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From Russia with fear: Adventures in a SF Lyft
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“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, which 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 Francsico 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. 


A complicated case

gets even

more complicated

Last week Ashley Drain was convicted of all 11 charges stemming from using a fake address to run for the Manteca Unified School Board back in November of 2014.

But just like the details of the case, how the jury arrived at its conclusion is anything but straightforward. 

The details still aren’t all completely clear, but from what I can gather, a Delta College Trustee who ran as Jennet Stebbins was excused from the jury after she reportedly failed to deliberate with the other 11 jurors who were all set to convict her. 

It’s not a completely uncommon occurrence, and it’s why there are alternate jurors who sit through trials in the event that something like this happens.

What complicates matters, however, is that Stebbins – who also reportedly uses two other last names, and got onto the jury by using one of them – was the lone black juror. 

I have no doubt that Drain’s attorneys will bring this up when they appeal her conviction. One has to wonder whether the implications of removing the lone black juror from a jury that convicted a black woman – however unfounded they may be – will have an impact on the upcoming trial of Sam Fant, who is being accused of masterminding the entire thing. 

The Stockton conspiracy theorists are going crazy about this on Facebook, but they’re always going crazy about everything so that’s not much of a surprise. Tinfoil hats must come cheap up there.

It’s good that closure is on the horizon for Manteca Unified who I’m sure would rather put the entire thing behind them and never have to think about it again. 

I have the sneaking suspicion, however, that things on the Drain front are far from over. 

She has quite the tin hat following, and as long as people have the opportunity to deny the truth out of convenience for some distorted sake of self-preservation, that’s exactly what they’re going to do. 

Welcome to San Joaquin County folks.

Don’t forget to bring your popcorn. 


To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.