Day Cabbie

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

The suspect dad

He flagged me down on Market between Franklin and Gough. There was something tentative about the way he flagged me down. I felt like he was hiding something. He had a stroller with him. I couldn't see what was in it. For a moment I wondered if he was the kind of person who uses a stroller to cart around personal belongings. He pointed at the stroller and said with a Spanish accent "Sleeping." I said "Ah." So there was a child in there.

He put the child on the backseat. It was a one-year-old boy. He folded up the stroller, and I put it in the trunk.

"Where are you going?"

"Divisadero.. but first, I have to pick up some medication."


"Right here... No, here... One more block." This went on for a couple of blocks.

He asked me to pull over at Market and Laguna. There is no pharmacy at that intersection. I was wondering what kind of "medication" he was picking up. He left the little boy in the cab with me. He was gone for about ten minutes. I am not a parent but this seemed kind of irresponsible. I tried to make the little boy laugh by playing peekaboo with him. I eventually succeeded. He bared his teeth at me. There was a huge gap between his two upper front teeth.

The dad came back. "Thank you for watching him," he said. "No problem," I said. I wondered if he had just taken his little son on a drug run.

"Where to now?"

"What time is it?"


"Oh, we have time. She doesn't get off work until 3:30. Let's go to the Marina. The playground there on Chestnut."


We talked about the little boy, his mom. The dad told me they live in the Outer Mission. I told him I live in the Inner Mission.

When we got to the playground on Chestnut, the dad pulled out a booklet of Paratransit tickets. I thought that was odd. People who use Paratransit tickets are usually old and/or disabled. But I didn't think too much about it. The fare was $17.05. I counted all the tickets in the booklet, and there was $18 worth. I also made sure that the white trip report sheet was on top and that it was signed. Without the trip report, the tickets aren't worth anything.

After counting, I put the booklet down on the center divider between the two front seats. Then I got up to get the stroller out of the trunk. The dad collected his son from the backseat. We thanked each other and wished each other a nice day.

After I took off, I picked up the Paratransit booklet to write down my cabbie number on the trip report. The white trip report was gone. One little corner of it was still there. The suspect dad must have ripped it off while I was getting the stroller and he was getting his son. Without the trip report, the Paratransit tickets can't be redeemed. He had literally ripped me off.

Now I knew what he had been hiding. This whole time he had probably been wondering if he would be able to rip me off.

Love works

On the way back from the airport I had a lady in my cab that I would describe as bitchy. I made this judgment after overhearing two of her phone conversations. The first one, I assumed, was with a client/customer.

After establishing their names, she said to him impatiently "Can I help you?" And for the rest of the conversation her tone and choice of words made it very apparent that she had no interest whatsoever in helping him or talking to him. After hanging up, she said "God!" and I could hear her eyes roll back into her skull.

The next thing I heard out of her head was "You are the most annoying person in North America!" I got really tense but then relaxed slightly when I realized that she was not talking to me but to someone on the phone again.

"You knew I was flying to the West Coast this morning. What made you think I would be able to answer the phone?"

Bitch, bitch, bitch, on she went. I noticed that my body was still tense, and I thought 'I can't wait to get this woman out of my cab.'

She had two more phone conversations that appeared to be with family members or close friends and that were much milder in tone, in which she used words like "honey" and "love you."

I was still slightly frustrated about the negative air with which she had filled my cab earlier, but instead of sending her negative vibes in return, I decided to send her love. I breathed out and imagined love emanating from my heart and finding its way directly to her.

When I pulled up in front of the W Hotel a few blocks later, she said chipperly "Oh, we're here, aren't we?"

"Yes, we are," I said, relieved.

"I'm always surprised by the lack of hotel driveways here in San Francisco," she said in a honeyed voice. Then she told me that she didn't even remember which hotel she had stayed in the last time she came to San Francisco--from LA, she added--and that she was looking forward to dining at the Slanted Door later in the day.

She gave me a big tip. I was torn between feeling proud and manipulative for having made her stop being a bitch.

Just so you know

I was going North on Columbus and about to make a left turn on Bay when I decided 'Nah, I'm gonna make a right on Bay instead.' Immediately it turned out to be the right decision because a doorman flagged and whistled me over to the Hilton. A lady got in. She was from Dallas, and even as late as the year 2009, she had the stereotypical big hair. I liked her subtle Texan accent.

She worked for Nokia and needed to go to 650 Townsend, where the Nokia office is.

"I used to work in that building," I said.


"Yeah, Macromedia used to be in there."


After a beat:

"I have to ask: How did you go from working for Macromedia to being a cab driver?"

"Well, about three years ago I quit my job at Macromedia because I was tired of sitting in an office full-time. My intention was to become a counselor, but then I decided that I didn't want to do that full-time either. So I also started driving a cab, and three years later, I am still doing it, two days a week."

In the rear view mirror I saw that she was smiling.

"And I am going to keep driving until my taxi stories have been published as a book. I write taxi stories."

"Oh, cool."

"Yes. I am going to keep collecting taxi stories until the book is out."

I was glad that I had decided to drive along the Embarcardero instead of through the Financial District because she seemed to enjoy the sunny and sparkly view of the bay.


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 Nürnberg, 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?"


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."


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


"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.


I was on my way to Ocean Beach to watch the moonset. A friendly-looking gray-haired guy was standing at a bus stop in the deep Richmond, and I pulled over. I knew right away that our paths had crossed before.

He was going to the VA hospital just a few blocks away.

"I am pretty sure I have met you or seen you before."

"Uhhh.." He didn't seem to recognize me.

"Do you work with the public?"

"No, but I used to own a café."

"Which one?"

"It was on Page and Octavia-"

"That's it!" I suddenly saw him standing behind the counter of that café with a friendly smile on his face. I recognized this image as a memory of mine. "I used to come in there all the time!"

"Ah. What a coincidence."

"I used to come in there for a bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese all the time." It is true.

"You're making me hungry for some coffee or tea."

When I dropped him off, I said "It was nice to see you again."

"It was nice to see you again too. Coincidence."

This was the second time he talked about a coincidence. But I knew that it wasn't a coincidence because earlier that morning I had been tired and cranky, and I had asked the universe to lead me to a better-feeling place. And after this encounter, I was feeling better.


It was the day of dead Christmas trees. They were on almost every street corner.

A guy with stylish glasses and shaggy black hair flagged me down at Market and Van Ness.

"24th and Church, please."

I wanted to say "Hey, that's my neighborhood!" but I didn't. In fact, I didn't say anything during the whole ride, and neither did he. But the radio was playing Radiohead, and I got the sense he appreciated and enjoyed that.

On 24th, right before Church, I said "Can I drop you off here?"

"Across the street, please," he said, so I crossed Church.

'I bet he works at the Shoe Biz,' I thought, so I stopped right in front of the Shoe Biz.

I watched him after he got out of the cab, and he walked across the street, to a new clothing store called Cary Lane. The store was still closed, and he unlocked it.

Since 24th Street is my neighborhood, I knew that Cary Lane had only been there for a month or two. I also knew that before the store was empty for a few months, there had been a small grocery store in there that I had loved going to until it went out of business. I still miss it. I wondered if my passenger knew about the grocery store and ever felt the ghosts of vegetables and loaves of bread.

A little later for lunch, I tried to go to the Indian restaurant another cabbie had recommended to me a while ago. Unfortunately it was no longer there, and a Thai restaurant was there instead. I decided to eat there, and the Tofu Prik King was actually really tasty. I wondered if the friendly girls working there ever felt the ghosts of Naan and Paneer Tikka Masala.