It would seem that this morning is “Friday lite,” as they say.
“SLOW AS FUCK!!!” I would phrase it as, personally.
I’ve been out cruising the streets of San Francisco in Citizen’s Cab 1015 since 4:20am, and I’ve only had ONE ride in the first three hours! It was a $5.10 meter, some dirty gay dude on meth lugging around a couple hefty bags. He flagged me at Market & Castro, and was only headed a few blocks over to his lover’s house, STILL in the Castro. However, not before leaving behind the faint scent of Eau de Urine in my taxi. And NO tip!
Anyway, things HAVE picked up since. It’s 9:00am, and I’ve scored two additional ten dollar Financial shuttles.
Then, “Cha-ching! – 1910 Fillmore. Bob. OAK. (Time Call: 9:15AM)”
Thank GOD! Hell yeah, I ‘Accept’ the order!
This is one of those pre-booked Cabulous app-hailed airport rides, which hits the closest cab fifteen minutes prior to the passenger’s requested pick up time. Of course, this means that I’m only a couple blocks away here in the Fillmore. But it’s a rare Oakland airport ride, which should net me around eighty bucks. And man, I need it!
Something to consider is that there’s always the concern of getting stuck in traffic for an hour or so on the return from OAK, crawling to get back on the Bay Bridge. But doing the math, this would put me back at the bridge around 9:45. And yeah, “Friday lite” and all.
Fifteen minutes (and several Russian news stories) later…
On old guy with pierced ears and two canes comes out of this trendy-ish 1910 Fillmore modern apartment building smiling, while helping out a younger old guy with an overstuffed backpack, a scabbed up, badly bruised eye, and a walker.
Gay lovers? One of which who was recently gay bashed??
I jump out to help load dude’s walker into the hatch of my Prius, as the two men give a very warm goodbye hug.
And the older guy helps the younger old-ish guy into the back.
Driver, with clipboard/waybill at the ready, “So, you’re off to Oakland airport, right? Which airline?”
Walker, “S-s-s-outhW-w-west, p-p-please.” Before smiling via the rear view and adding, “O-o-otherwise k-k-known a-a-as S-s-south W-w-worst! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
And, we’re off!
As we head for the highway, I find Walker warm and amiable, with a stutter and a musical lit that one might mistake for Down syndrome. But, my passenger quickly clears up any confusion.
Walker, “I-I-I w-w-was d-d-diagnosed w-w-with t-t-terminal A.L.S. l-l-last f-f-fall, d-d-driver. A-A-And I-I-I’m u-u-up f-f-from L.A. v-v-visiting m-m-my f-f-father a-a-and b-b-brother, w-w-who l-l-lives i-i-in S-S-Sunnyvale t-t-to s-s-say g-g-goodbye.”
Walker, continuing, “P-p-people m-m-misun-d-d-derstand A.L.S. I-I-I s-s-still h-h-have a-a-all o-o-of m-m-my b-b-brain w-w-working j-j-just f-f-fine. I-i-it’s m-m-my m-m-muscles, w-w-wasting a-a-away. T-T-T-hat’s w-w-what h-h-happened t-t-to m-m-my eye. I-I-I f-f-fell.”
Driver, “Wow. That sucks.” Broaching nervously, “Uh, how are you taking it? I mean the terminal diagnosis and all? What’s your perspective on death?”
Walker, “W-w-well, I-I-I’m n-n-not w-w-worried a-a-about m-m-me. I-I-It’s m-m-my k-k-kids. I-I-I h-h-have a s-s-sixteen y-y-year o-o-old d-d-daughter i-i-in h-h-high s-s-school. A-a-and a n-n-nineteen y-y-year o-o-old s-s-son i-i-in c-c-college i-i-in S-S-Saint L-L-Louis. I-I-It’s a-a-all a-a-about t-t-them. I-I-I d-d-didn’t w-w-want t-t-to u-u-upset t-t-their l-l-lives w-w-with t-t-this. B-B-But, n-n-now m-m-my s-s-son i-i-is c-c-coming b-b-back t-t-to C-C-Californ-n-nia t-t-to c-c-continue h-h-his p-p-pre-med s-s-studies a-a-at U-U-U.C.L.A. t-t-to b-b-be c-c-close t-t-to h-h-his d-d-dad.”
Driver, “I can relate. I have two boys, fourteen and sixteen. Yeah, they’re going through enough as it is at that age, without having to worry about losing a parent. It is all about the kids, isn’t it!”
Walker, “Y-Y-Yes! I-I-I a-a-am s-s-so l-l-lucky t-t-that I-I-I b-b-bought a l-l-life i-i-insurance p-p-policy t-t-through a f-f-friend o-o-online t-t-that d-d-didn’t r-r-require a p-p-physical… b-b-before I-I-I w-w-was d-d-diagnosed! I-I-I j-j-just w-w-want t-t-to m-m-make s-s-sure t-t-that I-I-I l-l-leave m-m-my f-f-family w-w-with s-s-something b-b-before I-I-I c-c-check o-o-out.”
Driver, “Hey! You’re last name isn’t ‘White’ is it? You’re not pulling a Breaking Bad, are you!”
Walker White, “HA! W-W-Well p-p-layed, d-d-driver! HA! N-N-No!”
Driver, “If you don’t mind that I ask, I have a friend who goes in and out of remission with cancer. And he has been taking mushrooms to deal with it, from a psychological perspective. I guess there’s a movement around that in the scientific community. Is that something you’ve done, or considered?
I know that my own experimentation from my earlier years gave me a pretty holistic perspective on death. And I drive a lot of old and infirm passengers in this job. And a lot of terminal cancer patients. I find many are pretty centered on with what they are dealing.”
Walker, “W-W-Well, I-I-I d-d-did d-d-do a b-b-bit o-o-of p-p-psyched-d-delics b-b-back i-i-in c-c-college, a-a-at U-U-U.C. B-B-Berkeley.” Adding with a smile via the rear view, “D-D-Didn’t w-w-we a-a-all? B-B-But, n-n-not n-n-now. N-N-No.
H-H-however, I-I-I d-d-o a-a-appreci-i-iate t-t-this a-a-as a-a-all j-j-just p-p-part o-o-f t-t-the c-c-circle o-o-of l-l-life.
I-I-I’m j-j-just g-g-glad I-I-I h-h-have a c-c-chance t-t-to s-s-say g-g-goodbye t-t-to m-m-my f-f-family f-f-first. O-O-On t-t-this w-w-what y-y-you c-c-could c-c-call t-t-the A.L.S. t-t-tour. HA!”
Driver, “Hey! That’s great! Have you considered making T-shirts? Like at rock concerts?? ‘The A.L.S. (On My Way Out) Tour 2017!’”
Walker, “Ha! N-N-No! B-B-But, w-w-well p-p-played, d-d-driver!”
I find Walker very attentive, as if he’s soaking every last drop out of life. And I find him very jovial and positive. It makes me take stock of all my blessings, and how much more I could, and should, appreciate my day to day life. Maybe focus less on the dramas. (Although, to be fair, I AM working on it!)
Walker, “T-T-There i-i-s a s-s-silver l-l-lining t-t-to t-t-the d-d-disease, t-t-though. N-N-Now, a-a-at t-t-the d-d-drop o-o-of a h-h-hat, I-I-I l-l-laugh, a-a-and c-c-cry, a-a-at A-A-ANYTHING! F-F-Fart j-j-jokes m-m-make m-m-me l-l-laugh! T-T-There i-i-is a d-d-drug t-t-to s-s-stop t-t-this, b-b-but I-I-I’m c-c-conflicted a-a-about t-t-taking i-i-it. I-I-I k-k-kind o-o-of l-l-like i-i-it… F-F-FART j-j-jokes! HA!”
Driver, “So, how is it your dad and brother are in the Bay Area, and you’re down in L.A.? You said you went to U.C. Berkeley for school? What did you study? If you don’t mind I ask?”
Walker, “N-N-No, I-I-I d-d-don’t m-m-mind a-a-at a-a-all, d-d-driver! Y-Y-Yes, I-I-I d-d-did g-g-grow u-u-up i-i-in S-S-San F-F-Francis-s-sco. A-A-And I-I-I s-s-studied c-c-chemistry a-a-at f-f-first a-a-at B-B-Berkeley. B-B-But m-m-me a-a-and c-c-chemistry d-d-did N-N-NOT h-h-have a b-b-bond! HA! G-G-Get i-i-it!
A-A-Anyway, t-t-then I-I-I d-d-dabbled i-i-in e-e-econ, f-f-for s-s-shits a-a-and g-g-giggles. B-B-But t-t-then, I-I-I h-h-had a p-p-prof t-t-that l-l-led m-m-me t-t-to s-s-study s-s-sports m-m-manage-m-m-ment. B-B-But, I-I-I w-w-was b-b-better a-a-at s-s-sports t-t-than I-I-I w-w-was a-a-at s-s-sports m-m-manage-m-m-ment. HA!”
Driver, interjecting, “Hey! Is that what caused the A.L.S.? Lou Gehrig’s disease, right?”
Walker, “N-N-No. I-I-It w-w-wasn’t s-s-sports. T-T-They d-d-don’t k-k-know h-h-how I-I-I g-g-got i-i-it. I-I-In s-s-some c-c-cases i-i-it’s g-g-genetic. T-T-Thank G-G-God i-i-it’s n-n-not i-i-in m-m-my c-c-case.”
Driver, “Yeah, good for you! I mean, your kids and all.”
Walker, “Y-Y-Yes! A-A-Anyway, t-t-then I-I-I w-w-went d-d-down a-a-and g-g-got m-m-my M-M-Major i-i-in B-B-Bad A-A-Ass a-a-at U-U-U.C.L.A. A-A-And n-n-now I-I-I w-w-work i-i-in r-r-real e-e-estate. Y-Y-You k-k-know h-h-how i-i-it i-i-is, a-a-after c-c-college y-y-you g-g-get a j-j-job n-n-near s-s-school a-a-and e-e-end u-u-up p-p-planting r-r-roots.
I-I-I t-t-tried f-f-for t-t-the l-l-last f-f-five y-y-years t-t-to m-m-move b-b-back t-t-to t-t-the B-B-Bay A-A-Area t-t-to w-w-work i-i-in t-t-tech. B-B-But t-t-there a-a-are e-e-enough a-a-applicants l-l-locally t-t-that t-t-they w-w-were n-n-not i-i-interested.
T-T-That e-e-ended u-u-up b-b-being a b-b-blessing, t-t-though. B-B-Because I-I-I h-h-have b-b-been w-w-working f-f-for W-W-Warner B-B-Brothers f-f-for o-o-over a d-d-decade d-d-doing r-r-real e-e-estate. A-A-And t-t-the b-b-benefits a-a-are V-V-Very g-g-good. I-I-It’s l-l-lucky t-t-that I-I-I w-w-was n-n-not h-h-hired!
W-W-Warner B-B-Brother’s i-i-is q-q-quite s-s-staid, a-a-as y-y-you c-c-can i-i-imagine. A-A-And t-t-they w-w-won’t l-l-let m-m-me b-b-be c-creative w-w-with m-m-my a-a-approach, w-w-which i-i-is w-w-why I-I-I w-w-wanted t-t-to l-l-leave. B-B-Believe i-i-it o-o-or n-n-not, r-r-real e-e-estate c-c-can b-b-be V-V-VERY c-c-creative. I-I-It i-i-is w-w-what a-a-attracted m-m-me t-t-to i-i-it i-i-in t-t-the f-f-first p-p-lace.
Y-Y-Yes, i-i-it’s V-V-VERY l-l-lucky I-I-I w-w-was n-n-not h-h-hired. E-E-Everything h-h-happens f-f-for a r-r-reason!”
Driver, “Wow! Chemistry, economics, sports, sports management, M.B.A. and real estate… You’re a regular George Plimpton!”
And Walker just gives another hearty “HA!” via the rear view, as we pull into SouthWorst terminal at OAK.
I roll down my window to ask a traffic cop where the closest spot is to the gate, advising him that I have a mobility impaired passenger. The cop points to a spot along the curb, and blows his whistle at an Uber to make room for my taxi.
I plug in the $76.10 meter into my Cabulous phone, on top of which his dad has a default tip plugged into the app – via his on-file credit card. (Minus Cabulous’ 13.2% take and the six bucks for the Bay Bridge toll on my return.)
Walker asks me to help him out of the cab, reminding of his weak muscle situation and the cause of his badly screwed up eye socket. JEEZ! I run out and grab Walker’s walker from the hatch and set it up adjacent to him on the curb, before grabbing his arm, rocking, and helping him to his feet.
Then, poised for the terminal my, er… terminal passenger looks deeply into my eyes, and passes me a folded up twenty in a hand shake, all old school, with,
“Y-Y-You r-r-raise y-y-your b-b-boys t-t-to b-b-be i-i-indep-p-pendent. Y-Y-You n-n-never k-k-know w-w-what l-l-life m-m-might t-t-throw a-a-at y-y-you… A-A-And, I-I-I H-H-HIGHLY r-r-reco-m-m-mend g-g-getting a l-l-life i-i-insurance p-p-policy!” Emphasizing with one last hearty, “HA!”
I thank Walker for his advice, and the swell tip. And I wish him well, as I run around back to the driver’s seat of my cab. And as I drive away, I check the rear view, to catch Walker turned with his eyes still fixed intensely upon me. And still beaming his warm, signature smile.
And I take stock, and ponder: There must be nothing like a terminal diagnosis to put you in the present!
Now, back to the highway! 880 North, and San Francisco!
Five minutes later…
Just a mile up on 880, and I’m cruising the fast lane… before ALL FOUR lanes lock up and come to a DEAD HALT!
JEEZ!! This is going to take FOREVER to make it back to SF!!
Oh, well… I guess I could have worse problems. (Perspective, eh?)
Five seconds in, while stopped behind a pickup truck shielding my view of the situation ahead, I check the rear view… to watch in slow motion as an old white Toyota Celica comes FLYING up behind me TOTALLY unaware that all lanes ahead of him are COMPLETELY STOPPED!!!
And your driver can only WITNESS, as dude SUDDENLY realizes WAAAAY TOO LATE! Before he SLAMS on his brakes and goes SKIDDING SIDE to SIDE! SWERVING, as he attempts to WEAVE towards the gravelly shoulder on our left, LAST SECOND!!!
I’m not hurt. And I don’t suspect that dude is, either, as we both are conscious enough to roll off into the slippery shoulder between the median and the fast lane… to exchange info. And Citizen’s Cab 1015 is making some kind of god awful grinding sound as we do. The sound of a bumper pushed hard into its back wheels.
Well, 9:45am. And that’s it, folks. Time to radio dispatch for a tow, bring it back to the lot… and go fill out some paperwork.
THIS ride is over.
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Photo by Alex SacK