The Hope Dealer

“Cha-ching! – 22 Battery. Chuckie. iPhone.”

My Cabulous taxi hailing-app lights up with an order. I just passed Battery, rolling east on Market here in the Financial. It wouldn’t have mattered, as Battery is one way, the wrong way. But while I’m only yards from this order, I’m going to have to finagle several trafficky one way blocks to make it out on front of 22 Battery, where it meets Market.

Ah, fuck it. I’ll make an illegal U on Market, and then another, and then pull over at the intersection. Seeing where this order is situated, I suspect this won’t be Chuckie’s first dance.

I scan for cops, and execute.


I hit ‘Arrived’ on the Cabulous phone, and wait. And wait…

Five minutes later…

Chuckie, a street looking black dude with corn rows and carrying a brown Specialty’s Sandwiches bag, waves his phone at me and pops in back.

Chuckie, “We nee ta make ah few stops. I werk fer dah law firm bahck dere n’ I nee ta go ta Fols’m n’ Beale, firs. Den we goin ta 6th ‘n Miss’n. I jus stahp n’ git owt ta git ur clientz ta sign sum papr’s so, I kin give ’em der checkz.”

Driver, marking his waybill, “Folsom, at Beale. That Section 8 building there, I assume? Then, on to 6th & Mission. Check!”

Chuckie, “Hey. Dey give me dis sandwich here. Buht, I alr’dy ate. You wan’ dis, drivah?”

Chuckie holds up the Specialty’s bag. This is a downtown chain that’s a popular option for catered office meeting and the like. I’ve had it before. And Roast beef & cheddar? yeah, I accept.”

Drivah, reaching back for the bag, “Thanks, man. My favorite!” Adding, ‘So, you work for a law firm and just get to go around the city handing out checks to poor people?”

Chuckie, “Yeah, dey got ah lawyer ta git dem goverm’nt benfit’s n’ sue sometimez, da bad landlordz. I make sure dey kno what dey doin’ with tha monee, n’ hand owt da checkz. ‘N I check uhp ahn ’em, too.

Ya know how dere’s da DOPE dealah?? Well… I da HOPE DEALAH!!”

Awww. Drivah likes.

I’m done driving Chuckie to the section 8 building downtown by the Greyhound station, where he got out for about ten minutes to go inside with a clipboard and pen in hand.

And I’m done with the quick jaunt after to mid-block on 6th, between Market and Mission. Ground zero for losing your cell phone. On 6th, everyone seemed to know Chuckie. And he seemed to know everyone. The two people he was there to hand out checks to and have sign his clipboard were already out on the sidewalk when we arrived, just hanging out.

Chuckie surprises me with a request for one last leg of the trip, across Market and few blocks up Lev to drop in the Loin. And we part with Chuckie verifying that our business is concluded, “We good?”

Drivah, “Yup. We good. Thanks, man. And keep up the love!”

Chuckie nods, and with a swagger turns to walk off with his clipboard, and a,

“Babee, heer come da HOPE dealah!”

All in all, it was a quite painless $22.20 fare. And quite tasty. (I spent the downtime munching on the roast beef and cheddar.)

Now, over to Hyde and down to Market, and back downtown. Maybe it’s late enough that I can score a suit headed out of town, by way of SFO.

Two minutes later…

I’m behind a truck on Hyde, stopped for the red at Market… when ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE!!!






Cops cars ZOOM in from all sides and surround a black BMW SUV in the middle lane on Hyde stopped for the red, RIGHT NEXT to the truck in front of me! And plain clothes cops with badges on their hips and out of their unmarked Crown Vics and yelling at the Bemmer WITH GUNS DRAWN!!!

And post-haste, two black men exit the SUV with their hands on their heads, as the cops put them on the ground on their bellies, and keep their guns affixed to their targets.


And…. SHIT!!!

How long am I gonna be stuck here, boxed in at this front row seat to some CRAZY ASS police scene!? And only a box truck and a gaggle of police cruisers and Harley’s from the freedom of Market Street!!

The answer: Twenty minutes.

UGH! THIS is a message from God. Time to get off the streets. I’m gassing it up and bringing it back to the lot.



I’ve cashed out with Dmitry at the bullet-proof glass check out window at Citizen’s Cab. And it looks like I’m walking with $226. Not bad for a short-ish, winter’s day.

As I head out towards my van, parked in the alley just outside the lot’s triple-tiered barbed wire fence, I take note of the Peruvian driver I saw this morning in the office. He’s standing behind a rusty old Ford Aerostar minivan that’s parked in the alley right next to my Dodge Grand Caravan. Emilio is brushing his teeth over a plastic fluorescent orange Lowe’s Hardware bucket that’s full of water.

While opening the door of my Dodge Grand Caravan, Emilio spits to finish brushing his teeth. And then he smiles and comes over to pat the back of my van, admiringly.

Emilio, all friendly and glowing, “Good BIG van!” (Pat, pat.) “This would make a nice home!”

He turns around to point at his smaller, rusty old Aerostar, with, “Mine? It’s too small!”

I laugh, and offer, “HA! Maybe sometime down the road. But, not today. I just made $226!!”

And as I throw my backpack in the van and start to get in, Emilio smiles again. And he lays out the welcome mat.

“Well, anytime you are ready, friend! You’d fit in nicely with the rest of us drivers out here! The rent is too damn high in this town, brother!”

Too damn high, indeed. But not today, friend.



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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…

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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