Friday, June 10, 2011


(First published in the San Francisco Chronicle long ago -- on May 20, 1996)

A YOUNG WOMAN strolled out of Joxer Daly’s Irish Pub on West Portal Avenue around midnight and climbed into my cab. She was barhopping, heading to La Rocca’s over in North Beach, and seemed to be in a fairly advanced good mood. A New York Yankees baseball cap hid her eyes, but in the mirror I caught her smile and her straight white teeth, gleaming as she talked.

She asked how my night was going, so I told her about the young couple I drove out to the airport earlier in my shift. After the two of them shared a passionate kiss at the United terminal, the guy ran to catch a Los Angeles shuttle and the woman rode back to the city with me. Forty minutes, $60 -- including a $10 tip. A nice jolt to a slow Sunday night.

The barhopper said she worked as a host (she did not say hostess) in a famous North Beach restaurant: “Last night a man I’d seated shook my hand and palmed me a twenty. Made my night. If people knew how happy big tips make people like you and me, they’d give ‘em more often. I love tipping big,” she said, “and I always take care of cabbies.”

And out the window went our fledgling camaraderie.

Why? Because atop the list of things cab drivers least want to hear are: 1) “I’ve got a gun.” 2) “No, it’s OK, you keep the dime for a tip.” and 3) “cabbie.”

Oh, come on! you say. Cabbie is an affectionate term -- like “cop.” It’s an accepted part of our language. (Yes, we do see it in newspapers almost daily. “Cabbie beaten.” “Cabbie robbed.” “Cabbie murdered.” And you wonder why we’re always sulking.)

Well, consider this: Police officers do indeed call themselves “cops,” but during my ten years of hanging around cab yards not once has any of my esteemed colleagues called me “cabbie” -- unless attempting sarcasm. If we know each other’s given names, we use them; otherwise we call each other Driver or Nimrod or Dipstick or whatever is handy, but never cabbie.

My fares also have called me lots of things other than my name. I certainly don’t take offense at the women, usually elderly, who breathe Dear or Sweetheart or even Kiddo at me. Or the occasional seaman or Australian tourist who calls me Matey or Cap’n. And long ago I learned to endure the legions of bluff Saturday night idiots who clamber into my back seat spewing names like Chief and Boss and Big Guy and Pal and (yuck) Slick. But call me cabbie and you can hear my teeth grind -- even after I’ve slammed and locked my safety shield.

THE MOVIE “TAXI DRIVER” played the Castro Theater recently, and one night, as the theater emptied out, three men flagged me. One sat up front and informed me, “We’re all cab drivers, too.” If he had used the c-word I would have been as shocked as if I’d glanced up and seen the marquee reading: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster starring in “CABBIE!

I asked if any characters in the movie had addressed the De Niro character, Travis Bickle, as “cabbie.”

The answer: “Only one person -- but he was a politician.”

Our conversation degenerated: If a politician calls you cabbie, can you call him Polly? Wanna cracker? If a stockbroker calls you cabbie can you call her Stocky? Can you call a restaurant hostess Twinkie? Can you call your fares fairies? I don’t think so.

SO WHAT SHOULD people call their cab drivers?

I’m charmed by my very young riders who call me Mister Cab Man, but that’s a bit much to ask of everyone. Bro and Brother? Those I like, but lately I’ve been enjoying the switch to “Homes” or “Homie” or -- my new favorite -- “Homeslice.”

A few women and perhaps a few too many men have floated Cute and Handsome in my direction, and, when done right, that can sure perk up a shift. I’ll never forget the drop-dead, raven-haired beauty who smiled at me through pupils resembling tiny black derringers and said, “Hey there, Awesome.”

But if you can’t come up with a gem, I’d suggest sticking with Driver -- which has accuracy going for it, plus a certain straightforward dignity.

The barhopper who called me cabbie? She gave me twenty bucks for her $14.90 ride, and I got over it.

- - -

Chronological list of offenders

1. June 10, 2011 -- Ginny Prior, Reporter/Columnist, Bay Area News Group (“Take the case of the Alameda cabbie...”)

[Ginny is the current President of the Bay Area Travel Writers Association, of which I am a member in semi-reasonable standing -- and while I did not ask her advance permission, I figured she would be okay about being my first ‘bustee.’ On July 8, the last item in her column started with the word “Crabby...”]

2. June 15, 2011 -- Erin Sherbert, SF Weekly blogger (“...cabbies are pissed off...”)

3. June 21, 2011 -- Trey Bundy and the Bay Citizen -- “As San Francisco cabbies hollered and raised signs...”

[NOTE: As of June 22, Trey Bundy has become the first media person to “play along” -- he posted a fun little piece on the CDADL on the Bay Citizen site. He has also seen the light and sworn off the c-word. Our first convert.]

4. June 22, 2011 -- Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle “On the steps of City Hall, cabbies carrying ‘On Strike’ signs...”

5. June 23, 2011 -- Taylor Friedman, SF Weekly (“Some cabbies drove by and honked...”)

[Note: Taylor says that she never uses the c-word in print or in her own speech, but it sometimes gets inserted into her stories during the editing process. So she’s not even a convert -- she’s an ally.]

6. June 28, 2011 -- Casey Miner, Producer, KALW “Crosscurrents“ (“But not all cabbies buy it...”)

[Over a friendly cup of coffee today, Ms. Miner and I talked about all sorts of things, including cab driving, including the c-word, and she promised to take the CDADL sensitivities to heart.]

7. July 6, 2011 -- Chris Filippi, KCBS -- “Clark said cabbies are upset over a new 5 percent fee...

8. July 19, 2011 -- Mike Aldax, Examiner Staff Writer -- “Police have been hunting three thugs who pistol-whipped a 66-year-old cabbie twice during the early-morning heist

[Mike Aldax and the Examiner are proving to be unrepentant serial offenders. I wish I could report otherwise, and I will if and when I can!] [Update: See item #9.]

[Update, Sept 19, 2011: Harumph! We’ve got backsliders among us: “A suspect has been arrested in connection to more than a half-dozen armed robberies of cabbies...”]

9. August 18, 2011 -- Rob Nagle, Examiner Web Editor -- “the crook pulled out a gun and demanded the cabbie’s money..."

[Received a good-natured and lightning-fast response from Mr. Nagle: “I appreciate you bringing this to our attention. We will do our best to repent and reform.” He asked if the socalled word h-a-c-k was considered acceptable, and after a quick poll of the entire CDADL membership -- “Boo-hiss!” was the deafening response -- I responded in the negative.]

10. September 11, 2011 -- Willie Brown, Columnist, San Francisco Chronicle -- “A cabbie pointed out the other day that...”

[Willie Brown should know better -- not only is he a former San Francisco Mayor, he’s also a former San Francisco Yellow Cab driver!]

11. September 18, 2011 -- Audie Cornish, NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday” -- (“the Crown Victoria...workhorse of cabbies and cops...”

[In a story entilted “Crown Vic Faces a Holiday Ending,” Ms. Cornish not only used the c-word, but the closing words of her piece were perhaps equally as grating on my eardrums. After twenty years of driving a 10-mpg Crown Victoria, I five years ago switched to (and am in love with) a 45-mpg Prius. On Sunday, Ms. Cornish closed her piece by saying “...a Prius just doesn’t seem to cut it...” I’m not sure if that’s a case of adding insult to injury, or injury to insult, or both to both, or what! In any case, the CDADL is no longer a local phenomenon -- we’ve gone national...]

12. January 23, 2012 -- Justin Berton, San Francisco Chronicle -- “It had been an up and down day, for the 49ers and for Glauberman, who discovered that the tickets he purchased on Craigslist were counterfeit when he stepped up to Candlestick's turnstiles. He and a friend asked a cabbie to take them to the closest place showing the game because they didn't want to miss one snap.

13. February 17, 2012 -- Patricia Patton, -- in an article entitled “San Francisco Greens Its Taxi Fleet,” Ms. Patton first lands a left jab -- “New York City cabbies resisted...” -- and then a right hook: “San Francisco raised funds to buy hybrid taxis by increasing daily rental fees for cabbies...” Oof...! And Ooooff!

14. March 9, 2012 -- Jeff Morganteen, Reporter, Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Connecticut) -- In an article entitled “Darien banker pleads not guilty to hate crime charge,” an article which is largely respectful of taxicab drivers, Morganteen tells the story of an (admittedly) inebriated NY banker who is charged with the hate-crime stabbing of a New York City taxicab driver. Morganteen, the reporter (we won’t stoop to calling him a “newsie” or a “wordie”), held out until he was almost one-third of the way through his story before dropping his first c-bomb. He initially kept his article restrained, even dignified, opting four times in a row to use either “taxi driver” or “driver,” but then on his fifth chance Morganteen -- or perhaps his editor -- crumbled. I’m inclined to blame the editor, since Morganteen wrote an article that was otherwise quite fair. In any case, well, someone finally gave in to the devil: ”The cabbie woke up Jennings between exits 10 and 11 on Interstate 95...” I should note that the article (by my rough tally) contained 25 uses of either “taxi driver” or “driver” and only two c-bombs. So, all-in-all, it could have been a lot worse. I should perhaps also note that the scene of the crime is the New York City metropolitan area, an area where the c-bomb is still commonly used -- even, I am told, in quite sophisticated circles. It’s possible that Morganteen or his editor are, unfortunately, not surrounded by the most desirable role models. Still, a bust is a bust. Book him, Dan-o!

The GOOD Guys!

The following folks deserve credit for creating an entire taxicab-related news report without using the dreaded c-word -- either in the body of the report, in a headline, or in a caption. A big snappy drum roll please, for:

1. Taylor Friedman, SF Weekly -- July 6, 2011 -- Taxi and Muni Drivers Band Together to Plan Public Transit Strike

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


crabby, gabby, flabby, blabby, blobby, boobie, clunky, rummy, crummy, dummy, dinky, puny, punky, porky, puky, pokey, hokey, fatty, flaky, fluky, funky, flunky, floozie, dorky, shorty, skinny, shitty, sooty, saggy, shabby, teeny, weenie, junkie, zombie, loonie, Moonie, moody, nudie, broody, crappy, lousy, drowsy, batty, catty, chatty, ratty, natty, tatty, toadie, twinkie, kinky, stinky…

Who in their right mind would want to be associated with that bunch of characters!