Ophelia’s Cats


I’m rolling west up Market, empty, in Citizen’s Cab #26, when, “DING!

My iPhone chimes with an IM… Hey! It’s Christian!

Note: Best friend, Spermula band mate, and fellow (albeit, night) cabbie.

Golden?” it reads, simply.

This is code for lunch (well, late breakfast) at this cheap, Asian run hole-in-the-wall diner up at Sutter & Lev – straddling the red light Tenderloin district.

K,” I chime back, simply.

Fifteen Minutes Later…

Over eggs and French toast atop rickety bar stools at the counter of Golden Coffee, our once weekly therapy session begins, as usual, with the latest in San Francisco taxi gossip.

Christian, “Did you hear about Dmitry?”

Alex, “You mean that new Russian dispatcher at Citizen’s? No. What?”

Christian, “He flipped out on a night driver a couple nights ago. Dmitry was chasing him around the lot, and then smashed his cab!”

Alex, “Wow! Really? Why!?”

Christian, “It was one of the homeless drivers. They got into some kind of fight over the radio. And then, at the end of dude’s shift, he was back in the office hanging out cooking shit in the microwave behind Dmitry – while he was at dispatch, and being annoying. So, Dmitry sucker punched him and then chased him out into the lot. Dude tried to hide in a cab. But, Dmitry went all crazy and smashed the windows to get at him!”

Alex, “Wow! Is Dmitry fired? What did Management do about it? What did Ivan say!?”

Christian, “I don’t know. That’s all I heard.”



I’m back in the office at ‘ol Citizen’s Cab and grabbing 26’s key and medallion from the pegboard. Tony Sr. is working the office and dispatch. I go to throw him a five for tip, forgoing the extra five airport bribe – as it never pans out, and then pry him for more info on this Dmitry thing.

Sack, “Yo, Tony! What do you know about this Dmitry thing? With some homeless driver??”

Tony Sr., “Oh, you herd ’bout dat? Uhh, iss all settled. Ain’t nuthin’.”

Sack, “What do you mean? I heard Dmitry sucker punched a driver and then chased him out into the lot and then smashed a cab! He’s not fired??”

Tony Sr., “Nah. Ivan and Dmitry worked it out.”

Sack, incredulous, “Hmm. Really?? Well, what do you know?”

Tony Sr., “Ahhh, it wuz ah homeless driver, said sum shit ’bout Dmitry’s mom. Ya don do dat wit Rusians. Dey don like dat shit. Dah cab dint get hurt dat baaaad. Iss all guud now.”

Uh, huh.

I see I am not going to get much more out of Tony Sr., and resign myself to just forgetting about the whole affair, as I head out to prep my beautiful wif… er, Prius.

Three minutes later…

I’m out in 26 prepping and sanitizing, when there’s a knock on the window.

Hey! It’s Augustus!

Note: Fellow (albiet, night) cabbie, with whom I commonly cross paths at shift change, and have taken to regularly driving home to his SRO hotel at 16th & Valencia, in the Mission.

Note extended: Actually, several drivers live there. And if there’s a vacancy, I may be one of them one day soon. (Well, depending on how the current ballot measure on San Francisco’s tent encampments pans out. It’s good to keep one’s options open.)

Augustus, “Sack, ride me home?”

Sack, “Sure. Get in. I’m just finishing prep.”

Augustus pops in back and immediately hands me up a ten. No need for the meter here. (Cabbie courtesy.)

And we roll.

And as we do, I decide to give it one more shot, to see if there is anything more I can glean about this Dmitry thing. (Night drivers usually have the best scoop on lot gossip.)

Sack, “Hey! What do you know about Dmitry sucker punching some homeless driver? And then chasing him around the lot and smashing his cab??”

Augustus, “Oh, that. Yeah, I heard about it at the Recitation of the Waybill. Late Night Larry was talking about it. You know what the Recitation of the Waybill is, right?”

Sack, “Yeah, I know about it. It’s when whoever’s around at 3 in the morning is hanging out around the BBQ eating and exhanging war stories. I’ve never been to one. I’m a day driver, and value my sleep too much. Or, lack thereof! Ha!”

Augustus, “Well, what I heard is that this homeless driver who sleeps in a spare – 2402, his cab, actually, was talking shit about Dmitry’s mom over the radio, ’cause he thought Dmitry sold an airport out from under him when he was bingo on the order. Well, Dmitry’s Russian. And you DO NOT talk shit about a Russian’s mom. They don’t play that way.

Anyway, at the end of the guy’s shift, he was hanging out in the office and pissing off Dmitry more, until Dmitry finally punched the guy in the face. Then, Dmitry chased him out into and around the lot, until the guy finally ended up locking himself inside his spare. But Dmitry kept flipping out and was banging all over the cab with the handle of a mop, and yelling, ‘I LET YOU SLEEP IN THIS CAB! RENT FREE!! AND THIS IS HOW YOU TALK ABOUT MY MOTHER!!!’

Dmitry didn’t do that much damage. It was just a mop handle. And it was a piece of shit spare, anyway. But, it’s all settled now. Ivan and Dmitry worked it out. Ivan made them shake hands.”

Uh, huh.


I’m rolling the Fillmore district, sipping my Starbucks, and waking up with Classical KDFC 90.3FM. (Hmm. Maybe they should start paying me for these plugs.)

And right as Liszt’s La Campanella‘ kicks in, a big ‘ol raccoon comes waddling out from in front of the police station, at Turk. Post-haste, Rocky runs across Fillmore behind my taxi, before ducking for cover within the mini park across the street, adjacent McDonald’s. And I take another sip, as breakfast is served.

In the dark of morn, cloaked in the San Francisco fog, and before NPR… all is right in the world.

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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