Robbed of Agency

agency-no-border

Thanksgiving

The slowest day of the year…

3:45am:
A San Francisco cabbie has to make the decision whether to get up butt ass early to gamble on some prodigal son heading to the airport trying to make it home to L.A. in time for the festivities, or sleep in.

ZzZZzzZZzzZzZZzzZZZzzzZZZzzzzZZzzz…

6:35am:
I’m rolling through the lot at Citizen’s Cab. I’ve never seen it so full of latent cabs. While heading back towards the office for 26’s key and medallion, I pass a print out posted on the bullet-proof glass check out window, which reads:

Thanksgiving Day Gates: $25 off!

Per tradition, management has taken mercy on those pilgrims dumb enough, or desperate enough, to work today.

If a driver misses the early window of out of town travelers, they can expect only crickets (and way too much introspection) to be all that keeps them warm over the next several hours, until sometime well after noon. This is when the potluckers will be taking short jaunts across town via taxi to their events, with Saran Wrapped baked goods and crock pots in tow.

And this cabbie has his own gathering to attend, later. I will be quitting at 1:30 today. Just when business will be picking up. And before any chance of cashing in on the rush.

What the hell am I doing out of bed!?

Back in the office, I throw Tony a five for tip, forgoing what would surely be another wasted five for a bribe on an airport. This is a no brainer today. But, there is hope! Augustus, night driver, played his shift late last night. (Likely, there was no day driver waiting for his cab.) And he is just now checking out. When we cross paths, Augustus always asks me to drive him home to his SRO hotel, at 16th & Valencia in the Mission. It’s an easy ten bucks, by way of cabbie courtesy. (No meter need be involved here.)

Augustus, “Sack, ride me home?”

Sack, “Sure. I’ll be out prepping 26. Come out when you’re ready.”

Sweet!

It’s not an airport. But the ice will be broken. And the tactic of days like these is that of the Redskins, circa Joe Gibbs. You just push that ball, inch by inch, towards the end zone.

En route towards Augustus’ single room occupancy, a pink behemoth that several drivers at Citizen’s Cab call home, we talk about audio recording and video editing. Augustus had a past life actually working in recording studios, and doing video editing for no less than Lucas Arts! For some reason, though, he took a hiatus. And you can’t do that. The technology flies by you, and you have to go back to square one to get back into it. Hence, his current incarnation as a cab driver.

After both gushing about ‘Soundbreaking‘ – the current (and totally awesome) PBS series on the history of recorded music, I drop Augustus out in front of his hotel. (Dangerously, right across the street from Puerto Alegre, the best margaritas and Mexican comfort food in the city.)

 

7:00am – Post-Starbucks:
I’m caffeinated, and doing the rounds: 16th to Valencia. 18th to Castro. Upper Haight, U turn, Lower Haight. Fillmore.

Tony comes over the radio.

“McAllister/Laguna… McAllister/Laguna…”

Sack, “26. Golden Gate/Fillmore.”

Tony, “26. I got you. Anybody else checking in? McAllister/Laguna?”

Tony, “Ok, Sack. Go get 1280 Laguna.”

I FLOOR it!!

I’m not far, and this is unlikely an airport. And I’m probably the only cab on the road. But still, you HAVE to grab everything you can today. And Tony, a.k.a ‘The No-Go King’ ain’t named that ’cause he’s cute. No. Tony has a WAY. He’s magic. Like King Midas. But in reverse.

One minute later…

I ZOOM around the corner from McAllister and am positioned right across from 1280 Laguna… to find a Yellow cab waiting out in front.

FUCK!!!

But! After Yellow sees me, he pulls off! With top light still alight and his back seat cold!

Hmmm. Citizen’s Cab #26 decides to wait…

And in short order, a semi-pretty, if not gaudy, mulatto woman in high heels, a short leopard print skirt with matching halter top, a disheveled blonde wig and rinsing her mouth out with a peach Snapple comes hobbling from around the corner… and pops in back.

Yes!!!

Driver, “Happy Thanksgiving. Where to, ma’am?”

Madam, “75 Stillman, in SOMA.”

Driver, “25 Stillman,” repeating back. “Do you mind if I take the highway?”

Madam, “Whatevah da fasstest.”

And we roll…

Shortly into our ride, Amber’s phone rings.

“Hello? Nah. I already in a cab.”

Sorry, Yellow! Turkey been served!

Amber hangs up. And her phone rings once more.

“Hello? 26? How I supposed tah kno? I in a cab already!”

CLICK!

And Amber now addresses her driver.

“Why you guys callin’ me so much?”

Driver, “Well, when I pulled up, there was a Yellow cab waiting. Your trick must have called two cabs. Only one of those calls was from Citizen’s. I didn’t tell my dispatcher that I got you, and we’re good people. He was just looking out for you, making sure you got picked up.”

Okay, okay… I didn’t quite reference Amber’s “trick.”

We roll the rest of the way downtown in silence, with Amber looking starry-eyed out her window. And I drop $15 richer, cash money.

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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