Tuesday, February 9, 2010

She is Dazzling!

Shift #14

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5 -- 6 a.m. sharp -- Fourth/Bryant to Clay/Front -- $6.70

A bonus ride:

A CHICAGO LAWYER has just spent two nights at the Westin-Market Street, his base for an (unsuccessful) attempt to induce a settlement between several parties who have squared off in an $8 million Sonoma County construction lawsuit. Even though he hadn’t been able to inspire any happiness among the bickerers, he certainly brings me much joy by resisting the Westin doorman’s attempt to steer him into one of the five waiting “house limos.” Instead, he walks proudly past all of them, through the darkness of the early morning, out to my cab, where I am hunched under the dim bulb of my interior light, reading my Sun Magazine. I put it aside and thank him warmly. (There is an eternal tension between us cab drivers, limos drivers, and hotel doormen. You can bet I'll write about that as this year goes along...) He’s going to SFO, and he’s not going to be my free ride, but he’s already made my day: a $34 fare, a pleasant conversation (he, like me, is very sympathetic to single-payer health care and to the precarious situation in which President Obama finds himself), and a $10 tip.

The free ride:

THE CITY IS STILL DARK as I return from the airport and take the Fourth Street exit ramp off of Highway 101. Even though I’m in the far left lane of the ramp’s four lanes of traffic, and despite the darkness, in my peripheral view I notice, across the tops of the roofs of four lanes of cars, I notice just a female hand and the sleeve of a tan raincoat waving animatedly from the far side of Bryant Street. I weave a nifty three-lane change through traffic (safely enough, however, that I don’t trigger a single driver’s horn reflex) and brake to a stop in front of Chavo’s Restaurant on Bryant. How have I never noticed this place, Chavo’s, before?

My fare rewards me with a, “Nice move, Mister!”

She has overslept, and even though it’s just 6 AM she’s already late for work.

“What were you dreaming about?” I ask her.

She laughs. “I was dreaming it was the weekend already.”

“What’s your work?”

“I’m in finance… these crazy market hours… even after four-and-a-half years of getting up early my body still hasn’t adjusted… on weekends I sleep until noon….”

Five years ago she came to San Francisco from Alexandria, Virginia -- the very town where I grew up! I ask what it was she came to San Francisco for?

She laughs her lovely laugh again. “For a summer.”

“Must have been a great summer.”

“It was!” she says. “My degree is in science, but I also went to law school, and I came out here for an internship that summer. I loved this city. So when this job in finance came along, I took it…”

“What’s your niche?”

“Well…” She pauses, seems reluctant, and then: “I’m in the bank credit area...”

Me: “The not-so-popular-these-days area…”

She laughs. “I started in 2006 when things seemed really good, and now I’ve been through some wild swings.”

Me: “Do you understand these financial instruments we hear about?”

She: “I do think I have a pretty good understanding, but the other day I was trying to explain derivatives to my mother, and I realized I really have some work to do before I try that again.”

At her destination, just opposite the towering Embarcadero Two, I punch off the meter. “And now...," I say, "the favorite part of my day…”

I turn around and quickly explain to her all the nuances of my personal, not-so-complicated financial instrument, my daily free-ride practice. Starting back in the darkness of Fourth Street, and then on through the hurry of this ride, all I’ve actually seen of my fare is her one hand and the sleeve of her raincoat. Her voice floating over the backseat has been gentle, easy, amused, and now that I’m looking at her young, shining face (in a moment she will tell me her name is Carly), I can’t help noticing that she’s fairly dazzling. But who doesn’t look better with an electric smile on their face?


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