Deadbeat Driving the Universe

It’s been hours since the radio has come to life. But now, Tony comes over with an order from dispatch. Holy mother! Someone actually CALLED Citizen’s Cab! No flag. No app. We’re talking a LAND line here! It looks like SOMEONE’s still sporting a rotary phone, and is in need of a ride to their geriatrician.

Tony, “17th ‘n Stanyan. 17th ‘n Stanyan. Who I gaht fer 17th ‘n Stanyan? Aneebodee?”

Sack, “1015. Haight & Ashbury.”

Tony, “Okay, Sack. Why donch you goh get 5033 ahn 17th.”

Sack, “1015. Copy. 5033 17th Street.”

Hey! That’s Mr. Sweetness! With the Snagglepuss inflection! That old school San Francisco, skinny, flamboyantly gay landlord. I haven’t driven him in well over a year! Dude’s a trip.

I zoom through the Haight, and up Stanyan, to find Mr. Sweetness already waiting out in front.

And Mr. Sweetness pops in back, with his usual sing-song,

“Heeeelloooo, Drivah! ‘Nnnd hooow arrre WEEEEE dooooiiing todaaay? Pleessssse, mayy wee goh tahh myyy baaaank, aaaht sevennnth ‘n Irrrviiing?” Adding, as always, with ascending spittle, “Tttthhhhaaannk youuu!”

Drivah notates his waybill, and repeats back, “7th & Irving. The bank.”

And, as always, Mr. Sweetness immediately dominates the conversation. But, Drivah wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mr. Sweetness, “Ohhhh! Desssse DAAAM baannnks! Dey ARRE dah SHIIITTSS! Alll deyy waaanntt iss yer monnneee! ‘Nnd deyy NEVAHH giiivvee itt baaaackk tah youu! NEVAHH!

Onee timme I gaht ah biiiilll inn dah maiill fer ONE cennt! Deyy saaaiid I owwe dem ONE PENNNEE! Kiinn youu juss IMAGIIINNNE daat??

Sooo, I wenn inntah dah baannnk ‘n I saaaiid, ‘Lemmeee taaallk tah dah mannnagahh!’ ‘N I showt hiiim dah biiill… fer ONE CENNT! Welll, hee haad ah goood laaaaff. ‘N hee calllt dah othah tellahs alll ovaaah tah seee! ‘N dey ALLLL haad ah gooood laff! ‘Nnd I paaaaiid myy biiill… fer ONE CENNT! Iit mustah cosss ’em tenn tiiimes dat tah maaiill dah biiill!

Ev’rybodee’s gottenn sooo daaam greeedy dese daaaays! I liiive inn diss citeee aaaall myyy liiifee. ‘Nnd iit din’t ussse tah beee liiike disss!

‘Nnd donn gett mee staaahrt’d ahn Commcasss! Alll deyyy waaanntt iss yer monneee! I calllt dem fer helllp wiit ah brokenn baahhhx. ‘Nnd deyy sennnd ah guyy ovahh, ahsk iff I tryy turnnin itt ahn! Ah corrrsee I tryy dat! Whaddyaah tinnnk? I’mm ah dummeee!? Doo deyy tinnk I’mm stooopid!?

And with this, we roll up to 7th & Irving, and the bank of Mr. Sweetness. He punctuates this short ride from his home with one final lament, on the death of old San Francisco.

Mr. Sweetness, “Ohhh! ‘Nnd donn gett meee staaahrt’d ahn dese, whaaattah dey caaall ’em? Gooobers? I beenn caahllin Citizenn’s Caahhb fer tiiirrrteee yeeers noww! Youu guyss taake REALLL goood caaare ah mee. REALLL goood caaare. Youu guyss toook mee homme onnnce whinn I wass SOOO druunnk, I din’t eveenn knooo wherrre I waaaas!

Nevaahminn dosse Gooberss! Ev’rybodee’s gottenn sooo daaam greeedy dese daaaays! I liiive inn diss citeee aaaall myyy liiifee. ‘Nnd iiit din’t ussse tah beee liiike disss!

Whass dah faaare, drivah? $8.45? Heere’s ah twinnnty. Youu keeep fifffteeeen.” Before Mr. Sweetness adds, dutifully, with ascending spittle, as he exits Citizen’s Cab 1015,

“‘Nnd ttthhhhaaannk youuu, drivah!”


Overall, it’s been a busy day. Mostly short rides. But, one after the other. And though I’m not really a sports fan, I do recall getting out of high school just about every other week for a Redskins parade back in the eighties, after having won yet another Super Bowl. As it’s been told to me, Joe Gibbs’ Redskins were all about foregoing the big passes and just inching towards the goal line, yard by yard.

Maybe today’s good fortune has been due to some kind of good karma I incurred, for helping out Lars this morning. Or, for giving away my peanut butter sandwich to the homeless du jour. Anyway, whatever the cause, I accept.

Rolling west up Market now, fresh from a Financial drop, I likewise accept this one last ride. It’s some skinny white guy hailing me up at U.N. Plaza. He’s mixed in amongst the drug dealing and fencing stolen goods riff raff, smoking a cigarette and nursing an Arizona Iced Tea.

I pull over. And Tim puts out his cigarette, as he gets in back all casual. And once in… Hmm. I sense… something. Sketchy? Well, we ARE pretty much abutting the Loin. But, no. Not sketchy.


Driver, with waybill and clipboard perched on the steering wheel, and at the ready, “Where to?”

Tim exhales the remnants of his cigarette and returns a short, “The Stanford Court hotel.” Then, he coolly, calmly, turns his gaze out the window.

I hit the meter, and drive.

Checking the rear view, hmm, well, Tim doesn’t strike me as a tourist. Not a normal one, anyway. And he doesn’t strike me as homeless. But he doesn’t strike me as having means, either. And the Stanford Court is a pretty nice hotel, up on Cathedral Hill, situated across from the Fairmont. Maybe he’s some hold over still in town from 420 yesterday?

A few quiet blocks’ ride on, Tim breaks finally radio silence and comes clean, “I’m tripping LSD. It’s my first time.”

Well. Nice weather we’re having…

Tim expounds, “I’m peaking right now. And I’m looking for something to do. Do you have any ideas?”

Driver, doing his cabbie job listing off the wonders of San Francisco, “Well, uh, you’re pretty close to Grace Cathedral. They have two labyrinths there. One inside, and one out. It’s a beautiful day, too. Maybe you could just walk around Chinatown? Or, head down to the Maritime Museum pier at Fisherman’s Wharf? If I were you, though, I’d head for the woods somewhere. Maybe Golden Gate Park?” However, it just HAS to be noted, “Uh, you seem pretty cool for tripping acid your first time, I have to say.”

Tim, “Well, I’ve done mushrooms before. Thanks for the ideas. I guess I’ll just see what happens.”

Driver, “Indeed. You know how it goes. I’m not really sure that any of us really make any plans.”

No. If there’s anything that I’ve learned from life. And from behind this wheel. It’s that, whatever we do, the Universe always has its own ideas…




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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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