Do you know how people say that bartenders hear it all? Let me tell you, they don’t hear anywhere near the stuff cab drivers do. When someone gets into a cab, they see a person driving who doesn’t know anyone they know, they don’t face the driver so they feel that nobody sees each other, and no one else is in that space and can hear what is said. It’s like it is a temporary secret world. Suddenly the passenger can say whatever they want and no one will ever hear it or know it happened. To them, its like the cab driver is an anonymous therapist…..and they hear it all…………..
One day, a young woman gets into my cab in Pacific Heights. A guy walks her to the cab, says goodbye, she gets in and he closes the door. She tells me where she is going and then says, “Did you see that guy who walked me to the cab? He is my boyfriend’s best friend and I just had a threesome with him and his friend.”
I said, “You mean your boyfriend was not one of them?
“OK. What about your boyfriend?”
She said, “He is travelling on business.”
I said, “So I guess you aren’t really into the relationship.”
She replied, “I don’t know. I go back and forth. I feel kind of guilty but the sex was great.”
“Oh? So who was the third person?”
“Some guy I don’t know. The one I do know, he and I have been talking about it for a while, but tonight was the first time.”
“And you said he and your boyfriend are best friends?”
“So are you going to do it again?”
“I don’t know”
“Are you going to tell your boyfriend?”
“I don’t know.”
A guy gets in the cab, tell me his destination and then says, “Mind if I take my medicine?”
I said, “Of course not.”
He lights up a joint.
I said, “What are you doing?”
He says, “You said I can take my medicine.”
“No dude, you cant smoke pot here.”
“Why not?” He said with force behind it.
“For one thing, there is no smoking in the cab. And secondly, I don’t want to take the chance of getting pulled over and having a problem with the law because you wanted to smoke a joint.”
“But its my medicine.”
“I don’t care. And stop bullshitting me.”
“Hey, I’m allowed to take my medicine!”
“Not here you aren’t.”
“Whats your name? I’m going to report you.”
I pulled over and stopped. I said, “Its Jon. Now get the fuck out of the car.”
He looked at me confused about what to do. He played his hand but it was my car. He knew he lost.
I raised my voice, “Get out!”
He got out. I drove off.
A guy in a nice suit get in the cab and asks to stop at a bank machine before he goes to a restaurant. I take him there, he gets his money, he gets back in and we head off. He says, “I’m meeting this really hot girl for dinner. After wards I’m going to take her home and fuck her.” I was a little surprised since his suit and general way made him seem more proper than that. I said, “Well good luck with that.” He said, “Oh its not luck. I know how to treat women. I spend a little money on them and then give them orders and they do it.” I said, “Oh?” He looked at me and said, “You don’t get laid a lot do you?” I said, “Not as much as I would like.” He said, “You have to take control and tell them what to do. Just look them in the eye and say ‘Suck my dick.’ They’ll do it.”
I had a female roommate at the time and the next day (no, I didn’t tell her that) I told her about the guy and what he said. I thought she would be really offended; she was never at a loss for words. But when I quoted him, she stared off into space for a few seconds and walked into her room. I had a million thoughts of what she might be thinking, but never found out. One thing is for sure, even if he was right, if I said something like that, I’m sure the woman would get pissed off and call the police.
I usually had a high standard of who I would let in the cab no matter what they were dressed like. One night though, it was raining and I was driving a cab with 400,000 miles on it and a bad windshield. I stopped for a guy who hailed me and as soon as I saw him get in, I knew I had made a mistake. When I saw what he looked like, I took the microphone off the dashboard and put it in my lap in case I needed it. He gave me an address to a part of town that was very far away and not a good neighborhood. I started off and he said something about a guy he didn’t like and something that happened to him. It involved a gun. I talked to him like I was interested in his story and I asked, “So do you own a gun?” He said yes. I asked, “Do you have it on you now?” He said yes.
I pressed the button on the microphone down so the guy on the radio could hear me. I said, “So where are we going now? Mission and Geneva?” He said yes. I think we are at Mission and First. So did you ever use the gun?” He said yes. Then I announced my position again like I did before. I was praying the guy on the radio would hear this conversation and call the police. I kept asking about the gun and announcing my position and destination. This went on for a while and I was really nervous. I couldn’t believe no cops were anywhere to be seen.
About 15 minutes later, I happened to see a police car with its lights on. He had pulled someone over for a traffic violation and was talking to them in the driver’s side window. His partner was in next to the police car. I pulled next to the car that was pulled over and said, “Officer, the guy in my cab said he has a gun on him.” In the blink of an eye, the officer had his gun drawn, pointed at my passenger and was yelling at him, “Get out of the car! Now!” I looked at the passenger and he was looking at me with a face of confusion wondering why I had done this. I looked at the positions of him, and the two cops and suddenly realized that in the geometry of all of them, I could get caught in crossfire. I put the car in park and ran out, off to the other side of the road. The officer dragged the guy out of the car, threw him on the ground and cuffed him. I was scared and shaking. I had stopped seeing the details and just saw my imagination. Eventually, my imagination was interrupted by the police officer who said to me, “Well he didn’t have a gun on him but he did have cocaine on him. I think he was just high and spinning stories. You ok?” I was still shaking. I said, “Yeah. Thanks.” He said, “You did the right thing.” I asked if he wanted my ID and contact info and he said he wouldn’t need it. I thanked him again and drove back to the cab garage.
I walked up to Larry, the guy on the radio and asked if he heard my long conversation with the guy in my cab. He said with a smile, “I heard every word of it.” I screamed at him….“Then you heard me talking about the passenger having a gun and you heard me announcing my position and destination over and over again? And you didn’t do anything? What’s your problem? I thought I was going to get shot! What’s your fucking problem?!” He said he thought it was just another cab driver with the mike button pressed down like some do when not paying attention. The manager who was working the dispatch window asked what happened. I told him I got lucky and 1) came across a cop and 2) who dragged the guy out of the cab at gunpoint and arrested him. Larry felt bad and I didn’t care. I usually feel for others who realize they fucked up, but not this time. Larry took a month off after that. At the advice of the Dispatch manager, who was an ex-cop, I started carrying a gun after that. In talking to others about what happened, I found some other cab drivers carry guns too.
One rush hour, a guy gets in my cab in the financial district and is going home to Noe Valley. We are talking and eventually he asks me, “What do you do?” I said, “I drive a cab.” He said, “No, what do you do?” I paused. I said, “I am trying to figure that out. I have a bachelor’s degree and worked in telecom sales, but I burned out and I am trying to figure out what’s next.” He said, “Well you seem smart and I have a lot of connections. Why don’t you think about it, give me a call and let’s talk. Maybe I can help you.” I thought, this was the greatest guy in the world. I took his card and said, “Yeah, that would be great. Thanks.”
I called him in a couple of weeks and his assistant asked a lot of questions and was kind of rude about it. She put me on hold a few times and eventually said that he didn’t know who I was. I tried explaining it to her again. She put me on hold again and eventually came back and said, “He said you would find some good job hunting information at the unemployment office.” I couldn’t believe this. I said to her, “Listen, you tell him that if he doesn’t want to help me, that’s fine, but don’t offer to help and then bullshit me and then refer me to unemployment. Don’t take this personally, its not about you, but your boss is an asshole.” I hung up. I few minutes later, he called and yelled at me for making his assistant cry. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “Are you fricking kidding me? First of all, I told her not to take it personally. Secondly, don’t offer to help someone and then refer them to unemployment asshole. Try getting a soul and an assistant who’s maturity level is greater than that of a five year old’s. Of course, yours seems to be also.” He said nothing. I hung up.
I couple months later, it was raining and he got into my cab. He didnt have a coat or an umbrella. I had forgotten about him, but I remembered the address and when he got on a cell phone call, I remembered who he was. I pulled up stop a stop light. I looked at him and said, “I remember you. You are the guy who offered to help me with my job search and when I actually called, you told me to call the unemployment office.” He couldn’t believe his luck and neither could I. He said, in a fake happy-to-see-me voice, “Oh yeah. How’s it going?” I said, “It’s going great. Get out.” It was really pouring outside. He just looked at me. A nice looking couple came running up to the car in the rain and asked if he was leaving. I looked at him and said, “Yes he is.” He didn’t say a word and looked a little afraid of me; he just opened the door and walked out into the storm.
One evening, I picked up a guy to drive to the airport. The San Francisco airport was about a 20 minute drive. As I pulled onto the ramp off the highway to SFO, the car engine seemed to stop for 2 seconds, we coasted, the lights blinked and then everything resumed. I thought it was odd but the car worked so it was fine. I dropped the passenger off, unloaded his luggage, he paid me and I drove back to the city. As I got a few miles down the road, the gas pedal dropped to the floor. I had never seen anything like that. The car engine was not revving, but the pedal would not pop back up. I pulled over to the side of the road.
Just as I stopped, I saw flames shoot out of the engine. I grabbed my bag with my flashlight and other stuff in it and ran back about 100 yards. Seconds later, the car was engulfed in flames. I had never seen a fire like this before. I called 911 from my cell phone and a fire truck came over and put out the fire. The car was a charred mess and the sign on top was completely melted. The fireman asked if I was ok and I said yes. I said I was happy it didn’t explode. He said cars don’t explode; it’s not like the movies. I told him I thought I heard a few small explosions. He said it was probably the tires as the heat inflated and burst them. As I sat in the tow truck which was bringing the cab back to the garage, I remembered how the car engine stopped as I was on the entrance ramp to the airport. I’m glad the car didn’t catch fire then, especially with the passenger in it. What a scene that would have been with a car fire at the airport terminal.
One day I picked up a guy in the Marina, a nice part of town. He said, “Lets drive down these two streets, then go down to the tenderloin (not a nice part of town) and see what’s happening and then I live in Visitacion Valley,” a crappy part of town. I said, “What do you mean go to the tenderloin and see what’s happening?” He said, “You know, see who’s around.” I said, “You mean you want to look for hookers.” He said, “Yeah.” We had driven about 5 blocks at that point. I pulled over and said, “Ride’s over. Get out.” He whined, “C’mon.” I repeated, “Get out.” He said, “Well I’m not paying you then.” I said, “I don’t expect you to, just get out.” He got out. I drove off.
Another evening, I picked up four very attractive girls in the Marina. They had been drinking a little and were full of spunk. I was driving them to their destination and they were nice but the one in the front seat kept changing the radio station and really blasting it. The volume was a lot but I could deal with it. I asked her to pick a station and deal with it but she was a little drunk and kept changing it. I picked a station and said, “Lets keep it here ok?” She changed it a few more times. I said, “Ok, I’m glad you are having fun, but seriously lets keep it here.” She changed it a few more times. I reached my limit with these spoiled drunk brats. I pulled over and kicked them all out.
One evening, I went to a jazz club on a radio call. I waited for Debbie to come out. A few minutes later, the sexiest woman I have ever seen walked out of the jazz club and walked towards my cab. She was wearing jeans and a tight red top with no bra. She had the greatest rack and her breasts were bouncing and swaying as she walked. It’s been years now and I still have a vivid memory burn about that. I thought, “Oh please let that be Debbie.” She walked up to the window and asked, “Are you waiting for Debbie?” I was so happy. I said “Yep!” She got in and said she was going to Berkeley and asked how much it would cost. I told her about $35. She said “Hmmmmmmm. Ok.” We drove off.
I had to say something to her but I didn’t know what. A few blocks later I said, “So what do you do?” She said, “Oh, I’m a hooker.” I looked back at her not believing she was so open about it. She was nestled into the corner between the back seat and the door. I also still have memory burn about how she looked. She said she just moved here from Seattle, was 20, was just starting out and learning the trade. We were nearing the Bay Bridge, which we had to go over to get to Berkeley. It is a long bridge. I asked her if the $35 was a lot for her. She said, kind of. I normally wouldn’t have asked, but my mind wasn’t exactly working at this point. I said, “Well if you want, I would be happy to take payment in trade.” There was a pause and she said, “Are you serious?” I said, “Yes, if you want.” She said, “OK.” We were on the bridge at this point. She climbed over the seat, took her top off and unzipped my pants. I was so turned on by how incredibly beautiful this 20 year old was. She leaned over and gave me the most incredible blow job as we were going across the bridge. It was all I could do to pay attention to the road and not to crash the car. I was in heaven.
When she was done, she got back in the back seat. I told her that was great. She said “Thanks.” We chatted. She was nice. I said, “So I guess you live in Berkeley.” She said, “No, I’m seeing a guy that lives there.” When we got to her destination, I said, “Well Debbie, it was a pleasure.” She smiled. I said, “I don’t suppose you might like to get together at some point.” I couldn’t believe I was doing and saying all this. What am I, crazy? At bare minimum, I was lonely. She said, “As a client?” And I said, “No, as anything else. You are really nice. I like you.” She said, “Let me think about it.” She wrote down her number and said goodbye. In case you are wondering, yes, the number was real.
One night at about 1am, I picked up two guys from a party and drove them home to (separate places) in the Haight. They were talking and joking around. One guy asked his friend if he had heard in the news about someone robbing cabbies at gunpoint. I did not like this question and, if you recall, I was carrying a gun at this point. It was a 32 semi-automatic and I had it in a belt pouch. When he asked this question, I unzipped the pouch. He thought it was funny that cabbies were getting robbed and made some stupid drunk comments that he thought were funny. I took out the gun and held it in my lap. This went on for a few minutes and I payed close attention to what they were saying, their emotions, where they were sitting, what they were doing and my instincts along of course with my driving. Normally, I would have thought they were harmless, but given the topic of conversation, I wasn’t making any assumptions. The drunk idiot got out first. We drove off and I was relived.
The other guy seemed cool but I wasn’t going to put the gun away. When we got to his house he paid me. Before he got out, I said to him, “Listen, you should have a talk with your friend tomorrow about what he says.” He knew what I meant and apologized. I said, “Thanks but its more serious than that. Listen, you seem like a decent guy, so I’m just telling you, cabbies do get robbed sometimes and I know a few that carry guns for that reason. Your friend could seriously get killed some day. This is no joke.” He looked down and paused. He said, “Yeah, he was drunk. But you are right. I’ll tell him. Thanks. Have a good night.” I said, “You too,” and drove off into the night.