Day Cabbie

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

Airport adventures

One of my favorite parts of taxi school was our field trip to the airport where the teacher piled all of us students into a taxi van and drove us down to the San Francisco Airport to show us the "underbelly of the world of taxis", as my friend Philo likes to call it. There are several different lots of waiting taxis, several different booths you have to pass and lots of rules and regulations. It's complicated at the airport when you're a taxi trying to get a fare.

That's why it took me over a year of driving to dare descend into the underbelly. But today I did. After I had dropped off my first fare of the day at the airport, I followed another taxi through the airport turnaround and into the overflow lot. I wasn't sure if I was going to stay but when I saw a Green Cab way ahead of me in line, I knew that I was.

The taxi in front of me was a yellow and green National cab, number 2976. I appreciated this because 2/9/76 is the birthday of a dear friend of mine. A friendly driver milling about reminded me to turn off my engine.

Philo had been encouraging me to do the airport thing for weeks. He said that being there makes you feel a sort of solidarity because there are cabs everywhere, all in one place, all the different ones, together as one. And he was right. There were cabs everywhere, blue cabs, yellow cabs, beige cabs, black cabs, green cabs. Since I love driving a cab, being down there and looking around at all the cars and their drivers filled me with love.

When I got to the sunny second lot, I got out of my cab and walked towards the cab in front me. The driver eyed me in his side mirror. I was afraid that he was going to be unfriendly and said "Hi." He said "Hi, how are you doing" and smiled. He wasn't unfriendly at all. I said "Good!" He said "You look good!" and smiled even more. I said "Thanks!" I was feeling great that day. I asked "We're going to be here for a while, right?" He said something about waiting and lines and turns and moving, and I said "I was going to use the bathroom." He pointed to where they were, then got out of his car and said "Here, I'll go with you."

As we were walking, he held out his hand and said

"I'm Byron."

"I'm Vera. Byron. Is that B-Y-R-O-N?"


"Cool. I'm reading a book right now by a woman named Byron."

"A woman named Byron!"


After I used the bathroom, Byron told me a lot more about airport procedures. He also said "Just follow me."

When it was our turn to move again, we had to drive by the attendant and pay four dollars. Byron, as he was driving in front of me, held his hand out of the window with the parking stub and four dollars in it to show me what I needed for the next step. I thought that was the sweetest thing.

We were now in the third lot. I looked for the Green Cab everywhere but couldn't find it. I wanted to talk to the driver because I want to become a Green Cab driver too.

The row that Byron filed into was full by the time I got there, so Byron pointed to the row next to his, out of which cars were just leaving. When I got towards the end, Byron was out of his car and hurrying towards me. I said "Stop at the front, right?" He said "Yes, stop." I guessed correctly that if I had piled out of the row with the cars in front of me, the others rows of cars would have gotten angry at me because it wasn't my turn yet. Byron said "Stay here until you see me leave, and then follow me."

When it was our turn again, I followed Byron past another attendant. The attendant handed me a piece of paper indicating which terminal to go to. I had seen that Byron had received the same color paper so I followed Byron to Terminal 3 I think it was. There were about eight cars ahead of me. Byron got out of his car and stood next to my window.

"So tell me about this Byron book," he said.

"It's about living in the moment. It's about accepting reality exactly as it is and not arguing with it or trying to change it."

"Yeah. Because if you resist it, you're just going to be unhappy."


Shortly after that it was my turn to receive a passenger. He had to go to Castro between 20th and 21st. And that's the story of my first fare from the airport.

Later that day I saw cab 2976 one more time at Oak and Divisadero. I think Byron was still in it, and it made me smile. I was taking a nice man from the Haight to Union Square and knew that I was at the right place at the right time.

A green possibility

What kind of taxi is this?
Originally uploaded by Verabug.

That's what I wanted to know when I saw this. I walked all around it to see if it had any company information on it, but it didn't. As I was ready to go on my way, a guy with a ponytail got out of the car parked two cars behind this one. He pointed at the plain white taxi and said "That's the first green cab." He told me that he was starting a company called Green Cab which uses nothing but hybrid cars. He said that this was the first car and and that it was being painted the next day and that they were soon getting more. He gave me his card, and I called him on Saturday, hoping to become a green cab driver.

The Millionaire

When I got to Castro Street, instead of turning right on 24th, which I normally do, I made a left because my psychic sense told me to. And sure enough, just past 25th a young skinny pale guy with glasses was standing on the left side of the street with his arm up. I made a U-y and picked him up. I guessed him to be in his early or mid 20's. He wanted to go to the Caltrain station.

I said "So where are you going today?"

"To Mountain View, where I work. I work at Google."

"Oh, you work at Google?"


"Are you from another country?"


"Which country?"

"I'm from England."

"So you came here for the job at Google?"

"Well, first I went to school here for two years. And now I have been at Google for two years."

"So were you able to make any money with Google stock?"

"Yes. I was able to make about one million dollars."

"You did?"


"Wow. That's amazing."


"So you're a millionaire."

"Yeah, I guess I am. Although I don't feel like one."

"You're a millionaire! I have a millionaire in my cab."

"And where are you from?"

"I grew up in Germany."

"And how long have you been here?"

"Eleven years."

"Did you come here for school?"

"No, I came here because I wanted to live here. I had a greencard that I had won in the lottery."

"Wow! That's very lucky. Winning a greencard in the lottery is kind of like being a millionaire."

"I know! It is, isn't it?"

We continued talking about his job at Google and about my old job at Macromedia, which I told him I had left after three years there. He asked me why.

"I left because I didn't want to be a cubicle drone anymore. I wanted to be the queen bee of my own life instead of a cubicle drone in someone else's vision. You know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I know exactly what you mean."

I asked him if he was planning on staying in America. He said yes. He said that he didn't have that much left to move back to, that he was losing touch with friends and colleagues in England, and that he was making new ones here. He also said that his parents didn't mind him being here. That's when I knew I had to share about my own experience with that.

"I am going to give you a word of advice, since I have been here for eleven years. Don't lose touch with all the people in England. Make sure that you stay close with your family and also with some of your friends. I have just recently noticed that I wasn't very close with anybody anymore, and I have been really working on reconnecting those relationships. I recommend you pay attention to that now because you might regret it later if you don't."

"Wow. Thanks for the advice. I really appreciate it."

And then the young millionaire asked for the cab driver's phone number.

Methadone runs

I was dispatched to the motel on Turk and Ellis. I didn't see anybody, so I went into the office. The guy behind the desk was on the phone.

"They're not answering."

"They're not?"

"Room 230, right?"


"She's going to knock on the door." He motioned at the cleaning lady.

The cleaning lady walked across the parking lot and up the stairs to the second floor. She stood in front of a door for about a minute. Then she turned around and made a motion with her hand.

"She's still in there," the reception desk guy, who was now standing next to me, said.

"Okay, I'll wait," I said.

The cleaning lady walked towards me across the parking lot.

"Coming," she said."

"Is it a woman?"

"No," she said.

"A man?"


After a couple of minutes, a door opened on the second floor. A blond woman dressed in black appeared. "I'm coming," she yelled. I assumed that she had just prostituted herself in that motel room. Her hair was messy, and she was wearing black fishnet stockings, an extremely short black skirt, black boots and a black bomber jacket. She looked about 29. She was very pretty if you looked past the scowl that was etched into her face.

"I'm going to the methadone clinic on Turk between Leavenworth and Hyde."

Four dollars later we arrived there, and she handed me a twenty.

"I'll be right back," she said.

"You want me to wait?" I wasn't too excited.

"Yeah, I'm going back to the hotel."

She was back a couple of minutes later, and I took her back to the motel.

A couple of hours later, I had just dropped somebody off at 1st and Folsom. I was driving on 1st towards Harrison when I saw a figure behind a tree who was sticking out her hand. I pulled over and saw a woman smiling with a lot of missing teeth. She had a cell phone pressed to her ear.

"Hi! Thank you so much for stopping."

"No problem."

"I'm going to Turk and Hyde and then, if you want, you can bring me back here. I'm getting my car fixed." I had picked her up in front of a gas and repair station.

"Are you going to the Methadone clinic?"


"That's funny. I just took somebody there earlier today."

"Really? Wow."

She told me that several cabs had driven past her and not wanted to take her. She also told me that she had been talking to this guy in a Jaguar earlier. He was a retired school teacher. He was paying for the repairs on her car. She told me that she had started crying when he did that for her. She told me that she was very blessed.

She was inside the methadone clinic for a couple of minutes, and then I took her back to 1st and Harrison. She gave me a twenty and said to keep the change.

"God is watching over me today. He sent the generous guy earlier, and now he sent you," she said.

As she got out of the cab, she looked up at the sky and said "Thank you!"

Don't I know you?

This morning I picked up a dude at 18th and Castro. He was probably in his late 30's or early 40's and wearing a hat. When I noticed that he reminded me of a dude I had seen in a music video years ago, I had the first inkling that I had had him in my cab before.

I thought he might be the same person I had had in my cab about six months ago. That person had gotten in at 18th and Castro or somewhere very close to it as well. Around the same time in the morning too. He had worn a striped hat which I liked. He had reminded me of the dude from the music video. He hadn't talked much the whole ride and just stared out the window, looking like he was in a bad mood. He had requested to go to Sutter and Leavenworth. When we had gotten to his building, he had asked me to wait while he ran up to his apartment to get money. He had never come back. I don't remember how long I waited but I think I waited long enough to know that he had ripped me off.

I had thought about him recently and thought how funny it would be to have him in my cab again. And now I was pretty sure that I had him in my cab again.

"I think I have had you in my cab before."

"I don't know. You look familiar."

"Where are you going?"

"Sutter and Leavenworth."

"Okay," I said to him. On the inside I was saying "Oh. My. Gawd."

"I just woke up, not knowing where I was."


"Yeah, these people had given me some G last night."


"Yeah, you know that, right?"

"Yeah, GHB, right?"

"Yeah. So I woke up this morning with nothing but my keys."

"With nothing but your keys? So are you saying you have no money?"

"I do when we get to my apartment."

I was alarmed. He continued to tell me about his night of GHB and puking and passing out, but I wasn't really listening.

"You know, I am pretty sure I have had you in my cab before. And if that was you, then you went up to your apartment and never came back, and I never got paid."




"You don't think that was you?"

"I know that wasn't me. I wouldn't do that."

"Well, we'll see if you pay me today."

I didn't want things to be too uncomfortable, so I continued asking him questions about the night before and where he worked and stuff. When we got to his street, I said "At the For Rent sign, right?" I remembered that from last time.


"So you promise you'll be back?"

"Yeah, I promise. I swear."

It was 7:40am. I decided to wait until 7:45 and then leave. At 7:43 he came back out. The fare was $13. He gave me $17. I smiled widely and said "Thank you very much!"

I was disappointed that he came back because it would have made for a much better story if he hadn't. But I was also glad that he came back because I think that I made a difference in his integrity that day. If I hadn't confronted him, I think he would have pulled the same thing on me again that he had six months ago.

Psychic cab driving

My friend Philo, who is a very gifted psychic and drives a taxi for Luxor, talked to me about psychic cab driving last Friday. He said he asks the universe "Where should I go next?" and he receives an answer. Sometimes it's in the form of a neighborhood or a street name, and sometimes he is guided there turn by turn. He receives instructions such as "Make a left," "Stay here a minute" or "Keep going straight." He said his mind always questions the instructions and wonders "Why should I go there?" but if he follows the instructions he always finds fares in very unexpected and serendipitous places.

After our conversation, I was left feeling inspired and very excited about giving it a try for myself.

Last night he called me during his shift. He had just dropped somebody off. He said "I wonder where I am going to go next."

"Harrison Street," he said after he had tuned into his psychic sense.

"Where are you now?" I asked.

"Howard Street."

He was on Howard and 3rd. As we continued talking, he passed Folsom and then made a right on Harrison.

"Keep going on Harrison," he told me the voice in his head said.

"I am going to stay on the phone with you until you find your fare. I have to see this for myself," I said to him.

When Philo was at 7th Street, he told me the voice in his head said "You're almost there now."

After another minute, I heard Philo say "There is a couple kissing. Do you need a cab or what?"

Then he said "Yep, it's them." I said "Wow. That is SO awesome. I hope you have a great night!"

"You too! Bye!"

Today I gave psychic cab driving a try myself. I had tried it before but hadn't had much success with it. I think it's because I hadn't fully trusted the instructions I was receiving and always overrode them with my own thoughts and expectations. But this time I listened to the psychic voice with a new focus and flexibility.

My first fare was my regular Monday morning airport customer Tony. I didn't use my psychic sense for that because he was a sure thing. But then, coming back into the city, I asked whether I should take 280 or 101. It was very clearly 101. I stayed on 101. I suddenly knew that I had to take the 7th Street exit. I took the 7th Street exit. You can either make a left on 7th or go straight to end up on Bryant. I ended up on Bryant. At 6th Street the voice said "Keep going." I heard the dispatcher say "2nd and Brannan. 7th and Hooper." Both of these orders were close to me so I checked in "DeSoto 110, 6th and Bryant." There are always a lot of drivers hanging out around 2nd and Brannan, so I thought for sure I was going to get the Greyhound garage order at 7th and Hooper. But the dispatcher assigned the 2nd and Brannan to me. I was over five blocks away from it so I worried that another driver was going to beat me to it. But I went there anyway.

When I got there, nobody was there. It was 7:43 am. I said to the dispatcher "Can you call out the 239 Brannan?" He said, impatiently "It's a 7:45 advance. Will you give them another minute?" I did. And after another minute, two people with luggage came out. I got to go back to the airport!

For the rest of the day, I was guided to one order after the other by my psychic sense. A lot of them were flags on the street but some of them were orders dispatched over the radio that were announced near spots I had been guided to at just the right times.

I left neighborhoods faster than I normally would; I made turns I normally wouldn't; I made U-turns I was instructed to make; I ended up on streets I had never been on.

I heard "Go back down Divisadero" after I had just left that street, and there was a girl standing at Divisadero and Fulton. I heard "Go up Polk, all the way" and I first took two guys from Polk and Sutter to Polk and Clay and after I dropped them off, I picked up another person at Polk and California. I heard "Take 7th and then stay on McAllister" and there was a guy on McAllister and Larkin. I heard "Make a right on 16th" while driving down Valencia, and there was a girl on 16th between Valencia and Mission. I was even guided to pick up a nice British man on Haight Street who I had had in my cab several times before, but not in the last several months. It was nice to have him again.

This stuff really worked! The system even worked pee, coffee, and lunch breaks into my day. And one time I didn't have a fare for about half an hour because I suddenly needed to process something emotional and pull over and cry for a minute. After that was done, I was quickly guided to my next fare.

It was amazing! The reason I know that this was really working is that FOUR times a new fare was already knocking on my window as I was dropping somebody off. That had never happened FOUR times in one day before. Another indication was that I kept crossing paths with familiar people - people I knew, waitresses I had recently had, people I had just seen earlier that day. Whenever that happens, I know that I am in flow and harmony with the universe.

Going forward, I hope to use my psychic sense effectively as much as possible.


A guy with a broken foot was in my taxi, whom I had picked up on Polk Street. We were listening to a hip-hop station, 94.9. A song ended and a female voice came on. It said

"We just confirmed about the Virgina Tech shootings that there are 32 people dead."

Then the next song came on. This was news to me. I had been driving a taxi all morning and not been listening to the news. I said to the guy with the broken foot

"Did you just hear that on the radio?"

"Yep," he said with resignation.

"Did you already know about this?"


"It's horrible. That's a lot of people dead."


"I think it's the most people dead in a shooting like this."

"There was that one--"



"I think this is even more people dead than Columbine."

"That was a high school, wasn't it?"

"Yeah. And this is a university."

"I guess that still doesn't make people grow up."

"I guess not," I said.

Trash what?

The dispatcher said "253 Church for Matthew." When I got there, a guy in a purple shirt with shaggy, longish hair walked towards my cab. I asked him if he was Matthew. He said yes. I said cool. He was going to a hotel downtown. He had an accent that I thought was British or Australian. I wanted to ask him where he was visiting from. I wanted to ask him if this was his first time in San Francisco. But I wasn't feeling talkative. Sometimes I don't. It's nothing personal. I liked his eyeliner.

We drove down Market all the way from Church to 4th Street. He didn't say anything either, just looked out the window. At some point I had to talk though because a guy in a van pulled up next to us and said "Excuse me, where is Mission Street?" I said "It's the next street over. Make a right and you'll get to it." I was relieved that I had an answer because two people had asked me for directions on Wednesday and I had drawn total blanks.

Around 7th or 6th Street Matthew said

"Is this the main street?"

"Yeah. It's Market Street."

"I just got here last night, so I haven't seen much yet."


"Yeah, I'm in a band and we did a show last night. We're from the UK."

"Oh yeah? How cool. What's the name of your band?"

"Trash Fashion."

"Trash what?"

"Trash Fashion."

"Trash Fashion. Okay."

"We flew in to New York first and we played there, and then we were in LA and next we're going to San Diego and then back to New York. And after that we're going to Germany or something."

"Wow. You guys are getting big, huh?"

"It's getting there."

"I mean, I have never heard of you guys but if you are playing in all these places.. That sounds so exciting."

"Yeah, it's quite cool." The humble, shy and almost doubtful way he said this surprised me. It was as if the popularity of his band hadn't quite sunk in it.

"So what do you do, do you sing or.."

"I play the drums."

As we made a right on 4th Street, I said

"I am going to write about you if you don't mind. I write a lot of taxi stories down."

"Where do you do that - do you have a blog?"



"It's not every day that I have a famous band member in my car."

Before he got out, I wrote "" on the back of one of my business cards and gave it to him.

Hi Matthew!

What I got for my anniversary

This week was my one year anniversary of being a taxi driver. This is what I got for it:

- A new shift that starts and ends half an hour later. That way I can sleep half an hour later in the morning or make money for a half hour longer. Either way, that half hour will come in handy.
- A call on my cell phone after my shift ended on Wednesday.

"Hi. I was wondering if you're driving right now?"

"No, my shift just ended."

"Ah, too bad. You gave my friend a ride this morning and gave him your card, and he said that you're an awesome cab driver. Maybe I'll call you next time I need a cab."


His friend and I that morning had had a conversation about road trips.

Bridal Cabbie

Today I drove a taxi in a wedding dress. I have been saving this one up for just the right time. You really have to be in the right mood to pull that off. Today was the day and guess what: It was Good Friday, and boy, was it ever a good one.

I am glad I waited to wear the wedding dress though because it does get you a lot of attention, and it is very uncomfortable to get in and out of the car in, and you really have to be prepared to deal with all that comes with that. And today I was prepared to deal with all of that, and I had a super fun day.

Early in the morning I stopped at Ritual to get some coffee and a scone. The girl at Ritual said

"Hi. You look really nice. All dressed up."

"Thank you."

The other girl at Ritual said

"Hi. Are you getting married today?"

"No. I wish."

"Keep walking around Valencia Street dressed like this, and all the girls will start dressing like this."

Some of my passengers said things like

"Is it a special occasion?"

"What are you wearing?"

"You look like you're having a lot of fun."

"You look fabulous and just seeing you today made me better." (He had AIDS.)

"We have to ask - is there a story behind your outfit?"

"Are you wearing an Easter dress?"

I answered most of the questions by explaining that I sometimes wear costumes while driving and today I was dressed up as a bride.

Halfway through the day I stopped at Momi Toby's for a bagel. The girl who worked there gave me a chocolate Easter bunny when I left.

"Now you have a bunny to match your outfit. Now you can tell people that it's your boyfriend's bunny and that you are getting married."


On the way back to the car a truck full of guys honked at me. I waved at them. They said

"Where is the groom!"

I waved the chocolate Easter bunny at them.

"Aaaahh!" they said.

I think my favorite part of the day was that I was creating strange imagery: a bride walking across the street carrying a to-go container of coffee, a bride getting into the driver's seat of a taxi, a bride lifting a wheelchair into the trunk of a car. There is imagery in every moment of life but today these moments seemed somehow more artistic. I felt a little bit like a filmmaker.