- My shift starts around midnight. I usually eat ‘breakfast’ around 1 or 2am if it’s slow. I’ll sit in line at the 18/Castro unofficial taxi stand, at the 24-Divisadero bus stop, and eat a slice of pizza for my first meal. This time an Indian guy came up to my cab, completely drunk, and demanded to know how to get to 9th and Mission.
I pointed in the cardinal direction and said, “It’s quite a bit that way, but I don’t think you’ll want to walk. Would you like directions?”
“I WANNA GO TO NINTH AND MISSION.”
“I understand. It’s that way.” I pointed, “Just walk up one block to Market, take a right, walk to Ninth, then take a right.”
“HOW DO I GET THERE?”
“I just told you. I’d be happy to drive you if you wish.”
“I DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY, CAN YOU STILL TAKE ME?”
“That’s not how this works. I’ll take you if you pay me.”
“AREN’T YOU GOING THAT WAY ANYWAY? CAN’T YOU JUST TAKE ME?”
“No. Go that way.” I pointed again.
- I picked up a lady in the Richmond and took her to a hospital in Pacific Heights for an appointment. I would guess she was around 75. She had lived in San Francisco all her life. Of course, I took that opportunity to chat about how the City had changed over the years, especially with regards to Muni. We talked at length about how Muni was one of the best public transportation systems in the USA, and perhaps the world, until its downfall when it merged with a private operator and the growth of the personal auto led to the progressive disintegration of the once-mighty San Francisco transit system.
- I received a radio call for a retirement community near Post and Geary. I showed up and there were many older ladies waiting for a cab. It turns out that their shuttle which normally takes them from the retirement home to the hospital wasn’t operating that day — the driver called in sick. So 3 older ladies stuffed in my cab and chatted about their healthcare plans, their doctor appointments for the day, and their respective doctors and specialists. It was an interesting insight into their lives.
- Monday was a slow day. I was looking at heading home with less than a hundred bucks, not a good performance relative to my historical Monday performances. But around 11 am, 2 hours before my shift ended that day, I answered a radio call which happened to be an airport. When I came back to the City I answered another radio call — it was an airport. Coming right back I answered a call on the highway — tough to do unless it’s crazy busy — it was another airport. It upped my total closer to $200. 3 airports in a row. Nice.
- I picked up 2 guys late Sunday from the Castro and took them to their downtown hotel. They were from the South, somewhere in Louisiana. One of them complained to his companion at long lengths regarding the lack of attractive and nice guys in San Francisco, a severe disappointment considering the City’s LGBT reputation. When I pulled up to their hotel and turned on the interior lights so they could pay, they exclaimed, “Finally! The one cute guy in San Francisco!” I realize they were rather drunk, but I really appreciated the compliment which seemed genuine.
- Late, late on a dead Monday night (Tuesday morning), say around 4 am, I picked up 2 guys in the Castro heading back to their place in the Outer Mission. They were a bit high and talked about freaking out while high in cabs and the importance of having a good connection or ‘feeling’ with the driver.
I understood exactly what they meant. I had a bad cab experience with my friend once. We were coming home from the Mission back to his place in Pacific Heights. We were both quite tipsy and a bit high and the combination of both made us wary of the driver. He took a very odd route, which I realize in retrospect was technically the shortest distance but was extremely slow. The driver spoke poor English and didn’t explain his actions or his route. We felt as though we lost control. Those feelings mixed with alcohol and marijuana become severely exacerbated.
I strive to make my passengers as comfortable and ‘in-control’ as possible. I confirm the destination as we depart and finally when approaching. I confirm the route and offer options if there are clear decisions between speed and cost. Most of the time they’ll say, “It doesn’t matter, whatever works for you.” But, I’m convinced that even if they say it doesn’t matter, just having that option makes people feel so much more comfortable and ‘in-control’. And, as a driver, that makes me feel much safer and more comfortable.
These guys agreed.
- On tipping: I get pretty good tips. I am constantly surprised by the disparity of tipping between people. It is tough to predict. I really appreciate tips when it’s slow in the City, if I’ve provided a good, safe and comfortable ride if you have the cash. But, if you’re short on money I understand. I don’t feel offended when guys or gals that are late and head for a part-time or hourly paying job don’t have the extra cash to tip, especially if they’re polite and treat me well. I’ll round down when I give them change and sometimes, if it’s been a good day, say no tip is necessary (especially when it’s a cross-town trip).
- I took a lady downtown to work from her Pac Heights apartment at the peak of morning rush hour. I was worried that she would be frustrated by the traffic, especially as Bush Street approaches Battery and it crawls. But, we spent the time talking politics. Obama vs. Hillary. Should Nader even run? Did Ron Paul have some good ideas?
I realized as I dropped her off that she was helping ME deal with the frustration of the traffic. It didn’t seem to affect her. (It’s not like she was in the car for the 9 hours preceding.) Thanks, lady.
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