Please enjoy your ride with another gem from the vault…
I’m back in the Citizen’s Cab office and I’m met by Tony (a.k.a. The No-go King) looking skeptically at his clipboard.
He groans, “Sack… Uhhh…”
Why the pregnant pause?
Please finish your sentence!
And Tony drawls on, with hesitation,
“137 is still out. N’ nobody can get a hold a’ tha driver. Sorree. I got a medallion for ya. But it’ll have to be a spare. N’ I only got a 3 o’ clock… Whaddya wanna do, Sack?”
Well, a cab in the hand is better than two in the bush…
Tony: “Ok. I got 2964 or 2968. Which one do ya want?”
I duck out to the lot to check the mules…
Great. Both are clunky Escapes. But 64 looks like the brakes might work. She’s got 297K on her. Ok. 2964.
I pass Bob Valor (night driver) in the lot on my way back with my pick. He’s coming in from the night shift, glowing.
Bob prophesizes, “You guys are gonna make bank out there today!”
Great. Last time he said that, I walked with like 100 bucks.
Once back in the office, again,
“2964 looks like the brakes work. But if I’m proven wrong I can always just brake with my feet, Flintstones-style.”
Tony just smiles, before offering, “I had a car with no floorboard for a while.”
I then ask what he knows about a voice mail Christian left me last night. Christian said something about how he gave some drunk dudes a ride and the one sitting up front in the shotgun punched his windshield and shattered it.
Tony fills me in.
Apparently, early on in his (night) shift, Christian was dropping some chicks off at Pier 23, a restaurant on the bay that has live music. (I’ve played there before in a band, actually.) Anyway, four drunk dudes were waiting out in front all impatiently for the girls to finish paying for their ride, and all the while holding the door open and telling the girls to “hurry up, bitches.” (Yes, Christian considered telling them “Sorry, I’m on my way to a call.” But, he didn’t.) Apparently, the girls were just giggling in response. So, they get out, and Four Drunk Dudes get in. (This is why I’m a day driver.)
So, four drunk dudes are headed to the Marina, when the one riding shotgun out of the blue starts in yells all rowdy-like and randomly kicks the windshield, completely shattering it.
Christian calls-in to dispatch to report it, and Tony radios back that the police are on the way. And at this, Four Drunk Dudes all start berating Christian and saying they could’ve just settled it “like men”. Christian tells them that it’s not his call and that he has to tell the dispatcher, adding,
“Why should I accommodate your being animals and kicking out my windshield??”
So, it turns out Shotgun Dude is a firefighter, and his other friends all begin to goad him on to just walk away, as this could be career trouble. Anyway, over the next thirty minutes – and before the police arrive, they all continue on with encouraging Shotgun Dude to walk and they continue to threaten and berate Christian all the while for being a “pussy”. To his credit, Shotgun Dude says he should take responsibility for his actions and wait.
Once the cops finally get there, they pull Shotgun Dude aside and find out he’s a firefighter. Shotgun Dude tells them the windshield was an accident. The cops, it seems, never ask Christian for his side of the story and just shut him down when he attempts to offer any statement at all. They say they believe Shotgun Dude’s account, that it was an accident, and say they will not arrest him. They’re obviously letting Four Drunk Dudes go without charges, on account of Shotgun Dude being a firefighter. Duh.
Welcome to San Francisco.
Anyway, Christian does at least get Shotgun Dude’s info, so he can pay for the damage later… and possibly $150 for Christian’s now lost shift.
That’s the thing about collisions and incidents like this; it ruins your shift. You have to go back to the lot and fill out an incident report and an insurance report and take all this time at the scene and at the lot. And then if you want to still work, yuou hope there is a spare that actually, well, has working brakes.
Jeez. Christian only has two assigned shifts now as it is. He’s for months he’s been begging Jesus for more.
NPR: Beware of downtown traffic today before noon. A large union protest is scheduled for the Financial district. However, no marching routes have been released in advance.”
Montgomery, around California, will be an obvious spot to avoid when it all kicks in. All the main bank branches are down there.
I’m driving back up Cal from a Financial drop. As of now, I see no signs of trouble.
I take the right up Hyde. Figure I’ll cruise Nob Hill for flags. And score; a 30-something blonde chick in Ray-Bans is vehemently flagging me at Washington. I pull over, and Ray Bans gets in back.
I check her in the rear view. Oh, I’ve driven her before… She Cabuloused me up here from her phone a few weeks ago at morning rush hour.
Ray Bans works in the Design district. You might recall, she’s the one whose boss had an I-beam fall on her head, and then showed the gory pictures around the office.
I know this of course, ‘cause Ray Bans was on her cell the whole ride, and I did not exist. Fine by me.
“16th & Kansas, please. Do you take cards?”
(She doesn’t remember me.)
Damn straight I take cards. We have to. And I’m not losing my A-Card due to some M.T.A. undercover sting like happened to another Citizen’s Cab night driver last week!
So, Ray-Bans dutifully goes into her cell to gab with a friend. I have NPR on low so she can hear her conversation… and so I can, too:)
Ray Bans ignores me and dives deep into some personal shit. Seems she and some guy friend went to LA on a whim on Saturday night and they hung with some music mogul friend and Austin (from American Idol) and some famous rapper whose name I don’t recognize. Ray Bans goes on to swear her friend to secrecy on a problem that another friend swore Ray Bans to secrecy about…
I am stoic, still and silent; pretending to listen to NPR. Don’t want to mess this up!
But alas, Ray Bans goes to a whisper when she gets to the good parts. And she’s getting quieter, and quieter. I am trying like the Dickens to hear. But we keep passing construction clamor at all the juicy spots. Damn Pelosi!
Anyway, it sounds like her friend forced her boyfriend to go to couples counseling with her. Seems friend’s “beautiful” therapist initially suggested a three-hour session, with the boyfriend solo for the first hour. Well, beautiful therapist ended up spending the first two hours with the boyfriend, much to girlfriend’s dismay. His gripes? They were about how girlfriend doesn’t work out or do Yoga, “like other girls”. And sex isn’t kinky enough.
Thank God I’m not in a relationship.
“Cha-ching! – 4 Valencia. Bobbie. Dispatch.”
I’m over on Mission, just a block over. This is a tricky area to navigate, with one ways and no lefts or U turns. And I don’t recall which side is even or odd on Valencia there. Whatever. I’ll just approach from the beginning of Valencia, to play it safe.
On Mission, my lane is being cone-merged (Pelosi!) into the middle lane. The middle lane is clear, and I start to merge. Then suddenly, a dude zooms up from way behind me in a desperate attempt to not let me merge. I shrug, and cut him off.
Fuck ’em. He totally saw the construction and merge. And Andretti knew I was way ahead of him. He just had to try and screw me. Where is the humanity?
Anyhow, I make it to Valencia – at Market, and it seems I’ve gambled wrong, for approaching via the even side of the street for “4” Valencia. Oh, well. I wait for the light to turn at Market just up ahead, so I can safely make an illegal U and pull up out front proper. But the only safe space (out of imminent approaching traffic) is in front of 8 Valencia. Whatever.
I ‘Call Passenger’, and send the usual voice message, alerting to where I am.
In short order, I see Bobbie just a few yards behind me, right at Market.
Bobbie’s a 51-year old diva regular that does window displays for high end retail in Union Square. She’s flamboyant and very opinionated, but we’ve always hit it off. I note that she’s facing Market, expecting me to come from that direction. She hadn’t seen me make the U right behind her.
Once she does realize, she walks back to me the couple yards and gets in back all pissed off. Ugh. I apologize. But, Bobbie’s not having it.
She glowers at me in the rear view. Jeez. Then, she dives in to how another cab didn’t come and how I should’ve have been out in front of 4, not 8. Jeez. Can trannies even get periods??
Bobbie goes on with how she just came from a consignment shop called Stuff where a young clerk there gave her trouble. So she now vows to only refer to the shop as Stuffed.
Bobbie’s going to Golden Gate & Steiner to a pet hospital there, to get meds for a dog she adopted that’s old. Then, Bobbie skeptically scrutinizes which way I plan to go.
“Well, we have to cross Market… I figure the best way, coming from Valencia & McCoppin, is to take Duboce over.”
At first, Bobbie is snide in response to my plan, but she then complements me on the new-to-her route.
Finally! Maybe I’ve calmed the beast…
Bobbie goes into converse about how she loves where she lives, on Hyde in the Tenderloin, adding,
“Lived there 26 years…”
I bite, “You’re rent must be really cheap. Mind if I ask how much?”
I see in the rear view that she now exhibits a broad gay nervous smile, and has her arms crossed defensively.
I attempt to mitigate, “Uh. You don’t have to tell me. Just askin’.”
And Bobbie speaks,
“Some things are personal. (Hmmph!)”
Jeez. Just making conversation.
I make a further attempt to calm the beast,
“I’ve been in my flat for 11 years… I know that my downstairs neighbors are paying double what I do!”
I change the subject, somewhat, asking Bobbie if she feels safe in the Tenderloin. I mention how Christian got robbed and gun-butted living not far from Hyde, on Turk…
Bobbie turns all Devil Wears Prada and dives loudly ranting into “What do you know? Nothing! It’s a GREAT neighborhood… Like Chelsea in New York!! Full of young professionals and lawyers and such! You young tykes think you know it all! You’re just like that imp at Stuffed!! (Hmmpphh!)”
I try to make light of this. But again with the fail,
“I’m a cab driver. We know everything.”
“You know NOTHING!” She shoots back in huff.
“You’re having a bad day. Aren’t you?” I inquire, now giggling from the absurdity of the whole affair.
“No, I’m NOT! Bobbie hisses. Just drop me at the Walgreen’s there… And STOP laughing!”
Side note: I recently had a man to man with my son. I tried schooling him about women. I said, “Son, sometimes a woman can get a little testy at certain times of the month. But when you get caught in that, DO NOT BRING IT UP! If you are wrong, she’ll be mad at you. And if you are right, she’ll be REALLY mad at you.”
I know Bobbie is a Diva and all, but jeez. Hope she’s picking up some, um, “extra” supplies at Walgreens.
So, the fare is $12.55. Bobbie opens her door and proceeds to get out s l o w l y, keeping her scowl fixed on me with a stern glower. The air is thick. I want to open my mouth to say “have a nice day” or “thanks” or something. But I’m afraid to speak.
My jaw begins to open, ever so slightly. And,
“Shhh! Don’t say a word!!” Bobbie aims her finger at me, like it’s loaded.
And she throws a twenty at me.
I helplessly giggle, but do not dare attempt another word.
Now staring shards, she bends back inside the door, and interrogates,
“What’s… your… naaaame?”
Jeez. I’ve driven her like five times, and my ID is right there on the dash.
And with this, Bobbie shuts the door s l o w l y and backs away all steely eyed into the Loin.
My name? What’s she gonna do? Request I not drive her again? Turn me in for saying the Tenderloin is a bad neighborhood? (He, he.) Whatever.
Thus far, I’ve seen no sign of any union march activity or any related traffic problems downtown at all. I’m near drop with an Asian dad and son I picked up from Pier 35 – where a HUGE cruise ship is docked and letting passengers loose on the town. My passengers are going to the Apple store in Union Square, Stockton & Market.
Four cars back from a red light on Market (the Apple store is just up on the corner there), a traffic cop jumps out on Market and holds all traffic. Doh! I spoke too soon.
I hear drums…
I tell my fares the store is just right up the block a few feet and recommend they might as well just settle up here. The fare is $12.55 and Number One Son hands me up three fives. I can see he knows little or no English.
Fishing, I ask,
“Did you need any change?” And Number One Son is sharp. He gets my drift, and quickly waves it off with,
“No, Tank yoo.”
(Europe, take note!)
Stuck ground zero in the march, I resign to turning off the cab and wait… for fifteen minutes as cops and floats and bullhorns and signs tromp by. A cab or two stuck behind me periodically honk in vain. Really?
The scene finally passes, east down Market. And I’m free! I zoom off fast, away from downtown. It looks like Market (and surely Montgomery later on) are gonna be radioactive for the next few hours.
I’m cruising the Haight. Summer. So many pretties! Ah, to be young again. A suit flags me at Haight & Clayton.
“California & Market, please.”
“Uh. There’s a big union protest and march going on downtown. I’ll get you in as close as I can, but we may need to get creative about how we approach.”
I quickly gauge that Suit knows nothing know about the protest, despite it having been on the news. He calls a woman he’s supposed to meet for lunch to confirm my story. To make sure I’m not just trying to, um, take him for a ride. Whatever. Once off the phone, Suit instructs me to “take Bush down” and we’ll see what happens!
Come on, guy! I just said Montgomery is gonna be a mess! And Bush will hit Montgomery right at Ground Zero, before your drop… How about letting the cabbie drive?
“Bush, it is. Sure. Sounds like a plan.”
We make it smoothly down Bush to just shy of the Grant Gate – Chinatown, when we come over the hill to witness the next three blocks to Montgomery are a parking lot.
There are three cars in front of me in the left lane, just before the Grant Gate. I WANT THAT LEFT!
We miss three light cycles before the first of the three cars crosses over Grant. I can now just squeeze past a parked car on my left and clear the left onto Grant… and freedom!
Suit gets smart,
“Just get me to Clay & Davis, instead. However you can.”
Deal. I head up Grant, left – away from downtown, right on Powell, and right on Clay. No problems. We’ve navigated around Ground Zero and its concentric parking lots.
I drop Suit at his lunch meeting and we part with me $20 richer, on a $16.45 fare.
As I move to get the hell out of the Financial, I start hearing a lot of noise coming from dispatch over the radio… Jesus is at dispatch now and warning about congestion on Market, due to a protest. Who knew?
Think I’ll quit while ahead. I’ve cracked $200.
I’m gassed up and back at Citizen’s.
Once at the window, Jesus breaks from dispatch to come check me out. I figure I better say something about the Bobbie diva deal. She’s a regular, and she did ask my name. Jesus night know about it already, and it would behoove me to get out in front of this…
“Oh, Bobbie? Yeah, I know him… He yelled at you? Really? Maybe he wanted you.”
And with this, my day ends. Now, time to go home. And lock the door.
Please SHARE if so inclined, folks!
Photo by Christian Lewis