A Zine Review: Behind the Wheel From Uber/Lyft to Taxi

A Zine Review: Behind the Wheel From Uber/Lyft to Taxi

Author: Kelly Dessaint aka Piltdownlad

Pages: 60

Published: 2016


I found this intriguing little zine-like booklet at Thrillhouse Records in the Outer Mission district.

This narrative zine is one of three personal accounts of a columnist who drove for both Uber and Lyft, documented over 3,000 rides; and now drives a cab – and for good reasons! Which you will find reading his blog and zines.

The author of idrivesf.com, who goes by the name of Piltdownlad, writes for the S.F. Examiner appearing every Thursday. You can read more about him here.


Back Cover Summary:

The third installment in the Behind the Wheel series is a ribald journey into the reality of driving a bonafide San Francisco taxicab. Gritty and raw, the view from a cab is not for the faint-hearted. From facilitating drug deals to abetting prostitution to just getting people home safely from clubs, the job of a night cabbie isn’t over until the sun comes up.

Where I read it and how long did it take:

In bed over Christmas break, taking a very relaxed approach – about 3.5 days.

Stand Out Passages:

Still… the most troubling part of driving for Uber and Lyft, though, was the realization I was subsidizing multi-million-or, in Uber’s case, multi-billion-dollar companies. And for what? Empy promises and a sense of community?

What bullshit. I never felt like anything but an underpaid, untrained, and unregulated taxi driver.

From the beginning, I was appalled by the self-entitled culture that spawned the phenomenon of “ridesharing” and the consequences on the livelihoods of cab drivers.

It wasn’t easy participating in the destruction of the blue-collar industry. After all, I’m a descendant of coal miners, janitors, store clerks, and army grunts. Being an Uber/Lyft driver was not in my nature. To be successful at it requires personality traits I’ll never possess: the ability to cheat and scam. And a complete lack of conscience.

Since the only time you make decent money is during surge pricing, you have to take pride in ripping people off. The rest of the time, you’re barely making minimum wage, so you must be somewhat stupid as well…

You’re basically running your personal car into the ground and hoping to luck out with a ride that’s more than five bucks.

Some Drivers have figured out how to game the system and earn more money by referring drivers than actually driving themselves… but isn’t that just a bizarro take on the pyramid scheme?

Despite Uber’s political spin or Lyft’s cheerful advertising campaign, using your personal car as a taxi is not sustainable. Each time I got behind the wheel of my Jetta and turned on the apps, I had to overlook the absurdity of what I was doing. It never ceased to amaze me that people would be so willing to ride in some random dude’s car. But since my passengers acted as if the activity were perfectly normal, I went along with it…

Page 3


Sometimes, it seems the history of San Francisco’s taxi industry is the history of San Francisco itself.

Slowly, as the fire dwindles, people disappear into the darkness and those who remain huddle to stay warm, until the sky brightness and the hardliners begin to arrange rides home, and easy task in a cab yard.

If no one is heading to the East Bay, I get dropped off downtown.

Waiting for the first Pittsburgh/Bay Point train at 8:15 am, I roam Market Street, empty but for the few remaining street people who call out from the shadows, “Good morning,” knowing I’m a working stiff, not some mark.

That’s when the madness of driving a cab dissipates. And for a few moments, before I descend into the BART station, The City feels like… home, maybe.

Page 23


My Reflections:

First of all, Kelly Dessaint is a great writer. He has a casual way of prose that makes you feel like you’re shooting the shit over a beer, or a cup of coffee… or that you’re in some indie film and his voice is the narrative. It’s the kind of writing I strive to achieve, a casual coolness, with an effortless touch of the keys…

After reading this zine, it moved something in me, especially after the first passage above, and many other rants like it that followed. Dessaint really puts into perspective the absurdity behind the lack of training Uber and Lyft drivers have. Further into the story(ies) he talks about his cab training from an actual driving school, and it really made me think more critically about who we are trusting ourselves with, and the effects corporations have on the livelihood of The City. In his training, he explained that it covered a lot of ground including SFMTA taxi regulations and traffic laws, ADA requirements, and how to navigate The City’s unique streets efficiently. There was even sensitivity training and instructions on safety and protecting their clients and themselves as workers. Lastly, after taking an exam, the final step was to get fingerprinted at the DMV.

Midway through the zine, I started to take cabs instead of using my ride-share apps. What I found was that I could catch a ride much faster than waiting for an Uber or Lyft — they always seem to fake you out with how many minutes you have to wait; as soon as you commit to a ride, they tack on about 5 – 10 more minutes!… that always peeved me. I also found that the prices were about the same, if not cheaper, and I didn’t even have to share the ride.

I hardly ever carry cash on me, and paying with plastic never seemed to be an issue. Not to mention each cab driver lived up to the mystic characters as described in Dessaint’s stories… long time residents of San Francisco, with interesting views on The City’s current changes and impressive navigating skills through alleyways; the best part was watching them interact with other cabbies and random people on the street, making you feel as if you were suddenly a part of The City’s subculture. They could tell you the dish on that one business owner who bought out that one hotel on the corner, and that one piece of scum from LA who thinks he can buy the whole dam block… the stories and attitudes were priceless.

Final Verdict:

A must read, especially for San Francisco residents. It brought back the San Francisco edge in my mind’s eye, the edge that has been disappearing slowly as gentrification has been taking over. It will encourage you to join the resistance.

5 Hidden Gems in San Francisco’s Tenderloin

5 Hidden Gems in San Francisco’s Tenderloin

The Tenderloin is a great place. Some people may not agree; you have to really understand it’s troubles to appreciate the problems that are being shoved in your face. The Tenderloin is home to the LGBTQ movement, which is commonly mistaken as having it’s start in the Castro District; it has a “legacy of artists and activists” and is home to the most dense population of school aged children in San Francisco, among many other things.

Photo by Me

The Tenderloin has fought it’s way during the sweeping age of gentrification as the nonprofits and unions that have built up this part of town fight for their space and rights in the richest city. In this part of town, you have some of the richest people walking next to and stepping over some of the poorest, and most distressed individuals. The Tenderloin is also covered in some of the coolest murals next to those in the Mission district, and is the forefront of political marches as crowds of passionate people march from Civic Center to the Embarcaderro; in the Tenderloin, you see it all.

Photo my Me πŸ™‚

Having lived in the Tenderloin for two years, I loved that I was in the hub of all the weekend festivities: it was just a short walk or bike ride away from meeting up with my friends. On a Friday night, my place was always the pre-game or after party spot as we stumbled from the bars to keep the party going. Not only did living in the Tenderloin allow me to have a more vibrant nightlife, but it’s also introduced me to some of the best cuisines. Here are 5 of my favorite places to eat and spend a Friday (or Saturday) night in the Tenderloin.

#1. Yemen Kitchen

Photo Source: Yelp.com/Yemen Kitchen

This is the ultimate hole-in-the-wall you will ever find. When people ask what it’s all about, I say that it’s a mix of Indian and Mexican food. Their fava beans hit the spot like refried beans with flavors as bold as Indian food, but without the commitment. What I mean by that is, you’re either in the mood for Indian food, or you’re not… there is no in between, it’s a commitment to the flavor of curry or masala.

Their bread is a cross between a freshly made flour tortilla and a nice hot doughy naan. According to Yelp, they have some of the best-roasted lamb in town. I love that the owner has old and new soccer team photos of himself and what looks like family members. From what I’ve gathered by the news articles posted on the wall, they started out in Brooklyn, then came out to SF, which is why they keep the Brooklyn soccer sign out front, so look out for that, otherwise, you would totally miss this gem.

#2. The Beer Basement

Photo Source: Hoodline.com
Photo Source: Goldstar Events

This is the best kind of spot to have around the corner from your house. Great beer on tap, and a speak-easy- like- basement that hosts comedy nights Thursday through Saturday every week. When I lived around the corner, this made it easy on nights where I wanted to be social but didn’t want to go far. I would just plop down in the Beer Basement, drink one of their delicious ciders, and laugh to some of San Francisco’s up and coming comedians.

Tickets run about 15$ but you can get a discount code on funcheapsf.com.

#3. The Black Cat

Photo Source: SF Chronicle, Carlos Avila Gonzalez

Speaking of speak-easies, this is a legit one. The signage out front is super discreet and only ones in the know, know. When you walk in, it’s super classy, and trails of live jazz linger up to the front door from the downstairs basement, making it all the more intriguing. There is a cover to dine and sit downstairs so check out their calendar and ticket prices online before you go in, sometimes it fills up fast. This would be the ultimate date night if you need any tricks up your sleeve. I’ll just go ahead and say this now… you’re welcome.

#4. The Tenderloin Museum

Photo Source: Brand New

If you absolutely detest walking through the Tenderloin, please do me a favor and just visit the museum one time. Take a Lyft if you really must, I get it, wading through people loitering and getting slapped in the face with the sensory overload isn’t for the faint of heart… This museum puts in perspective the shine behind the grime. It will help you see San Francisco and the Tenderloin in a new light, and you will learn a lot! You will learn about the famous people who stayed and worked in the tenderloin – Mohammed Ali, The Grateful Dead, to name a few; and the famous movements and riots that took place here such as the Compton Cafeteria Riot that was a pivotal moment in time for the LGBTQ community.

#5) The Phoenix Hotel

Photo Source: MakemyTrip
Photo Source: Chambers SF

Last, but not the least, is the Phoenix Hotel and Chambers Restaurant. The outside is super sketchy, which makes the contrast of walking into this rock and roll-themed restaurant all the more surprising. Once inside, you feel like your in LA with views of the hotel pool lined with palm trees and brightly colored decor. The inside of the restaurant is dark and mysterious with erotic photos and nostalgic records covering the walls.

The Phoenix hosts summer parties with DJ’s, drinks and the whole bit definitely worth checking out as the Tenderloin is probably the only place in San Francisco that actually has a “summer”.

You can check out their pool party schedule here.


Photo by Me πŸ™‚

The Tenderloin is a special place. It’s not too far off from Union Square, allowing visitors an experience that has more grit, and quite frankly, more interesting options. Don’t let San Francisco’s problems scare you away, most people just want to be acknowledged, a gesture to remind them that they aren’t invisible.

If you live in San Francisco, I hope this gave you some good recommendations, and if you visit the city, I hope you stop by at one of these places. Other honorable mentions include:

How to Spend a Day on the Bay: Boatsetter + Snacks

How to Spend a Day on the Bay: Boatsetter + Snacks

Spring is coming! Rain, it was nice to see you, we really needed you, but now it’s time to play and frolic in the beautiful Bay weather again. January is practically over, which means with Valentine’s Day decor already hitting the shelves at Target; Easter and spring will be in our faces faster than you can say “Bon Weekend!” .

Here is a fun, unique way to spend a day in the Bay. I’m giving you a head start so you can be the first of your friends this spring to have the dopest #sundayfunday.


Airbnb for boats

Yes, there is an Airbnb for boats. Of course. 

As a blogger, I usually turn to blogs when I want to try something, go somewhere, or need inspo. For my fiance’s birthday, I wanted to put something special together, so I turned to some of my favorite blogs: http://www.funcheapsf.com, http://www.upout.com , and http://www.bloglovin.com , just to name a few.

Along my research, I came across the idea of having a party on a boat (duh). That led to another rabbit hole of finding a dinner cruise, and then then there she was: http://www.boatsetter.com .

In short, Boatsetter provides an easy boat rental experience where you can pay by the hour to drive a boat if you already have a boating license, or you can add the captain to your rental as well. There are no monthly membership fees, it’s free to join, and get this… they are almost completely international!  

You can filter based on your budget. I filtered on the cheapest hourly rate and was able to find a boat that fit 6 people. I split the cost with friends who were down & promised them beer and snacks (of course).

How we spent the day:

We met our captain at the Berkeley Marina and sailed under the Bay Bridge and back, which was a good 4 hours. Our boat was named Blue Haven and it was equipped with a small cabin that housed a cooler, small kitchen sink, some built in benches and a small restroom.

I jumped down into the cabin and served my friends plates of munchies and handed out beer and wine that we kept down in the cooler. We couldn’t exactly walk around, and had to basically just chill out in our chosen seats — no biggie, we were on a boat!


We brought our portable speakers and blasted Nirvana, we were feeling nostalgic ;). After, feeling completely toasty and high on life (because that’s what partying on a boat does for you) we stumbled in a Lyft to Casa Latina Bakery.

After lunch, we made it back to the city just in time to crash face first into our pillows and take a siesta. Day drinking always knocks me out.

It was a great time and all the friends I invited had a blast and couldn’t believe how easy it was to coordinate all of this. Not only that, but everyone thought I had the best snack spread. πŸ˜‰


The Best Snack Spread: Using items from Trader Joe’s

Being Filipina and Mexican, I am always 1) hungry and 2) feeding people. Raise your hand if you know the type… Needless to say, when I entertain people, I am always afraid of running out of food. My friends love this about me; my wallet, sometimes not so much… Since I was shifting the bulk of this birthday bash budget towards the boat experience, I wanted to still make sure I had a substantial amount of food without breaking the bank.

With that said, I wanted to share my picnic spread for 6 people.

The key to making a party spread is that you have to have a balance of substantial food and sweets, especially if people are drinking.

Sweets:

  • Nutella Sread with Strawberries
  • Chocolate covered pretzels

Savory:

  • Lentils and Bruschetta Dip with water crackers
  • Hummus and Carrots
  • Lemon Basil Pasta Salad

Drinks

  • Wine, red and white
  • IPA beer
  • Water – Never forget!

This picnic brought to you by Trader Joe’s:

The day before, I went to trader joes and purchased items that required the least amount of preparation. Everything was already pre-packed or made, like this bowtie pasta. I just threw about 3 of these packages into a Tupperware to serve 6 of us.

Of course, who doesn’t love the samples at Trader Joe’s? A while back I tasted this sample below with their steamed lentils and bruschetta sauce.
This recipe is delicious and so easy to make. It’s filling, and when garnished with some fresh basil, everyone is asking what it is, like you’re some kind of culinary god or something. Seriously.


Simply mix the two together, with proportions to your liking, and serve with crackers. Read more about this “more filling appetizer” from the Conscientious Eater Blog


If there is one thing the bay area loves to do, is brunch. I get invites to bonnet brunches, wig brunches, costume brunches, and murder mystery brunches… we love to brunch.

So the next time you are looking for something to do with your crew, get on boatsetter, pack a picnic and sail away.

A Practical Gift Guide for the Urban Commuter

A Practical Gift Guide for the Urban Commuter

Living in San Francisco, and working in the Peninsula, I commute by bike and train and carry my whole day on my back. I bring everything from my breakfast, to my rock climbing gear to ensure that I have a seamless, productive day. Here are my top 8 commuter essentials that would make a great, practical gift for the Urbanite in your life.  

#1. Packable, Weather-Proof Jacket 

Having a jacket that I can have in my bag at ALL TIMES that will protect me from the elements, makes this item #1 on my list. 

Brands like The Northface, Cotopaxi, and Patagonia make some of the best (and ethical) gear out there and would be sure to get your money’s worth of usage. 

#2. Phone Case Wallet 

As a commuter, I try to have my hands free, and try to make my transition from bike, to bus, to train as seamless as possible without having to open my backpack. I almost always have my phone in my hand or pocket, as I use it to check bus times and directions; so having my phone with my Clipper Card attached makes commuter life a breeze. 

Giving this as a gift, you could even go above and beyond and get a personalized case from Etsy

#3. A Small Lunch Cooler 

I use this Fiesta PackIt Personal Cooler to pack my smoothie and snacks in the morning. One Magic Bullet cup fits perfectly in this foldable pack, and it stays cold with the insulated walls. Just keep this bad boy in the freezer over night and your smoothie is guaranteed to stay fresh and icy cold. I love how small and compact it is. 

I’ll admit, I received this cooler one Christmas from my mom, and my initial reaction was thinking how lame and unoriginal this gift was;  but I have used this so much and quickly grew to love it! 

Central Park or Dolores Park, this pack will make all your friends jealous when your the only one left with ice cold beers πŸ˜‰ A six pack fits nicely inside.

Combine this gift with some fun Bento Boxes or Sistema containers, and this would make a great practical gift for anyone! 

#4 Contigo Coffee Mug & Tea Strainer

I know a coffee mug is a staple household item for most people. But I am here to really boast this mug’s ability to keep things piping hot, and spill proof through out my commute. I switch between coffee and loose leaf tea, so I especially love this tea strainer accessory that snaps into the cap of the mug. This would make a great gift for the tea enthusiasts in your life. πŸ™‚ 

#5 Compression Packing Cubes

I love these things. It’s better than regular packing cubes because you can really maximize the space in your bag with the compression zipper. I use this on the daily, packing my gym clothes into my backpack.

Before, I used to have my clothes loosely taking up the bulk of my bag, but now they are compressed and my bag is more organized.

For that person on the go, they will love this. It’s one of those things that people don’t think they need until they get it. They come in all sorts of sizes, some small enough for a purse; Pack a cardigan and a scarf into the smallest size and you can still have room in your tote for all the other essentials.

Pair this with other organizational pouches, and your Type A friends will LOVE YOU. 

#6 A Quality Messenger Bag or Backpack

Get your commuter a true city bag by brands who really know what the urban commuter needs. My favorite brand is Timbuk2 – a San Francisco based company. I sport their Jetpack backpack, and have purchased their sling bags and messenger bags for days when I want to pack light. They are gender neutral, which I love, and have a very minimalist style. Other great brands I like are Chrome Industries, and Topo Designs

Timbuk2 always has some sort of sale, if you sign up for their email list, it’s like Black Friday never ended. I HIGHLY recommend this as a gift for someone you love. They are lifetime guaranteed, and my first Timbuk2 bag is 8 years old and in great, vibrant condition. 

#7 Portable Phone Charger 

Everyone needs one of these. Am I right? Or am I right?

This makes a great stocking stuffer. There are so many fun ones out there too. I have one that looks like R2D2. Check out this avocado portable charger … so hip, so cool, so on trend. 

#8 Blue Tooth Headphones

Lastly, a pair of wireless or bluetooth headphones is another one of those items I never thought I needed until I got it. I’ve always preferred these over the earbuds because they are more comfortable and make the music experience so much better. 

Similar to my phone case testimonial, walking around and jumping on trains tangle free of chords makes this item a must while commuting.

If your commuter is a cyclist, I suggest a bluetooth portable speaker.

I do not support cycling with headphones on. Ride safe people!

I love listening to music or listening to the news when I ride my bike. This also comes in handy when I am biking to a new place and need to plug in Google Maps. Be sure to get one with a clip so that it can latch onto the rider, and not fall out of any pockets, causing freakish accidents – trust me, I’ve seen it happen! 


I love all these items dearly because they make cruising on my bike and hopping around the city a breeze. 

Are you a city slicker, train-jumper, cyclist commuter?

What’s in your bag? 

Stream of Consciousness in Japantown, SF

Stream of Consciousness in Japantown, SF

In San Francisco’s Japan Town District, located above the Western Addition, you will find the 38 Geary bus that takes you across the city; Ocean Beach to the Financial District.

Japan Town sits right in the middle, on one of the higher topography points in the city, facing only Twin Peaks, with Russian Hill on it’s shoulders in the north. My inner map may be a bit off, as I am writing this from my passive memory having lived in the Richmond District for seven years before I moved downtown. Whenever I envision Japan Town, I have this image of myself sitting on the bus feeling the caterpillar slug over the downtown crest of Gough Street into the burbs of Laurel Heights and into the Sunset District. An interaction I passed everyday, but never fully can remember the details; slowly bobbing my head on the way home from a long day of retail work waking up just in time to get off at my stop on 6th Avenue…

I rode my bike that day, from my apartment in the Tenderloin. I was nervous I was going to hit some gnarly hills. It was rather easy along the McAllister bike route. I remember it being humid and gray; I was hungry and ready to chow down on some sushi and green tea ice cream.

We found a fun little sushi spot where each plate came out on a conveyor belt that wrapped around the restaurant and all you had to do was pick one up and start eating it. The plates were color coded, so yellow was your most basic sushi, and blue was fancier, etc. It was a fun little experience, I could tell it made everyone a little giddy, and perhaps a bit overeager to try everything, more than you would have if you just ordered off the menu. I guess that was all part of their plan…

There happened to be some festival that day, and my friend Sarah swore we saw a celebrity while we stood in line for the green tea ice cream. But I’m not good with pop culture stuff, so I just shrugged and she laughed at me…

And so, I snapped this photo, while this group danced to some Japanese war music; loud drum noises accompanied by abrupt coordinated movements. It was very energizing to watch, it made me think about my own ethnicity of my two mixed cultures, and my eagerness to be a part of both. Growing up both Filipino and Mexican in white suburbia made me feel a bit marginalized when meeting other Filipinos and Mexicans, I didn’t speak either language very well, and so I was quickly dismissed as being one of them. I guess in these moments of being excluded from them makes me feel truly American. America will constantly ask you where you are from, but where my mother and father’s blood originates from is foreign to me. I am from here, but here will always see me as a product of there…

..In this moment, I stood and admired how these Japanese dancers had their culture to stand by, and how their culture embraced them back.

The rest of the story… well, Sarah and I just drank a lot of tea and looked at a bunch of awesome Japanese stationery and trinkets. We talked about adult friendships how to break them off when they aren’t serving you well and how to recognize the good ones; we talked about the possibilities of moving out of the city or even to another state along the west coast – Oregon, perhaps…

It was a great day, highly caffeinated and full bellied.

A Place to Hang When It's Nice Out | Embarcadero, SF

A Place to Hang When It's Nice Out | Embarcadero, SF

Not a lot of people know about the bocce ball courts at the Embarcaderro! This is a favorite spot of ours when we want to enjoy the nice weather and don’t necessarily want to spend too much money to be a part of the city buzz. We picked up a set at a garage sale and it has served to be one of the best purchases we ever made. It’s located right across the Ferry Building @ 10 Market St. 94105 , bocce balls not included.

Other notable bocce ball courts with balls included are:

Javabeach Cafe

The Hidden Vine

STEM kitchen and Garden

Jones Bar | Tender Nob, SF

Jones Bar | Tender Nob, SF

It’s happy hour in the city, and the weather is great. Where should you go? Jones Bar located at the base of Nob Hill, 620 Jones street. With a great patio that sits above the street, you can enjoy a rooftop-like scene in the middle of downtown San Francisco. Be sure to try their RosΓ© Slush- my favorite drink.

Camera: Minnolta x700

Film: Kodak 400

Model: Luis Quiroz