Day Cabbie

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

Elaine

It was early in the morning, still dark outside, and she was standing at the corner of Market and Church, waving. I pulled over, and as she got in the cab, without me having turned around, she said "I think I've had you before!" She had not had me before. She had an accent. I thought it might be Australian.

She told me about the cab driver she had had earlier who didn't speak English and didn't know where the Tenderloin was.

"Do you know where the Tenderloin is?" she asked me.

"Yes, I do."

"There is a liquor store in the Tenderloin that's open early."

"Where is it?"

"In the Tenderloin."

"Yeah, but where exactly?" I asked as we drove on Market towards Franklin.

"Somewhere in the Tenderloin. Do you know where the Tenderloin is?"

"Yes, I do."

"Good. The other driver didn't know it. I couldn't believe it."

"You know, the Safeway sells liquor, and they are open 24 hours." I said as we passed the Safeway on Market Street.

"Yes, but it's too expensive there."

"But now you're paying for a cab when the Safeway is across the street from where I picked you up..." I was starting to get suspicious of her. Her story didn't add up.

"Yes, but they don't sell liquor until 7:30."

"They don't?"

"No."

"So where is the liquor store in the Tenderloin you're going to?" I asked again as we made a left on Franklin.

"I was just there the other day. They were open early."

"I see. I guess we'll just go to the Tenderloin and see what happens." I wasn't particularly thrilled to see what would happen.

"How is your day going so far?"

"It's going okay."

"I'll give you some of my Irish good luck."

"Thanks."

"What's your name?"

"Vera."

"Vera?"

"Yeah."

"Nice to meet you, Vera. It's so nice to have a female taxi driver. I'm Elaine."

"Nice to meet you too."

"It's my friend's 40th birthday. That's why I need liquor."

"Ah. But why are you celebrating it so early in the morning?"

"Oh no, I just have so many other things to do today. I'm just trying to take care of this first thing in the morning."

"Ah." I felt like everything she was saying to me was a lie. I was wondering if she was going to try to rip me off.

"Afterwards we'll go right back to Duboce and Church. Is that alright?"

"Sure..." That was another red flag. Round trips are notorious for being cabbie rip-off attempts.

When we turned on Larkin off of Golden Gate, I said

"Okay, we're in the Tenderloin now."

"We're in the Tenderloin?" She looked around for the liquor store she had been to just the other day that had been open early.

"Yes."

"Hmmm..."

"There is a liquor store right there, but it's closed." I pointed at the liquor store at Larkin and Eddy.

"There is one in the Tenderloin that's open at this time. I was just there the other day."

"Right." I kept driving north on Larkin.

"I just need some liquor for my friend's 40th birthday."

I saw an open liquor store on Geary and made a left.

"Does this look okay?"

"Yes, I think so. Thanks! I'll be right back, and then we'll go back to to Duboce and Church. Don't worry, leave the meter running, and I'll pay you." I pulled over in front of the liquor store.

She disappeared into the liquor store. I was super suspicious and kept looking back and forth between the meter and the liquor store. I saw her talking to the clerk, pointing at the bottles of liquor behind the counter, laughing. Finally she came out with a 12-roll pack of toilet paper and, I suppose, some liquor for her friend's 40th birthday. She got back in the cab.

"For future reference, that liquor store was at Geary and Larkin." I said to her.

"Geary. And Larkin."

"Yes, Geary and Larkin."

I drove to Duboce and Church. When we got there, the meter was at $14.35. She gave me a twenty and said that the rest was for me. The bill felt oddly stiff in my hand. I wondered if it was counterfeit.

It turns out the bill wasn't counterfeit. It turns out my suspicion had been unjustified. It turns out Elaine had given me a generous tip. It turns out she hadn't tried to rip me off at all. But she and her story sure were odd.

A penny for your intimate thoughts

I was dispatched to a big building in the Tenderloin, Jones and Eddy. A man was sitting in an enclosed area in the lobby. I said to him "Hi. I have a taxi for number 242." The man looked past me and said "Here is yours, Jack!" I turned around and saw a casually dressed man hurrying towards the door and said "You called DeSoto?" And he said yes. He asked me where I got my dress. I said at a thrift store. He was eccentric, had glasses and oily hair and appeared to be in his 40's.

"Is this all you do?" he asked as we made a left on Golden Gate.

"Driving a cab? Do I do this full-time? No."

"What else do you do?" There was something childlike about the way he asked his questions.

"I'm an intuitive counselor and--"

"A what?"

"An in-tu-i-tive coun-se-lor."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that I am a life counselor and I help people with their challenges in life. And I listen to them talk about their feelings."

"What if somebody has really...personal feelings?"

"Then I listen to them too. All feelings are personal. What's wrong with really personal feelings?"

"Nothing!"

"Okay."

"But what if somebody has really...intimate feelings?"

"Intimate?"

"Yeah."

"Then I listen to those too. I try not to judge anything anybody is feeling. Those feelings are there, and if they are there, there is a reason for it."

"Ah."

[...]

"Where are you from?" he continued asking.

"Germany."

"How long have you been here?"

"Ten years?" I answered like a question.

"You married?"

"No."

"Got a boyfriend?"

"No. Working on that."

"I'm available!"

"Oh. Thanks." I laughed.

"Wanna have dinner sometime?"

"No. Thanks."

"Why not?"

"I don't know..."

"I know a couple of good German restaurants."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, there is one off of Polk Street. But I can never pronounce the name because it's in German."

"Is it Suppenk├╝che? That's on Hayes and Laguna."

"Yeah, that's it."

"There is also one on 9th and Folsom."

"Yeah. So do you wanna go sometime?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Honestly, because I think that you are too old for me."

"What! Why? How old are you?"

"30."

"And how old do you think I am?"

"40?"

"That's only ten years!"

"Yeah, well, that's too much for me."

"That's nothing."

"So how old are you?"

"45."

"See, that's 15 years!"

"So?"

Costume Cabbie: Very pastelly


Costume Cabbie: Very pastelly
Originally uploaded by Verabug.
It's 4:30 am. Do you know where your taxi driver is?

Why, in her kitchen, taking pictures of herself, of course!

I wore this today. Soundtrack: Best of New Order, which I played all day. It was super fun. This time I actually got comments. This is what people were saying:

"Are you a real taxi driver?"

--

"Where did you get the taxi?"

--

"Can you spot Mission people?" I said because we were talking about neighborhoods. He said "Could it be women wearing tutus?" "Ha! No." I said.

--

The two doormen at the Westin San Francis were laughing and motioning at me. I rolled down my window and looked at them. One of them said "You're all dressed up! How cute!"

That's right.

My eyebrow piercing

So my passengers are a part of every major life decision now. On November 29, mid-afternoon, I picked up a girl about my age. I drove her from Bartlett Street in the Mission to somewhere on the downhill side of Potrero Hill. When we crossed Mission Street, I turned around and said

"So I'm thinking about getting my eyebrow pierced."

"Oh yeah, you totally should."

"Yeah? I have been thinking about it for a couple of weeks. And it just occurred to me a few minutes ago that I think I want to do it today. After I'm done driving this thing."

"You definitely should. I think it would go very well with your facial features."

"Thanks."

"Which side are you thinking about getting it on?"

"The right. Because I have my nose pierced on my left. I like to balance it out, you know?"

"Yeah. Go to Body Manipulations."

"Oh yeah? That's where I got my nose pierced too."

"You should definitely get it done there."

After I dropped off my taxi, I drove straight to Body Manipulations and got my right eyebrow pierced.

So I have been running and driving around with a pierced eyebrow for a couple of months. Sometime in December I picked up an androgynous young man on 24th and Church. He had his eyebrow pierced too. I said

"Hey, you have your eyebrow pierced. So do I!"

"Oh yeah! I like eyebrow piercings."

"Me too! I have mine on the right and you?"

"Me too!"

Then, yesterday, I had two heavy set-men from Fresno in my cab. They were brothers, probably in their sixties, and in town for the Fancy Food Show. The more talkative one said

"Did that hurt?"

"No, not at all."

"Do you like it?"

"Yeah. I guess you don't--"

"Does your boyfriend like it?"

"I don't have a boyfriend."

"You would have more boyfriends if you didn't have that."

"Ah."

Another day, another receipt full of notes

When I'm driving a taxi, I use a DeSoto receipt to write down an address I am dispatched to so I don't forget.

This one is from Friday, January 19:
1665 Haight #27: The nice couple from Redding who were staying at the Red Vic, whose son had fallen during a construction job and was being treated at UCSF, and who gave me their breakfast from the Red Vic
1300 block of 41st Ave: The jolly lady who I had driven to work before and who has me drive through the park because it's more relaxing
2400 block of Bryant: The lesbian who who didn't say anything about my blue outfit. I love San Francisco. It doesn't make a difference if a cab driver wears a turban or a blue wig: Nothing fazes people here.
1240 Fillmore #811: The fare that stood me up. Nobody was there.
1301 Valencia: Another fare that stood me up. It's the church at the corner of Valencia and 24th, and nobody was there.
1678 Dolores: The same old lady and her caretaker from last time. This time they went to a doctor's office on Ocean and Junipero Serra.
1591 45th Ave: The trombone player who had recently moved here from D.C. He was going to a rehearsal.
450 Townsend for Kyle: Her name was actually Kayo. I (or maybe the dispatcher or order taker) had misunderstood.
Apple sticker: The apple from the breakfast boxes that the nice couple from the Red Vic had given me

Day Cabbie gets blogspotted

This afternoon I had to go to an office downtown to meet with two guys I am doing some freelance work for. I had met with them one day last week as well. One of the guys told me today that their office neighbor had seen me last time and had asked him "Was that the Day Cabbie?"

So I went over and introduced myself to the office neighbor. Apparently she had been reading this blog, and she had recognized me from the pictures on here. Hi Karen!

Arrangements

I have been giving out my business card, and sometimes people call me directly now.

One time I took a blind man and his blind friend to the train station. They seemed to get good vibes from me because they both recorded my phone number into their phones. The next day the blind man called me to have me take him and another blind friend of his to Alameda. All the way to Alameda! Including the tip, that was a $60 fare.

One Monday I took a very nice English man to the airport early in the morning. We chatted all the way to the airport, and I found out that he commutes to Los Angeles and back every week for work. I told him that, if he likes, he can call me on Sunday evenings so that I can take him to the airport on Monday mornings. He has been calling me every Sunday evening for the last six or so weeks! I now have a regular Monday morning airport fare.

Arrangements are good.

Toby

A familiar-looking guy was standing at the bus stop at Geary and Park Presidio. I had seen him at Ritual two days earlier. He was skinny and had dark hair that was short in the back and longer in the front with wisps of it hitting his cheek right below his eye. He was wearing a striped sweater.

I said

"Oh my god, it's you!"

"Ummm yeah.. It's me."

"You don't remember, do you?"

"Ummm. I don't think so. Remember what?"

"I saw you at Ritual the other day."

"Oh."

"Wednesday night? You were there with a friend, sitting on the couch."

"Oh. Yeah. I was."

"I was sitting across from you guys."

"Oh. Hi."

"I'm Vera."

"I'm Toby."

"Nice to meet you."

"You too."

"So where are you going?"

"Mission and Fremont."

"Oh. You work over there?"

"Yeah."

"Doing what?"

"Project management."

"Ah."

[...]

"I'm so glad you're in my cab!"

"How come?"

"Because when I saw you at Ritual, I thought you looked interesting."

"Oh. Thanks."

"You like the Cure, don't you?"

"Ummm, sure. They're okay. Why?"

"Because I can just tell."

"Ah."

"I love them, by the way."

"Yeah, they're okay."


When we were at Mission and Fremont, I repeated

"I'm so glad you were in my cab today!"

"Yeah, it's crazy." He giggled. I handed him my business card.

"I'm giving you my card because I want to go out on a date with you."

"Oh. Thanks." He smiled shyly.

"Have fun managing projects today."

"Thanks. Have fun.. driving a cab. And I'll talk to you.. later." He waved my business card as he got out.

Costume Cabbie: Episode 2


Costume Cabbie: All Blue
Originally uploaded by Verabug.
I drove a taxi dressed like this today.

Love is..

Santos is a night driver. When I start my shift early Monday mornings, he is just getting off. We have a habit of hanging out in my cab first thing in the morning, me driving him home. He tips well. We talk about cab driving, making money, big dreams and the self-sabotage of those dreams. We're about the same age.

When I arrived at the garage on Monday morning, he was there, looking at his waybill, sorting out his money, as usual.

"Do you need a ride?" I said and he nodded. "Which cab are you?" he said and I said 803.

Out in the lot, a taxi van was parked behind 803, blocking it. I put my stuff inside 803 and turned around to move the van, and Santos was there, opening the door of the van behind me with a shy but confident slight smile. "You're gunna move it?" I said and he nodded. I grinned and couldn't stop grinning for about 30 seconds.

Love is when another taxi driver moves the taxi that is blocking your taxi so that you can get out.

A community website manager

It was MLK Day and thus very very slow because most of the city had the day off. On a day like this, all I can really do is drive up and down the streets that have a lot of foot traffic in hopes that some people need some rides.

At 11:55 am I found myself driving up Haight Street. Oasis was playing on the radio, and in the corner of my right eye I thought I might have seen a hand go up. I looked to the right and saw a guy standing between two parked cars. He was looking at me but his hand wasn't up. I didn't know if he needed a cab or to cross the street. It's a very tricky situation when you are not sure if someone's hand has just been up or not. I slowed down my speed and was about to drive past him when his hand went up again. Thank god! Now I knew he needed a cab!

I turned on my signals and stopped. The guy was wearing glasses and a hat and climbed into the cab.

"Thanks!"

"No problem."

"I need to go to Woodland and Willard."

"Okay..."

"You just take Frederick and then make a left on Willard."

"Okay. Thanks." I turned left on Clayton to get off of Haight and towards Frederick.

"Yeah..." He sighed.

"What's going on?"

"Well, I run a community website, and today is a holiday, so hopefully there won't be too much traffic. I just took a couple of hours off, and now I'm headed back to work."

"What kind of a community?"

"To help people find housing and jobs and things like that."

"Oh. That's nice. Are you having a lot of success with actually helping people find housing and jobs?"

"Yeah. It's mostly classifieds, but there are also discussion forums."

"What is the name of the website?"

"Craigslist."

"Craigslist?"

"Yes."

"You run Craigslist? You are so modest! 'I run a community website'!"

"Well, these days Jim runs it mostly."

"Did you start Craigslist?"

"Yes."

"Wow. I am so going to write about you today."

"Do you blog?"

"Yes."

"What's your blog?"

"Well, I have several. But one of them is actually a taxi blog. And that's where I am going to write about you."

"There used to be a Night Cabbie in the Chronicle."

"Yeah, and I am the Day Cabbie, and I want to be in the Guardian. That's what I'm counting on."

We were now at Woodland Avenue. It was a quiet street with a little bit of a view and a path going off of it into the woods. I had never been there before. I said

"Wow, it's cool up here. I have never been here before. Thanks for taking me here."

"Thank you. Good luck with your column."

"Thanks, Craig. You don't mind that I'm going to write about you, do you?"

"No. It has happened before."

"Cool."

When I left, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing on the radio, and I turned up the volume, smiling.

Costume Cabbie


Costume Cabbie
Originally uploaded by Verabug.



I have decided to be the costume cabbie. I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner. Fun! Today I drove a cab dressed like this. That's my friend Hannah's old prom dress.

The energy worker

I was driving one of the newer vans, #55. It had automatic sliding doors. You push a button, and the door slides open. You push the button again, and the door slides closed. But for the button to work, the doors have to be unlocked and the car has to be in Park. Also, sometimes, even when the doors were unlocked and the car was in Park, the button didn't seem to do anything. The button was fickle, to say the least. Or maybe I just didn't know how to work it.

I was dispatched to Leavenworth and Greenwich. Just an address, no apartment number. Since there are many large one-family homes in that area of the city, I wasn't surprised. But when I walked up to the front entrance, I noticed that this was an apartment building with many different units. I got back inside the car and asked the dispatcher if there was an apartment number or a code number for this address. He said no but that he would call the customer for me. After a minute he said "I got no answer. This order is brandnew. I would give it a minute and then take off."

After about a minute, I put the car back in Drive and was about to leave. That's when I saw a woman hurrying towards my car from the side of the building. I put the car back in Park, unlocked the doors and pushed the magic button to slide the door open. It slid open, and the woman with the curly hair started to get in the car, but the door started closing on her. She stepped back and laughed. She looked at me with what I would describe as an "I don't know what's wrong with YOUR car but I am going to laugh and be friendly anyway" look. I felt it was somewhat passive-aggressive.

I pushed the button again, and the door opened again, and the woman was able to get in.

"Can you take me to Union and Laguna, please?"

"Sure. Sorry about the door. I haven't quite figured out how to work it yet."

"That's okay. I'm used to it. I'm an energy worker. I short-circuit electronics all the time."

"Oh. Really?"

"Yeah, I can't even work with computers at all."

"Wow."

"Yeah."

"What kind of energy work do you do?"

"Oh, all kinds. Polarity therapy, Reiki, craniosacral therapy,..."

"Do you also do theta healing?", which is something I had heard about recently and been very intrigued by.

"Yeah, I do that too."

"So what happens in a theta healing session?"

"I go up to the person's theta and release blocks from their subconscious."

"Do you have a website?"

"No. I don't advertise. I'm like the secret garden. If people find me, they find me."

"Do you have business cards?"

"I occasionally give out business cards."

"Well, I found you, right?"

"I think I have some in my office. If you wait, I'll go in and get one."

"Okay."

When I pulled up in front of the building she told me to, she got out and I waited. She was back within 30 seconds. I pushed the button to slide open the door. But she went straight for the shotgun door. It was mechanical, not electronic, and she opened it. She handed me her business card. It had her name on it and her phone number and said "Holistic Therapist & Reiki Master."

"Just so you know, I'm booked up four to six weeks in advance."

"Okay. Thanks."

"What's your name?"

"Vera."

"Nice to meet you, Vera."

"You too."

A different way of telling the story of my day




When I'm driving a taxi, I use a DeSoto receipt to write down an address I am dispatched to so I don't forget.

This one is from Friday, January 5:
1108 Cole: The guy with the hat who went to the airport and who asked if the music we were listening to was Squarepusher. It wasn't Squarepusher but he said it was amazing.

1045 Mission #456: The guy from Italy who owns a coffee shop on California and 5th Ave.

672 Alvarado: The fare that another cab driver stole from me. Fucker. It was assigned to me. Don't mess with orders that are assigned to ME.

3636 Scott #103: The lawyer on his way to Civic Center who said that arguing in court is fun and that his favorite cases are those that are very emotional. I really enjoyed talking to him.

1678 Dolores: The fragile old lady and her caretaker who wanted to go to the Bank of America at the Diamond Heights shopping center.

Hello Kitty! Hello Flowers!


Hello Kitty! Hello Flowers!
Originally uploaded by Verabug.
I found this sticker on the backseat of my cab today and stuck it on the dashboard. It made me happy for the rest of the day. Hopefully it will make the next driver happy too.

Girl cabbie ritual


Girl cabbie ritual
Originally uploaded by Verabug.
My friend and fellow cab driver Susan and I had another little girl cabbie ritual at Ritual on Tuesday. This time we talked about aprons. Susan made herself a little apron to keep her change in, and she is going to make me one too!

In case you missed them:
Girl Cabbie Convention I
Girl Cabbie Convention II


Dreamy

I picked him up at 24th and Noe. He had dark hair and a little goatee and really big eyes. He reminded me of Trent from Daria, except with much bigger eyes. He looked about 28. He was wearing a dark blue T-shirt with a Hello Kitty head on it. Underneath it, it said "Since 1976."

"Hi. Happy new year."

"Happy new year."

"I need to go to Daly City."

"Awesome."

"Why?"

"Because that's far."

"Ah."

[...]

"What's your name?"

"Why?"

"Because you're not the typical cab driver."

"Vera."

"Vera?"

"Yeah, as in Aloe Vera."

"That's a weird name."

"You think?"

"Yeah."

"What's your name?"

"Soren."

"Your name is not Soren."

"Yes, it is."

"Soren, like the Danish name?"

"Yeah, I think it's Danish."

"That is not your name."

"Yes, it is."

"That is, like, my favorite name in the world."

"Wow." He smiled and exposed huge shiny teeth. It was as if somebody had turned on the light in the room, except that it wasn't a room but this guy's face. He didn't look like Trent from Daria anymore.

[...]

"You know, I was born in '76." I pointed at his T-shirt.

"So was I!"

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. That's one of the main reasons I like Hello Kitty."

"What month were you born?"

"July. You?"

"May. Beginning or end of July?"

"July 8."

"Nice. So you're a cancer."

"Yep. I'm very emotional."

"How so?"

"Well, like I went to this huge New Year's party last weekend. Everybody there was on drugs, including myself. And suddenly I felt really insecure. I started asking myself all these questions. Like 'Who am I?', 'Do I suck?', 'Does anybody even like me?' You know?"

"Yeah, I know. So what are you going to do about those insecurities?"

"I don't know. Probably just notice them and hope for the best."

"Good idea."

[...]

"I used to own this album." The album that was playing in the CD player of the cab was World Clique by Deee-Lite.

"You like Deee-Lite?"

"Yeah, I love Deee-Lite."

"You actually went to a record store and picked up this album?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"It seems like such a girl album."

"What, guys can't buy Deee-Lite albums?"

"Of course they can. I just didn't think that they would want to. But I'm glad that you wanted to."

"Ah."

"So, you said you used to own this album. What happened?"

"Well, when I was in college, I used to work as a janitor at this hospital. And I would bring a boombox and listen to music while I worked."

"They let you do that?"

"Yeah. And one time I was playing World Clique, and this old sick lady I had been talking to told me she really liked the music, so I gave it to her."

"Awww, that's nice. So what's your favorite Deee-Lite song?"

"It would have to be Picnic in the Summertime."

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah."

"I think that's my favorite too. Because of the video. Have you seen the video?"

"I have actually, but not until recently. I found it online."

"I first saw it in 1995 on the German TV channel Viva. They had this late night show called Berlin House. I think it was also called House TV at some point. And they played lots of electronic music videos. I loved that video so much. The knee-highs and the bubbly T-shirt and stuff."

"Yeah, I want that shirt! In fact, I once posted on an online message board to see if anybody knew where I can get that shirt."

"Nuh-uh!"

"Yes, I did."

"Was anybody able to help you?"

"No. They just said 'Dream on' and I said 'Okay, I will'."

[...]

"You know who you remind me of?"

"No, but I think you are going to tell me."

"Trent from Daria."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"The cartoon character?"

"Yeah."

"You know who you remind me of?"

"No."

"Do you know Blythe, the doll?"

"Blythe, as in This is Blythe?"

"Yes!"

"I love Blythe!"

"You remind me of her."

"What? Why?"

"Because you have really big eyes and the hair and--"

"I have big eyes? You think I have big eyes?"

"Yeah. And have you seen the latest Blythe book, called Blythe Style?"

"No, but it's on my wishlist!"

"Well, there is this one shot in there where Blythe is wearing a scarf and a jacket kind of like the ones you're wearing, and her hair is black and wavy. I think that's why you remind me of her."

"Wow, that is like the best compliment ever. I have always wanted to look like Blythe."

"Well, now you do."

[...]

"Do you get hit on a lot in the cab?"

"Not really."

"No?"

"No. It happened maybe once."

[...]

"Um. So, uh."

"What?"

"Uhhhhh. What time does your shift end?"

"Five. Why?"

"Ummmmm. Do you want to meet for coffee after that?"

"Okay."