Sunday, June 23, 2019

Do You Know The Way To Northwest Norcross Way? & Eat At Luigis

With apologies to that great Bacharach/David 1968 song, Top 10 hit sung by Dionne Warwick, "Do You Know The Way To San Jose," I ask all Seattle cabbies the question if 2 very drunk Irishmen jumped in your cab from the Old Peculiar at 1:00 in the morning, and telling you their destination was the 1300 hundred block of Norcross Way, would you know the way to 133_ NW Norcross Way, minus GPS devices and even a map?   By sheer accident I did, vaguely remembering that 12th Avenue NW taken north off Holman Road taking you right in, or more or less it does, first intersecting with Woodbine NW, and then veering right to Norcross and Carkeek Park, Norcross the southern boundary of that fabulous park.

Why did I know?  Approximately 18 months ago I picked up on Norcross, taking a vacationing couple to Sea-Tac International Airport. Yes, Virgina, there are cabbies outside of London holding their local version of "the Knowledge."  But if you want me to take you to Santa Clauses' igloo workshop, you'll better off consulting with that famous worldwide flyer, Santa's Rudolf, the yellow-nosed reindeer, yes, that very same famous fellow curtailed from participating in any taxi reindeer games.  For shame, and if anyone is, its the Seattle City Council to blame!

The Address is 3213 West McGraw Street

Yesterday, late afternoon, I ate at Luigi's Pizza & Pasta located in the Magnolia Village, south side of the street, adjacent to the post office.  Regular customers of mine, Maynard & Pat, have been going there for decades.  With great food, inexpensive prices and terrific service, what is there to stop you? Eat at Luigis after taking a walk in perhaps Seattle's greatest green space, Discovery Park.  Try the W. Emerson Street side for secret entrances.

And don't forget to try the homemade desserts!  Wonderful.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Flare-up, Anger And Peace At The Cashier Window & Craig Leisy's Book

Us cabbies are a solitary species, taxi wolverines plying the urban landscape but occasionally, like actual wolverines, (gulo gulo, Latin for glutton) we find ourselves in the same locale, snarling and spiting, attempting communication and commonplace civility.  Yesterday afternoon, while doing "our turn" at the cashier's window, a verbal altercation broke out involving four drivers, three against the one WAT (wheelchair driver) over the mundane issue of the 10 cents fee all Seattle-area cabbies pay per trip to supplement the WAT operators.  Always controversial, many Yellow drivers are upset since PSD management released an income list stating some of us are making $2000.00 per week, this in response to many cabbies pleading poverty.   And according to practical theory, the only guys who could make this are the WAT owners who receive, within City boundaries, $20.00 per wheelchair trip in addition to the meter rate.  It is indeed sweet getting a built-in tip with nearly every fare you receive.

Call it jealously, all it anything you wish but most drivers are angered with what they see as  bureaucratic (and discriminatory) treatment favoring the WAT operators, unfairly padding their wallets while pilfering money from ours.  Yesterday, guys got angry, targeting one individual who tried to be calm until he too losing his temper.  Eventually, order was restored, tempers cooled and more-or-less civil conversation ensued, all recognizing who and what the real culprit is: dumbbell administrators and their hackneyed policies.

Yes, the taxi majority feel victimized by decisions adversely affecting their daily bread, mindless policies made by the clearly clueless.  If you don't think this is true, go to any current Seattle City Council meeting and witness the prattle emanating from the outgoing Sally Bagwell, and like I have, becoming depressed listening to the theoretical musings espoused by this astounding fill-in-the-blank.  As I continue to say, "taxi-gods-help-us-all!"  Yes, Ms Bagwell, what kind of creature are you?  Or maybe a new species already---stultus fatuus?  Welcome to the Seattle Governmental Zoo, "How do you do?"

And Kshama Sawant too---indus paulo follis.  And Bruce Harrell?  Sorry, I give up!  Time to be polite in the taxi night, day is breaking and my cabbie heart is aching, buckets of tears pouring into my local beer.  Or something like that!

Craig Leisy Wrote a Taxi Book

Most Seattle readers will remember Craig, that former City of Seattle taxi licensing manager recently retired to Colorado.  Now that he is no longer daily plaguing us, he has written a sympathetic tome concerning how the Uber incursion nearly killed us.  He even quoted me.  Stay tuned in the next few weeks for a review.  I bought a copy and should be done reading soon.

Transportation Network Companies and Taxis: The Case of Seattle

Published by Routledge

go to the website, and enter code SOC19 to receive a 20% discount.  But I warn you, even with the discount, it is pricy.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

This Could Be Your Life---31 Non-Stop Years Washing Dishes

As I say concerning taxi, I meet everyone in every conceivable situation and scenario, and last night, "serving the bell" in the north-end due to no cabs, with a machine gun-like "rat-a-tat-tat-tat" business flow filling the late hours, I once again picked up Dano (not his real name), a Yellow "regular" going home from a Greenwood-area nursing home.  Dano, a slightly developmentally disabled man, has been washing dishes at the same facility six days per week for the past 31 years, Monday's  off.  Asking him when he will stop, he replied age 67, Dano turning 54 this upcoming August.  Imagine this if you can, a life of drudgery encompassing, if he physically survives until 2032, 54 years of soap and suds. cleaning plates and scraping pans. Having washed dishes at an eastern Colorado truck-stop for a month in 1969 when I was 15, I know it to be a living hell, disrespectful devils prodding you on, back then paid $1.00 per hour for the displeasure of cleaning toilets and busing the tables too.

Every work day Dano takes the two-bus one hour-long ride to work, returning home every night at 11 PM in the $18.00 cab ride.  After 31 years, he now makes $16.00 per hour, his ride home taking 15 minutes.  Multiplying $18.00 by four 15 minute intervals means I am making the equivalent of $72.00 an hour, something I often more-or-less do.

Does "life" hold real meaning and purpose?  Find someone like Dano and ask him how he/she understands and accepts his /her lot in living upon our shared earth. Then reflect upon your own life.  How does it compare?  Are you happy, sad, justifying and accepting what you have, or not?

As for Dano, I can only hope he has secret plans escaping to a better heaven than the kitchen Hades he now resides.  If believing in prayer, pray for Dano and a better future minus monotonous steamy, sweat filled hours, God helping Dano and us all the live-long day.  Amen!

The Taxi Gods Speaking!

The round-trip "drug run' was normal until the gentleman in question unexpectedly began directing me.  Having picked up on the same block a mere hour before, I requested he stop but no, he wouldn't desist, instead aggressively mocking me.  Out I sent him, not wanting his money, only a swift departure out the taxi door; and immediately afterwards, clearing the meter, receiving a redemptive $62.00 account fare to Kent. And having to once again go around the same block, placing myself in the correct direction, there the guy was, walking in what can only be described as "his personal rain cloud," a sudden storm drenching this misguided soul.  Thank you "taxi Jesus," or something like that!

Adios Squeaky! RIP

Two weeks ago, the taxi lifer famously known for his high-pitched voice, Squeaky, passed on to hopefully better taxi hunting grounds.  When I started way back in 1987, Squeaky was driving for Panos Taxi, finding him sitting at the old Pier 52 ferry stand.  Having driven for nearly everyone, Squeaky was a well-known local cabbie character.  Another taxi lifer, Dennis A., told me about Squeaky's demise while I was having 1092 repaired Friday at Jim & Gill's auto repair shop.  Farewell Squeaky, it was good knowing ya!  Rest-in-peace!

Postscript 06/10/2019

Amazingly, my first ride this morning was someone who works at the same facility as Dano.  She has been there 22 years.  All I can do is quote Bob Dylan from his song Caught Up in Blue: "I don't know what they do with their lives!"  And that is an understatement.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Answer To Downtown Seattle's Street Congestion---Alternating Odd & Even License Plate Numbers To Control & Regulate Daily Access

During the past months, not once have I heard anyone, either government or media, speak to what I think is an obvious solution to DT Seattle's crowded streets---limiting cars into the greater downtown core by requiring alternate day entry from our very interconnected King, Snohomish and Pierce tri-counties. While requiring cooperation from municipal, county and state government, the payoff would be less prime-time congestion and more car pooling, a win-win for all concerned. This is how it could work.

On a Washington State level, all licensed non-commercial vehicles in the three-county area would be issued identifying stickers for the license plates. This is important because it would be unrealistic to tag all state residents.  The sole purpose of requiring odd and even alternate day entry is to limit commuter entry from say, a twelve hour period of 5 AM to 5 PM into an area bounded by Mercer Street to the north, I-5 to the east, Yesler Way to the south and the Puget Sound to the west.  Before, and after these hours, there would be unlimited entry.  Commercial and delivery vehicles, including taxis, would be exempt.  Also, all vehicles originating from other Washington counties and states and Canadian provinces would also be exempted.  Operational fees in theory could be charged but free would be better, gaining more ready cooperation.  Car and van pools would be encouraged, along with ample free parking provided.

The penalty for violators, along with enforcement mechanisms, is something to be carefully negotiated.  I would recommend a substantial fine but eliminate all towing in this very too tow-happy city, this potential policy instead looked upon as a helpful, non-punitive solution designed to assist, not harm our tri-county area residents.

Presented well, I could see everyone embracing what is only a commonsense approach to a vexing problem, because something must be done before DT Seattle becomes another Manhattan, non-stop traffic jams becoming our daily reality, though I do believe we have time before the worse occurs.  From start to finish I see this policy taking 12-18 months to implement, meaning by mid-2021 we could see traffic flowing upon DT Seattle streets in a more or less normal fashion.  By that time, much of the light-rail link expansion will be completed, hopefully media and government encouragement helping seal public approval.

While some will object to this approach, to do nothing is not optional.  And tolling rush-hour congestion, it seems, is not a viable option either, as London, England's Trafalgar Square now as crowded as it was before implementing tolling.  Going that route, like London, what you will get is people willing to pay for but not limiting personal access.

Seattle has to limit prime-time vehicle access to its downtown center.  There is no alternative.  This has to occur.  And the sooner the better, local topography dictating what can be done or not, Seattle built upon the Cascade Mountain Range foothills descending to the salty Salish Sea.

Bad place to build a city, choosing this series of big hills hemmed in by two large bodies of water, Tacoma once a more logical choice but Seattle, for me, is the home for infamous and dumbbell decisions.  I have been here more or less since 1973, and have personally witnessed countless poor municipal decisions impacting us all.  Why be sensible when chaos far more entertaining?  Hey! Charlie Royer, where are you when we need you?!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Lema's Generosity---Giving All His Medallions Away

Yes, that's him, Lema, the same Lema Woldegeorgis, the legendary taxi mechanic who, twenty-five years ago, parlayed 50 plus cheap taxi medallions into a multi-million dollar fortune gathered from the sweat and blood of untold numbers of cabbies, to whom we have before us today: an owner no longer needing the bother and is giving his golden goose away.  Why, one might ask, is Lema doing this, what is his motivation for tossing away what once held an combined equity of over 12 million dollars?  How does this make any sense disposing away his taxi monopoly?

The answer is simple.  The medallion "treasure chest" no longer exists, current prices ranging between 3-5 thousand dollars for something worth $250,000 a mere six years ago.  Yes, Uber changed the market but let us collectively remember that the Seattle City Council had initially capped all TNC (ride-share) companies at under 500 operators each.  But as many might also recall, the newly elected Seattle mayor Ed Murray decided that "it couldn't be so," pressuring the Council to reverse itself to completely uncap the TNC market while simultaneously enticing Lema and company with a deal: go along with this and all those leased medallions becoming real property, just like all those million-dollar medallions in NYC, providing a new World packed with renewed and wonderful opportunities.

Personally, I read the taxi tea leaves, and in a presentation to BYG/PSD/Yellow Cab, I said we have to sue the City of Seattle or we are doomed.  And the response to my warning?  David Friend, Lema's financial confidant, walked out of the room, telling me then it was all over,  and now for Lema, it is over,  at least owning a large fleet of worthless and troublesome cabs. it's done, with millions in the bank and monthly income flowing out of Yellow's Puget Sound Dispatch.  Yes, that's correct, Lema's generosity coming with one major precondition: that this free medallion must become a Seattle Yellow cab, thus generating a weekly $180.00 weekly dispatch fee circulating, after PSD overhead, directly into Lema's and David Friend's, along with a few other minor stakeholders, pockets.  

Yes, this is the reality, this is what is occurring in real time.  And also true is the opportunity offered to those who otherwise would not own a cab.  Work hard and you will make a small fortune, living a relatively good life while sending all the kids to college.  It's all true, and Lema should be thanked regardless of motives one way or the other.  Why speak of morality when, business-wise, taxi remains a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog affair.  Celebrate, then, Lema's altruism and let the taxi chips fall where they might---upon heads and hearts and long-suffering cabbies too exhausted to know up from down or who is the clown?   Who are the taxi clowns?  All of us of course.  How could it be any other way?

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Yellow Cabbie Rebellion, Part 2---More Of The Untold Story Of An Unsatisfactory Revolt

There are so many corresponding implications of last week's labor action at Yellow that I barely know where to begin, starting instead with the NY Times 05/19/2019 headline article, "Driven to Despair---How Reckless Loans Devastated A Generation Of Cab Owners" by Brian M. Rosenthal, an extremely thorough examination of how New York City's taxi industry was impacted by unscrupulous banks, credit unions and other financial institutions, their questionable loan actions sanctioned, by of all people, the NYC Taxi Commission.  With 950 mostly immigrant owners losing their investments and medallions, it speaks to how the immigrant cabbie operates in a bubble not fully connected to the new and alien culture he/she finds themselves in, explaining to me what I saw in Seattle as a gross overreaction to Puget Sound Dispatch's request for prepayment for our new dispatch system.

As noted last week, PSD bears responsibility for not adequately, over the past six-eight months, updating all of us over what was occurring or not with the new system.  But it can also be said, that when PSD management did reach out to one group reporting to represent a large percentage of single owners, PSD was either ignored or misunderstood, resulting in what we saw: a misguided work stoppage hurting only the operators and our customer base.  And given that most of our customers were served minus truly serious delay, these 80-100 cabbies proved the opposite, showing they were expendable, for the most part PSD operating efficiently without them, that over capacity is our current reality. Only now is business picking up after our winter doldrums, the worst taxi season I have personally experienced.

Again, I don't fault anyone for being angry, years of abuse and stonewalling taking its toll.  But it is all important to read the situation correctly, and I see a misreading in their response.  Perhaps if I had made it to some of their recent meetings, I could have explained to them what the current situation was, and the where, why and how to what PSD was doing.  Minus real guidance, other than rumored encouragement from the Teamsters, they rashly rushed into action without the support of the remaining 300 or more single owners.  Obviously they should have attempted organizing all of us before going forward, along with alerting local media.  None of this was done.  And picking the same day Uber and Lyft was striking made no logical sense, potentially adversely impacting more customers.  While often irritating, our customers should not be made to suffer for our dysfunction.

Making bad even worse, there are reports calls were made to local school districts stating we would not be picking up students both Thursday and Friday, prompting panicked telephone calls to Yellow/PSD.  That this kind of sabotage is illegal didn't appear to stop some to disrupt operations, along with harassing drivers picking up at the schools.  I wonder if anyone knows the definition of "felony" and how getting one impacts your life?

What all this portends for the immediate future I don't know.  If anything was truly gained, I don't see it but at least single owners can now pay their nearly $700.00 in 3 payments.  And why strike over this when the much bigger issue of adding an additional 150 airport cabs is looming over us, along with the city granting this past week 25 more WAT van licenses.  Does Yellow need another 175 cabs?  Not with our current business.  Now this issue does concern me.  This requires discussion.  Along with a reduction in our weekly dispatch fees.  We need frank and honest conversation, all senseless shouting into the air unhelpful.

And if anyone if interested, in 1973, at age 19, I was fired from my job working in a warehouse when attempting to organize an union, the seamstress' in the shop making $1.00 per hour, meaning I do endorse labor actions.  I once paid the price and glad I did but your actions must be justified.  That is all I request.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Seattle Yellow Cab Single Owner Rebellion & What To Do If Your Uber Or Lyft Driver Is Kidnapping You

Frustration with Yellow/Puget Sound Dispatch boiled over into an impromptu labor action this week, 80 or more single owners turning in their tablets/computers in protest over PSD's mishandling of its new system prepayment request.  As mentioned last week, PSD bungled the process by not communicating adequately over the past few months what was pending, what monetary amount would be requested.  Unfortunately, the walkout put everyone who didn't, including myself, under incredible pressure to serve our accounts, especially our morning and afternoon school runs, with hundreds of children requiring transportation to regional schools.  While intending to send PSD a message, in turn it wasn't wise to punish the innocent who have nothing to do with Yellow's inherent dysfunction.  What occurred both Thursday and Friday was an concerted effort to serve the bells, and for the most part, we were successful, with the majority of the school children arriving to class on time.  Sympathy aside, there has to be a better way to address single owner concerns, and I only hope their actions opened more productive communication channels addressing current and future issues, making everyone's sacrifice meaningful.

One startling, related response was the verbal attack directed at me yesterday when doing "my turn" at the cashier's office, D_____, YC 8 _ _, angrily bombarding me with allegations I had betrayed the drivers by joining with Amin, the PSD general manager in a scheme to somehow skim, embezzle money from MTI, the new system contractor.  Requesting him to stop, saying repeatedly he was insulting me, he kept on until, losing my temper, I turned  around and shouted "Shut up!" sending the message my tolerance quickly fading.  On top of accusing me, Amin and PSD of Federal crimes, he clearly said my motivation was due to being white, implying I am racist.  Amazing, concerning all this nonsense, is that, other than making the initial trip down to Portland to review the system, and writing two system review blog posts, I have had nothing to do with PSD implementation and planning, this particular driver's paranoia spilling over me.

Again, there is long history to this, and with everyone struggling to make money, it puts all of us on edge, with some obviously leaping over the cliff into psychiatric oblivion.  What D______ seemed not to understand is how his performance endangered himself, opening up potential libel suits by me or PSD.  Sad is how we have always been friendly, which is what I said yesterday walking out the door.  But for anyone reading my blog for the very first time, this is what taxi does to people, it makes you crazy, prompting behavior later regrettable.  Such is taxi as I know and hate it, and hate it I do! Screw taxi!

Just Don't Sit There in the Backseat Allowing Yourself to be Victimized

In the various accounts of female passengers attacked by Uber/ Lyft and ersatz Uber/Lyft drivers, all say the victim sat there waiting for the outcome whatever that might be, never detailing the kind of response required when you are being kidnapped.  Instead of waiting, the proper response is to attack---turning off the key, grabbing the steering wheel or poking the rapist in the face and eyes.  With the driver facing forward, it is the victim who holds the advantage, and I advise anyone finding themselves in that awful situation to be instantaneously aggressive, quickly disabling the driver and car.  What you don't do is allow yourself to be killed or raped.  Once it's clear you are under threat, attack, attack and attack again, ending the situation quickly.  Don't be afraid. Act!