Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Special Report: Kicking Taxi When It Is Down----Is The State of Washington, King County & The City Of Seattle Waging A Vendetta Against The Pierce & King County & Seattle Taxi Industry?

A Special Report: Are State & Local Government Agencies Targeting The Seattle, King County & Pierce County Taxi Industry?---An In-depth Look at Potential Bureaucratic Overreach 

As to anyone reasonably observant during the past few years, especially to consumers of transportation services, I am sure it has not gone unnoticed that the American taxi industry as a whole has been under unprecedented pressure and attack from new competitors (and their governmental supporters) like Uber and Lyft, pushing taxi companies both national and locally into the proverbial operational corner---the recently announced San Francisco Yellow Taxi bankruptcy filing only one good bad example of what is happening everywhere. When and how the story finally concludes is anyone's guess. But what is clear is that there are many more chapters to be written.

Outside of the United States it is a different tale, there being many examples of national and local government  (Paris, Spain, France, South Korea) legally challenging Uber & Lyft business practises; wherein American borders it is an entirely different counter-narrative---local authorities and administrators openly siding with app-based companies.  Why they are doing this is open to debate but that they are targeting taxi associations and companies is indisputable, the evidence conclusive: it is open hunting reason upon the taxi industry, local officials seeking new trophies for paneled offices.

Some elected and appointed administrators clearly feel they are operating for the public good, revealing rampant criminal malfeasance.  But as my following report clearly questions, there doesn't appear to be an overreaching conspiracy by the taxi industry to defraud the local taxpayer.  Instead I believe you will see the opposite to be true: that a compliant and cooperative taxi industry has been targeted simply for existing, and no other verifiable reason.

I am looking forward to later governmental explanation and justification to this report, especially when the evidence is clear: Uber and Lyft are not made respondent to same and equal requirements.  Ultimately it will be up to the "rider public" to tell local government that this contradictory policy is both unfair, and most importantly, unsafe and dangerous, regulatory authorities failing in their duty to protect consumers in that most lethal of work environments: the American roadway.

One self-editorial note is that in preparation I talked to only one of the officials concerned, that being Eddie Cantu of KC Licensing.  While wishing I had the time to request and conduct interviews of all important participants, time and monetary constraints remain limiting factors, prompting me, as usual to operate "by the seat of my taxi pants."  While some of the information contained came from one primary source, I use the filter of 29 plus years in the taxi business to ascertain true and false and everything falling in-between.   As I often tell my passengers, unlike too many cabbies who are new in the business, I have been doing this "way too long" for my own good and physical welfare.  Still, all these crazy years have provided what I find to be unusual insight and perspective into the taxi asylum.  Am I inmate or psychiatrist?  Both is the real and honest answer!

Story One:                        The Strange Case of Ahdi Ahmed Matan

Investigating Matan's battle with the City of Seattle and King County over a denial of renewal concerning his dual (Seattle & KC) for-hire license, I am unfortunately reminded of Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyell & Mr. Hyde," Matan insistent he is only "one person" when evidence points to potential other operational sides of concealed personality..  What I find more interesting than Matan's clear contradictions is the contradictory behavior displayed by the City of Seattle and King County in administrating his case and appeal, Matan being one solitary individual while, quite obviously, Seattle and KC being a huge governmental entity answerable to over 1.4 million residents; meaning, that more than just being necessary, it is legally essential that all pertinent rules and regulations are aligned in proper "apple-pie order", but in this situation pertaining to taxi , this doesn't appear to be at all true.

As I will attempt to show, what is happening is more like a yowling cat biting its tail in a frantic concentric circle, round and round the agencies go, digging an ever deeper hole.  But if my reading of the situation is correct, it appears that confusion, not malicious intent, is the prevailing problem---minor bureaucracy gone amok over the governmental edge.

Back in August 1995 an agreement--necessitated by duel yet separate licensing agencies---between Seattle's Dept of Finance and Administrative Services and King County's Dept of Licensing stated that each department would administer each other's appeals, thus avoiding obvious conflicts of interest, notably Seattle's responsibility for vehicle licensing and King Cunty's responsibility for operational (for-hire) driving licenses. While regulatorily clear, with rules and directed practises written down, the actual appeals procedure has become implicitly confusing, with both departments, in Maten's case, ignoring their own procedural guidelines, with KC conducting Matan's appeal.

Instead, his appeal should have been done by the City of Seattle per the 1995 protocol. But making the entire process even more problematic, given that Matan held a dual (Seattle/King County) for-hire license, FAS deciding to conduct its own appeal of dismissal process.  Why either department acted as they did, as I said, is anyone's guess, thus mystifying Matan and his supporters. Possibly the only plausible explanation is that both Seattle and King  County didn't know how to proceed. Given the confusion, that makes perfect sense.

On top of all this was Matan's, in his initial reapplication process, failure to list all of his dismissed moving violations, something stated as just cause for denial.  What KC discovered was a multitude of dismissed violations over a three-year period, plus a previously un-revealed domestic violence charge. In hindsight, it would have been wiser to list everything as was required.

Instead of passing judgment I will reiterate a well-known taxi credo: whatever you do, do not operate your cab when upset or in an emotional state of mind.  As Matan's recent driving record attests, bad things happen when you do.  From all reports, he was going through versions of matrimonial turmoil resulting in distracted behavior.  Owing my own taxi career to a divorce, I can relate to the trauma involved when a marriage is crumbling away, falling apart.  Unfortunately there is little to no support for cabbies when things are going wrong.  Like the solitary satellites we are, we remain lost in space, disconnected from our home planets.

So while Matan does hold responsibility for his actions, so does King County for taking on an appeals process that is exclusively Seattle's alone, and not theirs. Currently the entire process remains under review, meaning the verdict is out whether Matan will ultimately retain his right to drive a taxi in Seattle and King County.

But let this situation serve as a warning to everyone, who like me, are making a living driving a cab or flat-rate for-hire car or even Uber and Lyft: keep your driving record clean or you too will  end up on the outside looking in.  Depending on government to make the correct decision concerning your particular situation might be a fool's errand, bureaucracy well-known for stumbling over its own procedures, rules and regulations. While stubbing their own toes they might unintentionally kick you in the knee, incapacitating your ability to walk.

To believe otherwise is to be blind.  Put on some realistic spectacles then, and see what is not just in front of your big nose but also looming upon the horizon.  Otherwise you might be bumping headlong into an immovable wall.  That is just how it can be, and is.  After reading this, never say that you weren't forewarned, because you have.  No one has ever said you must remain a big dummy.  You don't need to be, a dummy that is, and you can quote me upon that.

Story Two:                  Elephantine Thinking at WA ST Dept of Labor & Industry

While we all know that our favorite tusked animal, the elephant, never forgets anything, how is it that the Washington State Department of Labor & Industry, through the personage of L&I Litigation Specialist Jerry Billings, continues to remember that now tiny (and barely existent) Pierce County taxi company, Tacoma Yellow and its alleged past indiscretion dating from the year 2008-09?  Oddly, the reasoning might be that when L&I coverage was required, a rule now legislated out of existence, Tacoma Yellow was the most cooperative and compliant of perhaps any other taxi association or company in the entire state of Washington, negotiating a separate agreement.

Or the other reason could be because Yellow's Chief Financial Officer at the time, Garreth Elisk, told L&I that the ownership group (now past) underpaid what was owed, even though it was Elisk himself who had signed the annual statement, signifying that it was a true and accurate document.  And perhaps the most important reason for  L&I's continued interest was the 4 million dollar payout to a Tacoma Yellow cabby seriously disabled in a shooting, meaning that L&I wants its money back.

All of this might sound fine and reasonable until you know that Tacoma Yellow has undergone ownership change and bankruptcy, and if it loses the case, has little to give the State of Washington save 18 very tired Ford Crown Victorias, worth at best maybe 20 thousand dollars in total.  That the State of Washington knows all this beforehand; and that approval for this misguided effort must come from both the Democratic State Attorney General and the Democratic Governor, makes the whole affair very questionable when the final outcome is predictable; or as the idiom and Old English proverb tells us: you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip; or bringing it up to date:you can't get money from a taxi company that no longer exists, meaning the 2008 version is long defunct---yellowing paper tucked away in shoe boxes in dusty closets.

Maybe it all comes down to Billings' reputation as L&I's most persistent departmental bloodhound, never giving up until his quarry is held fiscally responsible.  Interestingly, it seems that Billings himself knows there is nothing financially to be gained but nonetheless continues his quixotic pursuit.  An appeal hearing is scheduled for February 2017.

If anyone out there thinks L&I's position is completely farcical, you might contact the current L& I Chief, Vicki Smith, and tell her to call off the barking dogs.  Surely Labor and Industry must have more pressing cases than assuaging old grudges.  Logically that must be true but in so many of life's varied occurrences, logic becoming secondary to misplaced emotion, anger and mistrust ruling the day.

Story Three:            The Port of Seattle Requirement for For-Hire Vehicle Certificates: Why?

This particular story of applied double standards is a winding tale taking us from the Seattle mayoral office to the Seattle City Council chambers to the Port of Seattle Commission to somewhere hidden deeply within the governmental bowels in. Olympia, and just where that is I have no idea.  The current issue is that the Port of Seattle, namely Sea-Tac International Airport, wants all taxis and flat-rate for-hire vehicles to have a State of Washington "for-hire vehicle certificate," something relating to the DOR (Dept of Revenue) UBI (Unified Business Identifier) registration number.

The only problem with this is that the Port of Seattle is NOT asking Uber or Lyft to to do the same.  This all gets back to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray saying, as a favor to Uber, that the City of Seattle will no longer require this kind of certificate with cars operating in Seattle.  But, as far as I know, the complicating issue is that neither the City of Seattle nor King County bothered to officially change the requirement.  Further aggravating all this is that the State of Washington still requires cars operating as for-hire vehicle (taxis, Uber etc) to have for-hire vehicle certificates.

So what is going on here?  Is there a failure of communication between the various city, county, port and state governments?   And as I said, is there a double standard in operation, requiring one thing of taxis but not of TNC companies?  For me this is too typical when it comes to taxi, nobody, and I mean nobody truly paying attention or heed.  Why be attentive when it is more fun mimicking the ostrich.

And perhaps making the matter worse, I have been told that all those feral Uber drivers are hogging the 3rd floor pickup area, thus preventing any other operators from entering.  Rumor or fact, it appears that there are some interesting things going on at Sea-Tac.  What will the final conclusion be?  As usual, stay tuned and I will. attempt to keep all and everyone informed.

Update on Rob Stansell

Again, thanks to everyone who donated and supported Rob during his last days.  Rob died last week and yesterday, his remains were cremated.  Per his wishes his ashes will be scattered into the Puget Sound.  Also great thanks to Jenny Lachuta, Rob's landlord and friend who was instrumental in assuring Rob's last weeks on this planet were dignified and blessed.  Thank you Jenny for the compassion shown.  Good work!

And on a lighter note

CJ actually came through, that Fred Myers gift card holding a $64.23 value, not the $24.00 she told me it had.  It does confirm to me that she is indeed a thief but she is kind to cabbies, at least this time around.

Editorial Note 12/02/2016

When I mention those of us being big dummies, I must include myself because, though knowing better I still published my blog yesterday instead of waiting a day and further sleep.  Anyone who read the former version will notice the "tidying up" that was necessary and essential.  Do I like being an idiot?  The unfortunate conclusion is that yes, I do enjoy wearing that label, a sorry placard round my neck.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"whom calling" & Other Ancedotes, Amusing Or Not, From A Football Taxi Weekend

Rah rah rah! the home teams winning, the 5th ranked UW Huskies beating the Arizona State Sun Devils Saturday night; with the Seahawks proving on Sunday to be the tougher bird, beating those Eagles from Philly, PA by a 26 to 15 score.  65,000 and 69,000 fans respectively meant that local cabbies too were true winners, the Husky game providing me with a $26.00 Kirkland fare which soon connected to a bunch of crazy kids going from Bellevue to Sea-Tac fare and netting $71.90.  That next afternoon the Seahawk halftime giving me a forty dollar fare to Shoreline; and in the game's declining minutes a ten dollar fare taking me to the Waterfront Marriott where I found a pleasant couple bound for Sea-Tac and another $50.40! Yea team, and teams!  "If taxi ain't about money, it ain't about nuthin!'" quips the homespun taxi philosopher.

Anecdotal Taxi

----whom calling

Calling the fare waiting at the Northgate and Roosevelt Arco I received a text back "whom calling," prompting "the cab" in response; and at the station discovering this most original character, CJ, who was  University District-bound to meet up with the he-is-going-to pay-boyfriend-taking-her-to-a-casino. Suddenly CJ decided that cash wasn't good enough for the $12.00 fare so instead I would be receiving 2 Starbuck gift cards, a $100.00 off a $160.00 bottle of wine card, and a Fred Myers gift card worth, according to CJ, $24.50.  Whether any of these cards are truly redeemable is truly an unknown, a question I will eventually answer.

Once she departed the cab I called and had her telephone number blocked, not overly pleased to be showered with questionable gift cards (the Starbuck cards date from 2015).  Coincidentally I  again encountered said CJ later that night at the same Arco and this time taking her 8 blocks north to her apartment building, netting some earphones for my short effort.  CJ might be a thief or something else questionable but having encountered for a second time around, I decided I liked her, CJ so pleasantly out-of-her-mind she is, CJ falling into the" I-give-completely-up" category. What do you do when you can't do nothing about something whatsoever?  Smile is my suggestion.  CJ is a complete "trip!" sweet and doing it in style like a very fashionable crocodile.

----lots of scallops

Sometimes it does seem "instant karma" is real because, when just minutes after this drunk young man went nuts, threatening me with "all kinds of awful things" when my meter receipt printer jammed, I found this scallop fisherman at the train station needing to go to up north to Mount Vernon.  Requesting a discount, we negotiated the estimated $170.00 fare into $120.00 and a 4-pound box of flash-frozen Bering Sea scallops worth more or less eighty dollars.  The sailor was a non-stop talker, unfortunately telling me he had two un-cashed $10,000 checks in his wallet with an even bigger one coming, making me regret the discount but hey, tonight I am making this great cognac and scallop recipe, so who's complaining, I am not complaining. Instead of bitching I will be very happily eating.

----number 38 out of 991

Amazingly I finally won a lottery, and good one at that, having the luck of being number 38 out of 55 new City of Seattle medallion (cab license) recipients.  There is a vetting process but passing that I will be transferring my new number to my current car.  I believe the yearly license fee is or was $600.00 so it means a huge personal savings, saving me over $4000.00 annually.  That it doesn't make any sense adding more cars to a completely saturated market is nothing I can do anything about--- typical, too typical of Seattle's taxi policies, nonsensical the operational word.  Before the Uber onslaught, the medallions were worth $250.000.  Now?  Maybe ten to twenty thousand.

----3 big stories brewing

One---WA State is trying to destroy Tacoma Yellow Cab

Two---The Port of Seattle is requiring much more from for-hire vehicles and taxis while potentially letting TNC companies operate illegally

Three---King County is using dismissed tickets (and the un-reporting of moving violations) as the pretext to deny for-hire license renewal.  There is much more to this, and more than one side of the story so expect a comprehensive examination soon.

taxi doggerel 

whom calling

who could it be

why it is a crazy


getting in my taxi

playing me for a


but I don't care

I operate for free

and for a million stolen gift cards more

I swear

I will take you


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Poltical Essay---The New But Jammed In Reverse America: A Quick Analysis Of Where We Are Going And Why

Personally, the news regarding the 2016 Presidential election has been deflating which is why I am in part deviating from my usual subject matter, all things taxi, and making a short analysis confronting the whys and wherefores of the surprising GOP victory, something I thought not possible simply due to American demographics. Boy was I ever wrong!

Demographics, defining the human population comprising a given neighborhood, city, county etc, is something I always preach about to fellow cabbies concerning the business logic facing us when deciding where and why to work particular neighborhoods and areas of the city and county.  Thinking I was some kind of "big shot" I applied a similar methodology to this year's election cycle.

Well, this swelled head has certainly been punctured, which has prompted me to figure out just how I got it wrong.  Being a cabby I meet "everyday America" daily, and because I am truly trying paying attention I erroneously thought I had my proverbial finger on the nation's pulse, somehow mistakenly thinking I am some 21st Century American version of the 19th Century Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville.  Call this essay then a small self-redemption.  I am unhappy having proved myself to be an idiot.  Maybe, like our country itself, I can turn defeat in something positive.  Damn I certainly hope so.

One local post-election positive for us Americans either visiting or residing in Mexico is how the Mexican peso has responded to the Trump victory, and that is to lose further value against American currency, more or less now averaging twenty pesos to the dollar.  Twice in two days we bought 4 tamale for 36 peso, or 9 peso each, translating to just under two US dollars.  Two to three tamale make a meal so this small example illustrates current US dollar buying power.  Local bus rides are the equivalent to 25 cents.  The bus ride to the La Gruta Hot Springs spa is about 75 cents.  In comparison my bus ride last Monday from Tacoma to Sea-Tac International Airport was $3.75.  Off-peak hours one-zone bus fare in Seattle is $2.50, peak hour being $2.75.

So if you are ready to escape post-election rhetoric and visit Mexico, this couldn't be a better time. I would not be surprised if the peso weakens even further in the upcoming months, politics in the USA potentially more unpredictable.  If nothing else, you will escape the usual shrill media onslaught.  One advantage I find by not speaking Spanish is not understanding conversation around me, which I feel is a blessing.  Too many times in the cab I have just wanted the fools to just shut up but there they rattle on---unintentionally sharing disjointed conversation and ideas I never, ever wanted to hear.  Here in San Miguel I usually don't understand more than a few words randomly spoken.  Hallelujah! the conversational God having set me free!

                                                 The only news I know
                                                 Is bulletins all day
                                                 From Immortality.

                                                                            ---Emily Dickinson

                                               "But my people!  We in this room---
                                               we Negros---have another mission that
                                               is for ourselves alone.  Within us there is
                                               a strong purpose, and if we fail in this
                                               purpose we will be forever lost.  Let us
                                               see, then, what is the nature of this special
                                               mission."-----the character, Dr. Copeland,
                                              speaking to an assembled Christmas party

                                              ---from "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter"  by
                                              Carson McCullers

                                             The New But Jammed In Reverse America

During the 1948 US Presidential cycle, a breakaway group of Southern Democrats led by US South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond (1902-2013), formed what they called the States' Rights Party, known more popularly as the "Dixecrats."  Thurmond and his followers were similarly fundamental to the Republican Donald Trump constituency in that they objected to "Establishment politicians" who, in their view, had shifted from representing their true values and interests, thus no longer worthy of their support.

Reading the "Dixiecrats" party platform is illuminating, promulgating a racism shocking in its clarity, declaring racial segregation to be fundamental, and that totalitarianism (meaning the Truman administration) was intent on violating their constitutional rights, preventing them from keeping the races (blacks and whites) separate. In short, they were mad as hell that their country was becoming more progressive (or liberal) than tolerable, drawing a line in the political sand.  That they failed didn't mean they hadn't tried, collecting 39 electoral votes, and carrying four states and part of Tennessee, with Thurmond remaining a political irritant until his death at age 101, a remarkable if not always rational politician.

Returning back to November 2016 I see parallels to1948 and a still disgruntled America, with a large part of the voting electorate yelling long and loud their unhappiness through their incredibly flawed candidate, Donald Trump. Despite still facing serious criminal indictment, nearly 60 million voters screamed that Trump is their hero, their new symbolic figure and version of a political manifest destiny taking them to America's rightful place, domestically and otherwise, where high paying manufacturing job suddenly appear out of thin air and all the bad people (illegal immigrants, Muslims, welfare recipients) poisoning American prosperity and virtue quickly and rapidly disappear, creating a national purity unknown since 1776.

This they shout is their God-given right as true and faithful Americans, knowing better than any other citizens in American history how to correct a troubled and insulted nation.  But unlike 1948, these new rebels of 2016 actually succeeded with gaining power after chanting we shall return America to when it  was great--- Trump-ites, in their victorious frenzy, linking cultural equality and scientific-based reason and rationality to moral treason, something not unlike like the "Dixecrats" claim of totalitarian threats, a disease to be snuffed out and permanently extinguished. And by a plurality of electoral college votes, they have received a measure of validation the "Dixecrats" knew wasn't possible, Trump voters feeling that it is now their time to take control.

While personally abhorring readily assigned labels, I still understand that definitions can lead to helpful comprehension, explaining why I now offer two terms that, I don't believe, have been previously utilized, tossing the usual political monikers left and right, progressive and conservative into the cultural trash bin; suggesting instead that "stationary" and "mobile" fill-in as able replacements,hopefully providing some helpful insight to what people are saying and doing minus self-serving rhetoric and justification. Yes, new appellations countering old and unhelpful nonsense that only obstruct, but never assisting reason and commonsense..

Imagine, if you would, a stationary political approach as a pond or lake; and then view a mobile political stance as a stream or river eventually flowing down to sea or ocean. Obviously real lakes and rivers are extant ecosystems, substantial and sustaining in their own right, each containing inherent positive qualities promoting life and existence. Ponds and lakes, while often having watery outlets, clearly offering permanency of home and stability; with brooks, steams, creeks and rivers offering the fluidity of constant movement, sparkling oxygen entering the air---each aqueous entity holding embraceable validity.

                                          "I chatter, chatter, as I flow
                                               To join the brimming river
                                           For men may come and men may go
                                               But I go on forever."

                                   ---taken from "The Brook," by Alfred Tennyson

Stationary and mobile, taking the idea further, transitions into personal and cultural philosophy ultimately progressing into standardized and established beliefs, resulting even further into recognizable religious and political systems now embraced by the tens of millions, formulating societal dictates and governmental policies affecting us all, both in our native countries and nations beyond drawn borders.  Whether liking this or not, it is reality.

Again, this social phenomena I am calling mobile and stationary is then greatly consequential, sometimes benign, other times not, translating into laws and rules telling us what we do, should do, and what we definitely cannot do. Often these rules and laws are reasonable and just, but again, often they are not, either tainted by delusion or prejudice. When this happens, when the stationary becomes dictatorial, we are then literally held "stationary" or hostage by these same stationary beliefs.

Historically this has not turned out at all well, aggressive "stationary" nations like Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in the 1930s & 40s causing immeasurable death and destruction. And it was during this stationary period, that the Papal State, Vatican City, came into being, when in February 1929, the Italian Fascist Mussolini and Pope Pius XI sighed the Lateran Treaty, thus providing Roman Catholicism with an irrevocable  religious and political legitimacy, its diplomatic and liturgical agenda an ever expanding universe, an theological empire spreading a tenacious, doctrinal net over an ever compliant human communion.

And again, it is not to say that all stationary tendencies are all bad because they are not, but, with the election of Donald Trump as president of a country like the United States, a well-known functional and dynamic democracy, we are already beginning to see a damming of those egalitarian rivers, impeding an unfettered flow down to the rational sea, altering a democratic torrent into a sealed and obedient reservoir.  This kind of event occurs when self-preservation becomes individually tantamount, something heard repeatedly with the chants of, "Make America Great Again" when clearly that is already what America is---the biggest economic, military and cultural powerhouse the world has ever witnessed.. One might find it difficult to believe but America is more influential than the three millennium-long Ancient Egyptian Dynasty or the Roman or Inca or Mayan empires ever could be---American tentacles gripping every country and land.

But for many of America's modern voting electorate, it just isn't enough, they must have it all---all the jobs, all the natural resources, everything the world has, it must be theirs---a berserk Monroe doctrine controlling and owning not the only Western Hemisphere but planet earth itself along with the moon, and that soon to be new American territory, planet Mars. Being devotees of "Star Trek" and Star Wars," they know our known planetary system is just the beginning, the American majority longing to conquer all existent galaxies no matter how many light years away.  And what exactly is a light year?  Well, these stationary Americans don't know and don't care, devouring everything in their path, growing ever fatter and obscenely obese, eyes bulging out of bulbous, misshaped Patriotic heads, panting for new conquests hiding just beyond the next shining star.




Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Greetings For The Third Time From San Miguel: For The Very First Time, Uber & Lyft Overtake Nationwide Taxi Industry For Business Travel Expenses

Again I am back in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for the second time this year and third visit overall. Though very tired on this election day, I am glad to be here.  Yes I voted, having mailed in my ballot two weeks ago.  Yesterday my entire journey, including the shuttle ride from the Leon airport to San Miguel, took over 13 hours.

And getting a long ride early Sunday morning set me up for 4 hours sleep that day and 3 hours of nap time Monday before entering the friendly skies---a gentleman from the Northgate Transit Center needing to make it home to Mount Vernon, Washington, essentially 62 miles north of Seattle.  Taxi never changes, always unpredictable, one never truly knowing where that next passenger is going, which is why I always advise to answer that call and find out; like entering a lottery, you might end up with an unexpected smile.

Uber & Lyft Winning

A news item in yesterday's 11/07/2016 USA edition really grabbed my attention, stating that for a recent three-month period ending September, a study conducted by Certify, a travel expense software company, utilizing  more than 10 million ground transportation receipts, found that Uber and Lyft accounted for 52 percent of them.  The article, reported by Nancy Trejos, also provides quotes from business travelers expressing frustration with overall taxi service regardless of the city or airport.  While Uber in particular has recently gotten some bad press, their business model is expanding while taxi's is shrinking.  The reasons are many but one example occurring Friday morning is telling.

Driving up on Capital Hill I saw a pedestrian approach a Yellow Cab, talk into the window and watch the cab fly away.  I pulled up and found out what happened: the customer (African-American and two friends) having requested a ride to the corner of Rainier South and South Orcas in the Columbia City neighborhood. I of course told them to "just jump in" and got the $29.00 instead.  Why the East African cabbie blew them off is something I can only guess but it is well known in Seattle Cab-land that many but not all East African Immigrant cabbies discriminate against American-born blacks.  I am also guessing that it is the same Uber and Lyft driver population that is refusing to pick up American black customers. American-born black passengers still repeatedly tell me they continue to struggle to get a cab, even expressing surprise that I stopped for them.  It is a bad story.   

And all you Seattle cabbies out there sitting wondering why you can't make any money should ask your friends just what are they doing and why they are doing it?  It is a sad tale.  And as the USA reporter made clear, we are getting are butts kicked, there is no doubt about it.

Dying Cabbie Still Requiring Monetary Assistance

Robert Stansell, the Seattle cabbie, has seen his physical situation worsen and is now hospitalized for perhaps the final time. I am told he has two weeks to live.  Expensive pain medication is now required and Rob has no means to pay for it so once again friends and supporters are asking for help.  Most probably don't know that Rob returned to driving cab for about 3 weeks in a desperate attempt to pay his bills.  How fun is that, mere weeks from death but feeling the pressure to make a living?  God help Rob and us all!

Again, his GoFundMe account is

If you have the time, Rob is at University Washington Medical Center, 4NE, Room 4262. Go to the information desk in the lobby and they will be able to direct you.

Postscript Times Two

---Rob Stansell has been released from the hospital and been allowed to return to his apartment.  His situation is dire. It is estimated he has two weeks of life left.  Again, any and all help is appreciated.

---My favored candidate for the 7th US Congressional District, Brady Walkinshaw, lost to Pramila Jayapal.  I only mention this because the media is touting her as the first Indian-American voted to Congress but the problem is, no one says whether she is from India, which she is, or of Native American Tribal descent?   You might term it the revenge of Christopher Columbus and his discovery not of America but of a shortcut to India, or at least he thought, hence his calling the first people he met Indians.

 More correctly, Jayapal is an East Indian-American or South Asian-American, given that in the USA, the term Indian is more normally referred to Native American or First Nation tribal members.  If you dispute that, then who were the Chicago Cubs playing in the recent MLB World Series?  I rest my case.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Oh No! Uber, Uber, Uber Everywhere! (& Lyft Too)

Like Seattle's record 2016 October (nearly 10 inches) rainfall, Uber saturation is flooding the airwaves and physical space, reminding, if anyone needed reminding, that Uber must be, should be, and seemingly is, according to Uber, both your first transportation and now, employment choice. Tune into the radio MLB World Series coverage, and every commercial break you will hear that Uber is your ultimate "side-hustle" as they are calling it, saying even at this very moment you could be in your car both listening to the Cubs and Indians battle it out and making money, suggesting you are otherwise wasting your time.

 In a recent "The Nation" magazine there was a featured article describing Uber's efforts in promoting American school teachers as the new, ideal Uber driver, making up for income the otherwise deserving teachers are not getting.  What the article didn't say is why America's teaching core (and anyone else, for that matter) are suddenly qualified to be quasi-cabbies, inserted in a work environment where, world-wide, one million-three hundred people (1.3) are dying annually along with fifty million injured (recent WHO statistics), a work environment where approximately forty thousand Americans are included in those dire numbers..  No, nothing entertaining about these grim details---only economic gain for tow trucks, auto-body repair shops and undertakers.

Did you know a car accident occurs in America every 7 seconds?  Just for fun, look at your watch and time how long it takes you to read today's entry, then divide 7 into how many seconds and suddenly then you will understand why it just might not be a good idea to insert hundreds of thousands of amateurs into a professional working environment.  Is anyone saying that is how the teaching profession should be treated, when, just knowing how to sign your name qualifies you to teach English or Biology or American History?

And of course no one would refer to educating America's children as some kind of "side-hustle," equating teachers to  "pool sharks" hustling fools at the local billiards hall but imitating cabbies, that's perfectly okay.  I know Sarah Palin would agree with that kind of assessment, adding water and mixing allowing anyone to do and be anything, even to be president of the USA. Why not, guys and gals, why not?

Other newsworthy Uber happenings are again everywhere upon local and national and international media lips. Recently one Uber driver stabbed another Uber driver in the stomach with a big kitchen knife while both were waiting in the Sea-Tac holding lot.  Another is that both Uber and Lyft are suing the City of Seattle because they are being asked to provide the same kinds of data routinely provided by taxi associations:

---annual number of rides
---where rides begin and end
---percentage of rides originating in given zip codes
---how rides are requested
---crime reports concerning drivers and customers

Uber and Lyft claim this kind of commonplace information are "trade secrets."  A court judgment in forthcoming November 15th, 2016.

Another less than complimentary Uber & Lyft news item made the front page of today's Seattle Times and also sent to me yesterday online by the NY Times, that black (African-American) riders in both Seattle and Boston have been found to have longer wait times than white (European-American) customers.

This from a joint study published Monday by researchers connected with MIT, University of Washington (here in Seattle) and Stanford University.  The Seattle Times article (reprinted from Bloomberg News & written by Eric Newcomer) states that Lyft drivers hold the ability to cancel their call requests undetected; with the study also finding that women passengers were more likely than men to being literally taken "for a ride," just because they are female, perhaps calling it another kind of "side-hustle," women riders taken that extra mile whether requested or not.  I am guessing this "service" was provided by male but not female Uber and Lyft drivers.

Yes, yes, Uber and Lyft are everywhere, in our wallets, in our hair but taking women for an extra tour around the block, how can that be fair?  To find out the answer, you might want to call your local city and county and airport regulator and administrator.  Maybe they can tell you what you need to know but I wouldn't count on it, money, it might be said, obscuring their usually normal cognitive functioning. Yes they have a brain but since you don't represent Uber or Lyft will their response to you be the same?

Or to finish a bad rhyme, will they just be simply lame!

Postscript Nov 2nd

While Uber is certainly scary, even more frightening are the results of a poll reported in the current issue of "The Week" which said, while 32 % were concerned about global climate change, an even larger percentage, about 47 % of Americans were concerned about clowns and their potential mayhem.  All I can say, you better watch out because a clown is going to sneak into your home, turning on the bathtub faucet and flood the place, just like it is happening to some Pacific island nations in the southern Pacific Ocean.  Beware, those evil clowns are gonna get you!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The 2016 Election Edition But Not Quite---Local Taxi Issues Too

As done previously, I was planning on making electoral recommendations but given that,  for the most part, the upcoming 2016 election is more statewide and national than municipal, I will confine most of my commentary toward politics in general, only peripherally focusing upon local candidates and issues. Finally I will end by expounding on more pertinent current taxi issues like the new taxi medallion lottery and Monday  night's mindless and unnecessary intervention by SPD's traffic enforcement, underlining once again the City of Seattle's inherent bias against its local tax industry.

Did you know that in 1948, there were not just two major presidential candidates but four: the sitting president Harry Truman, his Republican rival Thomas Dewey, States' Right Party Strom Thurmond, and Henry Wallace, the former vice-president running on the Progressive ticket?  Personally, I have always felt that one of FDR's greatest errors was removing Wallace as his fourth term VP and choosing Truman as his replacement.  Just as Gore would not have replicated Bush's errors, so would Wallace avoided Truman's amateurish decision making and policies.

While in part reminding of today's Libertarian Party and its outlook, the Progressive party platform in 1948 attempted to accelerate commonsense by proposing " an understanding with the Soviet Union and the United States;" removing power from "the war-producing elite;" repudiating the Marshall Plan, and amazingly, asking for the destruction of all atomic bombs, the immediate ending of segregation, and insisting upon better housing and lower food prices for everyone.  Other than eliminating the Marshall Aid Plan, something that quickly helped rebuild post-WWII Europe, the Progressive proposals, by modern standards, appear to be good ones.

These and other thoughts and quotes are taken from the book edited by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and Fred Israel and David Frent, "The Election of 1948 and the Administration of Harry S. Truman," and published by Mason Crest, 2003. Two quotes from the Schlesinger intro are especially apt today.  The first quote, written in 1888, comes from  James Bryce (1st Viscount), later the British ambassador (1907-1913) to the United States; and the second from that figure featured on the American ten dollar bill, Alexander Hamilton.

"America suffers from a sort of intermittent fever---what one may call a quintan ague.  Every fourth year there comes terrible shakings, passing into the hot fit of the presidential election; then follows what physicians call the "interval; then again the fit."---James Bryce

"Beset as they are (the American people) the snares of the ambitious, the avaricious, the desperate, by the artifices of men who pocess their confidence more than they deserve it, and of those who seek to pocess rather than to deserve it."---Alxander Hamilton

I find the second quote especially applicable to the current GOP presidential candidate.  One of course can argue the merits of the various candidates but one thing is certainly true in my personal experience, and that despite being groped and hit at least twenty times over my many years of taxi driving, not once have I reported the attacks to the police, even ignoring the stalker who,on his last attempted contact, texted me photographs (none of which I opened).  That victims chose initially to ignore Trump's alleged attacks, to me, isn't surprising, probably not wanting to further involve themselves into something they never requested, but like me, remembering every unsavory detail. I always see the idiot kissing the windshield instead of attempting to get any closer.  Wise choice, don't you think?

Another amazing electoral fact I discovered recently was pointed out in the October 24th, 2016 Seattle Times edition of Jerry Large's column when he mentioned the exclusion of granted American citizenship to most Native Americans until the passage of the "Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, something also known as the Snyder Act as it was sponsored by a New York GOP Congressman, Homer Snyder.  But as Large also points out, it was not until the 1965 Voting Rights Act did Native Americans, as a collective group, fully gain their voting rights. Canada also had similar provisions concerning First Nation rights, Caucasians in both countries practicing  a similar discrimination unjust in its application and outlook.

Getting back to our election scene, my only definitive endorsement concerns the District 7 US Representative race, preferring Brady Walkinshaw over Pramila Jayapal, Walkinshaw seemingly more potentially proactive, especially in terms of addressing climate change.  Jayapal has been quoted that important climate change legislation can wait another two years, this after yesterday's report that the melting of the Antarctic Ice Shelf is accelerating.  I personally disagree, feeling we as a human species might already be on a suicidal course, and more delay only hastens our imminent demise but according to Jayapal, we have plenty of time.  Maybe the true source of her delay is that she doesn't like penguins.  I don't see why but its possible, maybe something to do with their black and white color scheme.  I can understand her annoyance.

Taxi News

In case you have missed it, the City of Seattle will be conducting a 2017 Taxicab Medallion Lottery where a total of 55 medallions will be passed out to the winners. The important difference from previous license lotteries is that the pool of drivers is limited to For-Hire Licence holders with a license number of 16586 or lower, meaning more veteran drivers will be getting the medallions.  Did they finally listen to me and others who have repeatedly said it only makes sense to include drivers who might have some clue concerning what they are doing?  Whether they heard us or not, that is what is going to happen. For better or worse, I have put my name in, if only for symbolic reasons and no other.  My other commentary, and one shared by many other drivers, is why issue medallions during a time when they are not needed.  It is a good question, one I am sure will remain unanswered.

As stated, the rules are clear and plain.  If you qualify you have until Friday, 5:00 PM, November 4th, 2016 to apply.  You can apply either online or get yourself down to the licensing offices now located on the 42nd floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower, Suite 4200, 700 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA.  If you don't know, that is the corner of 5th & Cherry.  But I suggest avoiding the parking hassles and apply over the internet.

As said, it makes far more sense to, like I did, to apply online.  Just go to the following address and the instructions are clear:

If you remain confused, you can contact Inspector Marrison at 206-386-0079 or email her at

Good luck!

Other news

Working the train Monday night I was not pleased to see all of us visited by a Parking Enforcement officer who decided that it was a good idea to make some of the drivers move on because they were not parked properly.  As I tired to tell her, the situation was caused not by the drivers but by the City of Seattle's allowance of new building construction that halved our available parking.  Why she even bothered remains, at least to me, a complete mystery because the taxis were not blocking anything, her enforcement achieving nothing other than sending a message we learned a long time ago: the City of Seattle hates us.

Adding insult to that injury was what was happening just a quarter mile away at the WaMu Theatre down on Occidental South, where multiple cars were allowed to park illegally on both sides of the street, creating such a narrow passage that even I had trouble getting through.  And who was sitting at the end of this automobile gauntlet?  Why none other than a bunch of Parking Enforcement officers evidently waiting for the "Chance the Rapper" concert to end, the officers exhibiting a tolerance clearly not shown to those evil Yellow cabs down at the Amtrak Station.  Again, why blame the cabbies because we didn't issue all those building  permits.  Why is it all our fault?

Post Script Oct 27th

I suppose it is some kind of positive when you are agreed with, in my case the Seattle Time today endorsing Brady Walkinshaw, calling him the most qualified candidate while terming Jayapal an opportunist who does not even reside in the 7th Congressional District.  Jayapal reminds me of my 20 days in Poland last year during their election cycle.  Though unable to read Polish, viewing the various candidate's posters provided me with a distinct impression of who they were and the political views represented, their smiles, as opposed to being reassuring, were often frightening.  And after the election, the newly voted in right-wing (and Roman Catholic) government began slamming down on individual rights.  It wasn't surprising, given their faces, their faces truly broadcasting who they were and are.  I'm not talking about pretty or ugly, I am referring to the massage conveyed, a message louder than words.  My suggestion then is take the time to consider a given candidate's face and develop an opinion much like your favorite pooch.  Are you wagging your tail, or snarling?  Bow wow wow!


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Spanning From "I Hate This!" To "I Am Too Tired!"

With taxi driving there is always an extreme cost ranging from simple fatigue to overt agitation and of course everything in between.  Starting off early Saturday morning (1:30 AM) after negotiating a heavy rainfall from Tacoma to Seattle (over five recorded inches during a four-day span), my first thought is "I hate this!" which was further underlined by getting a flat tire as the noon train pulled in, costing me almost three hours; and then much later in the evening a tow truck entered my intersection nearly 3-4 seconds into the red light, again missing certain death by "how I avoided the fool!" I will never know but glad I had new brakes installed two weeks ago.

It never ends and it doesn't and won't unless I just walk away from this perpetual madness---a passenger last night refusing to understand, though repeatedly told, that the Motel Six located at South 160th & Pacific Highway South was not in the city of Seattle, thankfully his companion acting as some kind of impromptu interpreter.  Was the guy stoned or drunk or stupid or just plainly belligerent past reason and commonsense, his permanent scowl seemingly providing the answer.

I did enjoy the little girl (about 6-8 years old) who repeatedly posited the question concerning me, "Why is a woman talking like a man?" but hey, she might have a legitimate point.  The deranged pinnacle for my three wonderful days occurred while gassing up 478 one final time at 1:45 AM this morning then finding out I couldn't get my change because the 4th Avenue South Arco had locked its doors.  A group of irritated customers, most wanting to buy beer before the 2 AM deadline, were gathered at the entry, waiting impatiently to get in.  We could all see one individual ignoring us while mopping the floor. When the door was finally opened at two by another gentleman who had been concealed somewhere in the back, a near riot broke out upon his refusal to sell people their final post-midnight beer.  All I wanted was my change and to drive back to Tacoma before it got any later, finally getting to bed at 4:20 AM.

 Yes I was and continue to be "too tired" for anything but pushing through this day.  I am just happy that "she-who-can't-named" can leave for Mexico Thursday minus interruptions instead of visiting me either in the hospital or the morgue.  She will have a much better time soaking for hours at "La Gruta" just outside of San Miguel de Allende.  If I survive the next 3 weeks I too will be joining her November 7th, enjoying the healing hot water. Via Mexico!  Adios.