Unwanted publicity and shame follows dispirited cabby’s attempt to shed the cursed Badge 666 and its associated cab
By Joe Eskenazi
You have to feel for Michael Byrne. The 30-year veteran cabbie had a run of bad luck so he discreetly asked the deputy director of the city’s taxi commission to help him get the commission to alter his medallion number from No. 666 to one a bit less devilish.
Instead, the story becomes Internet gold, the president of the cabbies union shows up wearing frickin’ devils horns and ridicules him and then, worst of all, the Taxi Cab Commission voted Tuesday night, 5-1, to keep 666 in service.
So, in a nutshell, Byrne still has his troubles and now he’s been made fun of on a grand scale as well. When we called him at his home number yesterday he sounded nervous and beleaguered. He asked us to call back in five minutes and then didn’t pick up his phone for the next two days.
One has to wonder if things would have turned out this way if Jordanna Thigpen, the deputy director of the city’s taxi commission, had opted to not quote Verse 18 of the Revelation of St. John the Divine in her memo to the commission. Her historical examination of the origins of “The Mark of the Beast” became the oddest historical tangent taken by a city official since Supervisor Jake McGoldrick’s bizarre aside discussing the historical and religious significance of the Holy Trinity during a hearing on the Trinity Plaza apartments.
Thigpen’s examination is thorough (she thankfully opted not to utilize the term “Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia"), but it ranges into what my Uncle Steve would label “Movie Shit” when she reports a previous holder of Medallion No. 666 witnessing his car “burn to a crisp” on Good Friday, with only the number 666 eerily visible in the rubble afterwards.
Clearly this is the worst thing to happen to taxis since that abysmal Queen Latifah-Jimmy Fallon film, which also crashed and burned but good.
Thigpen told us that she didn’t see the No. 666 defiantly placed among the rubble but she has “spoken to members of the [taxi] industry who have seen it.” While that source claims the cab “spontaneously combusted,” Thigpen prefers to believe it overheated.
In short, Thigpen’s memo probably made a Chronicle editor’s pants explode. I asked her if it might have made sense to simply inform the commission that Byrne is a shy, religious guy who’s really down on his luck and would appreciate having his number reassigned without bringing up exploding cabs and the Book of Revelations. She said that, yes, this might have made sense.
(In the meantime, though, this has the makings of a fantastic movie. Byrne is well into middle age and, since he didn’t show up at his own hearing, we don’t know what he looks like. But if you tell Christian Bale there’s an opportunity to starve himself again, maybe he’ll sign on).
For what it’s worth, Thigpen said she was unable to ascertain if Cab No. 666 has a higher accident rate than others.
Muni trains and buses, meanwhile, have four-digit ID codes as do San Francisco police cars (a personal friend did wear Badge No. 666 for the SFPD though — and he requested it). I didn’t have the heart to ask Thigpen if there’s a cab No. 069, but she confirmed there is a No. 911 (and, not 15 minutes later, it drove right past me on Market and Montgomery). [cue theremin]
While a handful of cabbies showed up at last night’s meeting to razz Byrne, one former S.F. driver I spoke to actually came up with a solution.
Just turn the medallion upside-down. Now it’s 999.