Day Cabbie

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

Father and son

When I was in taxi school, my teacher Mickey had told us that some taxi drivers give city tours to tourists. The going rate for that is $50 an hour, he said. This excited me, not just because of the money, but also because I thought it would be really fun to give tours of the city. When my sister came to visit me here in 2003, my favorite thing to do was driving around and showing her stuff.

A common taxi trip for tourists is to go from one of the hotels near Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf. To get to Fisherman's Wharf, I end up taking Hyde or Leavenworth a lot. And it just so happens that one of the most famous blocks in the world is between Hyde and Leavenworth--the crooked part of Lombard Street. I have made it a habit, just like Mickey had suggested in taxi school, to always point out to the tourists when we are a couple of blocks away from the crookedest street in the world and to ask them if they had seen it yet and if they would like to drive down it. Usually they are up for it, and they usually love it.

On Monday I had two farmers from Mississippi in my cab. They were a father and son pair. Their wives were shopping at Union Square and when they got into my cab, the father said "We're going to where you go to Alcatraz." On the way there, they asked me which other places they should go see while they were here. I told them about Haight-Ashbury, the Mission, the Castro. We were driving up Leavenworth when I did my little upsell about Lombard Street. They were into it. So we made a little detour onto Hyde and then drove down the crooked part. They commented on all the people taking pictures and on how beautiful Lombard Street was and asked me how much houses cost on that block.

"I don't know - 4 million? 10 million? 20 million? Something like that. Very expensive."

"You can't go too fast down this street, huh?"

"No, but have you ever seen the movie What's Up Doc, with Barbra Streisand? In that movie, some people go really fast down Lombard Street."

I took them to Pier 41 because I knew that the Alcatraz tours leave from there. When we got there, there was a very long line. The two farmers weren't too excited about waiting in line. They paid me for the fare and asked me to wait while they checked out the line. In less than a minute, they got back into my cab. I said

"Where would you like to go now?"

"How much would it cost for you to give us a tour of the city?"

"Fifty dollars an hour."

I was stoked. A dream was coming true. I asked them what they would like to see. The father said he wanted to go to Haight-Ashbury because that's where all the free spirits of his generation had been. I asked them if they had seen the Golden Gate Bridge yet. They said no, and that they would like to see it. I took the straight part of Lombard Street all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, and we drove across it. I said that it was too bad that the sun wasn't out but that at least there was no fog, and that a lot of times the Golden Gate Bridge has so much fog around it that you can't even see the city from it. The son pointed at a golden dome in the city and said "What is that?" I said that that was the Palace of Fine Arts. The son asked me "How long did it take you to learn everything about the city?"

On the other side of the bridge, we took the Sausalito exit and drove through Sausalito back to the freeway. I love taking the taxi to Sausalito. The city looks so beautiful from there, and I pointed that out to the two farmers from Mississippi. The son took a picture.

We crossed the bridge back to the city and took 19th Avenue down through the Richmond and then Geary towards the Haight. I pointed out to them that we were now on Geary which was the same street as the one their hotel was on, but way on the other side of town. They asked me if they could take that street all the way to their hotel from here. The answer to that question is complicated but I gave them one involving "one-way street" and "O'Farrell" but I'm not sure if they understood completely.

I made a right on Stanyan and a left on Haight and we drove down Haight. When we approached the intersection of Ashbury, I pointed this out to my passengers. The son asked me to stop so that he could take a picture of where it says Haight-Ashbury on that white building. It was still morning so there wasn't much going on on Haight Street. I think the two farmers from Mississippi were disappointed because they had been looking forward to seeing some characters. They asked me "Where is a really fancy neighborhood? We want to see some mansions."

After crossing Divisadero and while explaining to them about the Upper Haight and the Lower Haight, I made a left on Scott, but then back-tracked a few blocks west to get the most exposure of Pacific Heights. I think we were on Baker or something when we turned right on Pacific. I told them that this was Pacific Avenue and that we were now going through Pacific Heights. After a few blocks, the father remarked that a block over, the houses were even bigger! So I switched over to Broadway and there was much oooh'ing and ah'ing. After the father remarked that the buildings were starting to look back to normal again, I made my way back to Union Square, so that the farmers could meet up with their wives. I dropped them off at the cable car station at Powell Street. The tour had lasted an hour and 15 minutes. After some calculation in my head, I told them that the fare was $62.50. The father gave me $80. The son said "I really enjoyed that, thanks."

After they had gotten out of my cab, I noticed that the sun had came out.


At 8/12/2006 03:13:00 PM, Blogger willo said...

hey vera! i love these! i just read through every one of them & look forward to more. great stories, and a wonderful peak into your (unintentionally) voyeuristic vantage point. i dig it! xo


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