This weekend the City hosted its annual Bay to Breakers run. Bay to Breakers (B2B) is a 7 mile run through the heart of San Francisco. B2B starts from the east (bay) side of the City at the Embarcadero and runs directly west toward the ocean (breakers) side of the City.
B2B cuts through many varied City neighborhoods, starting with SOMA, briefly touching the edge of the Tenderloin on the way through Hayes Valley, Western Addition, straddling the panhandle around NOPA/Upper Haight and concluding through Golden Gate Park which separates the westernmost Richmond and Sunset districts.
B2B is more than a run. It attracts a large party crowd drawn primarily from the City’s ample yuppie supply. Party goers slowly trail the legit runners dressed in costumes and fueled solely by alcohol despite the race’s early start time.
Last year I ran the race (unofficially) to see what all the hoopla was about. It was a blast. I woke up late but caught the race halfway through the City around Hayes Valley. I continued to run westward past and through the crowds of partiers. I was amazed at two things: a) the size of the crowd, and b) the important streets which the City closed completely during this event. Returning this year as a cab driver on the race day, I was hit hard by the impact of point b.
Between 8 and 10am the north and south ends of the City were completely severed save for Park Presidio on the far west side of the City and (eventually) the Embarcadero on the far east side of the City. This caused a great deal of frustration for non-race goers attempting to go about their normal Sunday business.
- Having worked a number of City event days in the past, I knew a van would be a big asset. I was lucky to get a van as I requested from the cashier.
- Before the race began, therefore before street closures, my passengers were a mix of hung-over partiers returning to their places after spending a night with a ‘special friend’ and folks going to work annoyed at the lack of Muni service on some key lines. (A normal Sunday crowd.)
Soon after 6am I started taking a number of people from their homes to other homes for ‘pre-partying’ and soon after I took many more groups to the start of the race course. Between 6 and 7am the City’s aggregate demand for cabs exceeded available supply. Demand did not return below supply at any point during my shift — an exceedingly rare event for a Sunday day shift.
- After the race began, I was ‘stuck’ on the north side of the City. Given the extremely high demand for cabs, either side would be an okay side to be ‘stuck’ on. But, the north side of the City holds the majority of housing for the yuppie contingency, so this was a good place to be.
- While stuck on the north side of the City, I picked up an older lady with very limited English from the St. Francis Hospital. She asked me to go south of Market a few blocks further south than would be possible given the race street closings.
I did my best to clearly explain to her that this would simply not be possible. I even used a nice visual aid provided by the cab company — a map of the race route like above. This didn’t phase her. Oh well, I thought, as soon as we get closer she’ll get the picture.
We crossed Market on 5th and approached Mission at which point the crowds and street closure at Howard was plainly visible, if for no other reason than the haze of red brake lights blocking our path.
I stated the obvious, “This is as far as we can go. I’ll have to let you out here.”
She was not happy. “I need to go to Folsom!” I first tried polite reasoning which soon escalated into more blunt statements. “Look, lady, it’s not going to happen. You have to get out here and walk the rest of the way.” (It was just 2 blocks south.) I figured her sole human form would have a significantly higher chance of crossing the path of running humans than a blue hulk of taxi metal crashing through police barriers.
She protested for about a minute. I’ll let you know that a minute is a very long time in a City where there were hundreds of street hails calling out to me at this very second. (Like Superman’s super-ability to hear dames in distress, I could hear calls of ‘Taxi’ crying out in pain across the City.) She finally accepted her fate and I moved on.
- I found my next street hail in less than 10 seconds. A nun urgently needed to get from 5th and Mission to 30th and Mission, far south of our present location, to be the church representative for some sort of concrete pouring on a construction project.
Despite her niceness and her lifelong dedication to God, her reasoning skills were questionable which became more and more evident as we attempted to get around the race. “You want me to drive the entire length of the race course until we find an opening?” I said. I thought, this may not be a good idea.
“I think the only opening right now is Park Presidio on the far, far west side of the City.” I thought, do you have an understanding of the cost of this circuitous cab ride? About 3 minutes into the ride she revealed she only had $10 to pay me. By this time we were at Van Ness.
What was she thinking? In retrospect I don’t think she was thinking very clearly at all. I had to call this off. We stopped near the race path at Hayes. I suggested she attempt to walk across the race path and hail a cab or find a continuing Muni line at that point.
She thanked me and paid me for the fare. I was on autopilot — the meter read a fare and I accepted payment for that fare. In retrospect I feel quite shameful that I took her money. Obviously, the best thing for her to do would have been to take BART. Why didn’t I think of that before? She seemed very clear in her intent to have me find a magical break in the race that was obviously not there.
I should have been more forceful in my initial questioning of her questionable plan. I should not have accepted her payment. She should not have asked to go on a cab ride significantly above her ability to pay. We’ll do it better next time.
- Continued on the next post…