Driving highlights

I only worked 2 days this week as I had an interview during my regular Tuesday shift.

  • The City was busy, especially Monday morning. The 2008 RSA Security conference started Monday at Moscone Center. I was surprised to hear a piece about it on NPR that morning. The City is building anticipation for the Olympic Torch procession Wednesday. San Francisco is the only North American stop for the torch. Finally, the San Francisco Giants held their home opener Monday afternoon, bringing a lot of fans from the region and beyond into the City.
  • I answered a radio call Monday midday on Russian Hill. I picked up a dad and his young son. They were headed toward the Ferry building for lunch with family friends before heading to the game.

    Stereotyping, the Blackberry wielding dad was the sort of guy I would pick up at 4 or 5 am to take to work in the Financial District — constantly busy and heavily invested in work. I was happy to see he took the day off to spend it with his son. Also happy was his son.

    Some customers inspire me to drive quickly. If a passenger is clearly in a hurry, or if I don’t get a good vibe, I’ll attempt to reach our destination as quickly as possible. Some customers inspire me to drive safely. All young passengers and most elderly passengers inspire me to take extra care, above and beyond that which I would exhibit were I the only passenger in the car.

    It was with that spirit that I drove leisurely down Jones to make a left on California toward the Ferry Building. I could have gone faster snaking around to the Broadway Tunnel, or maybe even winding up over Telegraph Hill, but this was the simplest route.

    With each and every passenger, even those for whom I drive with an extra degree of safety, I always have a general feeling that we need to reach our destination in a reasonably quick period of time.

    Thanks to our young passenger, this was the first time when I felt external pressure to NOT reach our destination quickly. This was the first time I came to believe that perhaps humans aren’t inherently tuned to a sense of external time and that, perhaps, this is learned behavior in present day society. Unfortunately, this learned external pressure of time weighs down on each of my fares as I seek to maximize my earnings and they to maximize their day.

    This young man was all eyes on the world around us, the world of his father, and the upcoming baseball game. He was already maximizing his day.

    To his father, “Will we ‘talk baseball’ soon?”
    To his son, “Sure, we can talk baseball whenever you like.”
    “Will there be donuts at the baseball game?”
    “Maybe not donuts, but I bet they’ll have cotton candy.”
    “Will Aunt and Uncle So-and-So join us at the Ferry Building?”
    “You bet! That’s why we’re going.”

    At the intersection of Jones and California I felt for one moment the pure and intense positive energy he exuded. The only Radiohead song I like played softly on the aging Chrysler minivan speakers. We waited silently at an extended red traffic signal as the California line cable car preempted our cycle. Tourists looked through digital camera viewfinders toward the expansive view and historic landscape. Dozens of cars whipped perpendicularly by four times faster than the cable car. Old chinese ladies and young white yuppies walked up and down California. A San Francisco Fire Department ambulance wailed by and drowned out the music, again preempting our green light cycle and extending this moment of bliss a minute longer.

    Thanks, father and son.

  • I witnessed a police chase early Sunday morning.

    I was heading south on Mission just after 23rd Street. Having no passenger, I hugged the right hand of two lanes tightly, choosing curb proximity over speed in the customary fare-hunting position.

    This habitual curb hunting proved a safe bet as in my rearview mirror a 1990’s era Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle with illegal front tinting and a noticeably lowered suspension quickly approached. While my emotional speedometer would estimate he was going 80 mph, my rational speedometer suggests he was closer to 60 mph, still an extremely dangerous speed to run red lights along Mission which has heavy pedestrian and vehicular cross traffic frequently granted right-of-way across the four lane boulevard.

    The driver of the Ford Explorer was barely able to maintain vehicular stability as he turned left on 24th Street from Mission. Following two blocks behind were two black and white Ford Crown Victorias, both fitted with flashing light emitting diodes and wailing sirens. The operators of these Fords were official agents of the State, encouraged and authorized to apprehend persons driving at dangerous speeds by pursuing at dangerous speeds.

    They followed left on 24th Street, as did I. Two more Ford Crown Victorias soon passed me, coming north along mission and turning so quickly on 24th Street that I barely had time to get out of the way.

    I thought to myself, should not the Ford Motor Company feel a tinge of pride that its vehicles were the sole stars of this dangerous soap opera? I also thought, should not the State pursue safer methods of non-safe driver apprehension that do not involve State agents mirroring this same unsafe driving behavior?

    I also thought, what’s the chance that the Chronicle will report this? (They didn’t.) I think now, perhaps they just don’t report things that happen on Sundays? Or, maybe, they just don’t report things that involve the jeopardization of safety for the City’s lower income residents?

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