A busy Thursday in the City

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I showed up as an ‘extra’ to work on Thursday. I wasn’t regularly scheduled to work, so that makes me an ‘extra’. I show up to the garage around 6am and wait for a car to become available. As a day driver, I always have to be back at the garage by no later than 5pm, so the earlier I get out, the better. Cars become available when scheduled drivers or owners don’t show up, or when someone out on the road wants to end their shift early — a ‘short shift’ (they pay a prorated amount for the hours used). I was lucky and got out on the road by 6:30am with plenty of time to make good money.

Summary follows after the break.

During my Thursday shift

  • The City was busy most of the day, especially downtown. The afternoon crowd starts leaving work earlier on Thursdays (at least it seems), and they have more varied destinations besides just going home like Mon-Wed. A lot of people were going out or had to rush home after work to change before hitting the bars and restaurants.
  • For the first few hours of the morning, DeSoto’s garage dispatch radio wasn’t receiving our calls clearly due to interference from illegal users of their frequency. It was tough for the dispatchers to hear some cabs in the Marina or North Beach, so we would call in with our cell phones to the dispatcher if we were near a radio order. I imagined that if someone listened in on that call they might think we were terrorists or something:
    • Me: Hi, this is 381 at Van Ness and Geary
    • Dispatcher: 1554 Van Ness Apartment 405
    • Me: Thanks. (click!)
  • A lot of holiday shoppers were downtown. They make vehicular and pedestrian traffic tough, but man there are a lot of hails.
  • I picked up a guy in the Castro who needed to stop by his house before going to work in the Sunset. I thought he was going home to change clothes but evidently he needed a weed-based ‘pick-me-up’ before slaving it at work.
  • I picked up a guy near Hayes Valley who was taking his two friendly dogs to Pets Unlimited (coincidentally where my girlfriend was working). One was a chocolate lab and the other was a golden/lab mix who shed a massive amount of hair on the seats. It was a pleasure to have some sweet canine companions. Most of the day I ride with the windows open, and for about 30 minutes after I dropped them off hair flew all directions whenever I would accelerate.
  • I am beginning to feel a lot more comfortable being ‘myself’ in the cab, not just presenting an air of what a cab driver should be like. I am, of course, a geeky guy with opinions about local politics, econ, transit, technology, copyright law, etc. It made for much more interesting conversation than usual. I had a few great chats with people about Muni since Nat Ford was on KQED’s Forum during the morning.
  • I picked up 3 Scandinavian girls who just finished shopping downtown. They were in college and had completed a semester abroad in Canada. Before returning home they were doing a west-coast US/Canada tour of some cool cities. They wanted to go to the Mission, but didn’t really know where they were going or what they wanted to see. Again, it was fun to play tour-guide and show them around on our way to the Mission. They headed off to see some Taquerias and then were gonna foot it to the Castro and Haight Ashbury. It’s great to see people exploring the neighborhoods instead of the Wharf.
  • Fares seemed to just come and come, especially downtown. As I was driving by Nordstrom in the City Center, I saw a lady across the street that looked distressed, holding 5 big shopping bags from different stores. She didn’t appear to be hailing a cab, but I ‘had a hunch’ and pulled a u-turn. It turned out she had been waiting for like 15 minutes for a cab and was tired of even trying. She was so enthusisastically happy that I turned around for her that she gave me a $10 tip on a $5 fare! Sweet! She lived in the City for more than 30 years and just recently moved to Las Vegas. She comes back with her husband often to experience the City.
  • I had to be back at the garage by 5pm. Usually I start heading back by 4:30pm just to be safe.
    • I was flagged down by a girl around my age near Broadway and Battery at 4:25pm — I told her I could do a quick trip but had to be back to the garage by 5pm. It turns out she had to run by her apartment in the Marina and then go to SFO (needless to say, a very nice fare).
    • She was very nice about it but I could tell she was majorly disappointed when I said I probably couldn’t do it. I felt bad, it looked like she had been waiting for a long time (she sprinted to my cab when she saw it was available) and was probably going to be late for her flight if she had to wait any longer for another cab. So I said, okay, I’ll take you to your apartment and I’ll call dispatch to see if I can get an extension. Worst comes to worst, we’ll call another DeSoto to meet us there.
    • The cashier on duty was so nice about it. I am continually impressed with the staff at DeSoto. He understood my situation: it’s a customer service issue (we don’t want to leave this girl stranded) AND it’s a way to help out a driver get a good fare. He worked out a deal – I had an extension until 5:30pm, but a minute late and I owe them $45 bucks (about the cost of the fare). Fair deal, sir.
    • It worked out nicely. It made me happy to get that sweet fare, and we had a full conversation on the way to the airport. Of course, like all 20 somethings, she wasn’t doing the ideal job by any means and was looking for something more. It’s nice to share the angst of the quarter life crisis — or, odyssey, should I say? It also made me happy that she was able to get to the airport stress-free. She gave me a great tip.
  • It was a great day.
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One Response to A busy Thursday in the City

  1. Bob says:

    The odyssey article made me feel a little better. Just a little, though. Knowing that everyone around you is drowning doesn’t make you wish any less for a life jacket (or a shark – depends on how long you’ve been out there i guess). I’ll float on for now…

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