Thursday, October 1, 2015

Krakow, Poland---A Visit To Auschwitz

Tuesday I made it to Auschwitz, the third and last Holocaust site I will be visiting on this trip.  Later this afternoon I take a bus to Southeastern Poland and the small city of Sanok, gateway to that section of the Carpathian Mountains.  I will there to continue my recuperation from all things taxi, and hopefully, if my new laptop cooperates, coming close to finishing  the final draft of my newest book, To Age 13.  That I am ready, as I keep repeating, to finally bid goodbye to taxi permanently, is, to put it mildly, an understatement.

Yesterday, while getting bus information for Sanok, I saw the taxi driver who had taken me to the Hotel Felix, my Krakow home the past three nights.  Great driver, friendly yet totally professional, reminding me much of my own taxi demeanor, he of 25 plus years driving in Krakow.  And there he was, sitting, as he does seven days a week, looking slightly worn, waiting, always waiting.  Recognizing me as a fellow veteran, we had quick yet meaningful conversation.  Clearly he saw his life position as unchangeable, something he will be doing until physically unable.  Not a fate I want to share. Please, no, no, no!

Auschwitz is everything bad that you could or have imagined.  Everything you might have heard is true, reality punching you in the face.  Like the Holocaust sites I visited previously,  the madness and inhumanity is shared but only magnified in scope.  Interestingly, my descriptive tongue today is leaden, weighted down by what I saw.  That the Germans of that era, regardless of whether they were official members of the Nazi Party, were able to plan, let alone carry out murder on such a scale, says much about German society and culture during the 1930s and 40s.

As I am sure has been stated elsewhere, this kind of hatred cannot be accidental, or in another sense, incidental, confined to a small percentage of the German population.  The killing of, not only Jews, but Roma, Gays, Russian soldiers, Polish priests and so many other groups says that German society as a collective whole, was out-of-control. Yes, the treaties post-WW I were unfair but nothing justifies what happened at Auschwitz.  Nothing.  There is no excuse and there never will be.  That is today's and tomorrow's reality, matching the reality of 1939-1945.  If the opportunity ever presents itself, go to Auschwitz.  You will not have a good time but nonetheless, go.  You will understand, once you have passed through the two barbed wire fences, why it was necessary.  Go.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Realities---Taxi and Others

My last Sunday afternoon in Vilnius allows me the time and space to do something I haven't done before, compose two consecutive entries over a two day span.  It is almost 2 PM and my bus for Warsaw doesn't leave until just past 10:00 PM so I have plenty of time, that is if I put my mind to it and not screw up the works like I did yesterday.  Today I spent a good hour repairing yesterday's damage.  Anyway, now it is time to address issues concerning Seattle taxi.  Too soon I will again be immersed in that world.  You don't have to ask whether I am looking forward to it.  I am not.  I repeat, I am not!

One important issue that needs addressing is the ugly rumor concerning major impropriety connected to Yellow taxi's reporting of out-bound Sea-Tac (airport) trips.  Rumor has it that Yellow, from the very start of its contract, intentionally misstated figures given to the Port of Seattle. What makes little sense concerning this, is that given the level of official scrutiny, why would Yellow, after making this huge effort to gain the contract, intentionally sabotage their own good work?   It doesn't make sense, especially given who was in charge when Yellow won the contract, that being the very conservative and cautious Frank Dogwilla.  I held many disagreements with Frank but I never saw him as a fool, and you would have to be very foolish to think you could present bogus figures over a five-year span without anyone noticing

Now of course I could be naive but what makes this so suspicious is that this accusation occurs just when the Sea-Tac contract is up for renewal in October of this year. Another taint upon the rumor is who is doing the whispering, that being the same folks who, at least up to this juncture, have been allowed to get away with stealing from the Seattle taxi industry for over a three-year period.  Where is the accountability, my friends, is all I ask?  There are people I trust in the industry and others I do not.  Concerning this rumor, I will leave it at that.

Not just idle rumor is that the much anticipated "Seattle taxi medallion lottery" is coming nearer to reality.  A taxi colleague emailed me the City of Seattle's draft copy of the lottery proposal.  You have to have driven taxi  in Seattle for at least five years.  I wanted the City to make this first in a series of medallion lotteries to be open to only the truly long-term veteran drivers but of course, who listens to me?  As I have said more than once, your first five years serves as your initial taxi apprenticeship, meaning you now have the basic foundation to really start learning the craft.  I unfortunately know too many 20 year taxi veterans who are little better than rookies.  Taxi is a stern master.  It is important to pay attention, something many of my cabbie comrades have refused to do.

And if you ever wondered just how we in this country arrived at where we now find ourselves, I suggest you read the book I just finished (all 634 pages, 1995 edition, HarpersPerennial), Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States."  Read it and I will guess you will suddenly be more informed concerning US history than 90 percent of our nation's population. 

I call this a "must read" and after reading it yourself, I know you will agree.  Given my large collection at home, I am going to begin reading other complete US histories because, as good as Zinn is, I want to know more.  Or more precisely, I NEED to know more.  I end today with a quote (chapter 13, page 345, 3rd paragraph) that pertains to how we in the local Seattle & King County taxi industry got to where we are today.

The quote relates to the first part of the 20th century, around and about the year 1914:

"In this period, cities also put through reforms, many of them giving power to city councils instead of mayors, or hiring city managers.  The idea was more efficiency, more stability.  "The end result of the movements was to place city government firmly in the hands of the business class," Weinstein says. What reformers saw as more democracy in city government, urban historian Samuel Hays sees as the centralization of power in fewer hands, giving business and professional men more direct control over city government."

Above references: James Weinstein, "The Corporate Ideal in the Liberal State" & Samual Hays, "The Politics of Reform in Municipal Government in the Progressive Era."

Think about recent City of Seattle Council decisions concerning the local taxi industry and you should be able to see why and how we got screwed.  

On that note, off to Poland!


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Lithuanian Postcard---May We Not Only Never Forget, Let Us Know In the First Place: Salaspils, Latvia & Paneriai, Lithuania

No, not Riga, Latvia but Vilnius, Lithuania though I did spend two enjoyable days in Latvia's capital.  Just like traveling, situations can rapidly change, and upon arriving in Helsinki on a Sunday morning I found little to nothing open, and what was open was 30 percent or more higher than Tallinn, Estonia, prompting me to pay my 19 euro ferry passage to Tallinn and off again I sailed across the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland.  I found, at least when the seas are gentle, I love traveling by ship over open water.  There is, I have found, nothing like it, a kind of special loneliness when standing on the bow looking out to sea or the sky overhead.  It is wonderful which easily explains why people are "called to the sea" and remain for a lifetime.

Two nights back in Tallinn, two in Riga, and now, my third night in Vilnius.  Tomorrow I take a bus through the night to Warsaw, then from there to Krakow, Poland.  I already have my hotel for three night in Krakow, from where I will do a day trip to that infamous Nazi death camp, Auschwitz.

Taking this trip, I had four "not-to-miss" destinations:  Saint Petersburg, Russia and its Hermitage Museum; and three Holocaust sites---Salaspils, Paneriai, and Auschwitz.  The Hermitage of course, was for my personal pleasure; and the Nazi death camps part of my obligation as a world (earth) resident and citizen.  I also felt that way when visiting the WW II era Normandy invasion beaches in 2000.  I walked the beaches and weaved through the tombstones of both the German and American cemeteries.  I feel strongly that not only is it important to know history, it is essential that we never "forget history."

The nice woman working at my Riga hotel had never once been to Salapils,even though her daily train passes right by the camp itself.  Why does it take someone like me to come half way across the planet to view the memorial sculptures at Salaspils or the Paneriai burial pits where over 100,000 victims fell into after being shot in the head? I don't understand.  Why is it so difficult to take an hour or two and  pay your respects to the dead?

Yes, all the victims murdered at Paneriai were shot---other than the majority of the children who instead had their heads "bashed in" in order to save bullets.  Nauseating to contemplate, isn't it, but now, by simply reading my blog you too are now more aware than you were minutes ago.  Perhaps now, that woman too will some day soon take an hour and visit the Salaspils transfer camp like I did, or,becoming more inspired, visit other sites like I am doing.

And I hope someday she does. Because she ,you, me and everyone else must know, all of us knowing and remembering, telling everyone who doesn't know what you now know.  It is not lost upon me that while I am free to go anywhere in Europe as I please, south of me there are tens of desperate thousands fleeing the Syrian conflict, with of course many dying in the attempt. It is a bad story.  War has, and remains a bad story, any and all justifications flushed down the toilet where they belong, in history's sewer.

Yes, Paneriai made a deep impression but my visit to the Salaspils Memorial was also unique, stepping off the train at a lonely stop and walking 2.1 kilometers through the birch forest to the site.  A striking feature there is a metronome contained within a block of polished stone, a second by second droning out of a heartbeat accompanying your visit.  Remember Poe's short story, "The Tell-Tale Heart"  and you have a good idea of the affect it has upon the brain.  Most sad perhaps is the memorial marking the children's barracks, child separated from mother.  Awful!  All I can say is, just what kind of animal is man? Certainly, to my consciousness, a question that has yet to be accurately answered.

Editorial note, Sunday, 09/27/2015:  I woke up this morning realizing I had made a series of errors yesterday.  They are now corrected.  Perhaps I can blame a still addled taxi brain!  You should have heard me cursing my stupidity out loud!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Venus Consoling Cupid Stung By A Bee---Greetings From Saint Petersburg, Russia

I know many have been puzzled by my silence.  The answer is that I haven't been able to sign in to my blog but a suggestion from "she-who-can't-be-named" has done the trick.  Later I will explain what happened but for now it is time to catch up and get down to taxi business.  I can tell you that I took a cab last night with the greatest guy, a 27 year veteran of the Saint Petersburg roads currently driving an eight-year old Russian Volga.  Today he is taking a break and going fishing.  On his smart phone mounted on the dashboard he showed me at least 20 photos of recent catches.  I really liked this cabbie.  The fare was 600 rubles.  I tipped him 200 rubles.  Like too many Russians he smokes cigarettes, the American brand Kent his tobacco poison of choice. As always, our taxi experience are similar but, reported by him, the local police appear to be nicer to their cabbies.  Glad to hear it!

I arrived Paris September 8th, after a three-hour layover in Dubai.   September 10th I flew Air Baltic to Tallinn, Estonia.  On Wednesday I took a ferry across the Gulf of Finland to Helsinki.  Later that day I boarded a ship for Saint Petersburg for a three-day Visa-free stay which if why I am leaving later today at 7:00 PM, boarding that same Saint Peter Line ship, the "Princess Maria" for my return journey back to Helsinki, arriving Sunday morning at 8:00 AM, a day that so happens to be my ex-wife's birthday.  After 2-3 days in Finland I return to Tallinn, and from there, take a bus to Riga, Latvia.  Hopefully from Riga I will   again be able to log-on and report further developments.  There is much Seattle-related taxi news to report and, providing I have a number of uninterrupted hours, I will tell everyone about the good and bad and the plainly stupid.

The entire point of this current European adventure (my 12th trip to Europe) was to see the great art museums residing here in Saint Petersburg.  Thursday I visited the "Russian Museum," home to 20th Century and some 21st Century Russian artwork.  Amazing, brothers and sisters, amazing!

And if possible, and believe me it is, that body of insanely good painting was surpassed by what appears to be the greatest collection of paintings and assorted artwork ever assembled in one place, that museum being the Hermitage.  I do not say this lightly, because I have visited the majority of the world's great art museums, be it in France and Spain and Holland and Belgium and Ireland and England and Mexico and Austria; in my home country, Chicago and NYC and San Francisco and Kansas City and Toledo, Ohio---but I have never experienced a more mind-blowing six plus hours. Who needs LSD when you have 24 Rembrandt's staring right back at you?

Suffice to say, I will be back when I have a couple weeks to concentrate on what the collected museums in Saint Petersburg have to offer.  My title comes from the only American painting I encountered, an early 19th Century painting by Benjamin West.  On my 10th birthday, my sister Mary, 13 years my senior, gave me, instead of my requested toy machine gun, a comprehensive history of art.  In that book, which I still have, is a color plate of a Benjamin West painting, though not the one I saw yesterday.  Oddly, the West painting was hung with a large group of British painters. Do you think I am the only one who noticed?  Thanks to my sister way back in 1963, I believe I am.

Again, my apologies for the delay in my weekly missives to you, my taxi public.  All I can will say is that my name is not "Jason Anderson" which is why I haven't been able to access my own blog.  More later on that. First I have a couple Baltic Sea crossings to make and hopefully a scenic ride to Riga.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Inviting The Burglar In For Dinner---Complicity And More Taxi Shenanigans

Alas, be glad everyone that I am tired and have more than enough to do and complete before I fly to Paris this upcoming Monday.  All I can say in short is that I am damn sick of the underhanded maneuvering that is called "business as usual" in the taxi industry.  I will call it rumor but in fact all of what I am about to write, as far as I know, is true.  And those labor professionals at Teamsters 117 should know better but they, as I have known all along, don't understand that unusual species called the "taxi" animal, a beast I have been observing closely now for over 28 years.  Hell, my own father grazed in the taxi pasture Toledo, Ohio 1958 and Denver 1969-75.  Yeah, I know theirs habits and traits.

One taxi driver who thinks he represents the industry (not me, I can tell you that!) has been down at the Teamsters Tukwila hall telling the flat-rate for-hire owners that he loves them and wants them to be able to exchange their flat-rate medallions one-for-one for taxi medallions.  He then comes back to his WAT & Sea-Tac friends and says the offer made was four-for-one.  Amazing, as I said, if true.

That is what I mean by inviting the burglars home for dinner, these same guys who stole from us for over three years.  What could those single owners at the airport and their Union backers be thinking?  Is this how they respond to their threatened Sea-Tac contract, thinking embracing the enemy will somehow eliminate the problem?  Am I the only one who remembers the history of those pre-WW II years 1936-39?

All I can say, similar to the negotiations with Mayor Ed Murray, no one, and I repeat, no one has appointed anyone connected to the Sea-Tac single owners and their Teamsters 117 backers to act as my official agent or as the agent for the 1-3 thousand independent operators and owners currently working in Seattle and King County.  Why they don't know they are walking down a darkened alley is beyond me.  Why don't they understand that any suggestion of prior permission is improper, pretending to represent me and others on issues important to all of us?  Do they have blindfolds on?  Yes, it appears that they do.

Making this all the more farcical  is that those erstwhile flat-rate friends are monitoring the Yellow taxis working the airport contract to see if they have the proper Sea-Tac permits.  Again, these are the same people who illegally operated openly for over three years. Who would take these kind of antics seriously? Why none other than the Port of Seattle itself, having issued new guidelines to Yellow effective August 30, 2015.  Clearly the Port of Seattle has been listening to the nonsense whispered into their ears. In the long run, this kind of silliness will result in more bad decisions and little else.

Luckily for everyone concerned I would rather catch up on my sleep instead of exposing even further the bold complicity of dishonest and misguided "thieves in the taxi night."  Even that good guy, Seattle City Council-member Mike O'Brien joined the comedy,  coming out in support of a TNC/Ride-share (Uber & Lyft) union because the saturated market created by his council colleagues is destroying the innocent.  This kind of naivete does nothing but add more confusion.  Why seek clarity when it is fashionable to put a box over your head and pretend you are some kind of human television.  Just what channel am I viewing, anyway?  This when we all thought cable TV was dead.  Watch out or you will trip over the cable protruding from their pant legs.

My final thought is this.  Just what will the burglars be eating at our dinner table?  Why, our "taxi lunch" of course!  What else could it be?  Just don't come over to my house expecting anything eatable. It ain't gonna happen!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A New Era At Seattle Yellow Taxi & An Open Letter To The Port of Seattle

Last week I saw a letter taped to the wall next to the cashier's window asking Yellow's head of operations five questions.  Listening to various comments from the drivers in attendance I attempted to answer them. This then is a reprise, that if I can remember the questions.  After a 2 1/2 day single shift, it is doubtful I remember much other than I was tried, I am tired and tired I remain.  The best part of my upcoming six weeks wandering northeastern Europe, apart from unexpected adventures and occurrences, is the prospect of being thoroughly rested. Each year a large percentage of Yellow's immigrant drivers go back home for two months or more, leaving during our winter months and returning in the spring, revived and ready again to battle it out for yet another ten months.

But since so many cabbies remain puzzled concerning the immediate future, I will attempt to replace rumor with fact, at least to the limits to what I know.  It isn't that I have a personal pipeline to Yellow's leadership. It is more that I attempt to pay attention and read between the taxi lines.  Direct communication, as so many of us know too well, is often lacking.  Given that is our reality, here are the gaps more-or-less filled.

Yes, the co-op will no longer be operating as once known.  All insurance either will be going through single owners, or as in the case of drivers leasing the medallions, through them.  Drivers with poor driving records will be losing out, with many probably unable to find a car to drive.  It has been said that Yellow is currently paying the unsustainable insurance rates of 12-13 thousand dollars per car.  Multiply that by 150 and you can instantly understand why they are ready to rid themselves of  high operating costs.  That this situation was created in the first place makes little to no business sense.  Another important factor is the now $25,000 rent due monthly for the current lot.  Would you want to pay that much?   I personally find that unacceptable. Seattle rental costs are out-of-control.  There can be no argument concerning that.

Yes, the lot now located at 74 South Hudson will be shut down.  And yes, the shop will also close.  As far as I know, Puget Sound Dispatch, along with the business office, will be locating somewhere near the intersection of South 128th & Des Moines Memorial South.

But no, at least at this juncture, Yellow has not lost the Sea-Tac airport contract.  All evidence points to a year's extension, meaning they will have the contract officially until next Autumn.  Though saying that, it doesn't mean that the current arrangement is guaranteed past next October 2016  Uber and Lyft are applying pressure, along with that flat-rate for-hire industry group, Q.  The best way to counteract their tactics is to personally contact the Port of Seattle and tell them what you think is best for their customer base. Yellow has been doing an excellent job ensuring that the arriving airline passengers are picked up quickly and efficiently.  When contacting the Port of Seattle, please mention that it is essential that Uber and Lyft cars are readily identifiable, just as the taxis are.  Otherwise, the Port of Seattle is endangering passengers by not assuring that all TNC/Ride-share pickups are legal.  Decals broadcasting that the cars are working for Uber and Lyft and any other TNC company is immediately necessary, protecting both the rider public and the TNC independent operators.  What is occurring now, illegal TNC pickups on the arrival level, is not workable nor fair to all of the dedicated cabbies currently serving Sea-Tac.  Dishonesty should not be sanctioned.

Letter to the Port of Seattle

Dear Port of Seattle Commissioners,

Rumor upon wave of rumor is sweeping the taxi industry, whispering that the Port of Seattle is bowing to pressure to open up Sea-Tac Airport to the TNC/Ride-share and flat-rate for hire industry.  Before taking that giant step and changing what has worked efficiently for years, I first suggest you look closely at the industries that are knocking upon the Port's door, seeking permanent entry.  Please first consider who they are and their immediate past.  Would they prove to be the trustworthy partners like Yellow has proven to be? All recent evidence points to the contrary.

Until the Seattle City Council, and the Seattle Mayor, opened up the market to the TNC and flat-rate industries, all of them operated illegally upon Seattle's streets regardless of consequences.  They did not care who they harmed or what laws were broken.  Acting with impunity, and minus remorse, they thumbed their noses at everyone, saying all of you can "go to hell!,"  we will do anything we want.  Just try to stop us!

That both the City of Seattle and King County capitulated to this kind of behavior says nothing good about their decision-making capacities.  Kicking the compliant and regulated "down the street" is certainly no way to recognize 100 years of service to City and County.  They should have done better, and I am asking that the Port of Seattle take a different path.  Reward, not punishment I believe is merited in this case.

Thank you.


One Cab Driver Who Understands The Taxi Road

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Covered In Doritos, Cheetos And BBQ Potato Chips

As I have said, and now repeat, there isn't a call I don't want to serve, regardless who the customer is or might be. Equal opportunity is my enduring taxi motto. While remaining my operational credo, there still remains basic standards all passengers must meet.  One, above any other, is that he/she is not manipulative on any level.  Manipulation translates into dishonesty which translates further into a real potentiality for trouble and danger. Past experience, some of it hard learned, has shown this to be true. It might seem surprising but that kind of passenger, the non-average customer, is rare simply for the reason that most folks call a taxi to get to where they need to go, minus any and all other potential agendas.

But when someone enters the taxi with other than pure motives, it instantly becomes clear because the usual taxi dynamic of "Hi, where are you going?" and the the meter "lighting up" is altered into the unexpected. One consistent alarm bell is "I want a flat rate." when one is not called for, always implying that they are not interested in conducting "business as usual," that something else is afoot.  While I could explain further the psychology behind the seemingly innocuous, this kind of request is an unnecessary nuisance and intrusion. Nobody has, and never will describe a taxi ride as some kind of cut-rate bargain. That is just basic reality. Taxis are expensive, explaining why most of my taxi rides have been in Mexico and South America and not in western Europe.

As I have said somewhere in the past, flat-rates are dictated either  by the City of Seattle or by negotiation between BYG/PSD and an individual or company.  Unless someone  is clearly poverty stricken, my passengers pay the going rate.  More than once I have bent to pressure only to have the fools pay the reduced fare with a hundred dollar bill.  That they don't notice the irony is something worth noting.

Manipulative people, I have discovered more than once, care little about consequences save what benefits them, depending upon accepted cultural norms and civility to circumvent all protest and hostility. In short, they expect capitulation, active resistance surprising them, nine out of ten times finding a compliant victim.. When told "No, I am not participating." they act shocked, pretending the "tables have been turned," the predator now the offended prey, you having done the harm, not them.  It is a predictable ploy.

The three young African-American women wanted to go to Everett from the Northgate & Aurora North Arco AM-PM gas station.  Depending on whether it is north or south Everett, the fare is usually a $50-60.00 dollar and sometimes a lot more.  And when you are tired, like I was at that moment, you truly want your pain and suffering and forced endurance to be worth the effort.

Getting into the cab, they first requested to smoke (against local and state ordinances) and wanted a flat-rate. Curious about what they were up to, I asked how much they wanted to pay?  Their $30.00 request told me everything I needed to know about them.

From my 28 plus years taxi experience I have found out that the majority of people requesting either a reduced fare or a fare estimate already know the answer, having traveled the route more than once in a taxi.  Asking for a 50 percent reduction is not reasonable, a kind of compliant robbery, asking that please, would you kindly pickpocket yourself?.  That they don't do this at the local grocery store says everything about them.  They are looking for a victim and you have just been nominated.  It is completely up to you to respond properly and decline their invitation.

Pausing for a few seconds, listening to the "resonance" of the situation, I reluctantly decided to terminate the ride before it began, understanding I was in trouble if the ride commenced northward. Upon telling them they had to leave he cab, they immediately began saying that "they would pay the entire fare, etc."

But what they didn't want to admit is that by requesting a flat-rate, asking for an indulgence not requested by my other 75 plus fares, they had "upset the taxi apple cart" and there could be no returning to an assumed normality.  I have tired that more than once, only to encounter a smoldering animosity making for an uncomfortable if not dangerous journey, with the passengers critiquing my driving and anything else they can come up with.  If  I want some version of Hell, let me deal directly with the Devil and no one else. It would be easier.

Not happy being told they had to leave, despite my offer to get them another cab, they refused to leave. That is when I called 911 and requested assistance.  One of the ladies got out to scream over the telephone at dispatch.  The other two, understanding I wasn't relenting, and that the police would eventually show up, got out, but not without a final protest, pouring bags of Doritos, spicy Cheetos and Barbecue Potato Chips all over the back seat and floorboard.  Even after a thorough vacuuming, I was still finding remnants of their attack upon 478's dignity.  Frankly I was just glad they were gone, their actions proving what I knew from the outset---they didn't have a lick of respect for me as a human being.  It was too obvious to miss.

Seeing a passing Uber-X "Black Car,"  the troublesome trio flagged the driver down and off into the night they went, minus insurance coverage of course.  Soon thereafter two patrol cars arrived, the officers helpful and friendly, which is a dramatic change from the recent past.  Witnessing the scattered snacks, they understood that, whatever happened, it wasn't a pleasant experience.  For me, it was just another in a long litany of unwanted episodes. As long as I keep driving, there will be others.  Maybe next time though the potato chips will be organic.  I would appreciate that.  And sanity and maturity would also be helpful.  That would be wonderful.

PS 08/19

I know many of you are curious about just what is happening at Seattle Yellow Taxi, given all the rumors and misinformation swirling  round the lot.  Next week I will have a full and as accurate report as possible.  One indication that the co-op as we know it is ending is that I personally will be taking over 478, leasing the medallion and taking full responsibility for insurance, car replacement, etc.  That this is happening just 19 days before I leave for Europe is a pain in the you-know-what, but there is no getting around it.  Everything is changing and only a fool ignores the obvious.