Driving the graveyard shift

San Francisco taxi waybill and medallion on a clipboard

I switched my shifts around. I stopped working Saturdays so I could get my Friday nights back. I kept my Sunday (5am-3pm) shift and added Mondays and Tuesdays from midnight-11am. (That’s the only time they have available for newbs like me.) It’s exciting to drive a new shift.

During my shifts

  • It rained the entire morning of one of my 12a-11a shifts. It makes driving quite dangerous in the City, but the danger was offset by significantly increased business. I cruised the 1-California and 38-Geary lines when radio calls were slow — the rain makes people much more likely to hail a cab and I got a lot of pickups.
  • I am beginning to feel the City as a living entity. Despite the odd sleep schedule, I am blessed to get to see the City in its wee hours as it ‘sleeps’ and then comes alive in full force.
  • The midnight to 11am shift has unique identifiable chunks:
    • Midnight till 3am is drunkies time. I transport a lot of drunkies coming home from (or going to other) bars. So far, I really enjoy the drunkies. They’ve behaved much better than I thought they would and make great conversation, although it’s not always coherent or of the highest calibre. They also enjoy pretty much whatever music I happen to be playing, and often they’ll ask me to turn it up. It can be a lot of fun if you get a good group in the cab.
    • 3am-4am is very quiet. Occasionally I’ll pick up post-partiers or bar/restaurant staffers going home, but I usually just have a few fares during this time. While not very lucrative, it is a very relaxing time. I feel like I own the City. The thin traffic consists of mostly other cabs, police cars and trash trucks.
    • 4am-6am is the radio dispatched ‘early’ commute rush. Many security traders work on east coast time and need to be at work an hour or two before markets open at 9:30am Eastern (6:30am Pacific). While it is year-round steady business, these passengers are frustrating because they’re quiet at best, rude or short tempered at worst. During this period, competition for radio calls is insane. The competitiveness is further magnified as most of the calls come in from the Marina, Pac Heights, Russian Hill, and Nob Hill. There are many cabs in a small area. I once ‘bingoed’ an order (I was at the intersection being announced) only to see FOUR other DeSoto cabs approach from all directions seconds later, hoping to get the order first.
    • 6am-9am is the regular morning commute rush. Radio orders increase, as do the diversity of orders. No longer is it just traders going to work with dispatched orders, now people start going cross-town to a hospital, airport orders increase, and workers anxious of being late hail cabs on the street to escape MUNI purgatory. I focus most of my fare searching still in the Northern area of town (Marina/Heights/Hills), but I’ll start branching out some.
    • 9am-11am slows down a bit, but diversity of rides continues to increase. Orders come from all over the City for all sorts of destinations. At this point, all neighborhoods of the City have equal chances of finding hails or radio calls. I wander all around the City.
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4 Responses to Driving the graveyard shift

  1. crasshopper says:

    isn’t it cool to get to know a city backwards and forwards

    this is chris’ sister

  2. kfarr says:

    Hi Chris’ sister. I agree — I can’t imagine a better way to learn the City than with this job.

  3. Anthony says:

    I don’t know too much about SF, but it sounds like a cool way to describe the daily cycle of the city. It sounds like it would fit most urban cities, even here in Japan.

    Do the old people in Chinatown still do their group tai-chi early in the mornings? If you ever go by there.

  4. kfarr says:

    Oh yeah, the group tai-chi still goes strong!

    And, it’s not just Chinatown! When I first started driving I would often think old Chinese ladies were trying to hail me, but they were just doing stretches and tai-chi nonsense.

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