JEEZ! You saw that headline and decided to read further!? (I wouldn’t have.) I mean, isn’t there ENOUGH bad news to consume these days? Isn’t Ferris Bueller, or Shrek on cable?? Anyway, yeah, this is NOT the feel good cab report of last week; God, Country, Service. (Oh Yeah, and Rape.)
I’m cruising Citizen’s Cab #1015 outbound on Mission, after having just dropped some European tourists back at Pier 33, where the ferry departs for Alcatraz. They were those rarest of European tourists who somehow stumbled on the one guide explaining American culture, protocols… and tipping. (Don’t think it’s been updated to explain Trump, though. They had to ask.)
Approaching the recently shuttered Goodwill Store at South Van Ness, I make eye contact with an older heavy-set woman in a colorful Mexican poncho and olive drab fatigue cap, sporting cropped white hair and dark wraparound sunglasses. She’s accessorized, holding a rail thin Chihuahua with a matching, colorful Mexican doggie vest.
After our eyes meet, Houlihan suddenly straightens up, and yells out, “TAXI!!!” As vehemently flagging me from the curb… across two lanes of traffic.
Well, the light is red. So, I wave Houlihan over. Obviously privy to the art of sign language, she responds by jumping to scurry between the many cars, trucks, Ubers and a Muni bus, to ultimately pop in the back of 1015, panting.
Houlihan, “Wow! Great!! I caught a cab! When did they close the Goodwill down??? I need to buy a birthday present for my niece. Anyway, can you take me to Westfield Mall?”
Driver, waybill at the ready, repeating back as scribing, “Westfield Mall.” Adding, “Yeah, sad that they closed the Goodwill down. It was a real institution there.” (Ignoring the disconnect between Houlihan’s options for buying a birthday present at Goodwill, or Westfield Mall.)
I flip a pretty ballsy U across the two lanes of Ubers on my left, just ahead of the light turning. (Eh, no cops in sight. And they’re just Ubers.) Houlihan doesn’t seem to mind, from my gauging via the rear view.
Within a block of heading (now) east on Mission, coming to a red, Houlihan barks out, “Hey! That’s my doctor! At the corner! You wouldn’t know to look at her that she’s a doctor! Eh??”
I crane to peek around an encroaching MUNI bus, to note a hip looking woman in her mid-40’s with a plethora of ear piercings, dyed pink hair and a tight black dress, as she’s just entering the crosswalk adjacent us. Along with our now green light.
Driver, hitting the gas, “Yeah, you wouldn’t peg her for a doctor. What’s her field? If you don’t mind that I ask…”
Houlihan, “Oh! She’s a primary care physician, out at the V.A.”
Driver, “Oh? You’re a vet? I drove an employee to the V.A. the other week. He told me all of the staff there are in the military. Yeah, your doctor definitely does NOT look military!”
Houlihan, “What did that guy do for the V.A.? He’s wrong. Most of ’em come from UCSF!”
I turn to address Houlihan in a eureka moment, and catch her Chihuahua standing perched up all perky on her thigh, trembling something crazy. Poncho sniffs me out RIGHT in my face, with his BIG brown droopy eyes sizing me up as he cocks his head.
Driver, “Oh! RIGHT! UCSF and the V.A. have some kind of partnership! I HAVE heard that! Anyway, I didn’t ask the guy what his job was. But, I didn’t get the impression it was in the medical field.”
Driver, continuing, “I know UCSF is a world class research school, and GREAT for cancer. But, it’s bureaucracy is something to contend with. If you got a broken bone, it’s best to go elsewhere. I know this, personally.
Years ago, my then two-year-old son broke his leg on a slide on Golden Gate Park. It was a Saturday, and he went to the UCSF Pediatric clinic at Mount Zion, near my house. They did an X-ray and verified that his leg was broken, but then that there was no one there on the weekend to put on a cast. So, they tried to schedule him to come back for the cast… A WEEK LATER!!!
Needless to say, we took him right over to UCSF Parnassus’ E.R. to get a cast that same day. I’ve also driven a lot of UCSF nurses over to Kaiser for their OWN medical appointments. That really says something right there.”
Houlihan, “That’s CRAZY! A broken bone is healed a week later! And possibly after a compound fracture!! I was a nurse at a Naval hospital. So, I know!”
Driver, “You were a nurse in the Navy! Wow! That’s two in a week for me! I just drove a woman last week who was a nurse in the Navy. She was cool. But, she had kind of a sad story.
She joined the military back in ’73 as a drummer in one of the bands. But, her commander didn’t think a woman should be in the band. So, after not being able to convince her to quit, he raped her. Now she has PTSD from the whole ordeal. The rape DID convince her to quit, too. She transferred over to being a nurse at a Navy hospital. Like I said, sad.
Anyway, she schooled me on that most rapes in the military are actually from officers, and higher ups. She said predators rise through the ranks so they can get cover for sexual assault. I would have thought it would be the lower ranks perpetrating most of the rapes, on account of younger, testosterone-heavy recruits.”
Houlihan, “Hmm. Actually, that wasn’t my experience. I was a nurse in the hospital at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina. My roommate was raped, brutally, by an enlisted soldier. And there was a rash of rapes on the base when I was there.
It really did a number on her, too. One day, back in the barracks, she sat down next to me and started showing me all these pictures of her that they took after the rape. The pictures showed her beaten to a pulp, all black and blue, and swollen. But she was smiling and laughing, giddily, as she was showing me the pictures. And she was SLOWLY brushing her long brown hair as she had this crazy smile on her face. It was REALLY creepy. She was totally off her rocker!
When the rest of the troops found out who did the rape, they cornered him, and beat him SO bad, they said he looked like a watermelon. The beating was extra bad, cause he was a black guy.”
Driver, “Wow! That’s nuts! It sounds like The Shining, or something!”
Houlihan, “Yeah, but it wasn’t a movie.”
(Maybe just a tad insensitive, Alex?)
Houlihan, continuing, “Another time, after that, she and I were returning to the barracks, and we were the first on the scene to find one of our bunk mates after she had just committed suicide. It was gruesome. When we found her, my bunk mate who was raped just snapped, and again started smiling and laughing, REALLY crazy. I don’t know what’s become of her since, but I just bet she’s committed suicide, too.”
On THAT note, we pull up in front of Westfield Mall. And Houlihan throws me up a credit card, saying to add three to the nine dollar meter… just as a MUNI bus pulls up behind and starts honking his horn all asshole.
Dude! I’m NOT in a bus stop! And this is WESTFIELD MALL!!! WTF!?!
And as I jump to quickly process her card, with the bus behind HOLDING DOWN HIS HORN, Houlihan decides it is a good time to bring up her OWN brush with rape, as she yells OVER THE HORN, all casual.
Houlihan, “ONE TIME, I ALMOST GOT RAPED, TOO! I WAS JUST LEAVING MY SHIFT AT THE HOSPITAL, AROUND MIDNIGHT! AND AS I WAS WALKING THROUGH THE DARK, EMPTY PARKING LOT IN FRONT OF THE HOSPITAL, WHEN I SAW THE KNEE OF A SOLDIER MOVE, CROUCHING BEHIND THE BASE OF ONE OF THE PARKING LOT LIGHTS! I WAS LUCKY AS HELL TO CATCH THAT! HE MUST HAVE BEEN WAITING THERE A WHILE, AND JUST AT THAT ONE MOMENT NEEDED TO SHIFT HIS WEIGHT, FOR A CRAMP! HE WAS RIGHT NEAR A GULLY THERE, BEHIND THE LOT, WHERE A LOT OF RAPES OCCURRED!
I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO! I WAS YOUNGER AND SKINNY THEN, AND ATHLETIC! BUT I WAS STILL TOO CLOSE TO HIM TO MAKE A RUN FOR IT! I WAS SURE THAT NIGHT THAT I WAS GOING TO END UP BEATEN, RAPED AND DEAD IN THAT GULLY! BUT I THOUGHT QUICK! AND I DUG THROUGH THE NEEDLES AND SUPPLIES IN MY NURSING BAG, AND I RUBBED MY CHIN, PRETENDING TO HAVE FORGOTTEN SOMETHING! AND THEN I SLOWLY TURNED AROUND, AND WENT BACK INTO THE HOSPITAL! LIKE I WAS GOING BACK TO GET SOMETHING!”
Driver, “WOW! THAT’S TOTALLY NUTS! GOOD FOR YOU! UH, OKAY! HAVE A GOOD DAY!!!”
In other news: Friday was the hottest day on record, EVER, for San Francisco. 106 degrees. (Fahrenheit, for those passengers in the civilized world.) And if that wasn’t a bad enough day to be out on the streets, the air was thick and hazy with smoke from multiple wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, wafting down from as far north as Oregon! (500 plus miles!)
But, I guess it WAS a bit cooler down in Cow Hollow near The Bay, where the shuttering Russian Consulate felt the need to warm up the fireplace.
I was loathe to put on A/C in the cab, as us hacks are on hook for the gas on our rented mules. I did eventually break down and go with the A/C, however, around noon. (Usually, A/C is a luxury is only reserved for lucrative airport rides, on that rare occasion of being in need in perfectly temperate (if not cool) San Francisco.)
I’d like to note my last ride of the day, before I “can’t stands it no more.” It was a cool, butch lesbian headed a “sorry, it’s just a short ride, driver” few blocks over from the 24th & Mission BART station to her cafe’ job in Precita Park – which brought me too close to ignore to the Citizen’s Cab lot.
Having had a suspiciously GREAT day full of “sorry, it’s just a short ride, driver”s (thank you, global warming!) I had felt justified in getting out of that smoke filled oven, and decided to call it a day. In parting, Maddow handed me up a twenty, saying to keep it, with a warm, “Stay cool, love!” As I folded the twenty into my bank roll, I noticed the greatest thing, EVER!
Maddow had written on the face of her bill, in bold sharpie, “HARRIET TUBMAN.”
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Photo by Alex SacK
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