This is a conversation I had with a cab driver who, for obvious reasons, prefers to remain anonymous. Ill tell you this much though, he doesnt drive for the company I drive for. -Matt
CB: Lets start with drinking and driving. Have you ever been drunk while driving cab?
CB: How about drugs?
Driver: Oh yeah, heroin. In fact, one time... no more than once, a couple times... Id go to work and Id be high on heroin and Id stop and smoke some pot. Id be driving along and Id forget where I was and where I was going. Id look around and just not know. Ive been driving cab long enough to recognize where I am in any corner in the city, but there were a couple of times where I panicked because I didnt know where I was going or why, you know.
CB: Did you have passengers when that happened?
Driver: Oh yeah, with passengers. I just faked it. I kept driving straight till I could figure out where I was. It was just a momentary lapse, it would come back in about ten or fifteen seconds.
CB: Did that scare you?
Driver: No, I felt really stupid actually. More than anything, I felt dumb.
CB: You didnt lose control of the car or anything?
Driver: No, I had control of the car. Ive never had any wrecks. I like to be in control, thats why I used to do heroin, because I like to be in control too much and I had to escape my desire to be in control!
CB: Did you feel like you had to do heroin?
Driver: No, I did heroin because I liked heroin.
CB: Well then why did you do it at work?
Driver: That was probably when I was strung out. I think I probably did it a couple times. There was a certain period of time when it was not that unusual for me to do heroin while I was driving a cab. But it wasnt a very long time, it was probably over a period of a couple years or so.
CB: Was it the combination of heroin and pot that made you lose it?
Driver: It definitely seemed to be the pot. That was the culprit.
CB: What else has happened while you were under the influence behind the wheel.
Driver: Youre probably referring to the story I told you about the drunken queen I picked up South of Market who was doing amyl nitrate.
CB: Well, that was one of the stories I hoped you tell me, but I was just wondering if anything interesting has happened while you were under the influence driving.
Driver: Well, I never was all that intoxicated. I never actually drove drunk. I mean, sometimes Id have a couple of drinks in a bar at the end of my shift, but basically I wasnt really driving under the influence at all. All the really truly horrifying or interesting things that have happened to me have happened when Ive been pretty straight and sober.
CB: Tell me about that.
Driver: Ive developed this theory that it seems that all the really weird things that happen to cab drivers happen to them the first couple of months that they drive cab. Theyre kind of like prey in the jungle, like a newborn or something saying victimize me and people pick up that energy. Actually I think it has more to do with they dont know how to differentiate between fares that will be a problem and fares that wont. I actually know this guy who got robbed on his first night driving and continued to drive for a couple of years and got robbed twice after that. I dont know what it was with this guy, but he seemed to attract that. In fact, I think he was robbed twice in his first week. But he kept driving. Actually, the first couple of weeks that I was driving, I picked up this guy, and it was probably 4:30 in the morning and this was back in the early 80s when there used to be a lot of bath houses opened, this was before AIDS and it was common to find a lot of drunken gays down there trying to get home. This guy, I picked him up and he was pretty out of it. He was sniffing amyl nitrate and asked me if I wanted some and I said no. But I had my window mostly rolled up and as he was doing it, I was kind of getting high off the fumes anyway. I had to roll down the windows gasping for air. He had asked me if I minded him doing it and I said No, I dont care what you do as long as you pay me. So then he pulls out this dildo, and holds it up and says Im gonna put this in my ass. I just turned to look at him and said Great. So he pulled his pants down and pulled his knees up around his ears and started sticking this dildo in his ass. I just drove and tried to ignore it. Like I said, I didnt really know any better. I thought maybe this was what cab driving in San Francisco was about. And hes sticking it in going Look at me look at me! Watch me, this is like my pussy! And I looked back and it was pretty disgusting and he kept doing that and I was just trying to get him where he was going. And he said Its ok, Ill pay you extra And that time of the morning, money was kind of scarce so I was willing to go along with it. So we keep driving and then he says Im gonna jerk off now. And thats where I drew the line No, youre not going to jerk off. And he says No, its ok, Ill clean it up, I have a towel! Ill give you fifteen dollars! And I thought about it and said Ok, cause fifteen dollars is fifteen dollars. So he started jerking off, and he had this greasy little towel that he wiped it up with after he came. And then he started sticking his dildo in his ass again. And the next thing I know he had hung his ass over the front seat and hes sticking the dildo in and out of his ass right beside my ear. And I kinda looked over and I was completely flabbergasted and all of a sudden it dropped out of his ass and onto the seat beside me. It fell right on top of my waybill and it was just sitting there with the street lights glistening off of it, and he said Grab it and stick it in! And I said No, no, Im not going to do that. And then he said Ill give you ten dollars more! And I said Oh, ok. And I shoved it up his ass. Anyway, by that time, we had pulled up to his apartment building at Hayes and Pierce and I said Ok, thats it, get out. And he only gave me like ten bucks extra so I was kind of pissed. Then he asked me if I would come upstairs with him and he said, All you have to do is sit there and watch me jerk off. And I said No, you wont, you already ripped me off. So he got out, and started walking away and I started driving away. I heard him yell, and I looked in my rear view mirror and hes standing in the middle of the street with has pants down and hes holding the dildo up in the air and he turns and he sticks it up his ass. That was probably my most curious fare.
CB: Did you just go home after that?
Driver: No, I finished my shift first.
CB: What else has happened to you?
Driver: Well, OK. Ive had a few blowjobs while driving. And Ive noticed it becomes extremely difficult to not drive erratically when having an orgasm in someones mouth. I was actually coming back from a show in Palo Alto and Id decided I wasnt going to drink I was gonna have to drive back and that the cops were going to be out in full force. So I didnt drink for the whole show and then after the show I was going to leave, but the guy who was running the show started setting up drinks on the bar, and he just lined up ten or fifteen kamikazes in a row. And I just took a look at them and said Aw, what the hell and I drank about seven of them in a row. Then I stayed there for another hour or two and drove back in the van. Which Im not particularly proud of, thats one of the few times in my life when I definitely knew without a doubt that I was too drunk to drive safely. And I was kind of weaving around the road and I got a blowjob on the way back too, and that was extremely... uh.. that was definitely.. I wasnt staying in my lane.
Driver: Anything weird happen to you since you started driving?
CB: Yeah, within the first month of driving, I had every conceivable type of couple make out in the back of my cab. First it was a guy and a girl, then it was two guys, then a transvestite and a guy and then a transvestite and a woman, and then last it was two women. They were just friends I guess, and they were coming home from a double date and they just started making out like crazy in the back seat. One of them was saying, No, no, the cab driver might be from that HBO show. He probably has a hidden camera! And I said Oh, how did you know? Its right here in the mirror! And they freaked out and got really mad at me! I thought it was funny, but they were really upset.
Driver: I picked up this one guy at the Oasis Motel. It was like 2 in the morning, and I picked him up on the corner, and he was a young white guy, tall, normal, good looking guy. And he said, Ive only got five dollars, can you get me to Union and Larkin? And I knew it was going to be a little more than that, but I agreed to take him. He was eating something out of a styrofoam cup and I didnt really take much notice of it. So we got there, and the meter had gone to close to six bucks or something and Id turned it off and he gave me the five dollars and said thanks and got out. And then I drove down into North Beach and I stopped over by the TransAmerica building and this guy opens the back door and goes UGH!! And I turned around and the last guy had smeared chili all over the back seat!
CB: Thats totally weird! Thats a perfect story. Thats exactly what Im looking for. Speaking of the Oasis, thats where I got my best ride. It in the first few months that I had been driving and I got a radio call to the Oasis. I drove through the little drive-in garage theyve got there and this woman got into my cab wearing a motorcycle leather and leather pants I think. Anyway, she told me she was going to 44th and Balboa. I wasnt sure whether it would be quicker to take Turk all the way or if I should take Geary at that point, so I asked her which she preferred. She told me she didnt care, that she wasnt a bitch and that however I drove, as long as she got home shed be happy. So I started driving and I asked her how her day had been. She told me shed taken the day off from work and that she worked at the Market Street Cinema [a strip club]. I dont remember exactly how the conversation went, but I remember not thinking all that much about the fact that she worked in the sex industry. She asked me about being a cab driver and then went on to tell me that she had lived for a number of years in Boston and had done a bunch of work as an S&M queen and that S&M queens were a dime a dozen in San Francisco so she wasnt making as much money as she did on the more repressed East Coast. I nodded and kept driving, then out of nowhere she was leaning into the front seat saying Youre so sweet! Youre such a sweetheart! Youre the nicest cab driver Ive ever had! Most other drivers would have at least asked me for a blowjob by now! I was stunned for a second. Then I choked and said Um, that hadnt really occurred to me. I mean, we were just talking about work. I uh.. Then I started wondering if I was weird for not asking her, or if she was crazy, or what. We arrived at her house, the meter said twelve dollars and she asked me if I had change for a hundred dollar bill. I never have change for a hundred dollar bill. Not even if I really do have change for a hundred dollar bill. You know?
Driver: Yeah. I know.
CB: So I said No, trying to sound as annoyed as possible and she said she had to run into the house. She left her jacket in the car and then came back out after a minute and handed me a hundred dollar bill. I started to say that I didnt have change, but she cut me off and said Keep the change. I asked her if she was sure and she said, Yep, stay sweet or something like that and started to walk away. She turned around before she got to the house and said Thats the biggest tip youve ever gotten right?
Driver: Ha! She wanted to make sure!
CB: Yeah, it was really strange.
Driver: People want to make some sort of impression on you even when its a somewhat anonymous situation.
CB: Theres this weird class thing that happens too. It seems like most people who take cab rides assume that the driver is from a lower class than they are, and that means they can either treat you like a servant or they figure that youll do anything for money.
Driver: I quickly end that shit.
CB: Yeah, I dont usually say anything to people, but it comes up a lot that Ive been to college and people always ask me why Im driving a cab. And I just tell them that I like it, that its kind of a fun job. Every once in a while Ill have someone in the back of my cab talking about something that I know a lot about, like computers or desktop publishing or something and Ill wait for an opportunity to correct them on something, or offer up an answer to a question theyre asking the other person. Its really fun when its something really nerdy like a Unix shell account discussion or something. It really hurts their minds when I can participate in a conversation with them about something they cant comprehend a cab driver knowing anything about. But you know, it seems like most people want to ask me What else do you do? I dont want to talk about Cool Beans! all the time, so sometimes I make something up and flat out lie to them.