Didn’t drive Monday. I tried, hard. Real hard. But I didn’t sleep at all Sunday night. I kept tossing and turning in bed while envisioning potential road rage incidents and the possibility of plowing into some jaywalker challenging my taxi on the streets of San Francisco. Still, I tried. When 3am rolled around, I even got out of bed and turned on the light. But then, I called in to Tony at Citizen’s Cab dispatch, hit the cough syrup, and dove back under the covers. With the night I’d had, I would have ended up killing someone for sure. And that is a taxi driver’s worst nightmare.
4:35am – Citizen’s Cab 1015
Tony sent me running out of the lot to go get Sheba. Sheba’s a regular early morning ride, headed from her house out on the residential outskirts of San Francisco, in historically black Oceanview, downtown to her subcontracting job as a LinkedIn chef cooking for their employees. Sheba’s salty, sometimes complaining about her white devil boss, sometimes about conspiracy theories, and sometimes about how she spends so much money with Citizen’s Cab that she should get a discount. Thing is, though, us drivers are also subcontracted. And the fact that her fare is a daily twenty-six bucks means nothing to the random driver who may pick her up. Still, Sheba takes her discount anyway, by withholding a tip on half of her rides.
To be fair, she used to have a regular driver, Pepi. But Pepi has since left Citizen’s Cab, after a dispute with Ivan the manager about how much he was getting paid to have his medallion associated with the company. I heard it got reduced down to a lowly $1200 a month. And Pepi was apparently not having it.
Sheba boasts that one day Pepi’s cab was shopped, and there was no spare available to take out. So, he went and picked her up in his personal car and took her to work, and would not accept money. What the fuck was Pepi thinking? I know taking money that way would be illegal. But, a driver does NOT need this kind of precedent set, OR an emboldened Sheba!
Aside: Sorry, passengers. It looks like this will be yet another downer report. I’ll get back to the fairy dust and unicorns in some later offerings. I promise.
So, like I said, it’s 4:35am, and Tony was late in getting Sheba picked up. And Sheba does NOT like being late for work, considering the hell that she’d be paying with her “white devil boss.” So, your driver is rolling like a bat out of hell, and just now cutting over from 101, into leftmost of the two right lanes that veer off to join 280 south.
But as this morning would have it, some metallic blue customized Honda, low riding, with chrome wheels and a spoiler (why the fuck does a Honda need a spoiler?) is weaving up through the right lanes and, at present, is trying to cut me off from my entering into the lanes for 280, which would n effect force me to keep down 101.
Instead, Lil Wayne revs, jerks, and rides up behind me, CLOSE, tailgating and flashing his xenon hi beams.
And once securely merged onto 280 south where it breaks out from two to four lanes of highway, Lil Wayne ZOOMS around to the side of my cab, and begins to pace me on my left.
I don’t look. But, I Do hold up a bold middle finger.
As Lil Wayne continues to pace.
Hmm. Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. I don’t like that dude’s STILL pacing me. Is Lil Wayne packing? Am I about to get shot??
It’s too dark to see. I floor it.
And Lil Wayne follows suit.
Duh. I do NOT think that my trusty Prius is going to do the job here. Even WITH her previously much ballyhooed “power” button!
No. I think better of trying to outrun Lil Wayne. I hit my brakes, and begin rolling BEHIND Lil Wayne’s souped-up Honda, and its loud, barking muffler.
And likewise, Lil Wayne lays back…
Until we are both COMPLETELY STOPPED in the TWO MIDDLE LANES lanes of 280 south, with my cab just a few feet behind and flanking to the right of Lil Wayne, as we BOTH SIT WAITING to get rear-ended in the early morning dark by one of the half asleep commuters imminent to roll up from behind and get taken by surprise!
One… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine… ten… eleven… twelve…
Neither of us budges. And only by the grace of God has not a single vehicle, YET, come up from behind and SLAMMED into either, or the both of us!
Thirteen… fourteen… fifteen…
Then, PUTT! PUTT! PUTT!
Lil Wayne SLOWLY starts to roll.
And Citizen’s Cab 1015 SLOWLY follows suit, sure to keep behind and to the right of Lil Wayne’s Honda, and an easy line of fire.
We keep a SLOW pace down 280 in this fashion, until I see my chance. The Monterey exit off of 280. Lil Wayne has just barely passed it, as I pretend to go for the exit. Lil Wayne ZOOMS off ahead, and I just pull into the dead zone between the off-ramp and the highway. And I watch as Lil Wayne’s tail lights disappear into the horizon.
I count to ten. And I merge back onto 280, south to Sheba.
I radio in to Tony, “1015. Please call out 465 Sadowa.”
Tony, “Coppee, 1015. Sheba’s ahn ‘er waay owt.”
Five minutes later…
Sheba pops in back with, “You guys took a long time gettin’ me picked up this mornin’. I’m gonna be late now, ‘n have to deal with that white devil boss ‘a mine.”
Well, then WHY the HELL did it take you FIVE MINUTES to come out, my queen???
Driver, “Sorry. Tony sent me running out of the lot to get you. I haven’t even had coffee, yet. But I’m pretty awake now. I almost got shot coming to get you.” Driver adds, jesting, “And you don’t want me dying on the highway and ending up one of those ghosts that haunts it!”
Though jesting, Sheba latches onto the comment.
“Oh?? Have you seen that one that hangs around the Ocean Avenue exit?? I was ridin’ with Pepi one time, ‘n I saw some shadowy figure on tha damn highway. And I SCREAMED for Pepi to veer around it! I thought it was a guy, at first! But then I got a better look. ‘N it was a GHOST!
I said, ‘Pepi what the HELL was that?!?? DId you see that!???’
‘N Pepi just kept drivin’ all calm ‘n said, ‘Yeah. I see that ghost all the time at Ocean Avenue. That’s his spot. He must have died on that stretch of 280 and haunts it now.’
Now I’m tellin’ you, that’s some weird shit right there!”
Driver, playing along, “Oh, yeah. I’ve seen that one. Ocean Avenue. Right.
There’s another ghost up on 101, at hospital curve. A motorcyclist who must have died there. He’s still got his riding leather on, and his helmet. But the helmet’s all cracked up from what must have been a big rig that took him down.”
Sheba, jaw agape, “No shit!? That shit gives me tha creeps!”
We roll the highway, en route to her kitchen ob at LinkedIn, with Sheba cutting me off in converse, as she unknowingly tells me the exact same stories she has over our past rides, about how much money she spends on Citizen’s, how she should get a discount, how much she likes Pepi. And how he drove her once, for free, in his personal car.
And after ten minutes of nodding along in the rear view, we pull up to the LinkedIn headquarters, at 2nd & Howard. The meter reads $26.60. And Sheba hands me up her Amex, with the coin flip landing on, “Oh, and please don’t add a tip today.”
Still, twenty-six bucks is twenty-six bucks. And there’s an open Starbucks nearby, at California & Battery.
My day has officially begun.