Day Cabbie

San Francisco taxi stories from one of the very rare female drivers

You don't know what you have until it's (almost) gone

On June 12 I had a very small accident while driving a taxi: I backed into a parked car when leaving a retirement community I had just dropped people off at and was now going to drive another old couple to a doctor's appointment. Luckily the woman whose car I hit came out of the building right after I hit it, so I was able to exchange information with her. From my training I remembered that I had to report any accident, no matter how small, to the taxi company, or I could lose my lease. What I didn't remember from my training was that I had to call for an accident investigator to come to the scene before I did anything else. Since I already had two new passengers in my car who were eager to go to their doctor's appointment, I exchanged information with the woman whose car I hit and then took my passengers and left. I then drove another lady somewhere else, and THEN I returned to the taxi company and said "I had an accident." That's when I found out that I was in trouble.

I was told that before my next shift I would have to speak with the general manager of the taxi company. I was pretty sure that she would give me a break because she is happy to have another female driver (we are very rare). But of course there was the chance that I would lose my lease due to a violation of one of the company's accident reporting rules.

There was a part of me that thought that losing my lease would be a blessing in disguise, and that that's what I actually wanted. It's a pain in the ass to get up so damn early to drive men in suits and bad moods to their jobs in the Financial District. It's a pain in the ass to make $10 an hour, including tips, on a good day. It's a pain in the ass to arrive at that crummy office under the freeway with the crummy-smelling bathroom and have male cab drivers either check me out or try to patronize me. It's a pain in the ass to drive a crappy car with 300,000 miles and 100 other cab drivers' sweat and tears on it. It's a pain in the ass to risk getting into another accident. It's a pain in the ass to owe the cab company $96 every single Monday and Friday. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to lose this pain in the ass job.

But that was not true actually. It would have sucked to lose this pain in the ass job. Because despite its annoyances, I love driving a taxi. As soon as I start picking people up and dropping people off and talking to them and hearing their stories, I forget all about the crummy bathroom and the crummy car I'm in and the crummy looks from other cab drivers. When I'm driving from point A to point B and chatting with passenger C about his boss or cancer survival, I remember why I'm doing this. I'm doing this for the people. And with that I present to you some of my favorite cab driving moments so far:

- When the young gay boy told me that he was on his way to Carl's Jr. were he works, to meet with his boss and his boss' boss because his boss had called him a faggot and his boss' boss didn't want him to press charges, and when the young gay boy told me that he really hopes for a happy ending because he really loves his job at Carl's Jr.
- When the black woman let out a sigh of relief after having taken off her shoes and then said "This is better than sex!"
- When the lady with the heavy Mexican accent got into my car first thing in the morning and said "This is for you!" and handed me an energy bar.
- When the three women from Indiana or some other faraway state asked me to stop at Starbucks and asked if they could get me a coffee or anything.
- When the guy with the British accent got into my car and said "Wow! This is great! You're smiling!" and would not stop talking about what a delightful and friendly driver I was.
- When the old lady told me that the cute green house in the Castro I dropped her off at had cost her and her husband $8,000 fifty years ago.
- When the guy with the walker who could barely move and who I assumed was on disability, told me that he is a lapidarian and makes one of a kind jewelry pieces "for rich people."
- When the girl from the Haight saw the name Vera on my Starbucks cup and said "Are you the dragonfly girl?" at which point we both realized that we had a mutual friend Ryan.
- When I picked up a girl who had just had an interview with the company I do freelance work for.
- When a woman and her 13-year-old daughter had me drive them to four different errands, one of them was at See's Candies, from which they brought me some milk chocolate.
- When a few weeks later I picked up the guy who lives in the house next to the woman and her 13-year-old daughter and who told me that a lot of times cab drivers won't come to pick him up because they think the cab is for that woman who lives next to him because, he said, a lot of cab drivers don't like taking her on her errands. I did though.
- When the girl I drove to a casino in Colma around noon told me that she goes there every day because she needs "something to do" and sometimes she wins a few thousand and sometimes she loses a few thousand.
- When I was driving a woman down California Street and thought to myself what a beautiful street it was and when the woman said as she got out "I'm really glad you took California. It's such a beautiful street!"
- When I suddenly had this urge to go to Battery Street and when, on the corner of Battery and Broadway, there was a man with a suitcase who needed to go to the airport and who had been unsuccessfully trying to get a cab for 20 minutes and who told me that his daughter is into Jessica Alba.
- When I drove a white man from South Africa who told me that one of the languages he speaks is Zulu.
- When a woman took my card on a Friday and then called me for two rides on Monday and talked about how "fear-based" the work environment in Corporate America is. Amen, sister.
- When one morning three or four people in a row told me that they had overslept that day.
- When friends or loved ones call me for a ride.
- When I run into people from my old office and they look at my cab and say "Wow. You're doing THAT now? Cool!"
- When the hip-looking guy who--no surprises here--usually rides a bike to work said on his way out "I like your lego tire ear rings" just to make a point of showing me that he got it, he knew that they were lego tire ear rings, not just any old tire ear rings.

I meet people from all walks of life, and everybody has an interesting story to tell, and almost everybody has been really nice. Plus, I now know the exact order of all the major streets in the city, and I know all the one-way streets and which way they are one-way. That has got to be worth something. AND when I tell friends old and new that I drive a cab, people love me. They couldn't be happier if I told them I was the inventor of sliced bread.

So the manager did give me another chance. She also kept my $500 deposit, and I had to come up with $750. And I'm really glad I'm still driving a cab.


At 12/11/2007 01:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your blog, really only 10 an hour? I'm sorry

At 12/11/2007 04:23:00 PM, Blogger Vera said...

I actually make more these days.. That was in the very beginning.


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