Driving highlights

  • There’s a new traffic light at California and (upper) Stockton. It’s a real buzz-kill when you’re flying up or down California Street, but it’s a wonder there was never one before. This intersection splits 2 segments of California which both have grades over 15%.
  • I had a lot of coincidental run-ins with old friends and coworkers during my shifts. I saw old coworkers from the ad agency on the street two different times.

    I saw an old coworker from a startup, the first place I worked in the City. I was leaving the Presidio and saw him at a stop sign. I honked at him, but that just freaked him out. I followed him out of the Presidio as I was heading the same direction anyway. I sped up and passed him on Lombard, we both stopped at a red light and I honked some more. He was trying to ignore me — I would too if some crazy cab driver kept honking at me. He gave me a quick side-glance. When he saw it was me his eyes grew large with surprise. It was funny.

    I picked up a radio call around 3 am Tuesday morning. I pulled up to the residence, rang the bell and waited until a young couple came down and opened my van cab sliding door. To our collective surprise the young couple turned out to be my roommate and his girlfriend. What are the chances? (Answer: 1 in 150.) It was fun to chat with them, especially while my roommate was a bit inebriated. I gave them a free ride. (I owed them anyway — they gave me an airport fare a few months back.)

  • I have an unofficial policy to not pick up people who are clearly agitated or angry. This includes people yelling for a cab at a volume and emotional intensity far beyond the normal cry of “taxi!”

    So, it was with a fair bit of skepticism that I picked up a lady crying out for a cab in the Mission. Had it not been a bright, sunny Sunday I would never have picked her up. But, the Mission district overflows with activity on sunny weekend days, so I felt comfortable enough stopping. If anything was fishy there were plenty of people around.

    She jumped in my cab and immediately began to hyperventilate. She barely managed to get out a few words to tell me someone just tried to rob her. Wow. I went a block as she caught her breath and I calmly asked where she wanted to go. She was heading toward the projects on the south side of Potrero Hill.

    I wasn’t sure how to react to this. Admittedly, a part of me couldn’t believe it was happening. It was a bright day, there were tons of people around. Why would someone choose to rob her right now? But, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and kept driving toward Potrero. I was already feeling stressed from a long day as the traffic began to congeal, especially around the Mission. I was listening to classical 102.1 KDFC which usually soothes my nerves. I tried to present as serene of a space for her and me as possible. I closed my front windows, turned on the AC and shut out the outside world.

    She starts crying. Wow, I think. She looks stressed out. What happened?

    A few blocks later she has calmed enough to start talking. I don’t push, but I respond with supportive comments as she tells me the story. She sells drugs on the street. Her daughter was at church this morning so she figured she’d try to make a few hundred. (A few hundred in one morning? Wow, I’m in the wrong line of work.)

    She had sold to this guy a few times before. She went down an alley to do the transaction but he tried to jump her. She wouldn’t have it. She pushed him away and ran for it. She didn’t tell me if he hit her, ran after her or any other details. Suffice to say, she made it out okay.

    She kept saying, I can’t believe it! He would’ve taken everything! I would’ve had nothin’! It wasn’t until after I dropped her off that I realized what she was implying: if he took her cash AND her stash, she would not only have been robbed of her cash, she would still owe money for the stash she was selling. She would have been in the hole.

    When I dropped her at the entrance to the housing projects she expressed her deep thanks that I was willing to stop and pick her up. She gave me a big tip for the $8.50 fare but I gave a lot of it back and we called it $10. Part of me felt as though I didn’t really do anything, I just gave her a ride. I sure didn’t save her life, she had already managed that on her own. But, I guess I provided a safe and comfortable space for her in an urgent time of need.

  • I had some very rude passengers on Sunday morning. Some people tell me they assume this happens often in taxis, but really this has been pretty rare for me. Most people in my cab are at the core polite, if not also overtly kind and gracious.

    They were young — in their early 20s. They were from somewhere in the British Isles. They hopped in my cab and didn’t know where they were going. I was polite about this, but this was the start of my frustration with their behavior. They didn’t value my time or presence. They spent a few minutes calling their friends to figure out where the party was. They ventured out a guess and we started heading toward — “somewhere like 2nd or 3rd and Howard and Tehama and Minna? Does that sound right to you?”

    “Well you named a lot of streets, so I’m not exactly sure where you want to go, but I can head toward 2nd and Howard.”

    We start going a few blocks and one of the girls starts clamoring for cigarettes. “Can you stop someplace to get some cigarettes?”

    It didn’t appear that anyplace was open where we were South of Market at this late hour. “If we see an open smoke shop or liquor store on the way I’ll be happy to stop, but I’m not willing to wander around on an endless search.” I have tried this before and rude people, like them, will get angry that it costs so much to wander around and won’t be willing to pay. All they think about is finding a store, not of the cost. Then when they see how to much the meter adds up they get pissed. And, I was already tired of their aimlessness and wanted to let them go.

    Look people, I thought then and write now, I respect that you don’t know where you’re going and you want some cigarettes. I did my best to help you find your party when you didn’t know where it was. But, it’s really just not cool to jump in a cab without a destination and demand some cigarettes. Sort it out on your own, find a destination and THEN get in the cab. (I picked them up near the Tenderloin with plenty of open smoke shops.)

    They got very angry when I arrived at their destination (after doing a few illegal u-turns as they received refined destination data via text message from their friends) without finding a cigarette shop on the way. “Can you go pick a pack up and bring them back?”

    “No.”

    Wow, these people don’t even deserve such a long post, but they sure pissed me off.

  • Sunday and Monday were busy, busy days. A doctor convention of some sort just ended and Monday meant many of them were leaving the City, heading to the airport. Many cabs get soaked up in the City/airport run such that the regular morning rush is much busier than usual. (In other words, regular residents’ demand is constant, but supply of cabs is significantly decreased.) Monday I earned $300, my highest earning day ever.
  • I took a guy to work downtown and he gave me a $50 but thought it was a $20. I yelled back as he walked away when I realized the error. He gave me an extra $5 for letting him know. Thanks, dude.
  • I took a young couple to the airport on Monday morning. They gave me a big tip, saying that I was the safest driving cabbie they’d ever met in the City. Wow, that’s quite a compliment. Thanks, young couple.
  • I had a guy in my cab going from downtown to Potrero Hill. He was formerly an economic advisor on anti-trust cases. Unfortunately for him, I have a lot of strong feelings regarding anti-trust regulation and soap-boxed it for a few minutes. He didn’t know to respond. Note to self: less anti-trust regulation soap-boxing in the future.
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5 Responses to Driving highlights

  1. Ray says:

    I really like the story about you and the crying woman.

  2. kfarr says:

    Thanks, Ray. I didn’t realize until I wrote it all down how much of an impact it had on me.

  3. Ray says:

    Would it be OK to excerpt that part of the post on my blog and link back to yours?

  4. kfarr says:

    @Ray: Of course, no problem, excerpt whatever you please.

  5. Pingback: raypawulich.com » Better than ‘Taxicab Confessions’

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