Thursday night, my friend Nathan
came over to my place from another region of the world referred to as "The 510." For those of you who are from the Bay Area, you know what I'm talking about. For those of you not Bay Area Savvy, 510 happens to be the area code of Oakland, where Nathan is from. It doesn't carry the panache of the 415, but it's nowhere near as foul as the 650, 925, 707, or (gasp) the 408.
We were hanging out at my place, just having a chill evening watching the movie “9 to 5” with Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda, when he suddenly looked up at me and said, "Yo dude, let's go out." I mulled over it for a second. I had just hung up with my boyfriend and told him I was going to bed soon. Hmmm...should I leave my nice, warm, comfortable pad, or should I go out on a school night and tear it up in Big Homogay Central with Nathan? Oh, why the fuck not...I wasn't that
tired, and Nathan has had a rough past few months. Being the good friend I am, I went into my dressing room, changed into some tight clothes, schmutzed my hair, moisturized, and out the door we went into the foggy San Francisco night. Out at Columbus and Broadway, I flagged a cab. It pulled over, and we jumped in.
This is where things got interesting.
"18th and Castro, please," I said, ducking into the cab and sliding across the worn pleather seat.
"Yooooo betcha!" came the enthusiastic response from the front seat.
Oh god. Here we go.
Our driver, a white-haired gentleman in his late 50's, was kind of quiet at first, but soon asked us where exactly we were headed.
"Oh, we just wanted to get out of the house and see what's going on," Nathan replied. "Nowhere in particular, I guess."
"You know, some of my best friends are gay!" blurted the driver.
"Is that so?" I said. "I know a few of them myself."
"Yeah! I mean, I'm straight and everything, but I don't have any problem with them. I mean, to each his own, right? Like I said, some of my best friends are gay, and sometimes I even go out to the gay clubs! Drinks are better and you sure can't beat the music! Of couse, I'm straight, but hey, I don't have any problem with the gays, even though I'm straight!" More than anything, he sounded like he was trying to convince himself he wasn't actually a big old cocksucker.
"Sure." I, for one, wasn't convinced.
Nathan and I started talking amongst ourselves, hoping this guy would just shut the fuck up and drive us to the goddamn Castro and leave us in peace to talk about gay boy things. However, he had other plans.
"Hey, do you guys know any good jokes?"
Do I know any good jokes. Heh-heh.
"Yeah man, I know some," I said, slyly grinning. "Although, most people are offended by my jokes and I've almost been run out of San Francisco more than once because of them."
"Oh goody! I love jokes like that!"
"Okay, but I warned you."
"Go on! Go on!"
"What does a fat girl do in the summer?"
"Um, I dunno!"
"BWAAAAAAAA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!" Jesus effing Christ, I thought he was going to careen off the road and hit a streetlight pole, he laughed so hard. He jerked the wheel around so much I cracked my head on the window twice. I suspect he made a little pootyfart as well, judging at the unpleasant odor that suddenly permeated the cab. Or maybe it was Nathan, who knows. It sure as fuck wasn't me. I always call mine. Slowly, he recovered his equilibrium and his ability to stay in one lane.
"I know a few!" he nervously blurted out after a few seconds.
"Go ahead," Nathan and I replied in unison.
Oh boy. Every bad gay, lesbian, and woman joke I have ever heard was told in rapid-fire succession, his voice growing higher-pitched and more manic by the second. Eventually, he stopped actually looking out the windshield, opting instead to simply look over the seat at us. Now, keep in mind he was still flying through the streets of San Francisco at breakneck speed, with Nathan and I being thrown around the back seat like little bitches as the cab raced up and down the hills of Gough Street, especially when we crossed Eddy. If you've ever gone through that intersection you know exactly what I'm talking about; it's like you're flying off the edge of the earth into a canyon until the car comes plunking back down onto the pavement. My fingers frantically scrambled for the seatbelt, but it wasn't there, so I scootched down and braced my knees against the driver's seat, and Nathan held onto the "oh shit" handle above his door. Oddly, this isn't the first time I've had to do this in a San Francisco taxicab, but that's the subject of a different blog.
Suddenly, everything started happening very quickly, and this is where the details get murky.
We were rapidly approaching the intersection of Market and Gough streets, when the light turned yellow. Seeing this light out of the corner of his eye, the cabbie stomped on the gas pedal and turned around to continue his deranged little standup routine for us. There was a cab in front of us, and suddenly, the car in front of that cab slammed on its brakes, then reaccelerated through the intersection. It made no sense whatsoever. However, it set off a chain of events that proved to be absolutely catastrophic, and I am sure the driver of that first car had no idea of the carnage that was about to ensue. The cab in front of us aborted its attempt run the light, which would have been no problem had our cabbie been looking out the windshield instead of blathering into our terrified faces.
Nathan yelled, "Look out!"
The cabbie, punch drunk on telling his jokes to his captive audience, suddenly seemed to remember we were rocketing down Gough in his Ford Crown Victoria at approximately the speed of sound, and it was he, not us, who was behind the wheel.
"Aw FUCK!" he yelled, as we smashed into the back of the cab in front of us with a crunchy, gritty, yet strangely satisfying thud-crunkle. "Oh no! Oh no! Oh fuck! Oh shit! Fuck-fuck! God fucking dammit! Fuck! FUUUUUUCK!"
Fucking pottymouth. No wonder he's a cabdriver.
The cabbie in front of us emerged dazed but unhurt from his bruised cab, and looked more nervous than anything. Turns out he spoke little English, and since his cab wasn't damaged all that much (it had been in more than a few wrecks before) he just wanted to get out of the intersection and forget the whole thing ever happened. Unfortunately, our cab didn't fare quite as well.
The grille was completely demolished, and the headlights were cross-eyed, one of them pointing straight down into the pavement. It gave the cab a slightly demented expression, kind of like it had a hairlip, a migraine, and a mild case of Down's Syndrome. However, the damage was only cosmetic, the engine was still running (as was the meter, I might add), and only the front clip was damaged. The headlights were actually unbroken and the bumper was pretty much unscathed. The cabbie got back in, shut the door, and was quiet for a second.
"I'm sorry, guys," he finally said, quietly.
"No problem, man. Nobody's hurt, and the cab seems okay," I said reassuringly.
"The cab is all fucked up!" he shouted.
So are you, dude.
"Well, I'm sure it's not that bad. It's still running, that's a good thing." I was really reaching by this point, and made a mental note to myself to never go to the Castro again unless I really needed to go there. Heaving a gusty sigh, the cabbie dropped the transmission into drive and we continued on our journey in relative silence.
"Now I have to fill out all sorts of paperwork. My boss is going to be so mad. What am I going to do?" he nervously babbled to himself. Apparently, he was disoriented at this point, because he abruptly hit the brakes and made a U-turn in the middle of Market, continuing to babble nonsensically to himself.
"Uh, dude," Nathan said, a bit nervously. "Dude!"
"Oh, sorry...McCoppin and Valencia, right?" said our obviously confused driver. Perhaps he had hit his head. Or, more likely, he was a complete fucking lunatic who was probably going to kill us.
"18th and Castro, please," I said in a firm, authoritative voice, hoping he's snap out of it and just fucking take us there already.
"Oh yeah...18th and Castro. Guys, I'm so, so sorry. So, so, so sorry. God."
"Hey man, we're all okay. It's cool. Don't worry about it."
He flipped a bitch again and we continued on our way. Finally, we turned left onto Castro in our battered cab, grinding to a halt at the bus stop in front of the Diesel store. I got out to survey the damage.
The grille was barely attached to the cab at this point, so I reached down, grabbed it, and yanked. It broke off easily, and I handed the cabbie his 4-foot long chunk of cab. “Pop your trunk and throw it in there,” I told him. Meekly, yet obediently, he shuffled away to comply with my request. The people waiting for the 33 Stanyan looked at us strangely, which didn’t surprise me since it’s not every day you see someone jump out of a wrecked cab, yank off the grill, and hand it to the driver. “Front bumper is okay, just get a new clip, check your radiator and airbag sensors, and reinstall your headlights. It’ll be fine.”
“Where am I going to get a new front clip?” the cabbie said in a slightly shaky voice.
“There’s a wrecking yard at Evans and Rankin down in the Bayview, that’s where all the junked cabs and cop cars are. Ask for Jorge. You’ll probably even find one that’s the right color.” My head is filled with all sorts of random information that most of the time just takes up space, but sometimes comes in handy. Knowing where to locate spare auto parts is a direct result of being raised in Cleveland, Ohio, kind of like always having jumper cables in my trunk or beer in my refrigerator. I was just raised that way, especially since my mom generally drove around complete beaters that barely ran. One of my chores was to make sure her car started in the morning.
The fare was $15.43, so I handed the driver a yuppie food stamp, better known as a $20 bill. “Keep the change, man. That was the best cabride I’ve had in a long time.”
“Oh thanks, guy,” the cabbie beamed. “Thank you so much!” He got into his cab and chugged off into the night.