One From The Road

Well, I did have one passenger this week, outside of the nonstop Cabulous app-hails. It was an early morning flag, at Haight and Ashbury. Though, dude’s style was unique. It wasn’t so much the standard “raise your hand from the safety of the curb or between parked cars” hail. No, this was the rare “run out into the street in front of the speeding cab with your arms flailing wildly” technique. With future passenger seemingly still on the fence on whether to throw their body under the front wheels of my taxi, or swan dive onto the hood, and then latch onto the windshield for securing cabbie compliance.

Needless to say, this kind of energy exhibited at five in the morning on a darkened San Francisco street does not fill a driver with assurance that the compact will go down according to protocol: Passenger needs his body to be somewhere else. Driver needs rent. Sure, along the way we can talk about the weather. Or (sigh), okay fine, Uber. (Hey. Now that you mention it, I HAVE noticed a sharp decline in my income since those guys hit the streets! Weird.)

Digression: So, my passengers, with all the freaking out I’ve been doing in these reports over the last few weeks, I have been remiss in letting you in on that my girl, Citizen’s Cab #1015, has been sick. And it’s serious. She needs a heart transpl-… um, a new engine. No worries, though. She’s in good hands back at the lot with Jorge. But it sure has been taking a while, getting the show back on the road. In the mean time, your driver has been doing the rounds with every beaten mule spare that Citizen’s Cab has had to offer. But good ‘ol Dmitry’s got my back. God bless Ukrainians! (Not ALL of Citizen’s Cab has been annexed by Russia in recent years.) Not only does Dmitry religiously throw me $10 bonus loads towards my gate every shift. But last night, he went out of his way to make sure that I was assigned some new-ish Ford Fusion (150K miles) for today’s shift, and going forward he says.

Dmitry’s sentiment is greatly appreciated. Still, some mornings, when you’re running late out of the lot to your predawn regular, or when you didn’t quite sleep as well as you might have hoped, the devil you know can be the preferred ride that shift. As was the case this morning.

Meet Citizen’s Cab #204…


Damn. I’ve already driven my regular, Queen Sheba, downtown to her chef job at LinkedIn. AND I already hit the nearby Starbucks on Battery, over in the Financial. And I STILL feel like I’m flying blind in this way-too-hip Ford Fusion.

Sheba is in the throes of hot flashes and regularly cracks her window for her ride – despite our route via 280 into the city. Somehow, I must have locked the rear window controls when fumbling with (what I think?) were the controls for the side view mirrors, which I gave up on adjusting before even making it onto 280 down to get Sheba. It was embarrassing. I had to crack her window FOR her this morning!

I’m beginning to suspect that Homer Simpson designed this car. Or maybe, Richard Branson. It’s got every bell and whistle unimaginable, and six or more buttons allocated to every singular function, no matter how mundane. And, of course, every button has been designed to be illumined by a cool blue LED, or LCD. But all of that moody blue has only served to keep me focused on best practices in the unlikely event that Citizen’s Cab #204 were to make a water landing. (What? Did Branson sell Virgin just to go work behind the scenes at Ford?)

Oh, I guess I should mention. I was only alerted to the blue LEDs on account of that I stumbled on the six different buttons dedicated to the Fusion’s symphony of dome lights. Of course, none of which do diddly to shine my path to the dimmer for the cab’s dash board and instrument panel!

I do have to give her props on one thing, though. She’s got some kick! But, hmm. What’s the gas gonna come to at end of shift? Well, 204 is a hybrid. (By regulation, 90% of SF’s taxi fleet has to be.)

Wait. Oh, god! What if I get an airport? And (GULP!), they want me to unlatch the trunk!

Surely, there are entities trying to mess with me. They’re out there, somewhere, watching…

Hmm. No sudden moves, Sack.


Back to the Haight…

Dude, scrawny, down vest, beard, mid-20’s, throws his flailing body in front of Citizen’s Cab #204!


And driver grabs his clipboard/waybill to mark the ride, and goes to unlock the doors. Wait. Is THIS button the door lock???



Dude gets in back, scowling, and curt, “Sutter and Van Ness.”

I drive.

And Dude gets on his phone, as I continue to explore all of the buttons and controls on my Boeing Fusion.

Dude, ” Dude! You know that big titty girl? She just told me that Space robbed me! Yeah… She told me that Space robbed me. TWICE!”

Jeez. I sure could use the defogger around now! It’s real dark out. And the windshield is STILL cloudy. And, WTF! The turn signal keeps staying on, unless I hit it in the SAME direction again? Is THAT how it’s working?? But then, it seems to go off when I just touch it lightly in the opposite direction? I’m not sure… Hey, did it just go off by itself?? When I only changed lanes? WHAT turn signal has FOUR modes! (Or does it? TBD.)

Dude, “Dude! I will NEVER trust anybody again! I thought Space was my friend! I looked out for him. I FED him!”

Kinda warm in here. What’s the thermostat on? Which of the buttons?? I’m not kidding. I could SERIOUSLY use the defogger flying down Oak right now. It’s DARK out!!

Dude, “I called him an Uber when he had no place to go!”

Hmm. Are the rear windows still locked? That button is usually on the driver door’s arm rest. Usually.

Dude, “Dude! HOW could she be friends with someone who ROBS people! She said she’s been holding onto this secret for a while. DUDE! There were FINGERPRINTS on my window! WHY didn’t she tell me!!”

The hazards. WHERE are the hazards?? I WILL be needing those!

Dude, “I couldn’t pay RENT, dude!” And again with, “I’ll never trust anybody again!”

I think I’ve got the side view almost figured out. A slight adjustment to the right one….DAMN! I just screwed up the LEFT!

Dude, “I’m not scared of Space. I’m going to fight him, next time I see him. Dude, I’m gonna kick his ass!!”

Let’s try dialing in some tunes. Which button gets us on FM?

(PUSH.) No! NOT Bluetooth! (PUSH.) No! NOT sync my laptop!! (PUSH.) No. No! NO! NOT yesterday’s Rush Limbaugh on Satellite!!!

Dude, “No, DUDE! I don’t CARE how big her tits are! I’ll never trust her again!!”

What the hell! WHY are the windshield wipers going? And spraying CONTINUOUSLY?? I thought I had the turn signal DOWN already! That thing has it IN for me!!

Dude, “Sorry to drop all this drama on you, dude… OMG! It’s a good thing we didn’t bring Space along that time, dude!” Capping, “I’ll NEVER trust anyone again!!”

Dude and I pull up at Sutter and Van Ness. (Where are the DAMN hazards!) The meter reads $10.10. And, still scowling, Dude hands me up a twenty with, “Just give me back nine.”


I hand him back nine, as he opens his door and turns to leave. But then, Dude seems to have a pang of guilt, and second thoughts. He turns back in, with his scowl dropped, and without a word places another dollar on the center arm rest console. And Dude exits #204.

And I do not move. Determined, I fumble around for the hazards, and play with the turn signal arm. Hmm. FOUR modes? Not sure. It’s REAL confusing. It’s STILL a work in progress, working through all of her nuances. Stay tuned next week, passengers, for turn signal resolution.

I’ll keep you posted…



Please SHARE if so inclined, folks!

Photo by Christian Lewis

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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