Today was my first day driving a taxi. I drove from 4am to 2pm, with little breaks inbetween whenever I wanted to. I didn't make that much money, but I think I did pretty well for my first day. I had 16 fares. Here they are, roughly in order of appearance:
1) The taxi driver who was on his way to work at another taxi company. (street pickup)
2) The very sweet and very old man who was going to the Amtrak station to visit a friend in Reno. (radio order)
3) The man with a British accent who was not at all interested in hearing about my first couple of hours of driving a taxi. (radio order)
4) The woman who was in a van with her husband on the way to an "appointment" and who was lost and asked me if I could take her to "this address" so that her husband could follow us. (street pickup)
5) The girl I picked up at the bus stop who was running late for babysitting in Potrero Hill. (street pickup)
6) The man who got on at Valencia and Market and who kindly reminded me to turn my meter on. (street pickup)
7) The very sophisticated-looking man who was talking about "phony-balloney politicians." (radio order)
8) The guy on the way to the airport who left voicemails for a woman named Laura in order to "touch base." (radio order)
9) The disheveled-looking couple I got to take to the nearest BART station who asked if I had change for a fifty, which I didn't, so we had to stop at an ATM as well. (street pickup)
10) The man with a French or Arabic accent who had survived a brain tumor and had gotten really into buddhism as a result. (street pickup)
11) The little old lady who had an appointment at a hospital. (radio order)
12) The really tired and jaded-seeming girl who takes a taxi to work every morning and whose boyfriend we dropped off at Starbucks on the way. (radio order)
13) The guy and his girlfriend who I picked up at a hospital and dropped off at a hotel. (radio order)
14) The guy who I picked up in front of a circus school at which he is taking classes and who knows somebody that recently joined a circus, who I know as well. (radio order)
15) The same little old lady from earlier, who was now returning from her appointment at the hospital and had several bandaids on her forehead. (radio order)
16) The couple from Ireland who were going to Macy's at Union Square and who regularly visit their son here in San Francisco. (street pickup)
I didn't have to use my map once. I only got honked at once (I think). And I only got pulled over by a cop once. Luckily he only gave me a warning because I didn't actually do anything illegal, just something annoying.
I was known as "DeSoto 510" today because my taxi number was 510. When I returned the car, I was told that I "did a hell of a job today" and that I "was all over that radio." I was surprised myself how all over that radio I was. DeSoto deals with a lot of "radio orders", i.e. requests for DeSoto cabs that are made by phone and then dispatched via radio to one of the many DeSoto cabs milling around. This is how it works: Every taxi is equipped with a special radio and microphone. Every taxi driver hears the dispatcher (who sits inside the DeSoto office), but only the dispatcher hears what the individual taxis are saying. The dispatcher says things like
"DeSoto Bush and Hyde, Guerrero and 17th, Folsom and 1st."
..which means that DeSoto cabs have been requested for each of those three intersections.
Sometimes, when there are a lot of orders at the same time, it might sound more like
If you hear something in there that you think is close to where you are, you can respond with something like this, to indicate your current location
"DeSoto 510 Haight and Stanyan check."
Then the dispatcher will say
to let you know that he heard you. He might then say "Who else?" to hear from more drivers that are close to one of these orders. He, with his vast knowledge of San Francisco geography, will then quickly decide who is the closest and will assign each order to the closest driver by saying
"510, the address is 45 Castro."
"1089, the address is 10xx Bush #3."
"707, the address is 505 Parnassus, UC Medical Center main entrance, inside the lobby."
"510, the address is 2238 Geary, Kaiser building, for David."
"510, the address is xx Genoa, which is a small alley off of Union, between Grant and Kearny."
The driver then has to repeat the exact address back to the dispatcher, and off he or she goes. I was very intimidated by the whole radio game at first but when in the early morning hours I heard an order that I knew I was really close to, I picked up the microphone and softly and slowly said "DeSoto 510 O'Farrell and Leavenworth" because that's where I was at the time. And next thing I knew, off I was, dispatched to my first radio order!
I have to say, I was really nervous and tense ALL DAY LONG, and my heart was beating like crazy. But it was also really fun, and I think I'll get used to the rush of it all. For now, I can't wait for my next shift!