Going with the flow

taxi at night

I drove 33 hours during the past 3 days. During my shifts:

  • I began to truly enjoy my graveyard (12am – 11am) shift. I whined at first because I didn’t retain a normal sleep schedule. Now I’m starting to realize this is a great shift for this time of year when there are few tourists. I get two cab ‘rush hours’: bar closing and morning work. Both are lucrative in their own ways: bar closing brings good drunk tippers while the morning rush brings frequent fares and usually at least one well-paying airport run. It can’t replace the summer level of take-home pay that ranged between $200 and $250, but I can usually take home between $150 and $200. Not bad for the worst tourist month of the year.
  • I started to explore the seedy Tenderloin area of town when fares dry up between the post-bar rush but before the morning rush (3-5 am). It’s a little scary, but perhaps because of its seedy nature there are plenty of people that need cabs as they need the safety and speed of a cab to get out of there. I had a few interesting encounters in this area.
  • I was driving around 4am around O’Farrell and Larkin and a homeless guy was hailing me. Sometimes beggars hail cabs for others, often against their wishes, and demand a ‘tip’ for hailing the cab. I figured it was something like this, so I swung around the corner to Larkin where he was pointing and there was a super-well dressed guy being practically assaulted by a beggar aggressively asking for money. It seemed like something out of a movie: he jumped in the van and slammed the sliding door shut while shouting “Head for the Marina!” I didn’t realize until later that night that I had picked him up from a seedy strip club.
  • I swung a little too fast around a corner near Ellis and Hyde around 4 or 5 am and saw a Mexican guy trying to hail a cab from the bus stop. I stopped short and reversed back. He jumps in the van — and so do 2 of his friends who I didn’t see at first. I was startled. I hadn’t realized there were 3 of them and they all jumped in my cab very quickly, and one of them jumped in the front. Their demeanor wasn’t menacing, but it didn’t immediately comfort me either. They asked that I head toward the Mission. For the first time driving a cab I felt very scared for a few blocks. I wasn’t sure if they were trustworthy, and in their drunken state they weren’t able to reassure me very quickly. As we worked to overcome the English/Spanish barrier it was clear that these were just a few drunk guys going home after a long day of work and a night of partying. The guy in the front seat was in a nice drunk/chatty mood and we talked about our respective jobs. He works in Fisherman’s Wharf as a busser. They gave me a good tip. I know, it’s bad to judge a book by its cover. But at 4 am in the Tenderloin I think it’s prudent to be cautious.
  • The drunk ‘rush hour’ lasts from around 1:30 to 2:30 or 3. The drunk rush hour is nice because you can usually find fares anywhere in the City. If you’re out in the Richmond, just take Geary back in and you’ll find some exiles from the Irish bars. If you’re in the Sunset, snake back through 9/Irving or the Upper Haight. If you drop off in the Tendernob, just keep going downtown and you’ll usually find a fare coming out of the diners or a club that just closed.
  • After dropping off a nice, drunk couple in North Beach to get some pizza during drunk rush hour I snaked back through the Financial, planning to run through Union Square/Tenderloin on the way back to the Castro. To my surprise I found a guy waiting at 2:30am for a cab right on Montgomery, just having finished work for the day. It was his birthday. His work friends kept pestering him all day to finish quickly so they could go out and celebrate. But, he kept messing up his work while trying to finish things too fast. He worked as an investment banker. We talked about our respective jobs. He liked that I only work three days per week. I like that he is paid 4 times more than me. The grass is always greener?
  • In the late morning around 11 am I picked up a guy from the Upper Haight and took him to his home less than a mile away. He was clearly inebriated which I found to be an intriguing puzzle. He was definitely at the level of 10+ units of alcohol (a pint is a bit more than 2 units). I thought, how had he reached this point at such an hour? He didn’t appear to be a vagrant; he was obviously going home to a moderately priced rental unit, so he had to have a steady stream of income which indicates some sort of job. He also seemed very alert and didn’t appear to have recently slept. My guess was he worked the night shift and boozed it up when his shift ended. Sounds like fun to me. Maybe I should try that sometime.
  • The City was rainy Tuesday morning which brought about a lot of quick trips between downtown destinations. One passenger was an seismic engineer. He consults with architects and developers working on large downtown buildings in the City. I quizzed him about a hot topic: are buildings like 1 Rincon Hill a danger to our City given the high chance of an earthquake? (Many opponents of the ‘Manhattanization’ of the City claim that we shouldn’t build tall buildings because they’ll pose a great risk during an earthquake.) His answer: nope. Not a concern. If a building is structured appropriately for the specific location and specific ground type upon which it’s built, it should not pose a significant danger. Take that, hippie conservatives. You’ll have to find a better argument for holding our City back from economic growth.
  • Another passenger was around my age and looking for a new job, hopefully as an online website ad rep. I found this to be an odd employment goal, given my frustrations dealing with these sorts of people while working as a online ad media buyer for an agency, but I decided to be polite and supportive and suggested a few companies to apply to that I found to be good to work with.
  • This week I made a strong effort to go to bed very early and get 7 or 8 hours of sleep before each shift. I noticed a big improvement in my earnings and my state of mind. Instead of ‘fighting’ with the flow of passengers to earn more money, I felt more prepared to ride the wave and figure out where was best to find fares given the time of day. It’s a slow process but I’m getting better and better at going with the flow and accepting what comes forward.
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