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San Francisco cab driver’s dashboard

I asked a San Francisco taxi driver I happened to sit next to about indicators he sees. I didn’t mean “low oil,” I meant big things. Whether the economy is still falling or not, for one.

Figure out how to collect tip data from cabbies and waiters and you’ve have a good early indicator of economic trends, I’ve always thought. But the cab driver, Richard Roe — also producer of a website on verbal defense tactics and a retired programmer — says no. Tips have been the same. Moods, too.

However, he has noticed one thing. People used to forget their cell phones all the time. With the recession, no lost cell phones.

Then last week someone left something for the first time in months: a shopping bag with a spiral-bound directory of antique stores.

Things could be looking up.

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