Driving in the City is beautiful.

I eeked by on Sunday with my lowest Sunday earnings in a long, long time — only $87. This was offset by better than usual earnings Monday and Tuesday, both over $170 (over average).

  • I notice that fares run together in my memory more than before. I’m not sure of the cause. Do I pay less attention to customers? Am I becoming the cab driver that can chat up any customer without really listening to what they’re saying? (No, I don’t think so, but I still worry about it.)

    Maybe I start to see the same patterns of people over and over. What sets one business commuter apart from the other?

    Or, maybe I’m now waiting too long after my shifts to write these posts. (It’s probably that.)

  • Late mornings and early afternoons the Kaiser calls are off the hook — 2, 3 or 4 orders waiting for cabs, most of them armed with City paratransit scrips, ready to spend a nice clip going across town. I like Kaiser calls.

    The dispatchers call those orders as “Geary and Divis.” Or, when there are too many, they simply say “2 [3, 4] times for the Kaiser” or “Kaiser calling back.” Good times to be a cab driver in the City.

    I picked up a guy Monday from the Kaiser. He was older, extremely tall and moved slowly but precisely. When he walked it looked like a slow motion film. A 30 frames per second video played back at 20 fps.

    He was black but with rather light skin and noticeable freckles. But, his defining feature was his glasses. They were perfectly round, thick plastic frames. He wore classy khaki pants, a sports jersey and a dress shirt. He had great style.

    When he sat down in the cab he handed me a twenty. “That’s your tip.” Making the assumption that is best to be made in such situations, I assumed he meant, “That will cover the fare plus your tip.” People do that sometimes.

    He gave his destination neither as a request nor as a command. Just a statement of truth. A fact. Our destiny, as sure as the sun would set tonight and rise tomorrow. “We’re going to make a stop at the Cala [Grocery store at California and Hyde] and then back to my apartment at [address].”

    As I’ve said many times before, I don’t normally enjoy waiting. I have a well-founded propensity toward constant motion as I usually earn more while in motion than waiting, even if the meter ticks up for time at $0.45/minute. But, I didn’t argue. He seemed set in our path.

    We pull into the Cala and he gets out. I try to relax. I’m getting better at it, even in these situations where math constantly ticks through my head calculating how much money I’m losing while waiting for this guy to scan through the frozen food aisles.

    What I perceive to be minutes later (but is probably just a minute later) I turn around and look in the store. Maybe I’ll see him grabbing something from the impulse aisle so we can keep going. He’s still outside. Searching for a cart. He hasn’t even entered Cala. I try to relax again. Of course, the meter is still running.

    I listen to some NPR. I flip around from one NPR station to the other. Ralph Nader’s on KALW. Interesting enough.

    15 minutes later I blow my top. This is insane. The meter’s up to $15. I grab a cab receipt and write down my phone number, grab his medicine from the back seat and $5 change for his $20.

    I find him in the Cala in the frozen food section. But, I couldn’t maintain my anger at him. Restated, I couldn’t direct my anger toward him. It just wouldn’t go. I just wanted to laugh. Actually, I wanted to help him shop. Maybe things would go faster. And, he shared my taste in food. Frozen popcorn shrimp, nice! “There are things at this Cala I just can’t get anywhere else in the City.” Tell me about it.

    I said, “Look sir, you’re really nice and all but I really can’t wait this long. I need to find other fares. Here’s your change from the meter, your medicine, and a card with my number. Call me when you’re done and I’ll pick you up.”

    “Oh no, don’t give me any change, that’s your tip. I’ll pay you whatever’s on the meter. I’ll just be another few minutes.” Oh, really? Now the numbers tip in his favor. And, to his credit, his Cala cart was approaching capacity. “Okay, I can wait a few more minutes.”

    A few Nader tirades later and he finally emerges from Cala. “Thanks for waiting,” he said, “It’s hard to get cab drivers to wait for me to do my shopping. That’s the last thing on my list for the week. Now I can relax the rest of the week.”

    I took him a few more long blocks up to his Nob Hill apartment. He paid me another $30. “Woah, sir, you’ve paid me 50 bucks. This is a lot. Are you sure you’re okay with that? I have no problem giving you some change.”

    “No, no, take it, you were very helpful. I’ve done everything on my list.”

    I thanked him profusely and finally said what was on my mind, “You have some awesome glasses.”

  • I picked up an Indian guy and his girlfriend from the CalTrain station on Tuesday. I don’t think they take cabs often.

    He asked, “We are going downtown, are you going that way?”

    I wasn’t trying to be smart, but this just popped out of my mouth, “That’s not really how it works. I’m a cab driver, I’ll go wherever you tell me.” They told me to go downtown.

  • I scored an Oakland Airport fare off the street from 555 Market, the site of my former office job. Karma?
  • I dropped a guy and his elderly mom off at her retirement home from one of the hospitals. She was a bit out of it, so he was handling her paratransit scrips. He wasn’t sure where to sign and I pointed to the line and said, “Just fill in this field here. Did I just say field? I’m not even sure what the proper word is.” You see, I’ve been working a website quite a bit in my spare time.
  • I picked up a bouncer from a downtown club Tuesday morning. He had finished his graveyard shift and was heading home to his NoPa apartment. He talked about work. He worked a lot. 7 days a week. He made a lot of money. He spends it all.

    I felt like asking him, does that really make you happy? Do you like working 7 days a week? Why not just spend less and work 4 days a week? Or 3?

    I’m proud to share that I’m living below my means, (finally) paying off my credit card, and working only 3 days per week. I earn about $25k per year and live in one of the most expensive cities in North America. My secret? I don’t buy things. (Nor do I have kids.)

    I didn’t feel it appropriate to lecture him though. I think it’s a lesson people have to learn for themselves. Of course, I have no problem lecturing you on this blog.

  • I picked up a guy from a nice SOMA apartment building heading to SFO. We had a fun chat about politics, Obama and the state of the Union. As I dropped him at the terminal he said, “I’m glad I had you as a driver. I always like your cab company, you have good drivers.” Thanks.
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