At Rainbow’s End

It’s Monday, around 10am. The dead time for taxi driving in San Francisco, or most places I would guess. Everyone’s settled in their cubicle now, filling out spreadsheets and counting down the hours until lunch.

Tony, a.k.a. The No-go King, breaks radio silence back at Citizen’s Cab dispatch,

“Aneebodee wanna take ah riiide owt tah Oshun Beech? I gahtta Seel Rahck ‘n Clement. Seel Rahck ‘n Clement. Aneebodee?”

Hmm. That’s a ten minute ride out to the ocean. If this is a no-go, that would suck, bad. Not much chance of scoring a ride back to civilization out by the beach. All single family homes out that way, with garages, and with cars in them.

But, hmm. If this ISN’T a no-go, whoever is calling surely will be taking a long, lucrative ride BACK to civilization…

Eh, it’s quiet right now.

Citizen’s Cab 1015, “1015. Haight & Ashbury. I feel the love.”

Tony, a.k.a., The No-go King, “1015. Ya wanna take ah riiide owt tah Oshun Beech? Seel Rahck ‘n Clement?”

1015, “1015. Copy. I’ll take a ride.”

Tony, “Okaaay, 1015. 98 Seel Rahck.”

Ten minutes later…

I pull up into the drive of 96 Seal Rock, a modest single family home with a quite grand view of the Pacific Ocean, just a couple blocks down the hill.

1015, “1015. Please call out 96 Seal Rock.”

Tony, “Coppee, 1015. Callin’.”

Several anticipatory minutes later…

And an old guy, trim, with inch thick leather skin comes shuffling out in neat blue jeans, a dark plaid flannel shirt, old coke-bottle glasses and a forest green cap. However, instead of going for the back door, the old guy opens the shotgun and aims to sit on my waybill/clipboard, hand towel and sandwich all splayed out next to me across the front seat.

Driver jumps to deflect, with, “Uh! Do you need to-”

However, in the thickest of Irish accents, Paddy stays his course. And he cuts Driver off mid-sentence, with, “Ay like ta sit up frunt!”

And Driver DIVES to move his office! (Lest my PB sandwich end up Paddy’s end.)

My Prius taxi begins beeping at Paddy’s remiss in not putting on his seat belt, as he stares straight ahead out of the windshield, carefully avoiding eye contact. But Paddy tips his head in my direction to acknowledge his driver, as he begins speaking out of the side of his mouth, over the incessant beeping.

Paddy, “Callt tat damn Yella taxee. But, tey nevah come. Wuz an ta phone wit ah friend back en Chicahgo, fer twintee minutes. Whin ay callt back Yella, tey sey tey come. Triet callin’ whin tey wuz owtside. Ay tell ta guy, ‘Ya too smahrt fer ya own good! Tanks fer nuttin’! Ten ay call Citiz’n’s.”

I figure I’ll just let the seat belt thing go. It does stop after a minute. Anyway, I get the sense that seat belts are not Paddy’s cup of Jameson.

Driver, waybill at the ready, “Uh, yeah. Yellow sucks. You can’t really depend on them.”

Jeez. Paddy just blew off their call out.

Driver, continuing, “Citizen’s Cab is good people. You get a human on the phone. And we have your back… So, uh. Where are we headed?”

Paddy, tipping his head in my direction, and cracking the corner of his mouth, “We’re off ta Petah’s Gahrage. Cali-foynya, ‘tween Vahn Ness ‘n Poke. Et’s ah bohdy shop. Et’ll be an ta rite side, tere.”

California, between Van Ness and Polk, Driver scribes on his waybill. Then, musing. Hmm. I can’t think of a body shop on that block…


And Paddy and I ride straight east, in mostly awkward silence, with him sitting next to me and staring stoic straight out of the windshield. (Most sitters up front turn to stare out of their window, when choosing not to talk.)


Ten minutes later…

We’re crossing Van Ness on California, with all eyes peeled for Peter’s Garage…


I roll slowly down the block, as a confused Paddy scans around and broaches uneasy, “Es tis ta block? Ay don’ see Petah’s. Wuz an ta rite side here, befure… Uh…”

We pass the block. And Driver makes a U turn at Polk, comes around, and pulls over mid-block on California to reassess our strategy.

Driver, “You say it’s called Peter’s Garage? I’ll check my iPhone to see if the address comes up. I don’t think  it’s on this block.”

But Paddy just ignores me, as he mumbles to himself asking where his body shop could have gone. Then he opens his door, gets out, crosses the street and starts aimlessly walking up and down the block – sans any acknowledgement of Driver, or the $20 meter.

Nah, he’ll be back. Paddy’s not the type to jump on a fare. Even if he is a little confused. I mean, I figure he wouldn’t.

Paddy makes closer inspection of “ta rite side, tere,” as Driver pings Steve Jobs for a “Peter’s Garage,” near California and Van Ness.

Hmm. There’s a “Pete’s Garage” on CLAY between Van Ness and Polk. They specialize in Mercedes and BMW.

Now, a more agitated, though still pretty stoic Paddy returns. And he takes his seat back up front in the taxi, as still mumbling to himself, confused.

Driver, “What kind of car do you have? Is it a Mercedes? I found a shop nearby that specializes in Mercedes. A Pete’s Garage.”

Paddy, staring straight ahead, “Tey tow’d et. Ta git bohdy work done. Wuz at Cali-foynya, ‘tween Vahn Ness ‘n Poke. Ay swear et wuz. Petah’s Gahrage.”

Driver, repeating the question, “What kind of car do you have? Is it a Mercedes?”

Paddy, “Ay, et’s ah Mercedees.”

Driver, “Well, I found a Pete’s Garage. It’s just a couple blocks up Van Ness, on Clay. Let’s check it out and see. I think I remember that place, too. It’s on the right side as you come down Clay.”

We drive.

In short order, we take the right down Clay to find Pete’s Garage “Specializing in Mercedes and BMW” just on the right.

Paddy, excited, “Tere ’tis! Ya found et! Dunno how ya dit! But ya found et! Many tanks ta ya, drivuh! Cundt nevuh gat here wit owtchya! Many tanks!”

Driver, “Oh, no problem. Us Citizen’s Cab drivers, we’re professionals.”

Paddy gets out again, again ignoring the now $21.10 meter, explaining he needs go in and ask what the state of his car is, adding that he’ll probably need a ride back home from here.

Huh? Jeez. Shouldn’t this have just been a phone call? Dude’s taking a $40 cab ride just to check in?


I sit out front waiting… and waiting… and waiting… meditating on the American Flag waving atop the preschool across the street and watching BMW after Mercedes come and go from Pete’s Garage, along with their owners. With each having arrived after me and Paddy, and each having left before us, as the cab meter ticks up at the slower 55 cents/minute “idling” rate.

A lifetime later…

Paddy shuffles back out, and assumes his mantle up front, and tips his head in my direction once more, opening the corner of his mouth,

“Tey say et ain’t readee. Back ta 98 Seel Rahck, ten.”

Driver, marking his waybill, “98 Seal Rock.”

Having saved the day and found his body shop, it seems that I have now endeared myself to Paddy. It seems he will open up a little more, on our return ride.

Paddy, “So, what ya tink ah Trump? Ay tink ee’s good fer ta countree, ‘ee is… All ta politishuns creat all ta ‘omelss we gat ‘roun here now! Tat Nancee P’losee! ‘N tat John Burtin! All dem politishuns up en Sac’ramnto be creatin’ all ta ‘omelss wit tere policees!

Tat Trump gonna be good fer tis citee, ‘ee will!

Ay remembuh tat John Burtin goin’ off ta D.C. ‘Ee wuz ah drunk! ‘N doin’ cocaine ‘n secrit! Tey say tat Chappuqwidd’ck Ted wuz ‘is dealuh! Hah!

‘Ting is, no wun wants ta work no mure! Ay use ta be en ta un’ion. Ay’d go ‘n have lunch at tree en ta morn’n down at Fostah’s, at Tix ‘n Mahrk’t. Met ah guy downn tere, greasee hair, but sharp lookin’. ‘Ee knew masheenes inside ‘n owt, ‘ee did. But ‘eed be pan handlin’ down tere, all day! Ay ask ’em, say, ‘Why donch ya come wit me down ta ta un’ion hall tere? Ay git ya ah job!’ Wuz at 447 Valenc’ya at ta time. ‘N ‘ee say, ‘Now why wood ay do ah ting like tat? Make more monee pan handlin’ here ahn Mahrk’t ten wood ‘en ta un’ion!’

Sed ‘ee git free lunch fer waxin’ ta car ah ta ownah ah Fostah’s. ‘N sometime takin’ owt ta tresh. ‘Ee say ‘eed ask ta secreterees fer ah quartah an tere way ta work, but tey always giv ’em ah dalla, ‘n dint want no change… cuz ‘ees greasee! Sed ‘ee make ah hundert dalla ah day! ‘N ‘ees RITE! Tat’s more ten ya make en ta un’ion!

Yeah, Trump’ll fix tis here citee, rite!”

Driver, trying to change the subject, “So, when did you move to San Francisco?”

Paddy, “Well, ay work’d ta masheenes en Iraq, ‘n Lib’ya, fer ta oil. ‘N back ‘en Viet Nem en ta Armee, en ta sic’tees. Tere wuz good monee ta be mede owt tere. GOOD monee! Ay rite back ta me friend Shamus, ‘Tats were ta monee es, Shamus!’ ‘N ‘ee come owt ‘n work ta masheenes, as well. ‘N make good monee.

Back ‘en Viet Nem, en ta Armee, ay’d sell U.S. currencee en ta black mahr’kt fer twice what ‘es worth! Ay firs move ta Sahn Franceesco back ‘en tixtee tree, ‘n ten go back ‘n fort ta Iraq, ‘n Lib’ya, ‘n Viet Nem aftuh. Made ’nuff monee ta buy my place at Seel Rahck ‘en sic’tee-ayte.”

Driver, overstepping, “Wow! You’ve been in San Francisco a long time. You must have seen a lot! I don’t mean to be rude, but can I ask how old you are?”

Paddy, “Well, ay be ninetee-fore, rite now. But, me grantmuther live ta be ah hundert ‘leven. She wuz still workin’ ta sheep at ah hundert ‘five! Drivin’ em en ta town ta mahrk’t. Ta dogs be doin’ most ah ta work an ta road. Ay tell ya, ay don’ wanna be livin’ ta hundert ‘leven! Nope. Too fookin’ much!”

Driver, only now thinking to ask, “So. Uh… Anyway, why is your car in the body shop?”

Paddy, stoic ahead, corner of his mouth, “Oh, tat. Ay wuz en ta parkin’ lot at ta Wahlgreen’s tere, near me house. ‘N ay end up hittin’ ta gat damn gass stetta ta brake! Plow et rite true ta wall!


Paddy, expounding, “Ay tell ya, ta police be comin’ owt frum ev’ryware, tey did! ‘N ’tis wun nice female officur – ‘er fam’lee live ‘en ta town rite next ta mine back ‘en Ire’lnd, turnt owt – well, she wuz nice ‘n be givin me ah ride home.”

An awkward silence ensues, as Paddy face turns to deep contemplation.

Then, Paddy, “Ay tell ya… tere’s tis pan handlah tere evr’ee day at tat Wahlgreen’s… Had ‘ee been tere ten minut’s earlee tat day, et ah been ta end ah ’em! Ay tink ’bout tat… quite ah bit.”

I do not bring up the question with Paddy of whether it’s maybe time to hand in the keys. But, I can’t help but wonder if he should reconsider any future trips he has planned to the farmer’s market.

With this, we pull up back into the drive of 98 Seal Rock. And the meter reads $45.85.

Paddy, “Ya been real nice, drivuh. ‘N very faire wit me. Cundt ah found tat Petah’s Garahge wit owtchya. Here, take tis here. ‘N don’ tell nobodee, ya hear?”

I check the bills Paddy has just handed me, as he turns to make a quick exit from Citizen’s Cab 1015, as if insisting on the last word.

A fifty and a twenty.

Seventy bucks!!!

Driver yells after, “I promise I won’t tell! Well, except my landlord. He kinda needs to know. Thanks, Paddy!”

Sweet! If ever there was a leprechaun in San Francisco, I just caught him! And he made good on his pot of gold!

The lesson here? Follow the rainbow, my passengers

Erin go Bragh!



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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…

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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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