A Not So Cabulous Day

By the grace of God, and/or Mother Nature, I’ve been doing quite well working Citizen’s Cab 1015 over the last couple of weeks, what with all of the cold and rain that’s descended over the Bay Area. And that ominous, foreboding feeling that’s been blanketing the country. Out of both physical and emotional considerations, many a passenger has found themselves in need of the comfort of a warm cab. And your driver has been here to help!

I’ve come to realize that this is a pattern in my life: When the world is falling apart, I do well.

That said, this week has seen the skies clear in San Francisco, and the sun come out to play. And it’s only gotten worse…



I didn’t drive a cab today. I was just out there rolling the streets in a taxi.

You see, in this tech savvy town, the taxi hailing-app Cabulous has been accounting for about a third to half of my rides. And this morning, when I went to log-in, I got the message, “Unable to connect to network.” And that is bad. REAL bad.

Being the socialist that I am, I’ve always been pretty apprehensive about having all of my eggs (well, a third to half) in the basket of a private sector company. I always imagined that one day I would wake up to find that message, as notification that Cabulous had gone out of business.

But, let’s not freak out just yet. Let’s check in with dispatch. I radio-in to Tony, from out in the Citizen’s Cab lot.

Sack, “Tony. It’s Sack. Do you know of anyone having problems logging-in to Cabulous this morning?”

Tony, “Uh, Sack. Duh, ye-ah. Dere waz uh cuple ah drivahs wit ah prahblem. Buht dat’s ah Cabahlus ting. Ya gahhta talk ta dem ’bout it.”


To be sure, I break out my own iPhone. Which I use to hail cabs, personally. When I’m not working, and the kids and I go to movies or whatnot.

Hmm. I see a bunch of cabs on the app’s real time map.

I go to hail one.

My screen immediately reads, “Requesting ride…” before lighting up with the subsequent screen, “Yellow Cab #666 En Route.”

I jump to hit Cancel!



And, “Your ride has been cancelled,” suddenly adorns my screen.

Sorry, Yellow.

Well, I’ll just keep trying to log-in while en route to Starbucks. I actually HAVE seen this movie before. Sometimes, you’re just in a bad spot for coverage.

As I roll and try repeatedly to log-in, an alert denies me. In a pretty disconcerting fashion, which does NOT inspire confidence.

A red box appears above the pin number grid, admonishing, “Unlocked while driving above 5 m.p.h.”

Idiots. Yeah, that would be nice, if it were true. Anyway, this denial while rolling was never the case before. Obviously, this is the result of one of the many recent updates to the app!

Aside: It should be noted that Cabulous has recently disabled their 800 number support line for drivers. And they’ve cut back the hours and numbers of employees at their satellite support office over at DeSoto’s cab lot. Hmm. Should one be worried?


Two hours later…


I’ve been going CARZY! Fucking MAAAAD! Trying to log-in at every damn stop sign and red light over the last two hours! And NOT ONE ride yet!! It seems to be a one-two punch this morning. Cabulous is down – for me and a select few drivers. AND the streets have this eerie Twilight Zone quality about them. There is NO ONE out! NO ONE! It’s TOTALLY dead!! And I’m going bat shit CARZY! (So much so, that I can’t even SPELL!!!)

Well, this calls for drastic measures. A change in my game. Hmm. I guess I COULD play the airport… But, I still haven’t gotten over my inexplicable aversion to that. Or, maybe it IS explicable!

While, playing the airport doesn’t rely on street hails, radio orders OR Cabulous. I’ve heard tell that it DOES usually entail waiting for an ungodly period of time amidst a sea of cabs at SFO, before slowly filtering one after the other through three staging lots, before picking up some suit at Arrivals who will undoubtedly be heading all of two miles home to neighboring Burlingame!


Actually, I do have a pretty good excuse to not “deadhead” down to the airport right now! You see, at the end of December I received a pleasant phone call from the SFMTA. Some guy alerting me that my A-card had been suspended, due to non-payment of the yearly renewal fee of $106.50 that was due back in August. Well, I’m pretty good about this shit. ESPECIALLY, when my livelihood depends on it!

After holding dude on the phone, while I procured a photo of the cashed check from my bank’s website and then emailing it to him, dude apologized, qualifying that he was new. And after acknowledging the MTA’s error, he told me that my A-card would be re-instated. But, to be safe, dude added that I should hold off on picking up at the airport for a couple days.

Note: Your A-card (taxi permit) also doubles as a kind of payment card that you swipe when leaving Arrivals with the back seat warm. It has to be loaded with at least $4 to pay the “Airport Exit Fee” to SFO, which ultimately gets passed on to the passenger.

So with THAT out of the way, I received ANOTHER voicemail yesterday from the MTA, from a woman saying that my A-card had been suspended, due to non-payment of the yearly renewal fee of $106.50 that was due back in August!


So, anyway, hotel lines it is! For the next two and a half hours… And I NEVER play the hotel lines! Anyway, I emailed Cabulous support with my “network connection” issue. MAYBE they’ll get right to it when they stumble in down at their Redwood City HQ, around 9am. (The DeSoto satellite support “team” now has scaled back hours on Fridays, and won’t be in until 2pm!)


I’m first in line at the Argonaut Hotel, down in Fisherman’s Wharf. This is the furthest hotel from the highway and SFO there is. So, if the fates are with me (which I guess the jury is back on, already) I’ll score a $50 airport.

Thirty minutes later…

I’ve spent the last half hour bitching about fascism on Facebook. And FB messaging one of my best friends in the world; my old roommate and music cohort, who moved up to Spokane some years ago and got married. He’s happy and has dogs now. But I worry that our relationship has been a little on egg shells of late, ever since #Illegitimate stole the election. You see, me and my boy are on opposite sides of the political fence. And he sees all of my posts. Still, um, I’m not sure why there would be any damage:)

Suddenly, the Argonaut’s doorman comes slithering over to my window in his19th century nautical-themed outfit, with the puffy white sleeves and white pith helmet (minus the pith)… to shoot the shit.


Nemo’s itching for a five “tip” for an airport he’s about to throw me. However, as my soon-to-be passenger is no doubt already tipping him, this is double-dipping. I mean, what the fuck!? Nemo didn’t go out of his way to do me any favors. I was the next cab in line!

Too dejected today for any drama, having clocked three hours now without having had even ONE  ride, I pull a five from my bank of change. And Nemo feigns surprise and thanks me for “looking out for him.” Uh, huh.

Then, Nemo runs around and opens the back door of ‘ol Citizen’s Cab #1015 for my bounty. And then, runs back around to my window, with,

“He’s not heading to the airport. He’s going sorta close, though. Down to South City, to Genentech.”

FUCKER! I just paid $5 on what will be a $35 ride, AFTER tip!!


And in a thick German accent, my passenger speaks.

Heinrich, “Iz am naht goingz fahr, drrivah. Genennntech, yezz. Buht, naht allz zee way too za hedquaartarz neer za wahtah. Jussst to seekz ellevin Gaateway. Neerz za highwaay.”


We ride in silence, but for KDFC – Classical 90.3FM playing Franz Liszt’s ‘Consolation for Piano No. 3 in D Flat Major.’ (I can’t bring myself to turn on NPR right now.)

Fifteen minutes later…

We pull into the Genentech office park in South City. The one just off of 101. The meter reads $32.55. And Heinrich hands me up his corporate Amex and says to make it for $50!

Well, Sieg Heil!!


I’ve been trying still, unsuccessfully, to log-in to Cabulous. And I’ve been checking my email for a response from support.


So, I’m back in line at the Argonaut… with ONE DAMN RIDE under my belt!! And I’ve been out on the road since 4:30am! That’s five and a half hours!!!

Fuck it. I can’t take this. I’m calling it a day. I’ve actually been sober for the last couple of weeks, saving for rent. And working on the belly. But I’m going to be PAYING for having driven today! And THIS calls for a margarita.

Ten minutes later…

Of course, I’ve made it all the way across town from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Mission sans a radio order or flag. I’m not far from the lot now, here at 18th & Mission…


What’s that?


It’s a kind of funny looking Hispanic woman, in a knitted red, white and blue Peruvian beanie hat, with tassels and the fuzzy ball on top. She’s standing out in front of one of the Mexican produce marts here, beside a horde of plastic bags full of groceries. No doubt, my fare only going a few blocks. But yeah, I accept. However much I can reduce what I’ll be losing on gas and gate today is, um… mucho appreciated.

I make an illegal left onto 18th, at my passenger’s signaling.

And a very bubbly, energetic Carmen jumps to open the back door of 1015, and THROWS in her bags, before going on to gush a mile a minute about how great the prices are at this mart. And about how she wasn’t out to buy produce, but she just COULDN’T resist.

Carmen, “Dios mio! Dey got dees mangoes heer fer saale fer jus fify censs! FIFY CENsS! Dey’re ah dahllarr fify aneewhere elllse!! I jus HAAAD too geet alll deese baaags!

I looove too cook, yoo see! Ees en my bloood. Buht, my boyfreend. Hee HAAATES my cookeeng! Welll, SCREW HIIM! I cook fer my SEFF! ‘N I geet creeative, too! Eef I cook cheekahn, I maake roass cheekahn da fors nite, den cheekahn encheeladas da nex, den cheekahn SOOP afterr dat! I gaht cheekahns en my baahck yaard, yoo see.”

Driver interjects, “Ma’am, where are you headed?”

Carmen, “OH! Dios MIO!! Sorree! HA! Jus ovah too San Bruuno ‘n Twennee-fiff, driverrr!”

Driver marks his waybill, as Carmen continues…

“Myy sunn, yoo see, hee don liike my cookeeng eether! Hee liikes prohcess foood. McDonalllds. Buht, I don liike et. Hee try too shoove eet en my faaace. Hee saay, ‘Mi gordito! EAT!!’”

Carmen grabs my headrest, leans forward over the back of my seat, and as an aside explains, “Mi gordito meens ‘fat one’ een Spaaneesh. Wee jooke liike dat. Mee ‘n my suun. Buht, hee VEERY jellous! Eff hee see mee talkeeng too yoo now, hee bee VEERY jellous!”

And Carmen goes back to her corner, “HA! Hee don eeven kno I gaht ah BOYFREEND!! ‘N wee beeen goeeng toogetherr fer SIIX YEERS!! Wee meet en hohtel roooms, yoo seeee. I Porto Reecan, yoo see. Buht, my boyfreen… Hee Mexeecahn! I uss too bee ah mahsuusse! ‘N I geeve hiim mahsaahgees. Buht, hee don geeve mee nuthin’!

Eff I don liike ah mahn, I let dem go. Noo praahblem! I teenking ahf lettin’ hiim go. Hee ah werkahohleec. Hee saay, ‘I don come too Amerrika fer ah woomahn. I come too Amerika too maake monee.’ HA! I teeell hiim, ‘Den yoo goh geet ah mahsaahge frum uur MONEE!’ I teenking ahf letteeng hiiim go. Yees.”

Driver, “Wow! Six years? And you’re son doesn’t know? Anyway, your boyfriend sounds kind of selfish. I guess it’s probably the macho culture.”

Carmen, “YEES! Dass eet!! EXXACCLEE!! HA! My suun, hee now saay, ‘Mi gordito! Yoo nee ah maan!’ HA! Buht, hee VEEEREE jellous. I don tell hiim.”

We ride the few more blocks, with a very cute Carmen, despite a lack of teeth, going on cackling in the most endearing way. She tells me more about her son.

Carmen, “Noooo. My suun ees too maahco too cooook. ‘N hee too lazee. Hee nee ah jaahb! Hee WASS ah seecurritee gahrd, buht hee queet. Hee din liike dat. Den, hee wass ah cahb driiiverrr, LIIKE YOO! Buht, hee telll mee wuun nite ah guy ruuun awaa frum hiis cahb, ‘n rahb hiim ah thiiirtee dahllarrs! ‘N anotherr tiim, ah guy TROW UHP EN HIIS CAHB! Dass wheeen hee queet.

Hee don see hiis kiidss yoo kno. Heees wiife ees ahn druhggs. Verree saaahd. Buht hee don liike too werrrk. Nooo. Too lazee. Hee thiiirtee-niiine. ‘N hee liive aht hooome, wiiith mee. Hee nee ah jaahb.”

Carmen, digressing back, “I nee too leeeeve my boyfreend. Yeees. I cood haav gaht marree wunce. Too aan Amerrikaahn. I shood hav don dat! I reegret eet! I shood haaaave!”

Driver, “Well, why didn’t you?”

Carmen, “Hee gaht NOOO passhun! Yoo GAHT too haave passhun! ‘N hee gaht NOOOONE. I shood haave marree hiim, doh. Hee wass aan Amerrikaahn. Shood haaave.”

And we roll up on Carmen’s home, which has a Caribbean mural of blue skies, yellow sand, palm trees and blue water painted across the front of her ground level Victorian flat, nestled here between 101 and SF General. And Carmen yanks her bags together as simultaneously throwing open her door. And a large wad of bills spills out of her pocket, all over the street outside of the cab, with a great, “DIOS MIO!!”

As Carmen scampers around the street and under the taxi for the bills, as juggling bags full of produce. Carmen is apologetic, although needlessly. And she nervously explains that she just came from the bank, as takes three fives from the mess of bills and tells her driver to keep the change… from the $8.45 fare!


Aside: Hmm. That’s pretty generous for someone who was so happy about having saved a dollar a mango. But HELL YEAH, I accept!

Carmen thanks me for my patience.

Carmen, “Taank yoo fer beeeing sooo paashent, driiiverrr. Gahd blesss yoo! Woood yoo liike too come eeen aaan eeat? I maake gooood cheekahn!”

Driver, “Oh! Thanks! But, I really should stay out and make money.” Adding with nervous laughter, “Rent is due.”

And Carmen smiles, with one more, “Gahd blesss yoo!” And she shuts the door, as her driver rolls off… to gas it up and bring it back to the lot.

This day is done. But, it DOES look like between these two rides, I JUST cleared my expenses. I’m walking with three dollars.

Feliz viernes, mi gorditos!



Please SHARE if so inclined, folks!

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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