Driving highlights

It was a tough weekend.

  • It was slow Monday and Tuesday in the City.

    I am learning, albeit slowly, to let go of the natural feelings of elated success or critical failure that come from a high or low earning day. This is important.

    While there are many factors over which I have control — the areas of town where I roll around seeking street fares or radio fares, the speed with which I drive, the choice of van or car, whether or not to sit in hotel or airport taxi queues — the most important factor that determines my earnings is outside of my control: demand for taxicabs during a given shift.

    I think it is a natural human thought process shortcut to overly attribute successes or failures of a given activity to yourself.

  • On a rather quiet Tuesday morning I ambled around in the Marina around 9:30 after the morning rush was over. I answered a radio call in the deep Marina near Broderick and Chestnut.

    I searched out the address and was surprised and happy to realize it was the same elderly lady I had picked up a few weeks ago. She regularly heads out to the UC hospital on the other side of town for continuing physical therapy related to a leg injury.

    Her injury makes it difficult for her to descend the many stairs in front of her apartment. I accompany her down the stairs with patience while we start to converse. She is blessed with an endlessly spunky wit.

    Occasionally people make requests to stop and pick something up. Sometimes it’s a quick trip to the ATM, absolutely necessary and in my own interest, of course. Sometimes it’s a quick stop to get something and return back to where we started, that’s good too as it’s a quick double fare.

    But, sometimes it’s a frustrating waste of my time. I earn less while sitting in place than in motion, even as the meter ticks up for idle time. I accept quick shopping requests (“I just want to grab a water, newspaper, cigarettes, etc.”) with apprehension, sometimes denying them depending on a variety of variables (remaining distance to end destination, total fare, politeness of request, their understanding of my time and perceived willingness to tip appropriately, current City demand for taxis).

    So, when this nice lady asked to stop to get a cup of coffee I was torn. I couldn’t say no, she was too nice. And, the City wasn’t busy at all. And, she was actually a lot of fun to hang out with. And, there was a surreal sense of humor in the whole situation. And, she has a really hard time walking right now so the least I can do is help her get a cup of coffee.

    She takes a few minutes to get down the stairs and climb in the cab. We head around the corner to the ‘coffee shop’ which turns out to be a liquor store which also serves coffee and donuts in the morning. Wow, not what I expected, especially considering San Francisco is the coffee shop capital of the world.

    She tells me, “Just ask for Margaret’s coffee and they’ll know how to make it.”

    I head in and ask Robert behind the counter, “Can you help me get Margaret’s special coffee?” For the record, Margaret’s special coffee is 1/3 half and half and 2/3 coffee. I also get her a chocolate donut per request. I am smiling throughout this experience, finding humor in every element from her innocent, yet absolutely clear breakfast demands to Robert’s deep rooted understanding of Margaret’s more than 20-year history of coffee needs.

    Freshly caffeinated, Margaret directs me on our previously worn path toward the UC hospital via the Presidio. As before, it was pleasant and relaxing. I quizzed her throughout the trip about her past — where she was born, what brought her to the City and the evolution of her life in the City.

    She didn’t have any paratransit scrips left, so she wasn’t able to tip as much as she would have liked paying in cash. The difficulty with which she parted with an extra dollar after paying the fare was tip enough.

    Thanks, lady. Hope to see you again.

  • The Muni Metro broke down around 10 am Tuesday morning. It didn’t last very long, but it was long enough to instantly increase demand for taxicabs.

    At moments like these I (and stranded City residents) realize the amazing service provided by a properly functioning City taxi fleet: it is a last resort safety net, always around 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, providing emergency transportation solutions. Wow.

    Somewhat related, I took a break and went in for coffee and a bagel at It’s a Grind, one of my favorite neighborhood coffee chains. I chatted a bit with one of the employees and they complained a bit about the morning rush.

    Complaints? About the morning rush? Wow, what an opposite (literally opposite) view on the morning rush compared to mine. As I am paid directly on performance, a fare, which could otherwise be called ‘work’, is a desirable item. A fare may be ‘work’, but I view it as money in my pocket. Contrast that to an hourly worker at the coffee shop who gets paid regardless of how many customers come in the door. Each additional customer is more work, no additional pay.

    In the world of hourly compensation additional customers are a pain. Weird.

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One Response to Driving highlights

  1. Ray says:

    Another good one. I have the feeling that you will look back on your taxi-driving years as a very spiritual period in your life.

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