Day Cabbie

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

Unnay

After waiting at the airport for two hours, I finally got my passenger. She needed to go to the German consulate.

I didn't know where that was so I asked her for the address. She said it was 1960 Jackson, which I guessed to be at Franklin, but it turned out to be one block farther, at Gough.

"I am German too but I have never actually been to the German consulate here," I said. And this is when the conversation turned to German.

She told me in German that she needed to get her German passport renewed. She said there was no German consulate in Seattle, where she lived, so she had flown into San Francisco for the day because San Francisco had a German consulate.

She was originally from a tiny village by N├╝rnberg, and sometimes it was hard for me to understand her because of her Bavarian accent.

She said she couldn't wait to move back to Germany because that's where she wanted her children to grow up. She had been in the U.S. for twenty years. Her children were 3 and 2. I loved what she called them: Their names were Joshua and Sophia, but she referred to them as Yoshi and Phia.

I gave her my card so she could call me when she was ready to go back to the airport. She called me about an hour later, but I was stuck at the airport. On the phone, we were back to speaking English. I knew that her flight wasn't for a few more hours, so I asked her if she didn't want to see a little more of San Francisco while waiting for me.

"Yes, but I am lost here."

I told her to keep walking on Jackson until she got to Fillmore and then walk down Fillmore Street. It had lots of shops and cafes, I told her. She agreed to wait for me there.

Another hour later, I called her to say that I was approaching Fillmore Street, ready to pick her up. She said that I had sent her to an interesting area. I was glad. She had walked all the way from Jackson down to O'Farrell Street. We were still speaking English.

As soon as she got back into my cab, we started speaking German again. I thought it was curious but it also felt very natural. On the way to the airport, she told me that she had noticed a lot of people smoking on Fillmore Street. She said that she had been a smoker for a long time but that she had quit a few years ago. She said she really missed it and that she was considering starting again when she was 70.

What I liked most about her was that her name was Anne but she didn't let people pronounce it the American way. Instead, she told people that her name was "Unnay" because that resembles how Anne is pronounced in German. She said that it made people want to put an accent on the 'e', and this annoyed her.

High school reunion

I was leaving the taxi lot around 6am and felt called to drive up Potrero Hill rather than towards downtown like I normally do. At Pennsylvania and 23rd I looked over to see a figure standing under the 280 overpass in the rain. At first I thought it was a homeless person dancing with an umbrella. But then I realized that this person was actually trying to get my attention. I made a left on 23rd and picked the person up.

It was a handsome young man with long braids. He needed to go to the Ferry Building to catch a ferry to Sausalito.

"What are you doing in Sausalito?" I asked.

He told me something about a bicycle race, Lance Armstrong, etc.

"People are going there this early, on a holiday?"

"Yeah."

I am really glad that I asked what I asked next. I said

"So what brings you to this race?"

"Well.. I am a cyclist. But that's not why I am going. This is going to sound kind of weird. The first girl I ever kissed, in high school, is going to be there. I am 29 now, and we recently got back in touch, and I think we are going to--how do you say that?"

"Start dating?"

"Yeah, I guess. Is that how you say that?"

"Maybe," I giggled.

"She lives in Sausalito now with her parents. We spent all of yesterday together, and now I am going back."

"Cool. How did you guys find each other?"

"It's funny because I had actually been thinking about her all these years. It was only one kiss, and then we graduated, but I had always wondered what could have happened. So a couple of years ago I googled her name. And she is actually a famous opera singer now--or as famous as opera singers get. And I noticed that she was performing at Yerba Buena Gardens that weekend. So I went. And she recognized me. But she didn't remember the kiss."

"Wow!"

"At that time she was still with her husband, from whom she is now divorced, also a guy from high school."

"No!"

"Yes. I know, it's really weird. It all sounds like a movie. I am just going along for the ride and curious to see what happens."

I am curious too. The guy had a really curious name too--a Nigerian name with almost 20 letters. I wish him and the opera singer all the best.