I’m rolling east down Market, scanning for flags. I’m just passing Civic Center, and the Loin. I don’t mind scoring a ride here. It’s not unusual to get some junkie headed to the methadone clinic at SF General. Eleven bucks is eleven bucks. It’s also a chance to hand out my peanut butter sandwich to some homeless dreg on the street. (Well, half of it today, anyway. I ate half for breakfast.)
Approaching 6th, I see some light skinned black dude up ahead in basketball digs, with a shaved head and stylish sunglasses. He’s holding a plastic bag full of what looks like bottled water and flagging with a cane.
But, damn. There’s a Yellow Cab just up ahead of me, on my right. And judging from his lit top light, he’s empty.
But, Yellow snubs the dude! And he drives past!
One man gathers what another man spills…
I zoom up to the corner, and pull to a stop in front of my bounty. And with a very sweet, high pitched voice, a light skinned Michael climbs into the back of Citizen’s Cab 1015 with his cane – and what is now confirmed to be a bag full of bottled water.
Michael, “Oh, thank you for stopping, driver. Can you please take a right here, down 6th. I’m going to Brisbane. If you could take 101 to the Sierra Point exit, please.”
This is half way to the airport! Probably a $25 or $30 ride! Take THAT, Yellow bitch!
As we ride, I find Michael quite endearing, very respectful, with a calming vibe emanating. And he’s chatty.
Michael, “I just came into the city to get my check, a haircut, and some water.”
Hmm. By haircut, I guess he means his head shaved!
Michael, continuing, “And now, it’s back to my tent under 101 there in Brisbane.”
Driver, “Wait. If you don’t mind I ask, you’re homeless? And you live in a tent under 101, in Brisbane???”
Michael, “Oh, yes. It’s much nicer there. Because there is nothing there, except for some hotels nearby, and an office park. The police are VERY nice, too. They look in on me almost every night, to make sure that I’m ok.”
Driver, “Crazy! The cops are cool with you? Well, I guess you probably are the only homeless person in Brisbane! There really is nothing there. So, WHY Brisbane? I mean, wouldn’t you rather join a tent encampment in the city? Doesn’t it get lonely at night?”
Michael, “Well, I used to be in the city. But, there’s too much drama with all of the drug dealers. And the other homeless stealing your things. I prefer it out where I am now. It does get a little lonely sometimes. But I just read my Bible, and pray. I’m happy there.”
Michael changes the topic, to me now, “How about you? How are you doing? There’s a lot of competition out there on the streets today.”
I guess he means Uber.
Embarrassed, I relent, “Yeah money’s tight. And I have two teenage boys. But, I get by.”
Can’t really bitch to a homeless guy about money problems, can I?
We ride the rest of the fifteen minute ride making pleasant small talk, and noting the drastic changes in SF, where Michael grew up, before getting displaced for his apartment turning condo.
He eventually directs me off to Bayshore, at the Sierra Point exit from 101. And tells me about how little there is around the area, no grocery stores and one Chinese restaurant.
We wind down parallel to the highway, adjacent the Bay, majestically glistening in the afternoon sun. And sure enough, as Bayshore winds under 101, a hundred yards shy of the sterile Doubletree Hilton, Michael has me pull over to the shoulder, surrounded by thick underbrush, short trees, and a thicket of bushes. And I take note of a beaten path, weaving through the brush, leading up a hill to just under the highway.
The meter reads $25.50. And I almost feel bad taking money from this man. Almost. Eh, I figure I won’t sweat a tip.
Michael pulls out a wad of bills, and hands me up a twenty and a ten. And I hand him back a five, saying to not worry about a tip.
But Michael insists, with, “Oh, no. You have kids. I have to look out for you!”
He hands me up another twenty, asking me to break it… and then hands me back a ten and a five, with, “You take this. And thank you for the ride, driver! You stay blessed!”
Wow! Forty bucks! From a homeless guy, living in a tent under 101! Man!
YOU go blessed, as well, Michael. Though, I get the sense that you already are…
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Photo by Alex SacK