Crazy Legs Howard (And, The End)

I’m bleeding, passengers. I’m bleeding. Yeah, my edit, er… ma doesn’t like these whiny asides. But hear me out. While I often get the most favorable (or at least, the loudest) feedback on those cab reports focused on the amazingly diverse, always evolving, random butts providing warmth to the back seat of ‘ol Citizen’s Cab #1015. I have, from the very genesis of these reports – Cab School (Day 1), been driven to also document the myriad bureaucracies and politics presented before the San Francisco hack. And, as well, track this street job’s effect on a driver, your driver, with each accumulated tick of the meter, as traversing the many hills and winding roads which we encounter, together, en route…

Wednesday – My day off

5:01pm:
“CHIME!”

My iPhone rings with an IM:

ATTENTION ALL CABULOUS DRIVERS!
Please click on the link below
to receive an important message
from Cabulous’ management.

I click the link. Great. It leads to some cheesy Mailchimp web page:

***ATTENTION ALL DRIVERS***

In our continuing effort to ensure a superior experience for drivers and passengers in San Francisco, Cabulous Technologies will be suspending all orders to drivers who do not drive for one of Cabulous’ Color Scheme partners on Monday April 9th, 2018.

Please refer to FAQ’s below for more information. Further questions can be directed via email to support@cabulous.com or by calling +1(888)SCR-EWED.

Scrolling down, the page lists three really small cab companies (a la, SuperCab) as being one of Cabulous’ “partners.” And then, it goes on to a long list of all of the oldest and largest San Francisco color schemes targeted for “discontinued service.” Including, Citizen’s Cab.

WTF!?

That phone Cabulous gave me for app hails, years ago, now accounts for anywhere from 25 to 50% of my ride income. And just about my only airports! I have a lot of regulars that I pick up, too. That I LIKE! The City DEPENDS on Cabulous! This move, which they offer absolutely NO explanation for, will easily take out HALF of San Francisco’s cab drivers.

And the PASSENGERS!

The whole deal of having 80% of the city’s taxi fleet on Cabulous was to provide the public with a long sought after “centralized dispatch” to get the closest cab to you, REGARDLESS of color scheme, and with as many drivers as possible available for service! And of course, secondarily, to offer this private sector app company with as large a customer base as possible; whether accepting orders through a personal Cabulous-provided Android phone – like I have, or via the Cabulous-proprietary “soft meter” phone they had installed in the fleets of those select “partner” color schemes to replace the meters for ALL orders – dispatched or mobile.

So, yeah. I’m bleeding, passengers. I’ve long, okay, “whined” about this livelihood suffering death by 1000 cuts. But now, this is the aorta!

Aside: And, jeez. Getting notified at 5:01pm, via IM? With only two shifts to work before Day Zero!? An IM! (Do I look like Rex Tillerson?)

I’ll spend the rest of my night buzzing on the ‘San Francisco Taxi Drivers’ private Facebook group commiserating, and divining motive as to why a private sector company would so blatantly shoot themselves in the foot; limiting options for paying fares, increasing their wait times, and ultimately, pushing a newly upset Cabulous ridership back to Uber. Yes, commiserating, divining motive, and exchanging conspiracy theories: Uber PAID someone at Cabulous to TANK the company!!

And then, a driver in the Facebook group points out the side note buried in Cabulous’ FAQ’s:

If you’d like to sign up to be one of Cabulous’ Color Scheme partner fleets,
please fill out THIS form.

OH! This is some misguided response to the new owner of Yellow cab having recently bought CityWide and Luxor, and consolidating them all under Yellow’s YoTaxi app! But, hmm… That doesn’t preclude those drivers from also servicing Cabulous hails on their personally-supplied Android, like me. Hell! And Citizen’s Cab isn’t involved with Yellow, or their YoTaxi app! Why are we on the list. Huh? Cabulous is pulling some crazy gambit to bully Citizen’s Cab, et al, to ditch their meters for the proprietary Cabulous one?? Like, after this, they should be trusted with half of San Francisco’s taxis dependent of their “smart meter” for every flag, hail or dispatch, and metering EVERY ride!

Man, I’ve always posted on the group how leery I’ve been, having some private sector company playing middle man to such a high percentage of our incomes. I’ve always that one day we were gonna wake up to find that Cabulous has declared bankruptcy, and no one can log-in to the app. I’ve always said that the MTA should come up with an app!

(SIGH.) My days are numbered. But, I guess that they always have been. It’s always been, just drive one more block, Sack. Just one… more… block.

Oh my GOD! WHAT am I gonna DO, come MONDAY!!

 

Thursday

1pm:
My heads been reeling all shift. Do I move to Yellow? Or Super Cab? Peruse LinkedIn for a new desk job, with a title that includes the qualifier “assistant”? Could I even get one at forty-seven? And with eight years of cab driving as my most recent resume’ mark??

Shoot me now.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well last night. And yeah, with Damocles’ sword hanging overhead, I came to work in a bad one. And that’s a bad place to be for driving. Or, being a good human. And, as I’ve long learned, as the day wears on rolling these streets for rent, a driver grows more and more fatigued. And “good human” gets harder, and harder, and….

Meet Skip

I’m rolling west on Market downtown, approaching 3rd Street. Actually, I’m flying. The light just turned yellow, and I’m feeling beaten and anxious. And there’s some gel-hair up ahead casually strolling across Market in his stressed jeans, Italian loafers, sport coat, with a shiny black leather laptop bag on his back, and nursing an extra-large coffee. My light’s yellow, and he’s already mid-block, turning his back to me, playing chicken. However, me thinks that Skip is unaware it is not a chicken which he pokes. It is a bear!

ZZZZZZOOOOOOMMMM!!!

Wait for it… Wait for it…

HHHHHHOOOOOOONNNNKKKK!!!!

I buzz Skip’s back WITHIN INCHES! And HHHHHHOOOOOOONNNNKKKK!!!! just as I pass!!

Man! I haven’t done THAT in a while! I used to express my discontent with jaywalkers challenging me in this way, pretty regularly. Mostly, with the schizos and addicts in The Loin. But, that was only due to such an abundant opportunity there. I was always conscious to be equal opportunity in doling out the BUZZ! I mean, why should rich white people get a pass?

In recent years, however, I’ve matured with my response to jaywalkers challenging my taxi. Out of necessity, really. The incidents have just grown WAY too numerous for the BUZZ! to remain sustainable. This, as all day long now, hordes of oblivious, entitled techies invariably jump out of their Uber mid-block into fast flowing traffic RIGHT in front of you, in the INSIDE lane, to DART for the opposite curb, of course, as waving their iPhone X at you. (Surely, with the belief that you, too, have confused them for Steve Jobs. And you will defer.)

No, in my maturity, I just BUZZ! now, SANS the carefully timed HHHHOOOOOONNNKKK!!!!

Now rolling to a stop for the usual red at the next block, Grant, across from the Four Seasons, I check my side view…

Hmm. Skip is running FULL BORE up the MIDDLE of Market Street AFTER MY TAXI, while nursing his extra-large coffee, and with his shiny black leather laptop bag swinging WILDLY across his back. And I could just swear that that’s STEAM blowing out from Skip’s ears, and from the nostrils on his BEET RED FACE!

I watch, as the light remains red, and the SPRINTING Skip nears… ever… closer… And as I watch, it strikes me to roll down my window, and stick out my arm to hold up a BIG BOLD FINGER!

What the hell, man? What does this dog think it’s gonna do when it catches the cab? Just WHAT IS Skip’s aim!? To throw his coffee at me? Sling a litany of verbal assaults?? SMASH my taxi?? PUNCH ME????

Well, I do NOT figure on finding out!

JUST as Skip gains proximity, I begin SLOWLY rolling Citizen’s Cab #1015 through the red light, much to the bemusement of the cabs cued up in the Four Seasons taxi stand, as I continue FORCEFULLY poking the air with my outstretched arm and BIG BOLD FINGER!

Thankfully, there are no pedestrians in the crosswalk on Market, across the intersection.

And Skip TAKES THE BAIT, with his every stride bringing him EVER… SO… MUCH… CLOSER to exacting his REVENGE!

I STOP! And then, wait… STOP! And then, wait…

Skip SLOWS! Then, picks up running… SLOWS! Then, picks up running…

Until he just PACING a close, but SAFE, distance behind, chasing my outstretched finger. Skip’s running, running… And I’m creeping, creeping… Until finally, after a great GASP of defeat which Skip HURLS into my side view, he HUNCHES over and HEAVES his last.

As I GUN Citizen’s Cab #1015 through the red, continuing on to Westfield Mall.

Well, passengers. It’s the end of the road, should Skip call the MTA to file a complaint. (Were he to call Citizen’s Cab proper to complain, it would be received with a big yawn.) Actually, even calling the MTA, considering nothing more than Skip’s pride was hurt, worst case scenario would be seeing my A-card revoked, until I went back and revisited the one day MTA final class and test for taxi drivers. But, hell. Does it even MATTER now? I mean, WHAT AM I GONNA DO, COME MONDAY!?

Still, maybe it’s time to call it a day…

Twenty minutes later…

After gassing it up at the cheap Ecuadorian run Allianz gas station, Cesar Chavez and Hampshire, I’m back at the Citizen’s Cab lot and checking out bullet proof glass. As Dmitry is taking my gate money, key and medallion, suddenly my phone rings.

Bada-Ding-Ding-Boop-Ding-Ding! Bada-Ding-Ding-Boop-Ding-Ding!

Hey! It’s best friend, band mate and night driver, Christian!

Alex, “Hey. What’s up?”

Christian, “Yo. Good news. Ivan the manager was just seen over at the Cabulous office signing up Citizen’s Cab to become a partner. You guys are going to get the smart meters.”

Alex, “Wow. That’s good, I think? I don’t trust ’em.”

Christian, “Yeah, whatever. Anyway, I can’t imagine that they’ll cut off the Android they gave you for orders before Citizen’s rolls out the new meters. So, you should be okay.”

Well, passengers. It would seem that I’ll drive, one more block…

 

Friday

As you can imagine, I’m in a MUCH better mood today. I slept. And I’m back to “good human.” It’s gorgeous California weather out, and it’s opening day at AT&T Park for the San Francisco Giants. Cabulous has been off the hook all morning, and I’m making money.

I’m rolling Mission Street for the umpteenth time, headed north and scanning for flags, as I approach the bus stop at 22nd Street. And score!

An old dude in black and orange Giants gear waddles out into the street, vehemently waving his arms at me. I pull 1015 to the curb. And old dude creaks into the back seat.

Old Dude, in a deep, weathered rasp, “Gahd bless ya fer stoppin’, drivah! I need ta git ta AT’nT Pahrk. ‘N FASS!

I spend tha lass haff owah tryin’ ta ‘posit monee in my ladee friend’s bank ‘ccount. Buht tha tellah I usu’lly give tha monee ta wund’t dere. ‘N dem jackasses keep askin’ me fer ‘er ccount numbah! How da hell I know dat!? Tha ladee I usu’lly give tha monee ta knows it. Ah total waste ah time! ‘N now I might bee late fer tha game! ‘N ain’t nevah miss’d ah one!

Ya see, drivah. I’m a vendah, fer tha games. ‘N you mighta herd ah me. I’m Crazee Legs Howahd. I’m famuss. Cuz my dance mooves. Googah Crazee Legs Howahd ‘n you see. I come rite uhp. You juss Googah it!

Buht boyee, if I don’ make tha back gate by ‘leven-tirty, dey won’ let me in. Use tah live heer in da citee. Buht I live uhp in Sac now, ‘n came all tha way down heyah fer tha game. If I don’ make tha back gate by ‘leven-tirty, it’ll bee ah total waste ah monee fer tha Greyhown’ down frum Sac, ‘n dis heer cahb ride. If I don’ make it ta tha back gate by ‘leven tirtee!

‘N I’m tha playahs fav’rite vendah! You juss look it uhp. Dey don ‘llow us ta talk ta tha playahs aneemore. Buht, I heer ’bout how dey like me tha bess. Crazee Legs Howahd. You look it uhp.”

Drivah, “Wow! Crazy Legs Howard. I’ll look you up! Hey. My friend used to sell churros and dogs at AT&T, like ten years ago. Christian Lewis. You know him, by chance?”

Crazy Legs Howard, “Yeah, I ‘membah Christin. You tell ’em Crazee Legs Howahd seyz hello.”

I assure Crazy Legs he’s in the right cab, and that he’ll make the back gate for vendors by 11:30, crazy Giants opening day traffic, be damned.

Oops. Sorry, Uber Eats delivery on 2nd Street. Didn’t mean to cut you off there, turning off Mission. Really.

But, make way! I got Crazy Legs Howard in back, here. ‘N he ain’t NEVAH miss’d ah game!

I drop Crazy Legs a block from his gate, after getting stuck in a SEA of, well, Ubers and Lyfts. And flip an illegal U, a twenty spot richer.

And just a few blocks back up 2nd Street, once again stopped in gridlock…

My day’s streak continues! It’s an older black guy with a much younger looking homeless, white, junkie chick, with a big, colorful spread eagle tattoo across her chest, that’s poking through the cut up neck of her worn grey T. Dude’s waving at me, as they’re both weaving through the cluster of gridlocked cars towards 1015. With junkie chick lugging dirty, bulging backpack, with a rolled up sleeping bag strapped to it.

And with horns all around, they get in back.

Older Black Dude, “Man, we goin’ to Treasure Island. Hey. You look familah. We met?”

I scan OBD’s face in the rear view.

Man, “I don’t think so.”

Older Black Dude, “Man, I SWEYAH you look familah? You a vet?”

Man, “Nope.”

Older Black Dude, “Well, you got a TWIN owt dere, man!”

I pull a fast one, over the double yellow and around girdlocked Ubers, to steal a right onto Mission, towards the Bridge.

Older Black Dude, “Maaan! I LIKE tha way you drive! We got in tha RIGHT cab! Mmm-hmph!”

En route to Treasure Island, a quiet, artificial island made of landfill that bisects the Bay Bridge (while playing home to various live-in drug rehabs, subsidized housing – for the likes of veterans, and TV show sound stages), I come to like my passengers. They have a pretty down to earth, and mellow vibe. Though, I do remain confused at the nature of this seemingly incongruous couple’s relationship. (Possibly, just a case of willful ignorance on this cabbie’s part.)

Once on Treasure Island, ten minutes later, I take in its AMAZING view of San Francisco, before winding back through the flat maze of nondescript two-story apartment blocks which comprises T.I., before we ultimately arrive at OBD’s nondescript two-story apartment block.

And the meter reads $17.80.

Older Black Dude, “Thanks fer gittin’ us here, man. Here’s a twinty. Keep it. I LIKE tha way you driiiive, man.”

Back in town, the day rolls on, steady…

It’s almost 4pm, 1015’s medallion pumpkin time! I’ve had NO chance to be a bum, turning it in early when fareless and near the lot. Cabulous was totally off the hook today! (Which only underscores my dependency on this private sector app.) I ran TWO airports! And netted around $135 JUST in Cabulous rides! It looks like I’ll be walking with around $210 today!

And thank GOD I do NOT have to worry about what I’m gonna do, come MONDAY!

4:00pm:
Checking out at the bullet proof glass, I run into Ivan, Citizen’s Cab’s manager.

Sack, “Ivan! I heard you signed Citizen’s up for to be a Cabulous ‘partner’ and get the soft meters installed in all the cabs!”

Ivan, with a broad confused smile, and thick Russian accent, “A-lex, tell me. Who tells you this! Who tells this! Why you say I get the Cabulous soft meters in cahbs?? Tell me!”

Sack, “Christian Lewis said you were seen over at the Cabulous office signing us up, You weren’t? Ivan, you KNOW how much business I do on Cabulous.”

Ivan starts chuckling, and looking sly. He puts his hand on my shoulder, and gets serious.

Ivan, “Look. A-lex! I NOT sign up to be partner. Buht, weyt! A-lex! You weyt! We see what happens. Look. Come to work Monday. Come to work. Monday, we see what happens. O-kay, A-lex? We see what happens.”

Well, THAT’s encouraging.

OH MY GOD! WHAT AM I GONNA DO, COME MONDAY!!!

 

5:01pm:
I’m home on the couch, eating, drowning myself in cheap red wine, and watching fake news.

“CHIME!”

My iPhone rings with an IM:

ATTENTION ALL CABULOUS DRIVERS!
Please click on the link below
to receive an important message
from Cabulous’ management.

I click the link, which AGAIN leads to some cheesy Mailchimp web page:

***ATTENTION ALL DRIVERS***

The following fleets are in the process of becoming new Cabulous Color Scheme partner fleets:

Alliance Cab
Town Taxi SF
Green Cab
Citizen’s Cab

In an effort to facilitate a seamless transition, Cabulous will not suspend Cabulous app booked orders to drivers affiliated with one of these fleets on April 9th, 2018.


(To avoid deactivation due to an invalid login,

we urge these drivers to contact our
driver support helpline at +1(888)TRU-STUS)

OH MY GOD!

WHEW!!

I now KNOW what I’m gonna do, come MONDAY!!!

Wait. It’s after five, on a Friday night… I have to CALL to remain active???

 

_____

Photo by Christian Lewis

www.AlexSacK.com

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…

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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