Takin’ a side street this week, passengers!
Over the many long rides we’ve shared together, you have read much ado from your driver about his introduction to this “lively” street vocation by way of cab school, of his cab school teacher Rose, and her Ten Commandments.
Well let us recall now, about how within the three months long bureaucracy that it takes a San Francisco taxi driving hopeful to attain legal status, cab school itself is a regular ‘ol one week, forty-hour, Monday through Friday, nine-to-five class. The focus of which, is threefold…
A third of my crew’s time in class was spent learning about arcane taxi regulations – courtesy of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, as well as several Federal regulations, a la the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Why you can’t put the seeing eye dog in the trunk, etc.)
Another third of our time was spent studying (and being tested on) the maps of San Francisco: All of the one-way streets, thoroughfares, as well as the locations of each and every hospital and police station in The City. And MOST importantly, every pupil was to memorize ONE address in particular, out in Bayview-Hunter’s Point: 1300 Evans. For, this was the address of the ONLY U.S. Post Office in San Francisco that is open until midnight each year on April 18. A post office to which you, a taxi driver, was ASSURED you would be traveling to and fro on this date, into the late hours, as shuttling every tax return procrastinator from miles around, until your cab turned into a pumpkin.
The last third? Well, after learning that taxi drivers were the second most assaulted vocation in North America – after 7-11 cashiers, and BEFORE police officers, this third of our time was spent studying, hard, on how to NOT get killed! (And what to do in the event that you are.) Yes, Rose – our surrogate mother who birthed all of us classmates into this new, absurd world driving the streets of San Francisco for pay, spent THIS third of the class on the gospel, preaching: Rose’s Ten Commandments.
Commandment I: ALWAYS keep your doors locked and the window AT LEAST half rolled up.
Commandment II: If your passenger is wearing a hoodie AND sitting directly BEHIND you, DO NOT put on your seat-belt! (You legally don’t have to. The law sees this as an exception for cabbies, in light of that your passenger is more a threat to you than any collision at high speed.)
Commandment III: ALWAYS keep one foot on the brake and one on the gas, and keep it in DRIVE.
Commandment IV: If a passenger’s drop is in an alley, always BACK into the alley! (And refer back to Commandment III.)
Commandment V: NEVER drive until the fare gives you an EXACT destination.
Commandment VI: NEVER let your fare out of the cab without paying first, or with an “I’ll be right back” and left behind collateral! (That “new” Macbook in the box is really an old phone book.)
Commandment VII: Thou shalt NOT commit adultery! But, it’s ok to drive your passenger there. (Okay, just kidding on that one.)
Commandment VII (For real this time.): When working a festival, always roll the street running across the TOP of the hill. (Festival drunks don’t walk uphill very far in search of a cab.)
Commandment VIII: Always stop a few feet BEFORE your flag. (So you can first judge how drunk they are by how badly they are stumbling – giving you time and space for the getaway.)
Commandment IX: NEVER speed, make an illegal U-turn OR an illegal left, run a red light, or break ANY traffic laws at all JUST because you’re fare is “in a HUGE hurry!!!” (They wouldn’t be taking a cab in the first place, if they weren’t. And no tip, no matter HOW large, is worth more than your livelihood.)
Commandment X (And one that I think we should ALL heed, taxi driver or no.): ALWAYS keep one eye on the road, and one eye in the rear-view…
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Photo by Alex SacK