“Should we walk to dinner, or should we take a cab?”
That’s always the million-dollar question when you’re spending time in the city and the concierge tells you that the restaurant that you just booked a table at – one that typically books up weeks in advance, but because it’s Easter weekend you’re in luck – is “about a 20-minute walk.”
Maybe a 20-minute walk for people who are used to navigating the hills and city blocks of San Francisco. But for us Central Valley folk, that translates into about a 45-minute hike that you’ll be dreading with every single stride.
So, we did the next best thing – we called for a Lyft.
I know, I know – you were expecting me to say Uber, right? Well, if that’s the case then you’ve obviously never met my wife, who just happened to have a credit for the other tech-based transportation company that does basically the exact same thing without the high-profile.
And when our first driver, Carlos, cancelled the ride as we were standing outside of our hotel, Igor swooped in to pick up the fare and save the day, and arguably give us the most action-packed transit ride that either of us have either experienced.
Allow me to explain.
Igor, with his shoulder-length hair and thousand-yard stare, was unnerving from the start. It’s not very often that you climb into a modern taxi and your driver, who is soft-spoken and quiet to the point of being scary, sits there listening to classical music.
“Where are you from Igor,” I ask as he winds his way into Saturday night traffic to take us over to North Beach for a much-anticipated meal at Park Tavern.
“Russia,” he said – bringing back flashbacks of my tense run-in with a bunch of staffers from the Russian consulate up at Coit Tower a few months before I would take Amber there on our first date.
But despite the emerging threat of war between our countries, I broke up the awkward silence with Igor by asking about his country, what brought him to the United States, and what he enjoys about it.
At about this time, he goes to make a right-hand turn onto a two-lane one-way street, but gets caught in the intersection when the light turns red. So, wisely, he pulls over into the street parking area, turns on his signal, and waits for the opportunity to get back into traffic to get us to our destination.
A total professional move.
The only problem with this was the man who was waiting in the intersection to turn left didn’t think that it was a very nice thing to do. So, when he pulls up alongside of us, screams obscenities out of the window, and puts his car in park and begins to climb out, the sudden realization that this scene could turn very, very bad became starkly real.
While there was an abundance fear that was rippling through my body as he walks around the front of the car, pointing and screaming with an insane look in his eyes, I’m pretty certain that Igor’s eyes lit up for the first time in our brief existence together. As the man walked up to his window, he actually rolled it down – inviting a torrent of curse words and finger pointing that came dangerously close to breaking the open seal of the window.
He didn’t respond to the verbal assault but simply stared with an unaffected look on his face.
After voicing his opinion, loudly, and climbing back into his compact import sedan, the man sped off with his middle finger extended, and my wife, frozen in a look of horror, just stared at our new Russian friend.
“Let me tell you something about difference in culture,” he said as he merged into an open lane space and pulled into the San Francisco night. “In Russia, somebody would have broken that man’s finger without any sort of consequence or repercussion.”
And that’s all he said as he sped away to get us to the restaurant in time for our reservation.
So, I firmly believe that our Lyft driver must have been some sort of Russian mob enforcer at some point, because that level of calm simply isn’t normal – especially in a road rage incident.
If you’re ever in San Francisco and you need to get somewhere in a hurry and Igor is available as a Lyft driver, you should book him without question. It’s not every day that you get to see a movie scene unfold before your very eyes – even if that scene includes the very real possibility that you could be shot by a lunatic who’s upset about extra 10 seconds that was taken away from him in traffic.
I highly suggest it.