Tuesday, May 24, 2016

She Requested That I Zip Up Her Dress

As I mentioned a few months back, with that New York Post headline about a headless body found in the topless bar, salacious or sensational headlines are eye-catching, grabbing the reader's attention.  And while it is completely true that a female passenger asked me to zip up her "The Great Gatsby" party dress, it was more silly than anything close to stimulating.  Believe me, dumb is not exciting, and anyway, why should I care about someone's nonsense?   No good reason that I can see.

It is the kind of non-thinking incident that occurs too often in the cab, in this case a passenger telling me, when I call her that I will be there in two minutes, that she needs her dress zipped up.  The inherent insensitivity involved here, at least in Seattle, is that many of the drivers come from "very" traditional cultures, and their religion would forbid this kind of interaction.  Most you can be sure are not hippies who lived on a commune at age sixteen, an environment where sex and nudity were the commonplace vernacular.  So what was this woman doing?  My assessment is that she didn't know what she was doing. Or perhaps she did, treating the average cabbie like public property.  Nothing new here.

Getting to her house on the western side of Queen Anne Hill, I find her late for a birthday party with a "F.Scott Fitzgerald" theme.  The zipping took a mere second, a space of two inches requiring closure. "Oh I just couldn't show up with my dress unzipped!"

The truth is, I doubt that anyone would have noticed, leastwise the "girlfriends" at the party.  And besides, I am sure anyone would have taken the time to assist, not bothered in the least or at all put out.  But when you are this frivolous, and where appearance is all important, I guess this type of thing takes priority.  "What would everyone think?" appears to be the governing attitude.  My approach is decidedly different but again, I am a alienated cabbie so that is to be expected. Why would I care?

In Monday's New York Times, there is a book review commenting upon the kind of woman (age 31)  I met, "We Were Feminists Once," by Andi Zeisler, commenting specifically on the current cultural pressures molding and forming  modern, young American womanhood.  A quote from her introduction I find especially apt.

"There a mainstream. celebrity, consumer embrace of feminism that positions it as a cool, fun, accessible identity that anyone can adopt."  Yes, according to this societal philosophy my passenger is a liberated and autonomous woman.  I beg to differ, and certainly given the urgency of the situation, deserving of a much larger tip.  Please, not sex, honey---All I want is the money,!

As both Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary sang, "Oh, when will they ever learn?"  "Beats me?" is my rhetorical response. And again, ha, ha, ha!

And a quick WWII trivia question, "What ever happened to Lord Haw Haw?"  Nothing good I can assure you.

PS:  I thought I had posted this on Tuesday.  Shows what happens to the taxi-tired body, or should I say, booby!




Monday, May 16, 2016

A Tale Of Two Taxi Cities

No, not Dickens, and no, this is not 1789, San Francisco and Seattle not Paris, not France.  But what might be, or is true, is that a new non-monarchical caste has firmly entrenched itself in America, money, having lots of money enfranchising a new nobility class.  While one may not be a hereditary King or Queen, money allows individuals an out-sized influence and stature, providing power and influence over others.  Travis Kalanick of Uber, and John Zimmer of Lyft are representative of this new class, dominating people's lives not unlike Russia's Catherine the Great's relationship with 18th Century Russian serfs.

Has the interrelational dynamics changed sixteen years into the 21st Century?  No, unless surface alterations pass as permanence, choice remaining the same if your pockets, and stomach, are empty.  Isn't the worker narrative from slave to serf to indentured servant to option-less modern day laborer the same story, where the underlying directive and message repeating that where and how you were born is what and how you will remain?  In America, one of the few escape routes is a university education but even a PHD doesn't guarantee a seat amongst the new social rank, only meaning you have an opportunity not dissimilar to buying a lottery ticket.  Yes, you might win but overall odds are slight.

Seattle and San Francisco's story then, taken in this light, are one and the same.  While San Francisco's taxi industry is more egalitarian that Seattle's, it remains controlled and stymied by municipal and wealthy elitists who know what is best for their unwashed inferiors.  While seemingly an exaggeration it probably isn't, because in both cities their daily fates are dictated by those who have not and never will drive a taxi.

Why?  Because, as adults, certain kinds of playgrounds are reserved for children only, and for the New Royalty there is no changing that attitude.. For instance, despite my tugging upon the regulatory sleeve, why am I never listened to?  I just told you why, which is perhaps why a return in 1789 would be a good idea. Until then, cabbies will remain subject to the harshest punishments and legal judgments while the real criminals will both remain in charge and rule the world.  Glory hallelujah, let Jesus set us free!  Or at least for a few minutes.  That would be nice.

Friday, May 13, 2016

As The Taxi Stomach Churns: News From San Francisco & Seattle

Taxi is a wild world and the longer I reside on the cabby planet, the wilder it seems to be.  For instance how can I explain how and why, on two connective nights, two women, one older, one much younger thrust themselves from the backseat and through the gap between the bucket seats, suddenly looking right at me?.  The first was just frantic, and the latter invader was obviously fueled by some unknown drug and  alcohol combination, prompting her to attack while we flew down the freeway. Maybe worse were her attempts at apology, her repeated efforts skipping like a flawed CD.  Only good part is that I got forty for a 23 dollar fare but jumping into the front seat at that moment was not smart.   Fun stuff, huh, but maybe not!

From San Francisco Yellow---

San Francisco taxi buddy Gerald N. provided a great (and informative) tour of the Yellow lot at 1200 Mississippi.  Never have I seen a cab lot like this one, reminding me more of a functional taxi city than anything else.  With more time permitting I will describe in detail this most amazing functional,  all-inclusive and efficient taxi institution.  There is much to tell.

Unfortunately they almost lost it all due to an accident settlement, that without legal maneuvering, would have cost them the effort of nearly four decades toward creating something special.  The accident itself spells out why industry regulatory reform across the entire nation is necessary.

The City of San Francisco has at least two outmoded rules that assisted in an eighty-year old driver fainting in his cab and careening into two people standing on the sidewalk.  One is that to retain medallion ownership you must continue to drive a percentage of the time.  And the other is that you never have full ownership, meaning you either lose the medallion upon death or you sell it at an disadvantage, with the City getting a sizable chunk of the owner's profits. 

With these kinds of archaic rules it isn't surprising that San Francisco City officials have so eagerly jumped on the Uber and Lyft bandwagon.  The City of San Francisco isn't going to support an industry they clearly despise.  Instead they have and will continue to treat their local cabbies like criminals, little deserving of anything but a kick in the pants.  As for those bastions of upper-middle class propriety and goodness, Uber and Lyft, well, they are in a different and far more exalted category, residing in heaven, not down somewhere here in taxi hell with all us lower-class denizens, minus fans and suntan lotion.  And they have the legion of lawyers available preventing 10 million dollar judgments.

One very surprising piece of news is that someone from Seattle Yellow has proposed to buy the Las Vegas dispatch call center which both companies now share. Isn't that interesting?  More upon that subject as details become clearer.  It something that was discussed at the Monday SF Yellow board meeting.

And something new in San Fran Cab Land is Desoto Taxi's transformation into Flywheel Taxi, which of course is a dispatching app that has been attempting the past three years to become firmly established and operational.  In Seattle Flywheel is primarily used by the flat-rate for hire companies.

As for news pertaining to Seattle---


 ---A Seattle Weekly newspaper ad gave the surprising news of a commerical partnership between the City of Seattle and Lyft offering discount rides during a particular drinking holiday.  After contacting everyone I could think of, I did receive a friendly and official response saying that while the City of Seattle remains open to working with local taxi industry, they wanted to offer drunk passengers discounted rides, something taxi can't offer.

I find this response problematic for at least two reasons because I am too tired to think of any more at the moment.  One is that this partnership acts as a great public relations promotion for Lyft, giving potential customers the impression that "Lyft really loves them," except perhaps in Austin,Texas; and that when considering some kind of transportation, consider us first, we are your best friends!

And other problem is that it is the City of Seattle  (and King County) that isn't permitting us to consider lowering our meter rates, even for a short-term promotion---simultaneously limiting our options while blaming us for not having any options.  Now while fully willing to accept accountability, how in the world are we accountable in this situation?  Alice in Wonderland, here we come!

---This is what happens when drivers are not fully vetted or checked out thoroughly. A former Seattle police officer who was fired from the department in 2015 for various degrees of sexual harassment of female suspects is now under investigation for sexual assault while driving for Uber.  The complaint is that he tried to kiss a female passenger and attempted to get into her apartment.  A true background check would have told Uber about his SPD firing, thus preventing the entire incident in the first place.

---Computer system problems continue to plague Yellow.  There has been explorations and presentations with and by other companies but isn't the real question here is why did Yellow commit to something without first fully understanding whether it would successfully operate trouble free?  At least this time they are allowing operator input.  That of course is a great stride forward.  We will see if collective decision making really works.

There is more but my short nap on the flight back up to Seattle was only a band aide, time for more serous sleep on a sunny May afternoon.  Happy Friday the 13th everyone.  Watch out for Judas and his glad hand, waiting for that bag of silver.which just might be a bad bargain in the long term. Do we really need two thousand more years of distorted mythology?  I don't think so!







  









 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Coffee At 26th & Dolores

Greeting from San Francisco, having caught a 6:10 AM flight from Seattle. Sitting here in a local coffee shop, I am in a very familiar state of taxi exhaustion, having slept a total of about 20 hours the past four days. Ostensibly I am here to visit San Francisco Yellow taxi, hoping to have met with the board but that isn't going to happen.  Instead tomorrow I'll be picked up by a taxi buddy and be shown around Yellow.  One fact I have leaned about taxi, at least here in the United States, is their inability to understand what is happening and what might be and is important, not understanding priorities. And the reason for this?  Well, that is something I will leave for a much later date but I will say it is the same reason we have been decimated by Uber and Lyft.  Not only are we in trouble now, we as an industry have been "residing in confusion" ever since my first real introduction back in 1987.  I say first because my father, back in 1969, having totally sabotaged his teaching career, began driving taxi in Denver, Colorado, and everything he told me about Denver taxi has been confirmed by Seattle and then some, so why should I expect San Francisco in 2016 to be any different?  I don't but it does appear to be different in Austin, Texas, given the municipal government's support for the industry, refusing to take any nonsense from Uber and Lyft.  One positive in Seattle are new cab stands, even one newly situated next to the recently opened Capital Hill light-rail station.  It took too many years for the new stands to be installed but when you are treated like beggars you expect bread crumbs and little else.

                                 Hansel and Gretel took a long walk in an urban forest

                                 unfortunately getting very lost, the city sweeping their bread

                                 crumbs away,with  the mayor, a local witch, telling them who is

                                 boss, insinuating that if you don't obey, that just like Jesus,

                                 you will be nailed to a cross you will pay for daily,

                                 and twice that rate on Sunday,  and certainly, my children,
     
                                  no complaints of any kind or way,

                                  because I am disregarding, and don't you forget it,

                                  anything you might

                                   have to

                                   say.






Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Bane of Denial---An American Ethos

During last week's operator and management meeting, I heard a flurry of denials from both sides, making or believing statements not completely reality based.  That got me to thinking about how commonplace denial has become, seemingly now an essential part of  our cultural dialogue.  And related to that thought, just how did we arrive to this greater societal agreement, replacing fact with denial and obfuscation, collectively condoning what should be unacceptable?   A quick examination verifies what now should be obvious.

Everyday new discoveries of dinosaur fossils dating from millions of years ago tell us how life was formed yet many around our planet hold beliefs saying everything was instead created in a mere 7 days, namely in a universal minute. Of course many other associated myths connected to that notion sprout up, further entangling the mind.  While these kinds of refusals might be the ultimate denial of our shared reality, it is only foundational--- begetting other kinds of more mundane denials of what is right in front of our noses.

Denial has become so popular that even criminals who clearly have committed an offense are both allowed and encouraged to plea not guilty even though irrefutable evidence exists that they did do what they shouldn't have.  And if you are someone who is clearly mentally ill, the accused might be found not guilty by reason of insanity even when it is obvious that the defendant instead should be found guilty because they are truly mad, their cognitive situation being the reason the action, be it murder etc, occurred.  In these cases, the denial is twofold in that someone is seen both not culpable and innocent for what they did. There is true cause, it exists, so why deny it?

Another commonplace associated denial is that prosecutors will say that the person is not nuts when clearly they are, the only interest being a guilty verdict and not justice.  If prevalent denial weren't in play, everyone would and could admit to what is truly obvious and known.

Adding fuel to the denial fire is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump who both denies functional reality and his own lack of presidential resume.  Of course I can, he says, and millions of fellow deniers agree with him, a conspiracy of the blind leading the blind down a dead end constitutional alley.

Referring back to the driver meeting, more than one board member said that problems with our current computer dispatch system occurs only 2 percent total out of an entire operational year, repeatedly giving us the figure of 98 percent efficiency when none of them have spent a minute this year or last sitting in a taxi staring, like we have, at a dead computer.  There is denial and then there is denial, swallowed whole by crocodiles swimming in the River Nile.

There were also statements made about levels of business and account activity while simultaneously not knowing that weekly  HopeLink account availability hours have been slashed by 96 hours out of a potential 168, leaving a mere 72 account hours left.  This kind of denial then only adds to driver frustration which logically leads to irrational shouting and screaming, one tied to the other.

On the driver side, their primary denial were obvious costs and financial obligations  PSD sustains weekly. That is why I asked for financial records to be released and presented, allowing us to understand why a $180.00 weekly dispatch fee remains necessary.

If PSD wants all of us to keep paying at the current rate, proof is required.  Isn't anything short of that just another kind of denial, saying regardless of anything---declining business, reduction in supervisor and cashier hours--- we must keep paying what was paid prior to Uber and Lyft entry into our market?

 As I have said, there you have it, denial our reliable friend, forever backing questionable contentions.  Is truth and clarity better?  What can't be denied is that most deny those alternatives.  Try denying that?!





Thursday, April 28, 2016

Failure To Gain Consensus

Yesterday's failed meeting between Yellow Taxi association operators and its board of directors is all about history and unmet expectations and grievances.  It is not coincidental that the chief complainants is that new group of operators now leasing individual medallions, a group that before now, were ultimately powerless to influence association policy.  Like the newly emancipated slave, they now want their equal rights, demanding an instantaneous  recognition heretofore unachievable.

While that emotion is understandable, it fails to understand that all of us in Seattle's taxi industry have labored under a false hierarchy and power structure created and maintained solely by Seattle and King County regulators.  By limiting the number of medallions, this artificial shortage allowed a class structure of have and have-nots to be created.  That the individuals profiting from this system are reluctant to retreat from what has been, until recently, an enviable "gravy train" is understandable and part of America's inherent economic system.  It is simple supply and demand.  In the past I have paid as little as $75.00 a month for an apartment in Seattle, and unbelievably, $29,000 for my first home in the Capital Hill neighborhood.  As everyone knows, those prices are long-gone, never to return.

Returning to the meeting, it started off badly when it was postponed from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM.  Having to attend to some business concerning my cab, I missed the near riot and the calling of the police.   By the time we were all assembled in a small room, I clearly saw that, at least for this day, we would not be making much progress.  A list of demands were presented, including an unrealistic request to reduce the weekly dispatch lease payment from $180.00 to $80.00.  I can say that I did not participate in earlier operator meetings, which probably was a mistake.  I did tell one colleague prior to the meeting that the discount requested was too large, and would be met with disdainful resistance.

And  surprise, surprise, that is exactly was happened.  From there it was a downhill degeneration, with misunderstanding and some shouting taking over.  Where we proceed from here is any one's guess.

Even with time constraints, I will attempt to make more of future planning sessions.  It would be a mistake to repeat yesterday's fiasco.  There isn't any point. While long-term resolution is necessary, what occurred yesterday is counter-productive.  It is simply back to the revolution drawing board and hopefully we will all come up with a better blueprint, remembering never to get the police involved again in our affairs, their involvement certainly beyond sense and necessity.



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

For The Next Few Weeks, Taxi Brevity Will Be The Usual

Last week's post took me over the course of four days to write and correct.  Given that, six months after my return from Europe, my new book remains unfinished, I have to reset priorities and give most of my spare time to completion.  For those of you who wish I was less verbose, your wish, at least over the short term, has been granted.  While I could go back to school, obtain the necessary degrees and start a private therapy (psychology) practise I am still remaining focused of my writing getting me permanently out of taxi.  I am also putting together a push toward the creation of a political ad agency, given my obvious interest in all things political.  Even if that goes forward, my primary purpose there is to make enough money to write full time minus all distractions.  Writing and reading and farming remains the goal I am aiming for this probably last quarter of my life. Yes, being in reasonable health allows me various options but being 62 signals to me it is now or never if I am going to fully live the life I want and desire.  Being a good cabby just isn't enough justification to continue on my present course.  All the big tips coming my way expresses my passenger's gratitude for efficiency but the time is now for me to change and I am getting closer to my taxi exit.  I have done my taxi time. It is that simple, past due for my final release.

Before closing today, I want to provide two amazing examples of "taxi synchronicity" plus news that a big taxi meeting will be occurring tomorrow at Yellow, Wednesday April 27th, 2016.  Since I was elected by a committee of drivers to attend, I will be there.  Drivers representing County and Sea-Tac operators will be there in additional to folks from Teamsters 117.  As I have been saying, finally, given the huge decline in business, my fellow cabbies now realize their very survival is at stake.  I personally believe ultimately we will be okay but the struggle has begun, and just where and how it will end I don't know.  I truly appreciate that a large group of drivers have taken the initiative to organize and proceed forward.  It is a great sign of better things to come.

And upon the amazing and astonishing magical occurrences I sometimes experience, I give two "cases-in-point," one relatively simple, the other more inter-connected and complex.  More than once I have relayed examples of how my last ride of the night very often takes me in the direction home, unexplainable synchronicity at work. This more of that type of thing.

Sunday night I wanted to wash my car at the car wash located next to the Uncle Ike's Marijuana store, Ike's of course handing out free ten dollar car wash cards upon the delivery of yet another "weed" fiend.  Dropping off at a club on 1st Avenue South, 3 women jump in for what is my last fare of the weekend, and where did they go?  Incredibly, 21st and East Union, a mere two blocks from the car wash!  How in the world did that happen?

The other more complicated series of sequences began last Monday afternoon, 4/18/2016 at about 4:15 PM.  Belled into the 7th Avenue PolyClinic, another Yellow stole my fare but the clinic said, here, take this guy, he needs a cab.  I clearly ask the Vietnamese man just how was he was paying, understanding he could be some kind of account fare. Cash, are you paying cash, I asked. Yes, he clearly responded.  It turns out he has hearing issues.

23 dollars later and now on south Beacon Hill I find out he is indeed a HopeLink client.  We worked out a deal that he would pay me in cash and I would do my best to get the authorization  number and then return him his money.  That is how it worked out, and on Saturday afternoon I made it back to his house on the 8600 thousand block of Beacon Avenue South, giving Tan back his money.  We shook hands, with everyone happy with the outcome.

Fast forward to now 2:30 AM Sunday morning and a couple flags me on Capital Hill, taking me back to an address directly next to Tan's.  And the fare?  You guessed it, 23 dollars!  Amazing and amazing, the taxi universe rewarding the honest cabby!

It is obvious that life remains mysterious.  Welcome again to taxi as I know it, in all its nuances and twists and turns across our known and unknown earth.