Friday, October 1, 2010



SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10 -- Mission/Cortland to Twenty-Second/Valencia -- Ice Cream

I’m returning empty from the airport, headed toward the gas station and then back to the cab lot. The annual eardrum-crushing performance of the jet fighters of the Blue Angels is terrorizing the skies above me, distracting me from the Giants-Braves playoffs on the radio. The series is tied one game apiece, and right now, in the sixth inning of Game 3, the Giants are ahead 1-0 -- and get this, Jonathan Sanchez is working on a no-hitter...

Suddenly, as I’m cruising past Candlestick Park, where the 49ers will be taking on the Philadelphia Eagles in a 6 pm football game, I remember: I haven’t given one away yet! I veer off onto 280, take the Alemany exit and then slip over to Mission Street via my secret Genebern Way shortcut. A few blocks later I spot a young, pretty woman sitting on a bus stop bench in the late afternoon fall sunshine; scooched up on either side of her are two picture-perfect, three-year old twins, a boy and a girl.

When I pull to a stop in front of them, the mom smiles at me, but shakes her head: No thanks. But when I roll down my window and call over May I offer you a free ride? her smile loses its formality. “Really?” she says.

As they’re climbing in, the boy pauses. He stands on the floor of the cab, steadying himself with one hand on the backseat, takes a moment to make sure that I’m looking him right in his big brown eyes, gulps a deep breath and then, in an exceedingly serious tone of voice and with an exceedingly confidential facial expression, he confides: “My daddy just loves taxis.”

Within the past hour, the mom and the dad (I imagine him at home, watching the game) have returned from a two-day trip to Florida to attend a wedding. Mom and kids are very, very happy to see each other again. “It’s such a beautiful afternoon,” she tells me, “and we’re going out for a special treat. I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M.”

Me, wide-eyed, turning around: “You’re going out for broccoli!”

The kids don’t laugh, but mom does. “Steamed broccoli,” she says.

The girl (soon I’ll learn that her name is pronounced Ee-Lisa and her brother’s name is Cass) says her first words of our ride, exceedingly dry and serious words : “Ice cream...”

They’re headed to Yotopia on 22nd Street, an eight or ten block ride, and just one block off my route back to the cab lot.

“This is so perfect,” the mom tells me in front of Yotopia. “We all love riding in taxis.” She gives Elisa a couple of dollars to hand to me as a tip, but I fight them off. Elisa doesn't mind: “I’ll put them in my piggy-bank,” she assures me.

I’m three blocks from the lot when Jonathan Sanchez gives up his first hit, a clean single to right. But still, as I pull through the gate the Giants are clinging to their 1-0 lead. No matter that Air Force jets are shrieking above me -- as I drive down South Van Ness toward Sixteenth Street, hope is definitely still alive...


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