Driving again

Chrysler 300C taxi

During my shifts this week:

  • I took an older lady and her daughter back from the hospital one morning. We dropped her daughter off at work first and then I took the lady to her home. When we got there she asked if she could ask a “personal question.” I said sure, no problem. She wondered if cab drivers “need” tips. She had paid one cab driver but he had refused a tip for some reason. I told her that the short answer is yes, we need tips. It’s not required but it makes a big difference in my pay. If I didn’t get any tips I wouldn’t make enough to drive a cab in the City. I’d have to find another job that pays more.
  • I took a rowdy group of 6 in my van back to their hotel from the Castro. For the first few minutes they had a loud internal debate about whether or not to go to the End Up after hours club. The deciders up front voted against it so we ended up going to the hotel instead.
  • The National Automobile Dealer Association held their 2008 convention in San Francisco. I had a number of convention-goer fares. Business was busy in the City, especially Monday when many people were heading to the airport to return home.
  • I had one very involved conversation with a vendor heading to the convention. He had created a chat-based lead generation service for dealership websites. He had recently formed the company after working in the auto CRM industry for a number of years. It was exciting to hear his experience starting the company from scratch.
  • I picked up a nice guy smoking a brown cigarette. I thought it was a clove but it turned out to be a hippie ‘natural’ cigarette. We had a nice chat about the chemical effects of alcohol, nicotene, caffeine, etc. A few days later I thought I saw him on Polk Street but didn’t know for sure. He nodded a non-committal nod as though he thought he might know me too. Afterward I thought, it’s funny, when I first started driving I invested a lot of processing thought on the people in my cab. I looked at their faces, thought a lot about our conversation, their destination, their clothes, etc. Now, I do that stuff but spend less brain ‘processing power’ on those tasks. I encounter so many people each week during my shifts that it just doesn’t make sense to commit all those faces explicitly into memory.
  • I had a lot of fares from bar and restaurant workers that head out an hour or two after the City-wide 2 am bar closing time. They are fun passengers. They’ve worked on their feet for many hours and are decompressing after what was often a busy and stressful shift. They’re usually sober unlike the other passengers at that time. And they tip really well. I guess it’s a combination of having so much cash on hand after a long shift and understanding the power of a nice tip. Thanks, bar and restaurant workers.
  • I picked up a transgender prostitute and her friend from the Tenderloin and took them both to their respective homes. At first I thought the friend was a customer, but he later expressed his (drunk) frustration at the apparent lack of non-transgender prostitutes in the City.
  • Sometimes we’ll get radio calls for cab drivers coming to the garage. This is a perfect way to make a few extra bucks when I’m returning to the garage at the end of my shift. I picked up a driver that had been working for our company since the late 70s. He said it took him about 20 years to earn his medallion. He still loves the job. He drives one of the fleet’s few Chrysler 300C models. They get poor gas mileage but he didn’t seem to mind. The acceleration of the 340hp engine is evidently worth the extra cost of gas.
  • I played around more with driving in the Financial District (City Center) during weekday business hours. The traffic is annoying, but there seemed to be plenty of street hails, especially as the lunch rush began. It was a good experience and as I learned which streets to avoid (for example, Montgomery Street with its excruciatingly long pedestrian-only traffic light cycle) I began to move around more quickly.
  • A catering company worker was standing out on the street downtown with a few bags of prepared food in the Financial and needed to go an office building South of Market to drop off the goods.

    I took him down there, we had a good conversation, and then he asked me to wait. I told him that I couldn’t do that. I knew how long these things can take. It takes forever to get to the right floor, you have to hunt for the office, then you have to put the food out in the right meeting room and find whoever the right person is to sign off on the paperwork (that’s assuming that they’re present) or hunt around for someone that will accept the liability of signing the paperwork. Then you can finally come back.

    I didn’t want to wait that long. In that time I could have found another fare and been off somewhere else. But, he insisted and I was a pushover so I said okay, but I have to run the meter for time while I wait. Five minutes later he is still a no show. I started to get antsy. I had already flipped the taxi radio back on and could hear orders flying by right around me that I was missing.

    He didn’t seem like a flight risk. He didn’t seem like the types I had seen in the past that ran out on bills. Flakes are usually very, very quiet. They avoid direct eye contact and often don’t have a clear destination. He didn’t have any of these traits.

    But, I didn’t think he shared my view of time. He didn’t seem to have an accurate understanding of how long his task would take nor did he clearly understand the cost to me nor the meter cost to him for waiting that long. I decided to wait five more minutes and then cut my losses. Five minutes later he still hadn’t come down and I took off. Sorry, buddy. I guess next time I need to be more forceful about not being willing to wait. Maybe I’ll give out my cell phone number and they can call me when they’re done. That’s probably best.

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