Driving the storm

Embarcadero during Friday’s storm

I drove on Friday during the heavy storm that hit most of Northern California. It was a great day to drive.

Details after the break.

During my shift

  • It started out to be a quiet morning. The severe wind and rain didn’t start until 7 or 8 am, so I didn’t even have a fare for the first hour. Add to that the fact that many people still aren’t back in the City or working full time.
  • My first fare was a radio call in Lower Pacific heights. He was funny — he insisted that I take the identical route of the 1BX-California Express. I didn’t realize that was what he was doing until toward the end when I went straight (on a fast timed light street) instead of turning (on a slower, untimed street). He said, “Oh, I guess you can go this way. I just like to follow the bus route for some reason.” I understand. I have a fond place in my heart for the 1-California (non-express) route, even though it follows some of the slowest roads in the City through Chinatown.
  • As soon as I dropped him off the rain started pelting down pretty hard and the wind became pretty intense. And, it became very, very easy to find hails on the street. You can tell if street hails are frequent just by listening to the radio. Radio orders in Pacific Heights, Marina, Nob Hill, Russian Hill during the morning commute hours are normally answered by a driver within seconds and a car can show up to an address under a minute. This morning orders were already taking much longer than usual for drivers to bid.
  • During the morning commute I usually leave the Financial District via California Street, Sutter Street, or back under the Broadway Tunnel depending on my latitude. The first time I dropped I returned via California Street and was hailed right at the top of Nob Hill. This happened about half the time I returned from downtown. While these trips aren’t very exciting, they are quick and easy. And, because a flag drop is $3.10, quick and easy fares are lucrative.
  • I took a couple of fresh out of college investment bankers from their corporate apartment near the top of Nob Hill to their job in the Financial District. They seemed unsure how to treat me, especially given my apparent similar age and level of geeky appearance. Should we just act like he’s not there? Should we treat him as a subordinate? Should we treat him like an equal? They settled on acting like I wasn’t there.
  • For a split second I was worried I’d be stuck downtown all day, unable to get out of the downtown area since I was just dropping then going out and then getting immediately hailed on the street. But, then I experienced the magic wonderfulness of cab driving: the random destinations. The hotels, most of them downtown, were beginning to have a tough time getting cabs (another strong sign that it’s busy). I’d say this was around 9-10 am. When it gets after 9 am I’ll sometimes do a pass by a few blocks of Market Street, around some of the busier BART stations (Powell, Montgomery or Embarcadero). Already there were signs of the storm. A section of Market Street, between Montgomery and Kearney was closed because of falling scaffolding from the Ritz Residences under renovation. A hotel on New Montgomery couldn’t get any cabs since all of the trolley busses were detouring from closed Market Street around to Mission. I was inadvertently stuck and was able to pickup from there, getting a couple of guys going to a meeting all the way out at the St. Francis Yacht Club. Nice. That started my out-of-downtown day, which I like better.
  • After dropping at the Yacht Club I took a radio call to pickup a lady in the Marina. It turns out she was having an impossible time even CALLING the cab company. She had tried and tried again but got a phone company message saying the network was down. Ouch. She had her daughter try calling from a different part of town and she was able to get through. This lady was really nice. She was visiting her daughter from France. She wasn’t very familiar with the City but we talked at length about some cool places to visit.
  • I picked up a couple times along Geary if I didn’t have a radio call nearby and was easily able to get hails from people waiting for the 38-Geary. At one point on Geary I saw an old lady that could barely walk due to the wind pushing her back against her umbrella. Wow. Windy.
  • I picked up a gal in the Richmond going to the airport. She was sooooo happy that I showed up, and showed up on time. I took Oak to the 101 entrance at which point we hit a traffic jam for about 10 minutes. Once we reached the front we realized what the cause was — the highway bridges couldn’t drain water fast enough and a lane was blocked in various places from standing water. She tipped me really well — like $20 on a $40 fare. Thanks, lady.
  • Throughout the rest of the day numerous lanes were blocked, especially on highways, from standing water unable to drain. On a few places on 280, between the 101/280 split and Daly City, there were felled trees. This was also near the felled tree that brought down the BART line between 24/Mission and Daly City.
  • Speaking of the downed BART line, I heard on the radio that there were many pickups at the BART stop since the BART was down. I headed over there and sure enough there were some DESPERATE looking people trying to hail me with all their might. Apparently, 3 strangers had banded together. They all needed to get to SFO to make their flights (that probably weren’t even leaving on time). They must not have taken cabs very often because they were worried that I wouldn’t know how to get to the airport. Blog readers take note, if a cab driver is new to the City there is only one route he or she will know, it’s how to get to the damn airport. They also didn’t tip very well. Come on! There were 3 of you and I saved your asses! Throw me a frickin’ bone here.
  • Came back to the City and hit up the BART station. Took a guy to Daly City BART. He gave me a nice tip for helping him out, he was going to be late to work.
  • Many of MUNI’s trolley bus lines were down. Some overhead lines were hit by trees, some routes just didn’t have grid power from PG&E. It gave me a couple of pickups from the Castro and along the 24-Divisadero.
  • It was a fun day. I made more than $200, significantly above average. I enjoyed experiencing the storm and was a bit sad when it calmed down to just a trickle of rain at the end. I look forward to the next.
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2 Responses to Driving the storm

  1. dkzody says:

    glad to know you survived the stormy weather and made money doing it. Our daughter and son-in-law were on 101, heading south, and called to tell us about all the accidents along the road and about the tree in their church parking lot (my daughter is a minister) that had fallen into the fellowship hall. They were headed, with kids, to a camp above Oakhurst and my concern was for the snow in the mountains. We certainly didn’t have the storm here in Fresno that you all had in the bay area.

  2. Jay says:

    You were in a dream I had two nights ago. We went out drinking and you introduced me to one of your friends that also drove a cab. By 5am we were all still out drinking and I realized I had a flight that morning, but wasn’t sure of the time. I tried to look up the flight confirmation email, but couldn’t find it. Finally, your friend put on his taxi-driver-hat and drove me to the airport, but got stopped by the police on the way there. I missed my flight.

    When I woke up in the morning my email was up on my iphone and i had been going through the “starred items” Weird.

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