And, if you’re a lucky rider in Sacramento, maybe you’ve even been entertained at least once with this simple question: “What color is my cab?”
If you haven’t, the correct answer to Taxi Dave’s question is, always “black and yellow,” and what always follows is Wiz Khalifa’s song by the same name, “Black & Yellow”—always blasted at top volume inside what the cab driver also known as Dave Rivera calls his “party cab.”
Rivera’s not just well-known around the Midtown bar scene. In March, the driver’s homemade commercial went viral after the video, which includes Rivera rapping outside his vehicle in an empty parking lot, appeared on comedian Daniel Tosh’s website for his TV show Tosh.0 and has since reached more than 300,000 views, making him a veritable Web celebrity. And why not? This is the guy, after all, who bumps Journey past your favorite watering holes (air guitar included) and even made up his own theme song, complete with lyrics to LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.” Be prepared.
Still, such entertainment and gimmicks aren’t for everyone when it comes to hitching a safe ride home after a night out on the town. For those, a quiet ride from a chuckling woman with a kind smile and complimentary bottled water will do just fine. Enter Lorraine Fisher, known by her East Sacramento regulars as Taxi Lorraine.
Despite their different taxi styles, both drivers share much in common: They both love their job, they’re both sounding boards for what ails passengers, and they’ve both witnessed situations that travel the gamut from inebriated hilarity to scary, life-threatening experiences. Indeed, the job is often unpredictable—especially when knives, abusive couples, verbal harassment and robbery come with the territory.
Yet both say it’s just in a night’s work, an honest way to make a living until the last fare is paid and the meter shut off.
Naked men, crazies and trusting your gut
“Co-Op Five. I’m clear.”
Blond, spunky and not afraid of a few four-letter words, Taxi Lorraine, who says she’s the only active female California Co-Op Cab driver in the Sacramento region, boasts more than 300 regulars programmed into her phone. And no wonder: The 57-year-old mother of two, who often covers the East Sacramento area, has been driving cabs for more than 25 years.
Steve Patterson, dressed comfortably for a night out on the town, is one of those regular passengers. Patterson, who’ll later part ways with Fisher at Club 2-Me in East Sac, explains why he’s a regular customer.
“Lorraine is the cab I put my wife in, because she’s safe, trustworthy [and] shows up all the times when she says she [will],” Patterson explains from the backseat of Lorraine’s cab. Then, he reconsiders his endorsement—more business for Lorraine, after all, might mean less room for his wife.
“Actually, she’s terrible and awful, because we don’t want people to sign up,” Patterson says with a laugh.
Whatever route Fisher’s customers lead her on, there’s never a boring night, she says. Sometimes it’s catching a glimpse of a naked man running north on 21st Street near The Press Club. Then there are the couples that get friendly in the backseat.
And, of course, there are the times Fisher must trust her gut instincts. There was the night, for example, when she found herself locking the door on a suspicious-looking character—an incident that illustrated, all too clearly, just how serious and dangerous her job can be at times.
It was 3 a.m. on a weeknight, Fisher remembers. She was sitting in her cab, reading a newspaper in a parking lot near Alhambra Boulevard and L Street, when a man approached her car, asking for a ride that would cover a few blocks. Not pleased with Fisher’s going rate for the route—$5—he got angry. Fast.
Not surprisingly, Fisher immediately locked her doors.
“‘Unlock the car, bitch!’” she recalls him screaming from the other side of her window.
“I just knew I didn’t want that guy in my cab,” she says. “I avoid trouble by evaluating who I pick up.”
Hustling and love, taxicab style
Taxi Dave rolls up to the curb, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” booming from the speakers. With a stylish fedora perched atop his head, Rivera nods. It’s now time to hop into the party cab.
“Did you bring earplugs? Ever been to a rock concert before?” he asks.
Rivera’s cab isn’t just fun and loud tunes—it’s been his financial and emotional anchor since launching his own service at one of the lowest points in his life.
Rivera, 46, who’d lost his job as an estate planner, found his personal life was also falling apart.
He found a new life in taxi cabs.
“I started the business on the same day [my ex-wife and I separated],” he explains. “I was homeless and living in my cab for about a week; I started hustling—staying at hotels every other night or so.”
These days, he says, he’s known for his clean rides and an affinity for what he calls “epic music.”
Suddenly, the music-loving cab driver of four years receives a message from his dispatch center.
“This is an 800 L pickup,” he says, referring to the downtown Sacramento location. “I’m gonna grab it. Frank Fat’s. Two cabs. DoubleTree Hotel.”
Survivor is still going strong on Rivera’s iPod, and the three teachers from Southern California, bellies full of Honey Walnut Prawns, have no idea what they’re in for when he picks them up.
Then, halfway through Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Rivera, having finally dispensed with the introductory chitchat, pops the question.
Their answer, “Yellow?”
Good enough. Rivera cues up Khalifa’s “Black & Yellow” and proceeds to rap along with every word, sending the teachers into a laughing frenzy before they retire to their hotel rooms for the night.
Rivera says he owes a lot to his party cab. A former California Highway Patrol vehicle, his ride sports bulletproof windows that proved handy one night after a passenger’s angry ex-husband became violent.
“I picked up this gal; she was upset and needed to get home,” he says, remembering the incident. “When she went inside to go get her credit card, her ex-husband … pulls out a knife [and] slammed this knife three times hard [into the car], probably bruised his hands doing it.”
It’s not all danger, however. Rivera’s job led to him this current girlfriend, for example, after he picked her up on a routine dispatch.
“Probably three or four months into my business, I get this call [and] the name on it was Lynne,” says Rivera with a smile.
He says he was immediately attracted to the woman he’d been tasked with escorting to Chevys Fresh Mex restaurant on Garden Highway.
Turning on his old-school chivalrous charm, Rivera opened his cab door for her and chatted her up on the way to her destination.
Later that night, Lynne texted her new friend, “Come and get me.”
The pair started dating and have been together ever since.
Now, his life is simple. Rides, passengers, singing Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” at the top of his lungs in the party cab, and, always, the eternal question:
“What color is my cab?”