Here’s a summary of my cab shifts from last weekend.
- I picked up an older guy from the Kaiser. I’d guess he was 60+. I have a hard time judging ages, especially those +/-5 years from mine.
He was heading back to his home in the Castro near the Seward Street slides.
He’s gay. We talked a bit about that, especially about the recent hubbub surrounding legalization of gay marriages in California. “What’s the big deal?” he responded. “I lived with my partner for 40 years until he recently passed away. We didn’t need marriage to consummate our partnership.”
He was still very affected by the recent passing of his partner. I acknowledged this sadness, but worked around it so it didn’t dominate our conversation.
I prodded him and he spoke at length about the history of the Castro and gay bars around the City. Much to my surprise he mentioned the Castro as a gay neighborhood is a relatively recent invention. 50+ years earlier he remembered the Polk gulch as being the centerpiece of gay nightlife in the City.
I live near the middle Polk neighborhood, so the rather prevalent gay venues I noticed in the area started to make more sense. From the Cinch gay bar to a gay photographer’s retail outlet near the Walgreen’s, Polk street still retains a lot of its gay heritage.
My passenger continued to explain that upper Haight was the next stop on the tour, hosting a number of gay bars up through the 70s. The Castro as a gay haven developed most recently.
We talked a bit about politics too. He was a huge Hillary supporter and rather worried about the seemingly ubiquitous Obama mania taking hold of young folks in the City.
I was most impressed with his involvement in the gay community. He founded and continues to volunteer as a coach for a gay softball league. He did a few other community service things which I can’t remember now since I procrastinated a week to write this damn post.
He admitted he was quite lonely with the recent passing of his partner, but his community involvement provides a wonderful and much needed regular social connection.
I enjoyed our conversation and his willingness to openly share his emotional state and his knowledge of City history, especially with regards to gay culture.
- I took a Chinese family to the Excelsior/Outer Mission district. As is usual with fares heading this way, I had no idea where I was going. Their limited English was effective, but difficult to parse at times. I had a few good natured laughs to myself as I asked things like, “Should I turn right up here?” only to be answered with, “No! No! Turn this way!” as they pointed right.
- I took a bunch of lawyers from the Hall of Justice to their office in the Financial District.
A couple things struck me as funny: as I was driving a van, the lawyers piled in. Thus, the vehicle held passengers whose combined yearly salaries most likely exceed $2,000,000. Yet, they entrust their expensive earning potential lives in the hands of unknown drivers. This is yet another good argument in favor of permitting of taxi drivers.
I also found it worth noting that this $2 million taxi headed back through the Tenderloin, where we pass by pedestrians who make less in a year than the lawyers make in a day.
- I picked up another older guy from the Kaiser. He was in a happy, happy mood, having just been let ‘out of jail’.
He was in the Kaiser for 12 days. He complained at length about the TVs in the hospital, claiming they only featured Spanish speaking channels. It seemed odd to me, but he insisted it was all over the hospital — all Kaiser hospital TVs only have Spanish speaking channels. Who knew?
- Sometimes I really, really have to pee, but I see people hailing. “I can’t pass up a fare!” I say.
So I take them to their destination. Then I really, really, really have to pee. If I again encounter someone hailing before I can find a restroom, I’ll pick ’em up.
Then, I really, really, really, really have to pee.
I reached the four-‘really’-pee-alert level, but luckily no one was hailing as I sped toward the nearby Hyatt Regency and felt much better.
- I picked up a Dutch family who had called for a vancab at their Fish Wharf hotel to head toward the airport.
Funny enough, they had just come from Indiana. The younger son of the family had just finished a yearlong exchange program at a high school in Fort Wayne.
We shared tales of our enjoyment and frustrations with Indiana life. We compared transportation options in Indiana, San Francisco and the Netherlands. The Netherlands win. SF is runner-up. Indiana didn’t even get an honorable mention.
- I picked up a lady Tuesday mid-morning heading to her downtown job with a large piece of luggage. She mentioned she was heading toward the Oakland Airport later, what time should she get a cab? Did I want to take her? Based on her flight time, I thought she probably wouldn’t leave before my shift was over, so I told her to call dispatch and arrange a cab. But, when she called dispatch they suggested she get a cab quite early, early enough for me to have taken her.
Hmm, I thought, this sucks. I could have gotten an easy $60 fare. So, I noted the cab appointment time in my head and planned on swinging by her office around that time when it was dispatched over the radio.
Unfortunately I was a bit late from another fare. Another cab from our company was loading her luggage as I approached.
But, here’s the funny thing: I ended up making more money in the 1 hour that remained in my shift than if I had gone to OAK. I wondered, does this happen more often than I realize? Maybe airport runs aren’t as lucrative as I thought? Closer to the truth, perhaps since it often takes so long to get BACK from the Oakland Airport it’s not really a super-great deal. Sure, if it’s early and quiet in the City, and traffic isn’t bad, an OAK run is great. But, late-morning, midday OAK runs may not be as lucrative as expected. Noted.
- I picked up a couple at the top of Nob Hill heading out to a performance of the Stern Grove Festival. They were fun.
After a few blocks, the guy asked me if he could open a beer in the cab. Of course! (It’s legal in San Francisco for passengers to drink alcohol in taxicabs.) He knew it was legal, but was politely asking as some drivers still frown on the practice. I don’t care unless the passengers are openly drunk already.
They were Frenchies from Paris and we chatted a lot. Even with their prodding I was to embarrassed to speak much in French, but I understood them well enough. They were very encouraging and suggested I check out a wine bar on Polk where Frenchies regularly congregate.
We also realized that we’re both neighbors — we both live in Nob Hill.
This got me thinking: do I serve my neighborhood more than other cabbies? Probably yes. Is this a bad thing? Probably not.
In the mornings Nob/Russian Hills are good spots for fare roaming. Radio orders and street hails are frequent. Many other cabbies hunt there as well.
After 9 or 10am the Hills aren’t as busy. Sure, there are still orders, but other sections of the City start to light-up too, like downtown and even outer neighborhoods like the Richmond and Sunset. But, there’s something alluring to come back to my home neighborhood. It’s comfortable; I can dash in and go pee or get something to drink at home; I know the streets very well; I know where people queue for Muni lines off the beaten path; I know which Muni stops are likely to coagulate with annoyed, waiting passengers; I know where the rich folk are likely to hail; I know where tourists defect from the cable car mid-line stops.
Perhaps most rewarding, it’s nice to meet my neighbors.
Just want to say that you are a very nice writer. I like your style and voice. Thanks much for all these posts.