The smell of beer begins to fill the void in the van, and I suddenly feel very lucky for sitting up front in the passenger seat instead of the middle and back where the windows are quickly fogging up. One of the 13 passengers crammed in clutches a trash can in his lap, and I am certain he will puke any moment.
Shortly after midnight on Friday, Jan. 18, I rode along with the friendly and sober driver of UC Davis’ own taxi service designed for sober, tipsy or drunk passengers. Tipsy Taxi costs $3 per person, with additional tips always accepted. The service only operates within city limits and runs from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Tipsy Taxi and Unitrans driver Tom Anderson, a fourth-year engineering major, said working as a Tipsy Taxi driver is a popular option for Unitrans employees. Drivers receive around $11 per hour, plus tips.
Arranging a pick-up from the Tipsy Taxi has become undeniably easier.
“We have improved the system since the last few years … we have email and chat, so even if the phone lines are busy, you can get ahold of someone,” Anderson said.
The Special Transportation Services also provides charters such as limos.
Anderson has worked for Unitrans and Tipsy Taxi for three years, and he’s experienced many crazy stories in his tenure.
“One time I picked some people up downtown … seven guys, country boys … and the last guy to get on dropped a handle of tequila out of his pants outside the van. It shattered on the ground and he got back in and told his friends, and they [asked] if they could go grab something that fell outside,” Anderson said, adding that passengers aren’t allowed to bring beverages on board.
Tipsy passengers are also notorious for providing entertaining comments.
“Two of my friends were riding along with me [one time] and one of my friends was Asian and one of the guys [said], ‘Man, I just really love Asian girls.’ And she [said], ‘Oh, this is awkward,’”Anderson said.
After listening to such debacles, I waited aboard the Taxi with anticipation.
A couple leaving the Theta Chi fraternity house boarded the Tipsy Taxi first.
“[I drank] some scotch, and some beer and champagne … kept it kinda mellow tonight. We’re older now,” said the male passenger, whom we shall call #1 for the sake of anonymity.
He explained his theory that college upperclassmen learn that they must party safe in order to maintain a clear conscience to complete their studies and not receive too many hangovers.
Later, anonymous passenger #1 and his date, whom we shall call #2, loudly argued about silly topics.
“Cows are so dumb…”#1 said.
“Well, do you drink milk?”#2 said.
“From the udder? No!”#1 said.
“Well do you drink milk period?”#2 said.
“Uh … ya … but I don’t drink the milk from Davis. They do, like, experiments on them here. If you [eat] the meat from here you can hear it mooing,”#1 said.
Tipsy Taxi runs an 11-seater van and also a larger shuttle bus. In the smaller space of the van, conversations are easily overheard and often interrupted.
“We should go to Chinatown and buy chickens,” said #1.
“They’re chicks!” #2 said.
“Human beings are being sold?!” a third anonymous passenger said, overhearing from the back of the van.
Adam Debow, a first-year grad student at the UC Davis School of Law, and Casey Thompson, a fifth-year kinesiology major at Sacramento State University, unexpectedly found the Tipsy Taxi waiting for a passenger off Russell and conveniently caught a ride.
“I drank a lot of beer … played one game of beer pong, just hanging out with friends,” Thompson said.
Debow recounted an adventurous night.
“We were at [a friend’s] house, and we decided we were about to leave and … broke out of the window. And we locked the window behind us and then I remembered I left my wallet and my phone in there … so then we had to break back in, and that meant just knocking on the door,” Debow said. “Well, we could’ve just walked out, but then we would have had to say ‘goodbye.’”
Debow, a former Unitrans driver himself, helped a large party of 11 passengers crammed on board come up with their $33 fee. Three $5 bills, several $1 bills and a whole collection of change to make up the last dollar are dropped into Debow’s hand to give to the driver.
“I mean I woulda tipped him! I gave him a couple dollars, maybe like five,” Debow said.
Regardless of a passenger’s name or alcohol intake, every passenger appreciates the swift cruise of Tipsy Taxi’s convenient, late-night service.
“My name is 007… I came from a ‘function,’” a fourth anonymous passenger said. “I had a beer and Captain Morgan, vodka and cranberry [to drink] and [riding the Tipsy Taxi] has been a fucking awesome experience.”
ALYSSA KUHLMAN can be reached at email@example.com.