The Board is Clear


Rain, fog and drizzle fill the predawn San Francisco streets… and the mind of one driver rolling Citizen’s Cab #26.

I’ve been empty for an hour and a half now, as the crackle from the CB radio breaks the still of nothingness, yet again.

It’s a Russian hack, with a deep Dracula-esque voice and a nervous need for affirmation. I hear him often before the day wakes, when there are no orders coming over the radio to bid on. And today is no different. All morning Vlad has been sporadically radioing in to Tony Jr., with,

“354. Raaadio chyeck! Raaaadio chyeck!

And then, the oft repeated, inevitable response crackling back from dispatch,

“354. Loud and clear.”

No, Vlad. There is nothing wrong with your radio.

December is cold in the Bay Area. However, it is not an east coast cold that can be effectively addressed with gloves, a hat, the proper coat and a scarf. It’s a wet chill that weaves inside of your clothes, and penetrates and permeates your bones. And this December morn, in this solitary moment, all I have to warm me is what’s left of my cooling Starbucks, and Chopin’s Nocturne #3, Opus #9, #3 in B Major.

At these times, a hack has WAY too much time to think. And in this vocation, with its death by a thousand cuts, thinking… is… dangerous. I ponder City Hall’s recently released stats: there are currently 45,000 “rideshares” rolling SF at any given moment, to a regulated cap of 1,800 taxis – with Uber subsidizing 60 cents of every dollar of their rides in the predatory effort to gain a monopoly. It is no wonder that this past summer saw taxi taking a BIG hit.

However, as the current winter nears, this morning aside, the cab business has counterintuitively not been all that bad. It has actually been BETTER than in past years, so far.

Traditionally, it has been summer that has been flush with life and tourists and taxi rides galore, as it then bleeds into the lucrative fall convention season. It had always been winter which has proven itself to be some god awful general invitation to personal ruin. As in the season, the white collar world comes to a halt, leaving the blue collar cabbie with a red Christmas. And to suit, over these barren weeks, all the Middle Eastern and West African drivers invariably take this time to go back home to some other continent, and see family.

But with the legit taxi-hailing app Cabulous, this hack has found a clientele that is proving to be more stable, and NOT so seasonal. It has, thus far, not been like in past years, when rides fall off a cliff just before Thanksgiving, only to reappear with the first shoots of spring.

Note: In the past, it had been understood that the machinations of industry wane in winter, school has its breaks, and disposable income is earmarked elsewhere.

But, today… it SUCKS. And it is NOT just the early morn. It is in the rain. It is in the air. You can SMELL it! And ain’t NO Christmas tree air freshener gonna mask THIS stench!

Aside: If you haven’t figured it out, yet. This week’s report is to be a short one, filled with only navel gazing. Ma will not be happy. But, life sucks. (Sorry, ma.) And who am I to deny it?

Vlad breaks my self-pitying train of thought, “354. Raaadio chyeck! Raaaadio chyeck!

Tony Jr. comes back, yet AGAIN, “354. Loud and clear.”

Before he follows up with the (also sporadic) FCC-required tag,

“WTXI 666. This is Citizen’s Cab time of San Francisco. 5:45am. And the board is clear.”




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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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