This week I went for drinks with Ian and Peder during happy hour at Kennedy's Irish Pub and Curry House, a strange amalgamation of bar and restaurant with some seriously sketchy decor. But they have $2 Guinness pints, when they remember to chill the keg, plus two-for-one drafts til 7 or so, makes the trek all the way up Columbus worth it. Following several beers and some deep fried foods, we hailed a subsidized cab, paid for by one of two of my companions, Peder.
We asked him to take us to Bernal Heights, and off he went. Peder asked our driver, who had a super thick Caribbean Islander-type accent, if he had any paper receipts. The man said that he did, then laughed a hearty laugh. He asked if Peder's company was paying, and when he learned that he did he began talking at a break neck pace about his experiences behind the wheel.
"That reminds me of this man I used to drive, who would call me up regularly. His company paid for everything. He would let me fill in whatever I wanted for the amount. This was back during the dot-com time, when they had all the money and no sense. That is why they are no longer in business. He would call me and I would pick up him and his girlfriend. I would drive her to her office. He would get out of the car, all nice in his suit, and kiss her before she left. Then he'd get back in the cab, change his clothes, and ask me to drive him to the Castro where he would meet up with different guys. He did this all the time. I never could quite believe it."
What came next was an assortment of tales so terrific, so hilarious, that I'm sorry I couldn't better understand the man through his accent. He regaled us with stories of drug dealers, who asked him to drive them to Stockton, the town not the street, and how they arrived with 2 briefcases, and after they left the house "after talking to some guys," they'd return to the vehicle with a single, different briefcase. He said he never asked any questions.
"You can't be arrested for something like that, can you?," I asked the driver, who was moving toward our destination quickly, but not as fast as he was talking.
"Oh, yes. Oh, yes. There was once a cab driver who had a man ask him to take him to the bank. He did, and the guy went in then came right out saying they wouldn't cash his check. He then asked him to take him to a Bank of America. He did, and the customer came out with the same story. So, he drove him to a Washingston Mutual. While he was waiting for the man to come out of there, the police pulled up on him, gun drawn, telling him to, 'Put his hands on the wheel!' The driver had no idea what was going on. It turns out the man was robbing each bank, then taking the cab to the next one."
We all sat dumbfounded. Some guy hailed a cab then proceeded to rob banks and use it as his getaway car? This was not your average taxi driver chit chat.
He told us also about a very rich patron who spent the entire day in his cab, going from Golden Gate Park to the Haight to North Beach and then out to the ocean. He spent hours in the car taking a driven tour of the city. At the beach our driver stopped, meter running, so his guest and his friends could dine at The Cliffhouse.
"You hungry?," asked Mr. Money Bags. "You want to eat?"
"If you are paying I want to eat," replied our cabbie, and with that he was whisked away for a fabulous meal on his patron. But not before locking the door, making sure the meter was still ticking away.
He finished out our ride by answering my, "Does anyone ever do drugs in your car?" question with, "Oh yes. Rock and weed, whatever. People who smoke rock are the best tippers."
He dropped us at the top of Bernal Heights, just feet from the doorstep. Peder got his receipt, no doubt cabbie got a great tip, and with that he drove away from us, off down the hill.
"What is your name?!," I called after him. "Will I ever see you again?" But it was too late. Best cabbie ever had gone, off on another adventure.