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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fare's Fare: A Primer in Taxi Etiquette From An Outspoken S.F. Cabbie

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge Do not step into one of these vehicles until you've read this article
  • Do not step into one of these vehicles until you've read this article
The other day we ran an article about an alleged violent drunk who refused to pay for his cab ride. When the cabbie began driving toward a police station, the inebriated fare attempted to choke him before tossing a soiled $10 bill onto the seat and staggering off into a park.

Not being frequent San Francisco cab passengers, we had no idea how much of the fare 10 bucks represented. But reader Drew Bader quickly nailed the alleged miscreant as a jerk and a cheapskate. Based on the addresses we reported in the article, he thinks the fare was at least 20 or 30 bucks -- and that's without the customary 10 percent tip. And Bader ought to know -- he's a cabbie.

We got a hold of Bader, a 29-year-old San Francisco native (Mission/Potrero Hill) who drives for Luxor. We asked him if he'd help compile an etiquette guide for San Francisco taxi passengers, and he was game:

Don't whistle -- "You wouldn't whistle at a waiter or a counter person at a taqueria. It's pretty simple; extend your arm at around 45 degrees." Do cabbies drive past people who whistle? "I have."

Don't ever, ever say "I'll tell you when we get there" -- At the best, vague descriptions like this irk cabbies, because it often doesn't let them know what side of the street they're supposed to be on and can necessitate cutting across traffic. At worst, it's the type of language that precedes a robbery attempt. "Cabdrivers have some of the highest incidences of workplace death and violence, right up there with coal miners and cops."

Don't assume your cab driver is a monosyllabic simpleton -- Bader was a radio producer before our wondrous economy decided to call him a cab. He has a collegiate degree, and more of his colleagues do than you'd think. "I know a fair amount of drivers that aren't from the U.S. -- but they have four-year degrees from where they're from. It's not like we're stupid." Repeating directions excessively can cheese off a driver -- especially when he or she has a GPS (which, Bader estimates, 75 percent of drivers too young to remember where they were when John F. Kennedy died now possess). 

click to enlarge Three blocks? Back of the line, mister.
  • Three blocks? Back of the line, mister.
Don't approach the first cabbie in a long line and ask for a short ride -- While many riders think they should approach the first cabbie in a line all the time, Bader says that those who only need to go a short ways should talk to the last driver. "It can really piss you off when you wait a half an hour and you're the second car from the front and someone wants you to go three blocks. If you're going on a short trip, don't waste the first guy's time."

Don't ride in out-of-town cabs -- "They aren't licensed to pick up passengers in San Francisco and it takes money out of licensed San Francisco drivers' pockets."

Ride in limos and town cars at your own peril -- "They are not allowed to pick up street fares and their drivers are not subjected to safety inspections or criminal background checks -- we're required to be live-scanned by the city."

"Don't fucking ask me for directions when I'm in my car with a passenger!" -- "Sorry, I'm not yelling at you. But, man, would people want me to come up and bother them when they're at work?"

Adult entertainers shouldn't do bizarre things in a cab and not expect the driver to tell it to SF Weekly -- "The most expensive ride I ever gave was when I drove a stripper and/or prostitute and her daughter to a 'barbecue party' in Santa Rosa. That was a $210 trip because it's meter-and-a-half once you leave San Francisco and travel more than 15 miles out of city limits." When asked how he knew she was a stripper and/or prostitute, he noted he'd driven her "to work" before. Also, "Who pays $200 for a cab ride to Santa Rosa? Even with no credit you can buy a shitty car for $250, not register it, and just leave it there." Did she tip well? "No."

Professional athletes who tip well or poorly shouldn't expect drivers not to tell it to SF Weekly -- Giants pitcher "Brian Wilson seems pretty down-to-earth. ... Eugenio Velez from the Giants, for the trip he took, is a really good tipper. Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, he was a good tipper and pretty funny. And he was a really good dresser." Warriors center "Ronny Turiaf is a cheapskate."

"I enjoy the job for eight out of the 10 hours a day," Bader says. "It's those two hours close to the end of the day that everything starts to drag. But I wouldn't be doing this for 46 hours a week if I didn't enjoy doing it."
Photo of taxi line   |   Kennymatic

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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