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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

A night in the life of…

It’s a Friday night and you find yourself like many other college students on the weekend – slightly inebriated. For just two dollars you can avoid the long trek from the bars or a party to the various part of Davis you live in. All you need to do is call Tipsy Taxi.

On Saturday night, I found myself utilizing the service. Oddly enough though, I was completely sober. My mission was to observe a typical night in the life of a Tipsy Taxi driver. Is it annoying to deal with drunk students? What do driver’s do in between passenger pick-ups? Has anyone ever been a little too tipsy for the Tipsy Taxi? I spent my Saturday night tagging along with a driver to find out.

My night began around 11:30 pm at the Unitrans parking garage. Tipsy Taxi runs every Saturday night from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Vehicles are dispatched from the Unitrans facility, but are operated by Specialized Transportation Services.

I met with Tipsy Taxi scheduler and supervisor, Sebastian Belser, at the dispatch station. Belser, a junior organizational studies and sociology double major, answers phone calls from students and sends the nearest Tipsy Taxi to them.

“Basically they call into this phone, we figure out where they are, how many there are, and where they want to go,” Belser said.

Every call received is written down and logged in. The practice allows Tipsy Taxi to track their money.

A call comes in and Belser quickly jots down the information.

“A student wants a ride from Tercero to Segundo. Who does that?” Belser said. He radios a driver, “Chaser to Pink Lady. We have a pick-up at Tercero.”

“We have a different theme every night,” said Belser regarding the radio system. “Tonight its ‘cocktails.’ ”

Belser said drivers are trained with radios when they earn their specialized license.

Another Tipsy Taxi supervisor and senior English and communication double major, Rodrigo Garcia, joined Belser and I in the dispatch station. Garcia said he enjoys the laid back atmosphere of the job.

“[The job] is much more independent, but a lot more responsibility. And the money doesn’t hurt,” Garcia said.

Belser said Tipsy Taxi is largely student run. So what must a student do to be employed by Tipsy Taxi?

“You must be a Unitrans driver first,” Belser said.

“And be awesome,” Garcia said.

Around midnight I joined senior environmental resource science major and Tipsy Taxi driver, Edgar Delgado, for a ride. Delgado’s themed name for the night was Lemon Drop.

We headed to South Davis for our first pick-up – a group of five heading to G Street Pub. On the way there Delgado explained one of his most bizarre experiences on the job.

“My very first night I was really shy. I had to pick up a group of nine extremely inebriated girls,” Delgado said. “One of them tried to give me a lap dance while I was driving. In retrospect, that shouldn’t have happened.”

We stopped at Oakshade Commons Apartments to pick up the group of five. Since Tipsy Taxi costs two dollars per passenger, drivers often earn tips on the job.

“I’ve been driving for three years. On average I used to take home about 25 to 30 dollar tips,” Delgado said.

We passed through the South Davis Safeway parking lot on our way to G Street Pub. I observed one student standing in front of the grocery store dressed as Quail Man from the cartoon, Doug.

Meanwhile on the Tipsy Taxi, the passengers were excitedly chatting in their seats. One young man sang his own variation of Wheels on the Bus:

“The wheels on the bus go round and round…the wheels on the bus go round and round. And I’m feeling drunk!”

After dropping the passengers off downtown, we had a slight layover. Delgado said that when there are breaks between calls, drivers can pull over and wait to hear from dispatch. If they are hungry, they can stop for food.

Belser said that dispatch knows where to send their buses because of their mapping system, NextBus. NextBus enables supervisors to see where buses are at all times on a computerized map. They send the nearest Tipsy Taxi to callers.

Lines are usually busiest between the hours of 10 to 10:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 2 a.m. Passengers must be UC Davis undergraduates, and located within the city limits of Davis.

When it comes to the tipsiest of Tipsy Taxi passengers, Delgado said he has a lot of patience.

“I have a pretty long fuse when it comes to shenanigans on the bus,” Delgado said.

He has, however, had the misfortune of cleaning up after some passengers.

“I’ve had to clean up throw up on buses before – not fun,” Delgado said.

When such an incident occurs, the Tipsy Taxi is immediately returned to the garage. The buses are then appropriately cleaned by a supervisor – who is trained to deal with hazardous materials.

We continued our drive and picked up two students from Villanova Street around 1 a.m. One was a female in a black mini-skirt and gold mid-drift shirt. She hopped off the bus at their Sycamore Lane stop and yelled back at us, “I don’t normally wear this!”

One of the last groups of the night was returning from a birthday party. A girl asked me if I knew what a mix between an elephant and a rhino was called. Her answer was “hell-if-I-know”.

The last passenger of the evening was dropped off around 2:15 am and we made it back to garage ten minutes later. According to Delgado, his standard shift goes from 9:30 pm and 2:30 am.

Supervisor shifts generally end later, around 3 a.m. They must check the vans out, count the money and finish any paperwork.

My first, and probably only, sober ride on the Tipsy Taxi was entertaining to say the least. Undergraduate students who are not so sober and looking for a lift on the weekends can call Tipsy Taxi at 752-6666. Hours will be extended from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Picnic Day.

AMANDA HARDWICK can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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