worker. But then she retired and moved to what she describes as her dream home, a cute little house in a rural area in North Carolina. She said everyone was nice there, too. But she said the first question out of everyone’s mouth was, ‘And what church do you attend?’ They say you can’t move to somewhere that doesn’t suit your politics. She was trying to sell her house and back in the Bay area within a year.”

Amanda, “Yes! That’s EXACTLY how it is! For me, I’m a Lesbian, and all the housewives were like, ‘And where is your husband?’ But if you don’t have a husband, they really go out of their way to

look out for you, to invite you to dinner and stuff. Great food. Real Southern hospitality.

But you know what it’s like? It’s like… when you move there… they will all invite you into their homes, and cook you dinner… but, they WON’T give you the recipe.”

Indeed.

 

 

_____

Photo by Alex SacK

www.AlexSacK.com

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 14 and (a hormonal) 16. 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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