Saturday, November 9, 2019

Seattle & King County's Failure Part 2

While somewhat entertaining, last week's posting omitted some important details as to just why the forced entry into a taxi association is lethal to the independent cab operator, taking away some inherent rights usually connected to independently run businesses, Seattle and King County's decision entering us into a nebulous regulatory state akin to a bureaucratic purgatory, positioning us somewhere between heaven and hell without obvious release.  Before, all us single taxi owners were like all other nonaligned businesses you might see, be it bakery, laundromat, used car dealership, etc, subject of course to local rules and regulations but still, allowed to make their own business decisions as they saw fit, sinking or swimming mostly up to themselves alone and no one else.  While being a regulated industry, there are and were some differences but still, in most cases, the independent single cab owner was free to conduct their business in a manner they were most comfortable with.

But upon City & County intervention, all that changed, transforming the once independent business into a kind of unrequested franchise arrangement, this sudden change altering forever the freedom he/she once had, tying their hands into a kind of Gordian Knot---nothing resolving the dilemma of dictatorial association oversight controlling your every legal movement.  How and why the City & County thinks this is a reasonable and sustainable position is beyond comprehensive understanding, statutorily leaving us completely helpless and defenseless, minus any governmental or regulatory ally.

Again, as stated lest week, this was done to protect the public but does our passenger public truly require this level of governmental shielding from the local taxi industry?  Where is the evidence that it is required?  While Uber nationally deals with approximately 1200 serious complaints a week,  I believe it would take us cabbies in Seattle and King County an entire decade or more to accrue 1200 total reviewable complaints.  A few weeks ago, a former Seattle-area Uber driver was convicted of rape.  In all my years associated with taxi since 1987, I don't remember one rape committed by a local cabbie.  Some very stupid behavior, yes, but aggravated physical sexual assault, no.

My question then, voiced once again, is how did we deserve to be shackled to association serfdom minus option or legal regress?  And when I do contact the City & County, pointing out clear association violations, they plead helplessness, saying they have nothing to do with it.  But as I am pointing out, they (Seattle & King County) have "everything" to do with this, their dismantling of the independent single owner model intentional, enslaving us to the taxi associations minus legal entreaty.  How does this make any sense?

Since this arrangement isn't working, how can he City & County make it better?  A first suggestion is to decide just what kind of business is a taxi association and what kind of legal rights do both single owners and lease drivers have when associating themselves with this kind of entity?   Are we independent contractors or are we employees?

Currently, it appears, PSD (Puget Sound Dispatch) treats us as employees, completely subject to rules created and enforced solely by them.  Multiple times I have requested to see the legal documentation allowing them to do this.  Months and years have passed, and I have yet to see anything from PSD management.  How can they just ignore my request while gladly accepting my weekly $180.00 dispatch fee.  Clearly I am an independent contractor in good standing, so why has my request been denied?

Or perhaps they don't truly know what their legal standing is, or worse, are not interested in knowing.  Easier, much easier, minus no regulatory oversight from the City, County and the State of Washington, to just keep doing what they have been doing for years: trampling upon the legal and civil rights of the cab drivers while collecting an estimated monthly income of $288,000, annually adding up to $3,456,000.  This is a rough estimate based upon 400 single owners paying their weekly $180.00 dispatch fee. Another something that should be known is just how much of this 3 1/2 million dollars is pure profit flowing directly into PSD board member pockets?

Isn't anyone curious?




















Tuesday, November 5, 2019

City Of Seattle And King County's Failure To Protect Their Taxi Driver Business Community

When I started driving cab in the taxi prehistoric days of the late 1980's, membership in a taxi association was optional, translating into many single owner companies, or very small corporations  like the ten-car Stanley Cab based in, of all neighborhoods, Madison Park; or Classic Cab, whose three 1982 Checker Marathon cabs personally introduced me to this very strange and puzzling world called Seattle's Taxi-Land.  While Yellow, Greytop and Farwest Taxi did exist, the ratio between association and independently-owned taxi was more-or-less, 50-50, with Sea-Tac International Airport mostly single owner dominated, an extremely colorful array of cabs gracing the arrival level.  That it was a free-wheeling world, I suppose, goes without saying, especially due to all those crazy, very emotional Greeks operating cabs 24 hours a taxi day.  Yes, a bit of the wild, wild west but fun, our camaraderie bonding us together into a reasonably functional organism, protecting and assisting each other as much as we could, given the innate feral quality of "down & dirty" taxi we all knew so well.

Unfortunately, that all changed when, in the early 1990's, the City of Seattle and King County forcing everyone to either join an already established association or form a new one amongst friends, forever ending the world of the jolly independent. Their object in this was solely punitive, stating clearly their goal first and last was to protect the public from all those nasty cabbies, making these incorrigible scoundrels more readily accountable to legal authority.  What necessitated this draconian response was based more upon mythology than factual reality, the ever conservative Seattle and King County regulators misreading the free-spirited cabbies.  But by locking us into penal cab associations, they sentenced every last one of us into a bureaucratic life sentence minus parole, our only option---  escape---breaking through our prison walls to a freedom devoid of association shackles, meaning never once again driving a cab.

I express it this way because it is true, having experienced Yellow for 25 plus years, daily affected by opaque decision making by management and the Puget Sound Dispatch governing board of directors. Similar to the lyrics from Bob Dyan's great song, "The Gates of Eden": "No sound ever comes from the gates of Eden," the PSD "gods" operating Yellow aren't telling us anything about what they are really doing, despite it being our "money, time, and sweat and blood" financing their entire operation.  Recently, PSD de-authorized a WAT van single owner single minus any legal hearing, PSD suddenly their own instantaneous "kangaroo court, issuing sudden judgments like a Zeus thunderbolt emanating from Mount Olympus, striking the cabbie down.

And the fault from this potentially illegal action rests solely with Seattle and King County's taxi regulators, having neutered our legal and civil rights by encasing us in a nebulous legal cocoon suffocating our collective voices, their ultimate overreaction amputating any ability to protect ourselves from an overzealous association.

Yes, this is our daily reality minus all hyperbole. But what to do, what can I or anyone else do about it?  All I can say is I am thinking about it.  Yes, Popeye the sailor man, I am, currently searching for the correct variety of leafy spinach, powering me to any and all finishing lines.









Tuesday, October 29, 2019

City Of Seattle Meter Testing & Why Did Anyone Think The Philippines Was A Good Idea & HopeLink Finger Printing

With the introduction of our (PSD's, Yellow's) new MTI dispatch system and its new "soft meter," the City of Seattle wanted to confirm its accuracy when compared to the old more mechanical version.  And to my surprise last Wednesday, during 1092's testing, it appears this new approach to mileage computation is more concise than what we all have been using for decades.  That was "taxi music" to my ears, pleased because being on the "straight and narrow," charging no more than is legally allowed should always be taxi's only acceptable creed.  As the weeks proceed forward, I can only see the new system getting better and more efficient. Unfortunately, the same optimism can't be applied to the Manila/Philippines call-center Puget Sound Dispatch, decided, in a complete lack of wisdom, to sign all us up for minus a second of input and consolation. Not nice, no, not at all.

No, I don't believe much thought was put into the consequences concerning the Philippines

One might say, and many do, that no thought was given to how we, the combined Yellow Cab single owner community, would react to what essentially was a knife to our collective back, providing us with "a local dispatch" call center based nearly 7000 miles directly east across the Pacific Ocean.  Despite our many grumblings, PSD appears to think there are none, or will be, any consequences to their decision.  Perhaps yes, perhaps no, is all I can say.

This morning, after telling our new dispatch manager, Tina, that the Manila call takers were problematic, she replied "they are doing a great job."  Unfortunately, that is not our working reality, and brushing aside any and all comment is not constructive.

Sunday I was belled into the Greyhound Bus Station, my passenger name given as "Customer."  After loading up someone going to the airport, the actual person I was belled for, named "G______," ran up to the cab telling me she had called.  Sorry, I said, I was never given your name but I would call dispatch and get her a cab.  What dispatch told me was that they couldn't do it, that the passenger had to call herself, but hadn't she already called, and I was trying to repair their mistake?  Hanging up, I called again, telling yet another call taker that they needed to bell in another cab.  What they actually did I have no idea.  Did "G______" ever get her cab?  Good question, isn't it?

Here is the problem.  To expect people who have never driven taxi, who have never been in Seattle, and are 6,700 miles away, to know the cab business, is nonsensical.  As a long-in-the-taxi-tooth Yellow superintendent said to me today, ex-cab drivers make the best call takers, because simply they have "lived and died taxi  and that is the way it was, and is.  Feedback from many of our longtime regular passengers backs this up: these new folks don't know what they are doing.  Then the obvious question is, why is PSD pretending Manila is working out just fine for all concerned?  Why indeed!?

Fingerprinting Every 3 Years?

The agency, HopeLink, is now requiring we all get fingerprinted even though all of our fingerprints are on permanent file at the City of Seattle/ King County.  Why is a good question, along with the mandate that the fingerprinting must be renewed every three years.  Just as Seattle/KC once required yearly fingerprinting, this three-year cycle appears to be redundant and unnecessary.  To me, this speaks to how the taxi associations do little to nothing to protect their drivers from trivial bureaucratic demands taking up our time and money.   But as with the issue with the faraway dispatch, if you truly cared about the cabbies, you would respond differently, more positively, more concerned about our overall well-being.

And that is just the way it is, despite all denials to the contrary.  Do we really want to emulate Donald Trump?  I don't think that we do.
























Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Back In The Seattle Taxi Saddle: What Am I Doing Here?

The obvious answer to my question is to make money, but more, after four days back in the cab---losing my temper, my humor, my civility---I ask myself, what am I truly doing driving this cab?  Sunday I was pushed by some non-thinking bozo who just couldn't understand that blocking our Amtrak cab stand was a bad idea.  Later Sunday, I was involuntarily involved in some deranged quiz contest---all the two drunks knew was that their Air B&B apartment was located somewhere in West Seattle---putting all the fragments of their addled thoughts together, and finally $37.00 dollars later, getting them to their address on Pigeon Hill but no tip after this near miracle, after completely saving their buttock from their own inebriated ignorance.

Yes taxi and only taxi, nothing new and nothing amusing, only cars and more cars clogging the now moist roadways.  Yes, it is called "making a living" but as far as I can tell, only nearing me closer to "the death I shall never part."

As to taxi issues, nothing is yet resolved concerning insurance requirements or what the City of Seattle will do to ensure we have a level playing field of competition with Uber and Lyft, appearing Seattle is more concerned about how much TNC (ride-share) operators are making as opposed to taxi driver well-being.  In the 1960s, the American writer Anne Sexton published a very remarkable poetry volume, "To Bedlam and Half-way Back."  As for all of us taxi asylum dwellers, we remain in the padded cell of bureaucratic imbecility.  Where, I ask, where is the key releasing us from all this unrelenting pain?

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Greetings From San Lorenzo, New Mexico---The Insanity That Is Taxi Reality

Where I am writing from, the very tiny burg of San Lorenzo, New Mexico, population 20-93, depending upon whom you ask, is located in the Rio Mimbres Valley more or less sandwiched between two officially federally designated wilderness areas, the Gila Wilderness to the west, and to the east, the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, of course named after that American naturalist famous for the book, "Sand County Almanac." Hot springs abound in the greater area, and having visited Gila Hot Springs for the first time, I can only quote Robert Frost and say "You Come Too!"  The drive from San Lorenzo can only be described, once you have reached the Continental Divide, in a single word, as spectacular!

That I needed recovery time from my 1,914 mile haul down from my Tacoma storage room is an understatement.  In my last stretch of driving, I drove from Boron, California to Silver City, New Mexico, the largest town in these parts, in 18 1/2 hours, my "taxi-driving mode" switching into overdrive.

 Driving an U-haul 26 foot truck/van, it was the largest vehicle I've driven since my brief 1983-84 Metro days driving 40 foot-plus long buses. Laden with 6-7 thousand books, it was slow going, keeping it mostly at 55-60 MPH. San Lorenzo is approximately 22 miles east of Silver City.

I also learnt a big lesson about paying people in advance, as my nephew and a friend abandoned me, leaving my exhausted self to finish the loading.  Thankfully, here in southwest New Mexico, folks know the value of a dollar and what commitment means, my helpers Darien and Kevin doing a great job, and yes, even acknowledging I was essentially worn out. Thank you!

Being in the silence of the high desert reminds me too well of what I will be returning to Saturday morning: the sheer madness of a traffic-clogged urban center engaged in a whole lot of unnecessary nothingness somehow translating into the modern mechanized civilization boondoggle all of us unfortunately share. Who wants to be there?  Not me!

And what does it mean to the Seattle cabbie?   Why nothing but a mad scramble dodging crazed drivers while dealing with a mindless bureaucracy demanding more and more from the fatigued soul that is the average cabbie plying the unforgiving city streets and byways. More, the modern mantra screams, we want more money, more of your precious time, and blood, we want your blood!

Think I am exaggerating?  Then you too jump in a cab like I will be doing this upcoming Saturday and you will personally see what I am talking about.  Once again I will be devoured alive and spit out, our modern cultural monster grinning, happy for the umpteenth time to oblige, to render such necessary service!






Thursday, October 10, 2019

Greetings from Willows, California---The Poisoned Taxi Candy Box: Requiring A One Million Insurance Rider

The American cabbie is certainly embattled, attacked on all sides, be it Uber or mindless bureaucracy bogging us down with ceaseless requests for both more money and endless documentation.  If anyone in the Seattle taxi industry can believe it, the Seattle School District is now requesting an additional one million dollars in insurance coverage to continue what we have been doing for years: transporting District children from home to school and back again.  Given no warning, we jointly as an industry feel both blindsided and betrayed, given our years of safe and impeccable service to not only the Seattle School District, but all the local school districts in the greater Seattle area. How much this will cost, at this point, no one knows.

But, as the deadline nears in a month or two, we in the industry will witness more of the anguish I saw Saturday, when many worried drivers came up to me and asked what are we going to do?  In short, I don't have a quick answer, in part due to I am moving all my belongings, mostly books and records, to a 120 year old adobe house in San Lorenzo, New Mexico.  In other words, I am on the road driving this big, 26 foot long U-haul truck/van, the biggest anything I have driven since my Metro bus driving days back in 1983-84.  Suffice to say, I am busy, and will not be back into the cab until the afternoon of October 19th.  Maybe then, I will have a spare moment to understand the how and why of all this.  When I know, I will tell everyone else.

A Question of Racial Profiling

A comment received implied I was back on the Southern plantation, pre-Civil War, and once again, just like in the 1850s, not understanding the racial implications of my words written last week.  But I challenge anyone who doesn't think that all behavior has its origins in reactive (and responsive) psychological imprinting both good and bad, to think again.  All the demographics listed in the quiz all have readily identifiable features.

And with that, I must quit and get some sleep.  Again and always, your comments are most welcome and appreciated.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Demographic Quiz: Guess Who Did It & Why & Seattle Uber Driver Convicted Of 2017 And 2018 Rapes

Doesn't everyone love a quiz, question or questions challenging the mind?  Well, whether you do or not, you are about to encounter one, tasking you to choose a specific demographic group.  And I assure you, as I have often observed, these folks are reliably consistent, requesting special and favored treatment in the most mundane of situations and scenarios.  To be sure, I could describe other equally troublesome demographic groups but what caught my attention this time was something totally new to me, two passengers assuming novel and outrageous privilege, uncivil behavior breaching usual societal conventions.  Beyond that, I am sure they are wonderful people.

A Taxi Demographic Quiz: Who Could These Culprits Be?


"Belled" to the Ballard Safeway, I was instantaneously there, being just around the corner.  First checking out the south door, there they were, running up to the taxi from the north door.  "Can you wait while we buy flowers?" was the request, obviously forgetting to buy them their "first time around" in the store.

Reluctantly, I said yes, having arrived quickly, thinking "why not!" but soon discovered I was mistaken, when, once the groceries were in the cab, minus any up-front payment or request to turn on the meter, they both walked off toward the store's entrance.  "Stop!" I shouted, "You can't leave your groceries unattended."  And after getting the attention of the male half of the couple, he initially acknowledged my request, then suddenly exited the cab, once again walking away.

With that, I leaped out saying "You can't do this!" and quickly set their groceries out onto the parking lot. "Next time," I said, "call when you're really ready!" and drove away, instantly getting someone else, a nice passenger heading home from Ballard Swedish, a quick twenty-dollar bill getting us to her Magnolia door.

Okay, who were these people?  Your choices:

A)   Saudi Arabian couple, the wife minus the veil

B)   A nice Upper-Middle Class Caucasian couple, snobbish to the core

C)  African-American kids---late teens to late 20s, feeling everyone owes them a living

D) Those now well known techies---self-absorbed Millenniums

If you are a cabbie, or have ever driven cab sometime, this should be easy.  I will say I have observed same demographic types at the Tai Tung Chinese Restaurant counter, bedeviling owner Harry by attempting to alter everything presented on the menu.  Harry, firmly yet friendly as he can possibly manage, tells them no, we don't do that.

While all the other three groups have their known irritants, the answer is C, these kids, in their early twenties, were not thinking for a moment that you don't do what they did, walking away from the cab, leaving me "high & dry," completely at their "beck & call," me the cabbie suddenly demoted to lowly servant.

But I do think there exists a plausible history explaining their behavior, that being the internalized oppression of over four hundred years of slavery and blatant racial discrimination and disparity.  If anyone doesn't think this sorry legacy affects the brain, you are totally naive.  But still, it doesn't mean you should take it out on me, or Harry, or anyone else, as I personally having no interest subjugating anyone for any reason whatsoever.

To me, true equality is being treated like everyone else, no up or down, or being treated the clown.  I too bristle when someone stares at me, thinking I am different or less than them.  With that being true, it still doesn't mean I should extract some kind of revenge, somehow militating foolish insult.  Much better, like the old comic strip from the 50s & 60s, to "grin & bear it" and move on with life, hoping and expecting the best regardless of all stupidity lurking 'round that next corner.

Seattle Uber Driver Rapist Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison

Two years ago, Uber driver Israel Ramos Islas raped a very drunk female passenger.  And last December, posing as an Uber driver, picked up another very intoxicated young woman and raped her.  He is suspect in two other incidents.  Need I tell anyone that this monster was licensed by the City of Seattle and King County without a thorough background check? And after raping the first woman, how and why did Uber continue to allow him to operate as their independent contractor.  Is anyone paying attention?  You don't require a quiz to know the answer posed by this question.