There’s No Place Like Home

Good Friday

It’s been kind of a mind fuck driving a taxi around one of the richest cities in the country, San Francisco, these past seven years. Introspecting in the early morning, as bearing witness to exponentially more and more tent encampments, erected newly in parts of town where just the day before there were none. Well, before the Department of Public Works comes, anyway. And like musical chairs, washes all of those homeless and their possessions away. Or more properly, down the block.

Maybe “squeezing a balloon” is a better analogy. (I’ll let you, the passenger, decide.)

And for those of you passengers who have been long on this ride, it has been notable to us how where the homeless demographic used to be confined to schizophrenics and drug addicts, it has since expanded to college educated baristas, and even Financial sector employees – complete with corporate ID badges affixed to their khakis, whom I ferry from tents under the highway to office jobs downtown.

A mind fuck, for sure. And it makes a cabbie wonder. And plot his own space. Especially, in this age of unregulated competition from Uber and its ilk, and its race to the bottom with all of those “free” to be their own boss in the “gig economy.” (That is what their calling this return to the Industrial Revolution, yes?)

Note to Ma: Sorry. This exercise in navel gazing has a lot more to go. And it does not end up feel good. Best to stop reading now. (After two weeks of fun rides, this one is mine.)

You may be wondering where I’m going with all of this. Well, in light of the relentless conditioning from what I have borne witness to day in and day out in the cab, it seems as if it all may just now be beginning to bear fruit…

You see, for years I have been hot and cold with my rent. Sometimes paying on time, and sometimes paying up to two months late. It wasn’t until my “new” Irish contractor landlord and his brother bought the building some years ago that I ever, in my life, started to pay rent late.

Note: These first-time landlords bought the building after my last landlord got too old to deal with the crack dealing family below me having burned out their flat, with the matriarch of the operation having died afterwards from lung issues, while squatting in the ashes.

Don’t get me wrong, I am quite conscious that my tardy remittance has been an exercise in passive-aggression. It is not all on account of Uber. And I cannot simply write it off to having a landlord who has been aloof in worrying about late rent, either.

Aside: Well, ok. Maybe I do blame Uber CEO Travis Kalanack and Mayor Ed Lee, a little. But, they aren’t colluding on anything big money and politicians haven’t colluded on throughout history, with the collateral damage being the little guy who foolishly played by the rules.

Yes, I COULD budget better. And I could even pick up another cab shift. (Albeit, at the expense of my other creative endeavors, like writing these extended rants.) No, this is all on me. This is MY cross to bear. And one that I have CHOSEN to take up.

But I do have to say, this has felt more like a compulsion. Like my destiny. (Stop groaning, ma.)

And the vehicle for the execution of this destiny is plainly in my passive-aggressive reaction to the OTHER aloofness that my landlord has shown, in his non-responsiveness to ANYTHING that has EVER needed fixing in my flat. Indeed, once he has eventually gotten around to “fixing” something, I invariably wish that he hadn’t.

I’ll spare you the list. But, my favorite example is the work he did on my shower. After two years of requesting that he do something about the tiles falling off of the wall, due to rot and mold, he only came around to deal with it after I desperately took to spraying water inside of the wall. Thereby flooding the Google neighbor chicks’ flat below me, who are paying three times what I do in rent. (Thanks, rent control.)

What with the “low” $1675/month rent I am paying for my two bedroom flat in the hottest rental market in the U.S., to be sure, this lack of attention on my landlord’s part is likewise, a passive-aggressive exercise of his own. And, I can’t say that I blame him.

So, after two years of requests, once he DID get around to fixing the tiles in the shower, I went to take a piss in the middle of the night that very night, only to divine the muted sound of my cat meowing from inside of the wall!

I called the landlord over and over that  night to come get her out. But, I got no answer. And it was either going to be me, him or the fire department that was going to rip open the fresh tile job to rescue my cat, Char! (We saved her from the crack head fire family.) After getting no answer, I figured it might as well be me.

Needless to say, I do my own repairs around the house now.

Anyhow, after years of hot and cold rent, my landlord has just messaged me to “get caught up.” And, I am currently two months late. There has been no three day notice, yet. So, I’m not sure if he really just wants me caught up, or if this will end up the beginning of a push to evict me and bring the unit up to San Francisco market value.

But, with all of the programming and conditioning which I have felt chasing me in the rear view, while cruising these streets, and with the in my face example of all of those homeless cab drivers living in their cars out in the alley adjacent the Citizen’s Cab lot – including the one who gushed at the “roominess” of my minivan, I do wonder how much longer I will hold on.

And, I wonder if I even should.

Hell. For you, my passenger, and for posterity, this could be gold.

As for my kids, they are teenagers now. And they don’t want dad around much these days, anyway. And, for whatever reason, they have been spending more and more time over at their mother’s. (They DO have a clean and stable place over there.) Maybe it’s a sign.

A sign in the form of here, now, on Valencia Street, as I dodge this random schizophrenic dude with wild disheveled hair, jerking herkily down the middle of the road in his socks, as zig-zagging through the street with one pant leg rolled up and a soiled sleeping bag strung over his back, screaming manically into the pre-dawn.


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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