Thursday, August 30, 2007

Boredom shots

Marzetti is dead

The customer our drivers like least passed away two days ago, according to the doorman at his condo building. This was one frustrating guy. He was in his 90s. I've made numerous posts about him (here, here, and here).

As usual among cabbies, there is humor in everything, along with keeping an eye out for an advantage. Only three drivers know about Marzetti to this point (the driver who was first alerted to the death told me and one other driver). The three of us made a pact to keep it a secret.

The reason for keeping it a secret is that we'll make extra money for the next week or so, until everybody figures out Marzetti won't be calling anymore. Marzetti lives near our busiest (best) cab stand, and calls, like clockwork, for a taxi at 4:30 every afternoon for a ride to his favorite restaurant. He calls again at 6:30 for the ride home. Around those times most drivers vacate that cab stand, even though it's our most profitable. We just didn't want to take Marzetti because he's such a tough guy to deal with.

With him dead, the three of us can innocently stay in line while everybody else leaves.

Slow night

The only memorable ride was a group of seven guys, all in their early 20s, all drunk, who wanted to go to Petco Park for the Padres game. As soon as I pulled in the driveway, one guy came jogging out to the car.

Him: What will it cost us to put 7 people in the car?

Me: I can't take that many.

Him: Everything has a price. We'll pay. How much?

Me: I'm only rated at four passengers, plus me.

Him: I know, but we'll pay.

Me: That's just too many.

He finally got the picture, then declined to get a 2nd cab. I took four, and the other three were going to wait for a bus.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Traffic jam on I-5 south, near downtown

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More hillbilly tourists

Yesterday I picked up at an expensive hotel. Family: Grampa, who sat up front with me, and a rotund mom, two out-of-control brats, and a dad who looked like he wanted to commit seppuku. I can't blame him. Here's how jaded good a cab driver gets with this job: I knew, just by looking at this group and how they walked towards the car, precisely what kind of people they were. I knew they were cheap, the complaining type, and weren't staying at that hotel. They probably just wanted to look at the lobby or something (people actually do that). These were the Motel 6 variety.

On the ride to Broadway Pier in downtown, the brats were yelling about who knows what. That was predicted ahead of time. "Who wants to get slapped?" asked mom. No volunteers. The yelling continued unabated. Dad was in the back seat with them, looking out his window, undoubtedly thinking about condoms and vasectomies.

Standard procedure radio call:

Me: 95

Dispatcher: 10-9 (repeat, please)

Me: 95

Dispatcher: There's too much noise. I can't hear you. 10-9.

Me: (Held the mic down for five seconds, without saying anything, to let the dispatcher know what the problem was.)

Grampa said something inaudible from his seat beside me.

Me: What?

Grampa: A million dollars?

(I felt like if I didn't try to be polite, the mom in the back seat would start in on me.)

Me: What was that?

Grampa: The houses. A million dollars?

Me: Some of them, yes. It is San Diego, after all. Four hundred thousand still buys something decent, though.

Grampa: Four or five?

Me: Four or five what?

The guy would not let up. He was attempting to have a conversation with me, but was failing. I was trying to be polite and help him along, and was also failing. Finally I ignored him altogether, figuring that if I ignore the guy, maybe he'll shut up. Nope. When I didn't respond to his nonsensical statements, he started patting me on my arm. I changed tactics.

Grampa: Over here?

Me: Yes.

Grampa: Not?

Me: No.

Grampa: Long way, not in the...

Me: Yes.

That seemed to work. He got answers to whatever his questions were, and I didn't need to do much. I'm going to remember that for the drunks later on.

What San Diego needs is its own Guantanamo Bay, just for summer tourists (some tourists are great; don't get me wrong). No water boarding or indefinite detention. On Labor Day they can be deported back to their state or city of origin.

I pulled to the curb at Broadway Pier. The meter said $22 and change. The woman gave me a $20, and I patiently waited for more. None was forthcoming.

Mom: Can I have a discount?

Me: No (nicely).

Mom: Please.

Me: No (neutral).

Mom: I'm supporting five people with nobody to help me.

Me: So am I.

Mom: You are? You have a big family?

Me: No, but my car burns twice as much fuel as the average car, so that's like one dependent. I drink a lot, so that's like having another...

She gave me three singles and the whole troop noisily exited the car.

Me (on radio): 95

Dispatcher: 95

Me: I brought the Beverly Hillbillies to Broadway Pier.

Dispatcher: Don't say things like that on the radio.

Me: (no answer)

Dispatcher: Do you copy? 95?

Me: (no answer)

I went back to my zone and desperately tried to find a business man in a suit, with a briefcase, a Blackberry, and an expense account.

Sunday photos from Market St, downtown San Diego

The wall of a restaurant supply company

Parking meter


Rooftop gazers

Rays of sun over downtown

Monday, August 27, 2007

8 random facts about me

Workforce Developments tagged me, some time ago, for an "8 random facts about me" meme. I've never done one of these before, and almost decided against it because I don't reveal personal information about me on this blog. After a long delay, I realized it wouldn't hurt to scribble down a few things. I invite the following bloggers to join the meme with a post of their own "8 random facts": All in a day's work, Through a windshield, darkly, NYC taxi photo, Better and better, PTT San Diego, and Cablog.

Meme rules:
1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) a few blogs, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they've been tagged

1. Favorite music

Toss up between classic rock and folk / popular guitar. I like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Leo Kotke, and others.

2. Future plans

I live in the moment, which is a blessing and a curse.

3. Next vacation

I'd like to ride an off-road motorcycle from San Diego to La Paz, Baja California, Mexico. I have no firm plans to do this, but it could happen.

4. Biggest accomplishment

I like the headline from The Onion: I was placed on this Earth to put off doing something extraordinary

5. Weaknesses

Pizza, bad women, and driving too fast. I'm quite calm with cars, but things change with motorcycles. For $12,000 one can get performance equal to sports cars costing $600,000 (and the cars can't lean).

6. A few interests

Auto racing (watching, following) may be my favorite activity right now (Formula 1, A1GP, GP2, NASCAR, ChampCar, Australian V8 Supercars, MotoGP and World Superbike, Rolex Sports Car series, and SCCA road racing). I believe ChampCar is the best racing in the world.

I also read a lot -- fiction and nonfiction. I just finished reading Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe series, which I highly recommend. Don't watch the moives; they're bad. Now I'm starting in on W.E.B. Griffin's Brotherhood of War series, for the second time. After that I'll probably try Griffin's other work, and then I plan to re-read Cornwell's trilogy set in the Middle Ages, probably followed by his Saxon trilogy.

7. Why I drive a taxi

I have three sets of professional skills, which I won't describe here. I don't care for one profession, so I'll never do that again. I enjoy another one, but it has been so long since I've worked in the field I wouldn't be able to find work unless I went back to school (unattractive prospect). The third doesn't pay very well and there are almost no jobs in that area in San Diego, and I don't want to leave.

So, I just fell into driving taxis, and I've found that I like it. It seems that most people with "standard" professional jobs complain about early wake times, long commutes, and, in general, a ridiculously hectic schedule. I don't have any of those things. The downside to my job: no health insurance (my doctor and dentist are both named Jose, and are both in Tijuana); a small income, relatively; and zero respect.

Here's a conversation that takes place in my cab at least once a week:

    Customer: Wow, you're not like any other cab driver we have had.

    Me: English is my first language?

    Customer: Yeah! Also...

    Me: I'm not an idiot?

    Customer: Yeah.

Accountants don't have those kinds of conversations very often.

8. I've been to almost every state

The Northeast, along with Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington, is the only part of America I haven't seen. I'm amazed that in one country we have tropical alligator swamps, deserts with rolling sand dunes, a rain forest, and several huge mountain ranges. We also have two metropolitan areas with more than 20 million people.

It's also amazing that we have huge intellectual swings. There are Los Alamos National Labs and MIT, and there are Mississippi and Arkansas.

I get a real kick out of what foreigners think of America. Fact is, we're too big and diverse to describe in a sentence. Some people think we're hugely religious, yet I don't know a single person who goes to church. Some think we're addicted to guns, and while lots of people own guns, I've never seen one in public (except for the police).

I've been to Canada, Mexico, and Europe. Why do Canadians put gravy on French fries and say "eh" all the time?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Saturday photos

Waiting in traffic on Harbor Dr


Cab company sold?

There's a rumor on the streets that the cab company I work for has been sold for $300k. That's a paltry sum, if true. Oddly, none of our drivers had heard about it. I dropped off at the Sheraton Marina near the airport, and an enemy cabbie walked up and said some of their guys were talking about the sale. I haven't confirmed anything.


Around 3 a.m. an enemy cab wandered into our zone and parked. One of our drivers spotted him in a parking lot, and went in close for a look. When our driver called out the cab company's name on our radio (it was an independent taxi with a unique name), the guy looked up, then looked around. He started his car and drove away. It was obvious he was using a scanner to monitor our frequency. Our guy followed him, calling out their progress. Wherever the guy went, one of ours was waiting and watching. After a while the poacher gave up and took a main thoroughfare out of the zone.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Misc. photos

Thursday night rides

It has been a slow night, with only a few locals and tourists.

Transition Assistance Program

I drove a young man and a young woman, picked up at a bar, going to another bar. They are both stationed on the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, the largest aircraft carrier in the world, which is currently parked at the Navy base out on Coronado Island. I asked if the ship would be leaving soon, since I've seen it in port for almost six months now. The guy said he wasn't really supposed to say, but it was a safe bet it would be making a trip before long.

The guy said the girl would be making a voyage on the Reagan, but he was getting out of the Navy in a few months, so he wouldn't be deploying. He had put in his six years.

Him: I'm even in TAP.

Me: Tap?

Him: Transition Assistance Program. It's a class you take when you're getting ready to leave the Navy.

Me: Is that like the classes convicts take when they're going to be released from prison?

Him: Exactly! Mainly they're training us to not say 'fuck' so much.

Me: That must be hard...

Him: Fuckin' right.

Mars getting close to Earth

I picked up a man and woman on vacation, going from a restaurant back to their hotel. En route the guy told his girl that on Aug. 28 the planet Mars was supposed to be closer to Earth than it has been for 3,000 years. "It will look as big as the moon," he told her.

Generally I don't interrupt when I hear pure bullshit coming from the back seat, but I couldn't let this one go. I told them Mars would look the same as it always does. Just because the thing will be closer than usual doesn't mean it will be "close." The guy wouldn't believe me, but he'll find out in a few days.

I don't know what it is about Mars. The last time the thing came "close" to Earth, my roommate went on and on about it, even saying he was going up to Palomar (huge, university telescope in the northern suburbs) to see it. He didn't know that Mars would not be close to Earth, and somehow didn't know that members of the public can't walk up to a mammoth telescope and take a look. It's a question of knowledge, not necessarily intelligence. Still, I'm continually surprised at how little the average person knows about the world around them.

British invasion

It seems every British and Irish person is vacationing in San Diego. Tonight I asked a couple from the Midlands if visiting the USA was like visiting a third world country, considering the pound is 2:1 against the dollar. "Yes," the guy said, "except the plumbing works."

An impressive party

I drove a businessman from a hotel to the Greystone steakhouse in the Gaslamp Quarter. We talked about all sorts of things on the trip, which was nice and long ($45). He is based out of Sacramento, Calif., and is in San Diego looking at some real estate opportunities for his employer. I asked if he had ever seen Schwarzeneggar around town. He had, saying the Governator eats lunch at the same restaurant most days. He said he met Schwarzeneggar at a party a while back, and also met Michael Bloomberg and Spanos (owner of the San Diego Chargers football team) at the same party.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Market & 17th

Monday, August 20, 2007

Treasure hunt

A man and woman got in my cab and said they left a cell phone in another car, nowhere near my zone. They made the assumption most people do, that all cabs are part of one large corporation, and that I have the ability to contact all other drivers on my radio.


While driving them to their last pickup point, at Broadway and Kettner, downtown near the Amtrak station, I explained to them how the taxi business works. Nearly everyone in San Diego is independent, with several small companies that own 5-20 cabs each. The only thing they remembered about the cab that supposedly carries their cell phone in the back seat is that it's "light colored". And the driver is Middle Eastern. That narrows it down to 600 or so.

While we checked the taxi stands at Amtrak (Santa Fe Depot) and then Marriott Marina, then Hyatt Grand Manchester, they were calling the lost phone again and again in hopes the driver would answer. By the time my meter said $50, the phone was answered. The driver agreed to wait where he was sitting (at a Pep Boys on El Cajon Blvd).

We found him and my customers gave him $20 for waiting, and got their phone. I brought them back to where I picked them up, and got $100 for my efforts.

"The phone is not the issue," they told me. "It's the 400 numbers stored in it." I didn't really care if the meaning of life was stored in it. For $100, I'll drive around looking for just about anything.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Entertaining friday night

San Diego is filled with tourists and there are a few small business conferences, making us busy. I prefer business travelers to tourists, but if there are enough vacationers, we can make money.


I had my second breakup in the car, and that's a little sad, but it's also amusing. I picked up a flag at the Marriott -- solo female, 35 or so and attractive, with luggage, going to the airport. En route she got a call on the cell, and said to me: "This will be my asshole boyfriend, and the speakerphone is the only thing working on this phone, so you're going to hear this. Sorry." I told her "no problem, I'm used to that kind of stuff."

The guy on the speaker (and she) was calm, but they were both upset. He was trying to talk her into coming back to the Marriott, and she was rather politely refusing. She eventually hung up, then gave me the full story.

She lives in Arizona, and he in Northern California, so the relationship is tough to manage under any circumstances. She is self-employed and an "alpha woman", and he's laid back. Well, when they decided to meet for the weekend in San Diego, they were on the phone together choosing a hotel, and she had wanted a place in Pacific Beach or Mission Beach, with an ocean view. He wanted the best, and quickest, deal. They had argued, but she gave in and they ended up at the Marriott.

She claims their room had a "view of a retaining wall and some pipes", and they argued about it. We have several Marriotts in San Diego, and I don't believe any room would have a view like that... The conversation below is very close, but probably not exact.

Her: I told him he was weak.

Me: Oooooh.

Her: I know there are two things women should never say to men; 'you're weak' and 'you have a small dick'.

Me: Yeah, those two go right to the soul of a man.

Her: I did cross a line calling him weak. But he's weak!

Me: So is there any salvaging the relationship?

Her: Maybe. I told him we should get the room we want instead of settling for the quick buy, and he said I was 'too high maintenance,' and should 'just go with the flow.' I am high maintenance and that's because I know what I want and I always work hard to get it. If he can't handle that, then he should get a weaker woman.

I couldn't stop laughing. She laughed, and asked what's wrong with that? Nothing, I told her, but maybe she needed a man who had the same outlook, or was willing to play second fiddle. When we got to the airport she apologized for venting. I told her not to worry about it. "That's what I'm here for. Oh, and the driving, too."

Sobriety checkpoint

I dropped in Imperial Beach, and took Palm Avenue (the main street down there) back to I-5, and was caught in a checkpoint. There were at least 15 sheriff's deputies standing around, and I made some conversation with them as I inched towards the IB cops at the makeshift stop sign.

"You know this is a violation of my fourth amendment rights, right?" I said. "Yeah," one of them said, "we've heard that before."

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I was unreasonably searched due to a complete lack of probable cause. I don't care for that.

Beer on the boulevard

I picked up a flag near a bar in a nice neighborhood along a boulevard. The median was wide with green grass and pine trees. The two guys were drunk and in a good mood. They wanted to go to the liquor store and asked me to hurry. On the way they asked me to slow down, about two blocks up from where they got in.

Them: The bastard is still there (pointing to a police car sitting on a sidestreet watching the boulevard).

Me: So. You're not driving.

Them: We were trying to walk to the liquor store with two fresh bottles of Bud, and they'll cite is for drinking in public. We wandered over to the big pine tree (boughs were touching the ground) and casually stuffed the bottles under the branches and left them. Waste of beer.

I brought them to the store, then dropped them off at a residential address. The meter was $8.40. They gave me $11 and said, "There's your tip, plus you can go get those beers."

Friday, August 10, 2007

The magic car

I go to sleep with the Falcon in the shop for a power steering problem, and wake up with the car parked in front of my place with lots of fixes: power steering, oil pressure gauge works now, and a strange wandering in the steering is gone. Now if I could only get that to happen with my civilian car.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Scott Speed sacked by Scuderia Toro Rosso

Gerhard Berger, an owner of Scuderia Toro Rosso, says the only American driver in F1, Scott Speed, was sacked strictly for performance reasons. Let's review Speed's performance:

"That is a spurious argument."
--David Hobbes, former F1 driver and current commentator

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Bridge collapse

As the country is engrossed in the story of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, I've been wondering about the Coronado Bridge. A TV news report says it's not safe, and now Caltrans says it's fine:

    Caltrans officials disputed a TV news report on Thursday claiming that inspectors this week found cracks in the Coronado Bay Bridge.

    A day after the fatal bridge collapse in Minnesota on Wednesday, KFMB/Channel 8 said in a news alert, “it was unclear if the (Coronado) bridge would be shut down or when the cracks would be repaired.”

    Caltrans spokesman Hayden Manning said the bridge is structurally sound and will remain open.

    He said the state Department of Transportation is conducting a routine underwater inspection of the landmark bridge this week. He said no significant problems have been uncovered.

The Minneapolis bridge was 60 feet high and 1900 feet long. The Coronado bridge is 200 feet high over 10,000 feet long. I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the thing if it collapsed.

Last ride was short, but profitable

I was belled to a bar for my last ride of the evening. Two staggering drunks piled into the back seat and said, "Take us two blocks straight ahead." I didn't shift out of Park. "Are you kidding?" They weren't, but they gave me $20.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


I just picked up a Heineken mini-keg for $20. A bargain.

Under (oil) pressure

Before I began work tonight I went through my usual routine, which includes checking fluids. Everything was full. When I started the car the oil pressure gauge showed nothing. So I turned it off and called the company owner and discussed the problem. Considering the engine is full of oil and when it runs it's not making any strange noises, he decided to have me drive it as usual. He laughed: "So you're calling to transfer responsibility to me, huh?" I laughed back: "Yup."