Ding ding all aboard. "Next stop Powell Street Chinatown. Tickets please show me your tickets please." There are many things that go into making a city feel like a small community. The fact that San Francisco is only 7 miles wide helps give it the small city feel. If you start to work for the cable car ‘family,’ San Francisco can begin to feel like an even smaller world.
I became friends with one of the cable car conductors who manned my commute to and from work throughout the years. ‘Mark’ was a jovial, kind, friendly man in his fifties and has been a cable car conductor for twenty-five years. On one recent evening, the cable car was empty as I traveled home from work. Mark told me this conductor story.
In the 80’s, Mark moved from Guatemala to San Francisco in search of a ‘better life’ for himself and for his family. He thought he was going to stay for a year, make some money and then move back home. One night after going out to a bar, a friend suggested that Mark try out to become a cable car conductor. And so he did. He told me that the actual conductor test wasn’t the difficult part. The initiation and tough weather conditions were.
After Mark had earned his stripes on the cable car and had been on the job for a year, the other conductors started to let him in on the inner workings of the city. They began introducing him to the other people who help support the tourism and hospitality fields. Now Mark knows almost all of the bartenders, concierge, doormen, taxi cab drivers, restaurant managers and bus drivers in San Francisco. His conductor’s secret is all of these people send tourists to each other for discounts and care.
For example, Mark met a couple visiting San Francisco from Mississippi. The couple complained that they had only been sent to expensive restaurants by their hotel and were starting to run out of money. Mark sent them to a restaurant near by and told them to ask for the restaurant manager by name and let him know that Mark sent them. He assured them they would then be taken care of for the rest of the night.
The next day the couple waited at the cable car stop for Mark’s car. They got on and thanked Mark for a wonderful evening. The couple had followed his recommendation and asked for the restaurant manager. Immediately the manager discounted their bill. He then sent them to a bar for drinks. At the bar they let the bartender know that they knew Mark the cable car conductor and were also sent by the restaurant manager. The bartender gave them free drinks, didn’t charge them a cover, arranged for a discounted cab, and even set them up with a great deal at a better San Francisco hotel.
The moral of this story is to always be kind, especially if you’re on the cable car. What's an act of kindness that happened to you while visiting another city?