Deadbeat Driving the Universe

Okay! Sold my Marshall JCM800 2×12 100 watt Lead combo guitar amp, without the suit coming direct from his job down in the Financial even haggling her price. Ten crisp, new hundreds, and five old twenties. This will do. I am back to only one month late on rent! And with a 2009 Gibson Les Paul still sustaining her high E on Craigslist…

In hack news, the taxi biz has been okay this past week. Your driver scored three airports on Thursday, and was nicely busy outside of that to the tune of $245! This, as successfully avoiding the marijuana celebratory hajj on the Haight that is 420 Day. (Sigh.) These kids, today.

To boot, there’s been no three-day notice from the landlord. (Er, as of yet.) And so, your driver is not currently faced with any immediate threat of having a change in status to “domestically challenged.” Although, my old school Irish Catholic, semi-conservative (well, old school) mother is just a wee bit livid with your driver’s status currently stuck at “deadbeat.” She’s not talking to me, nor editing these reports now. Hence, any typos or social faux pas from last week and going forward are all her fault. (

Eh, I can drive with that…


Friday – San Francisco, Citizen’s Cab #1015

Rolling the early, fogless morning though the city, with Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1 wafting over classical KDFC 90.3FM, I await with anticipation the first of the day’s Cabulous taxi-app hails, or order from dispatch crackling on the radio over which to bid, or that random hand rising up desperately into the air flagging, as I introspect.

But this week, I’ll spare you passengers any details of the navel gaze. (No doubt, I have met my quota in with my most recent report.) No. We’ll get right to the meat.

Fresh from Starbucks, I find myself on 18th Street idling behind some Uber at a stop sign who is, apparently, waiting for the light to turn green. Hint: It won’t. I take a sip of coffee, exhale and HHHOOOONNNKKK!!!

And this new, Uber-facilitated sub-prime leased Camry DARTS ahead at the protest, before proceeding to run an ACTUAL red light up at the next block, at Castro.

Welcome to my world.

Still fareless as I enter the Haight, I take stock of all the trash from yesterday’s epic pot festivity still lining the streets and sidewalks along Buena Vista Park here. And at Central, it looks like my day just might begin. (Er, maybe.) It’s some 20-something dude with long, wavy blonde hair, in black jeans, and a black Metallica T-shirt.

Lars stumbles out from the darkened curb, more waving his arms at me, than actually flagging.


And Lars jerks for my unlocked back door (sorry, Rose) and starts in huffing, all animated with his story.

Lars, “Man! Thanks for stopping! (Hic!) I was robbed last night, dude! They got my phone. And (Hic!) my wallet! Can you take me to Jones and Chestnut, over in North Beach (Hic!) dude? I still got my house keys. Dude, I’ll pay you tomorrow. (Hic!) K?”

Ah, the ‘ol “gladly pay you on Tuesday, for a hamburger today” pitch. But before I can relent, I take note in the rear view that Lars has already given all he could, and is now comfortably slumped over in back and starting to snore. North Beach, here we come…

I roll over, um… with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor paving the way.

Several times over the course of this ten minute ride, Lars will grunt, and then shift his slump across the back seat, fumbling with and then ultimately dropping his house keys on the floor.

Jeez. Well, if Lars really was robbed, as opposed to just losing his shit, he undoubtedly made for an easy mark.

At drop, I have to shake Lars to consciousness. He dutifully grunts, and then (Hic!) thanks me as he fumbles for the door handle. I start filling out a Citizen’s Cab business card with my phone number and the amount of the fare, so Lars can contact me later for remittan… Eh, who am I kidding?

As he shuts the door, I call after Lars, alerting him to that he has left his keys on the floor of my taxi, and has not yet taken my contact info. Lars stumbles back to retrieve both, and parts with a grunt.

Thusly, the day’s ice is cracked.


“Cha-ching! – 230 Central. iPhone. Don. $5 Guarantee.”

The Cabulous smartphone velcroed to 1015’s dash comes cha-ching’ing to life, with a mobile app hail.

And with a $5 guaranteed tip! Sweet! Cabulous has been pushing passengers on the first screen on their app to offer a $4 and $5 and even $10 guaranteed tip! I didn’t even know it was an option, but one time I even got a $15 guarantee! And it was a short ride! Usually, these guarantees mean a longer ride, often an airport. And legally, Cabulous can NOT take their 13.2% cut out of the tip. So, like I said…


I’m close to the order, which is pretty much the point of the app, after having rolled all the way up Haight to its termination at Golden Gate Park, and back here to Buena Vista with the back seat cold.

I flip a U, and turn down Central, and immediately hit the ‘Arrived’ button on the phone, alerting Don that I’m out in front of his Victorian.

In short order, a short, thick kempt grey-haired man with a briefcase, in a neatly pressed golfing outfit – white slacks and salmon Polo – skips sprightly down his steps and into the back of my taxi. And a good natured (possibly gay?) Don asks me how I’m doing, before he directs,

“Green & Lyon, please. Over in Cow Hollow, driver. And can you take Bush to Presidio, and then in through the Presidio, please?”

This, being more a polite way of micromanaging the ride, than a question. But, it’s all good.

Don now apologizes, as he gets on his cell to make a call.

Aside: I’ve noted how good people often apologize to their driver when they’re making a call in the cab. I appreciate the sentiment, but it’s really not necessary. I do not see this as rude. It is your ride. And this is a service industry. But it does say something about a person, considering “the other.” We need a little more of that these days, I think. But, enough of my preaching.

I play fly in the cab to Don’s conversation with his assistant. And, I pretty quickly glean that Don is a sports therapist. And it sounds like a successful one, at that. Ah! That would explain the neat, Coach Ditka hair, and the golf outfit!

Once off of his call, Dr. Don smiles warmly, and gets talky.

Dr. Don, “Well, I guess you could tell from my call that I’m a sports therapist. That’s where we’re going now, to one of my offices. I have second office down at Stanford. You would never know from the facade of this one that it’s a sports therapy office. The front is completely covered in ivy. And it’s nestled pretty discreetly on a quiet, residential block down there on Union. But, there is an armed guard! I have a lot of famous clients who come in from all over the country. And my office has to be secure, as well as discreet. There isn’t even a sign outside for my practice. But, you will commonly see Lamborghini’s and Maseratis parked right out in front. They fit in well, though. I’m just below Billionaire’s Row.”

Driver, biting, “Oh? Yeah, I guess they would fit in… Uh, who are some of your clients? If you don’t mind I ask.”

I ask, as we have just breached the Presidio gate, and begun the wind down Presidio Avenue here in this decommissioned military base-turned national park, with its historic Spanish adobe barracks, and thick groves of Eucalyptus flanking our every weaving maneuver, as the lulling California sun beams softly through their gently rustling leaves, casting warm shadows to dance across a glistening morning’s pavement.

Huh? Oh, sorry… Got lost there for a second.

And Dr. Don is forthcoming, “Oh, I work with quite a few Olympians, internationally, actually. Tiger Woods is also one of my clients. Poor guy. He’s having a hard go of it. Oh, and Lance Armstrong was my client, too. That one really breaks my heart. If you go to the Tour de France website today, you’ll see Lance’s name with a line through it. When I saw that, I thought to myself, ‘No! That was MY race!’”

Driver, now rapt, “Lance Armstrong was YOUR client? Uh, I understand if you don’t want to answer this… but, uh… did you know he was doping?”

Dr. Don, cracking a wry smile via the rear view, “Of course I did! Where do you think he got the hormones! I had detectives down my throat for years! I even had to give a deposition under oath. I totally lied. It would have been a hard case for them to prove I was the source. Anyway, it’s all part of my job. Helping clients obfuscate, and keep things from the press. I mean, these are multi-million dollar contracts and endorsements we’re talking about!”

Well, hmm. I’m guessing Don has been somewhat remiss in noticing the placard there in his face, the one covering the back credit card screen, hawking my taxi book and promoting me as a writer.

Driver, digging deeper, “How much of the cycling team dopes, if you don’t mind? It’s widely reported that it’s all pretty wide spread.”

Dr. Don, “Oh, about half the team. Yeah, it’s all over professional sports. You HAVE to dope in this day and age! Otherwise, you’re at a total disadvantage. The rest of the team all knew Lance was doping. Half of them would bitch and whine about it to me, about how unfair it was. And the other half I was injecting.”

With this, we pull up on Dr. Don’s practice nestled discreetly on Union, just as advertised. And right adjacent the Presidio. One would NEVER know what goes on inside, but for the rosso corsa Ferrari parked out front.

I plug in Dr. Don’s $11.20 fare into the Cabulous smartphone, and notate my waybill – factoring in Dr. Don’s guarantee.

And I drive.

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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