Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Hooker And The 100 Dollar Bill & DDS Upate

If I am not really interested in working I should never answer a call because, once committed, I never know what is going to happen and how demanding the passenger will be, along with just how many minutes and hours will be involved.  That I did this last Tuesday evening was to my deep regret because, how in the world did I know that at least one resident living in and around Seattle's Alki Point utilizes prostitutes but that was certainly the case then as the nice sounding woman turned out to be a hooker going, as she said, to the Sea-Tac Park & Ride.

I knew something "wasn't right" when she talked about swimming in the river running along Admiral Way because there isn't one, telling her she must be referring to the Duwamish River flowing upon the east side of Marginal Way SW, a river she might want to avoid given it remains on the EPA Superfund Cleanup list.  Her response told me she didn't know where she was, and minutes later, confirming she also didn't know where she was going.

And unfortunately what was normal suddenly transposed into the abnormal as she began panicking about my routing, prompting a quick U-turn onto State Route 599, taking us either to Pacific Highway South or I-5 southbound. Having already once announced we were detouring elsewhere, she again abruptly changed her agenda, this time saying we were now heading to Tacoma and Pacific Avenue, altering the entire scenario, the $40.00 ride now $140.00 and counting.

Telling her that a large deposit was now required she began yelling and cursing and waving 3 one-hundred bills at me, "I have the money, I have the money!" but the only problem being, she wouldn't give me one of them.  Every cabbie perhaps on the planet have been through this, knowing full well that the insane customer showing you the money doesn't at all guarantee you will be getting it save a wrestling match in the backseat, game players being just that---playing serious games no cabbie is interested in participating in on any level.

Telling her the ride was over, she then gave me a twenty which didn't fully cover the current meter amount as I exited onto International Boulevard and dropped her off at the Tukwila Light-rail station, saying she could catch a bus from there.  Thinking that was the end of it, I was glad to be rid of her and having 20 bucks for all my trouble and pain and lasting irritation.

But no, much later the fool texted me to ask if she had left a hundred in the cab.  Thinking it highly unlikely I lifted the backseat up, and amazingly, there it was.  Her third text to me said "Never mind" but nonetheless I called both her and dispatch, telling everyone that I would get it back to her once I came back from an overnight hiking jaunt scheduled for early Wednesday morning.  And all this after not charging her for what she fully owed me.  My personal policy has been, and remains, once I tell a passenger to go, I'm not interested in the money, my sole priority being to get the person out of the cab, like now, pronto, get out and stay out!

The hike and overnight at Lake Talapus in the Alpine Lake Wilderness was wonderful, sleeping away, away from the maddening crowds, listening to owls and other birds talk in the tranquil night.  But knowing I would have to deal with the situation Thursday morning didn't make me happy, knowing she was at best unpredictable, and worst, completely out-of-her-mind.

Finding new texts on my telephone, along with the fact that she was leaving messages with both dispatch and Yellow's Superintendent office, I called her to give her a more-or less ETA.  Problem was she never told me where she was and it wasn't West Seattle where I originally found her but somewhere near the airport.

Suffice to say she wasted yet more of my time, finally all this nonsense coming an end by meeting me in  a car in Chinatown driven by either a current "John" or her pimp, then very reluctantly giving me five dollars for my great honesty and effort.   And this time I got a really good look at her with "Oh my God!" my response, the woman trouble times ten and a hectoring addict hen, and certainly no ones friend!  Why anyone would pay to have sex with this individual is a mystery that I will let someone other than myself attempt to solve and decipher.  Crazy, crazy, and I repeat, crazy, insane etc.

As I keep saying, "Ain't taxi fun?" No!

DDS Update

PSD/Yellow is still negotiating the contract, meaning the changeover and installation WILL NOT be completed before the new school run season begins in September.   One email today told me they planned to do 40-50 cabs at a time.  All this is getting me to think that Puget Sound Dispatch is writing all of us a prescription for disaster and that perhaps it would be better if we waited until next year to complete the changeover to DDS.  I personally will need some reassurance that squeezing all these changes into the autumn months will not once again result into the boondoggle that we all experienced 4 years ago.  We do not need that to occur again. No, not at all.

You're mean!

I can't imagine how many grocery runs I've done since 1987 but this one last Sunday at the Ballard Safeway deserves commentary because when I attempted to load the two bags in the cab she screamed "Don't touch my bags!" followed by tears and saying how mean I was for trying to complete a very routine pickup.  What was her issue?  Schizophrenia near as I can tell.  While I have empathy her response sacred me because what would she say or do next?  Since I didn't know I had to drive away, leaving her to negotiate with the next cabbie.  Good luck!

Tacoma Yellow Cab Kaput!

I was astonished to find out that the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry had forced the closure of Tacoma Yellow.  Longtime readers know I have mentioned that battle in the past but it appears that L&I won the day by killing Yellow.   I hope to feature the full story next week.

Kudos to the City and County Concerning Medallion Renewal

As opposed to just notifying the associations, like Seattle did when it came time to inspect and calibrate our taxi meters, this time I received an email detailing dates and times for all owner appointments.  Thank you, Seattle and King County, for the good communication.  It is appreciated.

Magnolia Marina Fiefdom 

Located on the south side of Magnolia bluff, the Palisades Restaurant and the Magnolia Boat Marina have long been a commonplace taxi pickup and drop off, personally working there over a thousand times, and not once until this past weekend have I ever encountered any interference.  Certainly I have noticed the small guard shack located on the public street but since it was never occupied I gave it little thought other than it seemed rather out of place.  But this past Saturday night some woman attempted to stop me as I drove on West Marina Place toward a pickup at the restaurant.  Later, on Sunday morning, I stopped and looked at all the street signage and saw nothing indicating W. Marina Place was anything but a public street.  In most cases there will be posted signs indicating you are entering a private street but there are no such signs anywhere, and in my 30 cab year experience, there never have been.

Asking the kids working the Palisades valet, they said the marina was private but knew nothing concerning the streets themselves.  Upon leaving this same woman tired to stop me but I kept on going, little amused by what I saw as some kind of self-styled vigilantism attempting to achieve what I had no idea.  If I ever have a spare moment I am going to ask the City of Seattle  about what they know or don't about legal public access on W. Marina Place.  I am curious concerning the ultimate answer of who is in charge, the City of Seattle or a bunch of upper-middle class folks floating around in 500 thousand dollar boats.  All I can say is that they better watch out because I am tempted to save up all my pennies and buy a second-hand submarine.  Up periscope!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Taxi Is A River & Updates & Current Taxi Hodgepodge

As I was telling two friends recently, one of whom drove taxi in Chicago eons ago, taxi is a constant river flowing 24 hours day and night, passengers and situations a non-stop universal conversation ending up in your backseat, saying "How are you?" and "This is where I am going. Please take me there."  This early Monday morning, after a slower than usual Sunday, a passenger from Georgia needed to go to airport at 1:30 AM all the way from the University Village Silver Cloud.  Last Monday morning, after enduring a slow Sunday evening, I suddenly found myself zipping a customer round-trip from West Seattle to the 24 Hour Queen Anne Bartells where he was picking up a pain prescription for a friend dying from cancer.  Directly after that, I got a 2:30 AM time-call to the airport, a now retired US Army vet who had done a total of 8 war-zone deployments.  "My body still hurts! was his lament.

Yes, taxi a human river flowing into your cab, never knowing who or what is coming next, the only guarantee a quick and intimate immersion into a stranger's life, your cab not a car but a lifeboat navigating the river, huge boulders and dangerously swift rapids impeding your way!  And once safely upon the shore, the passenger saying 'Thank you. Thanks for getting me here!"

DDS Update

At the moment, there isn't one as PSD awaits attorney review.  When I know anything new, I will post it immediately.

New York City Uber Limits

NYC is going forward with a one-year moratorium upon new ride-share license issuance.  Currently NYC has 100,000 ride-share operators.  The taxi number is 13,500.

Seattle has over 50,000 ride-share drivers.  We have just over 1000 cabs.

Next Weekend Blue Angel I-90 Closures

Remember that next Saturday and Sunday I-90 will be closed both east and west bound when the Blue Angels Navy Jet Acrobat Team will be flying over lake Washington.  Listen to KOMO Radio 1000 for all the details.

A Certain Demographic is Trying Kill Everyone at the Gas Station

We cabbies spend a lot of time at gas stations filling up the cab, especially if your proud automotive steed is a big, old Ford Crowne Victoria, like my YC 1092 is.  And the past few years I have been coming across a very disturbing behavior exhibited by mostly young African-American youth in their teens and early 20s who don't seem understand that you CAN NOT bring a lit cigarette anywhere near a gasoline pump.  How can anyone not know that volatile fumes emanating from a pump can and will explode into a lethal ball of flames?  Well, these dumbbell kids, already thoroughly alienated, don't seem to understand basic science, and totally resent being told that what they are doing is suicidal, not to say homicidal, potentially blowing all of us into smithereens.

 Last night at the N. 105th & Aurora Avenue N. Arco, none of the young fools wanted to listen or heed my warning, instead shouting I am racist, etc.  Yes, nutty and stupid and damn well irresponsible.

Do they care?  No, they don't care, ready to kill you, me, themselves at a smoky moment.  Welcome, to America, home of cultural illiteracy and behavior unacceptable to  everyone expect youthful thugs angry at the world and existence in general.  Fun stuff it ain't!

I Told Them, Only Once in Thirty Years....

Yes indeed that is what I said to the cops a block away from the 2 cars illegally parked in our posted Amtrak taxi zone, that only once have I seen the SPD ticket cars in our cab stands.  And further, I told them that the reason why was simple, we are not a priority.

And then I walked away.  Like the dumbbell kids, these cops didn't care for a moment anything about me and any other cabbie.  "Screw you!" was their attitude, and hey! I heard you, I really did.

And thank you not very much!

Monday, July 23, 2018

$7.70----Are You Sure This Is The DT Sheraton? Plus DDS Update

The usual disorientation of the average passenger is galling, which is why the advice to follow their directions borders upon the ludicrous, knowing full well they don't know, and worse, don't want to.  There is a Yellow dictate saying you must listen to the passenger, even if it means the lemming is telling you drive off the nearest cliff, you must do it, customer service, or is it disservice, our ultimate goal. 

So when, like yesterday's "as-mundane-as-you-can-get fare" from the train station to the downtown Sheraton Hotel, the customer questions whether we are there, what can the poor cabbie do?  While the options are perhaps many, what I chose was to reassure the dingbat we were there, not insulting her by saying "Hey lady, if you don't believe me, get out and ask the doorman where he is working?"

Turns out she thought she was going to the old Washington Plaza now Westin Hotel, somewhere I had my first drink in 1975 at a bar once called the Library Lounge with a woman I later married. The passenger in question said "she was looking for the hotel with the round towers ."  

And no it ain't, that not the Sheraton, and please get out, and no tip, because it's too late, I've already authorized the $7.70.  "Do you want a receipt? "  Goodbye!

DDS System Update

Thursday we met once again with John Denenfeld, the DDS Senior Account Manager which was mostly a reiteration of what we had heard previously.  While there might be a small price reduction, what we appear to be looking at is a cost of $799.00 per the new and forever permanent tablet.  While rumor has it that Orange Cab paid only $600.00, the reality, as Mr. Denenfeld confirmed, was $1500.00 per cab.  Pricey to say the least.  

Expect a handout flyer, mostly composed by me, to be ready for your reading pleasure sometime later this week.  It will be plain and simple and the ultimate truth.  If you don't believe it, please make an appointment with the next available taxi psychiatrist. It might help. And please, don't see me in the morning!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Important Changes Concerning The South Dearborn Meter Testing Station & Is DDS Wireless Dispatching Coming To Yellow?---It Appears To Be True

Alarms last week alerted me to noise emanating from the City of Seattle's Regulatory Compliance and Consumer Protection office concerning the shifting of some regulatory duties from the longstanding South Dearborn Street Testing Station to something called the SeaPark Station located downtown on James Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in an underground (building interior) parking lot.  That displeasure was voiced of course isn't uncommon anytime two or more people are placed together in a working or cooperative environment, setting the stage for conflict and disagreement and feelings of resentment, spotlighting the thought that the local taxi industry was being unjustly marginalized.  Accustomed to rancor and histrionics I sought out answers to questions and found some reassurance.  This is what I know and believe to be accurate and true.

The ultimate future of the South Dearborn City of Seattle testing and licensing complex is under discussion, currently in a kind of bureaucratic limbo, with mid-level management deciding which direction is financially beneficial to the city.  Essentially they are in a what, how and why quandary, knowing decisions made today will dramatically affect the many future tomorrows.  That perplexities exist is the government model which is why concern remains forefront to many involved. 

Part of the objection to the SeaPark site is its unavoidable interior (and inferior) ambiance---artificial light and gaseous odor never quickly embraced by the human animal, naturally preferring less confining premises.  I was told, at least when multiple taxi testing is required, someplace other than SeaPark would be utilized, including the possibly of a mobile testing unit that would travel to appropriate locations.  I certainly endorse that kind of option, accommodating the busy cabbie who would rather not stop but keep on going and going. Another positive it seems for the City is that it is close to their offices, a short walk taking them there.  Many like that idea.

What shocked me most about all this was not City employee grumbling but that the SeaPark changeover was well known to many local association representatives and lobbyists, who, during the past weeks, had met with City officials to discuss the matter.  That none of them communicated to us, the single owner taxi community, is something I find egregious because we are the ones most affected by any and all changes.  I did request, more than once, that please, in the future, would the City of Seattle please not rely solely upon the associations to tell us what we need to know?  I did receive some reassurance that communication will improve. 

As limiting meter testing to two solitary appointments per week at SeaPark is ultimately a good or bad idea I just don't know.  I do know that a recent ventilation failure caused a facility evacuation, making a lasting impression upon many, prompting in part a shouting into the air which I of course heard.  Thanks for yelling, always a good therapeutic choice, relieving the stress of opaque and unresponsive government.   Also thanks for recognizing you have a friend in the taxi industry, forever loyal until deciding I just can't take it any more and begin hiking northward into the Paysaten Wilderness, searching for long lost sanity and that ever elusive creature, the voracious wolverine.

Potential PSD Dispatch System Changeover

Last week five of us (there was supposed to be nine), along with PSD general manager Amin, attended a dispatch system presentation by DDS Wireless Senior Account Manager John Denenfeld, telling us why we at Yellow might decide to embrace what could be a more stable system than currently in use.  Some discussion highlights included the following:

---More than 30 years of DDS dispatching experience.  They are contracted with one of the world's largest city transit systems, New York City.  If they handle a city of 10 million, we shouldn't be much of a problem. 

---They have 24/7 professional support in case of system issues.  Currently I think we have to wake up George in the dead of night and say it is time to drink some coffee, we have problems that won't wait.  Put on your pants but don't take the time necessary to brush your teeth.

---A tablet that never requires replacement.

---A professional company responsive to customer questions and issues.

---System Amazon Cloud-based.

---Alerting system tells dispatch when school run/HopeLink no-show occurs.

---System app allows driver to be out of the cab and accept calls on their smart phone, giving you 3 minutes to get to your cab and confirm. 

---We would be considered a "premium" account, in other words, a high priority.

If the decision to go ahead is made, the system will be up and running and functional before the new school season begins.  Costs are currently being configured.  And for my personal preference, I think it is time to return to the queuing system, meaning the first car in the area gets the fare, just like in the good, old voice dispatch days.  Wouldn't that be nice?

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Essential Utility Of the Shirt Breast Pocket

If there is anything close to a taxi uniform, it is clothing containing functional pockets because the modern cabbie is constantly putting stuff in and taking stuff out of both pants and shirt pockets.  If, heaven forbid, there is a hole in my pants pocket I am forever picking up keys and change off the street.  And just as important is that shirt pocket where I quickly stuff all those various one, five, ten and twenty dollar bills customers are paying me with, my shirt pocket a kind of quick safety deposit box which I attend to a little bit later when the rush is over and finding myself impatiently parked somewhere once again waiting for the next call.

But when it is sunny and my short sleeve shirt doesn't have a pocket, like the one I wore yesterday, I find myself stuffing all that cash either in the visor above my head or cramming it in my right side pants pocket, meaning I probably have to unbuckle the seat belt, or worse, stopping the cab and getting out and shoving all that money in, creating an uncomfortable bulge.  Better of course to just have a breast pocket available, allowing instead focus upon the road and not where I am putting the money, otherwise easily losing track and later finding it loose upon the floorboard, just waiting to fly out of the cab into the street.

While this might sound like making the simple complex it truly isn't because my cab is a tornado spinning down the road, complete control more theoretical than real or actual practice, all hell breaking loose everywhere: on the road, in the cab, and most especially, in my brain, needing that essential shirt pocket to ensure that suddenly I haven't become insane!  Yes, Tammy tell me true, minus my shirt breast pocket I am certainly sad and blue!

And without this basic sartorial assistance, I just will never know what to do!

Monday, July 2, 2018


Privacy.  When it comes to cab driving, there is little to no protection when sitting in that bright, yellow car for all to see or to despise or hate as is too often the situation.  Often seen as public property, the usual taxi driver is subjected to behavior better reserved for a tree: indiscriminate weather battering the external body, which is why those rare moments of privacy are all important---peaceful moments away from an intrusive human wind.  When needing to use the toilet, I especially choose out-of-the-way restrooms where disturbance is rare, allowing me to take my time as if I were at home.  One especial place is located in a First Hill hospital on a lower floor tucked away in an fairly inaccessible northwest corner at the end of a seldom used hallway.

Entering the building from the south I always take note of the three signed Mark Tobey prints on the left, this hospital passing for a first-rate museum and not just a sanctum for physical healing, forever wondering why such valuable artwork is allowed to be displayed unattended but since most folks wouldn't know the different between Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot or Grandma Moses, I guess the Tobeys will remain safe from the unprofessional thief.  Descending  the stairs and then walking further north I am always surprised that once again I am alone.  It is truly a relief to know I now have a few minutes respite from a meddling world.

Another hidden longtime lavatory favorite is one I have dubbed the "Paul Klee Memorial Restroom" due to its Klee-like stylistic floor tiling, a washroom located deep within the bowels of the University of Washington Medical Center.  Back in 1982-84 I did a bunch of psychiatric shifts there and got to know the complex well, that and the fact that we cabbies were once blood specimen packhorses, delivering "stat" packages all over the greater Puget Sound region, including such faraway locales as Whidbey Island and Olympia, Washington, winding our way down maze-like hallways during all hours night and day, searching for that elusive laboratory to the left, or is that the next right turn?

Yes, thank the taxi gods for a few precious minutes of privacy until the next passenger asks, "Just who are you, Mister Cabdriver?" and depending upon my mood, providing a perfectly inappropriate response, thus alienating the customer assuring they will never again enter my life.  And, yes, thanks very much for that, go away and stay away, God! I don't even care if you pay!

Monday, June 25, 2018

"The Killer"

An old hitchhiking trick is having the girlfriend stand in clear view while the boyfriend hides in the bushes.  When a driver stops to pick up what he/she thinks is a solitary woman seeking a ride, the boyfriend suddenly leaps out from his hiding place, jumping in with a big grin, implying Let's go!"  While irritating, it is usually an effective strategy with getting the couple down the road. 

Here too on a Friday night did I answer a call at a local University District hotel, pulling up to the waiting female passenger, only to have her call out to her boyfriend lurking on the other side of street concealed by darkness and local shrubbery. She said he was "only smoking a cigarette" but after a few minutes I doubted her story.

Perhaps instead he was "on the lam" and being extra careful to stay away from prying police eyes, never knowing when Seattle's finest might appear. But whatever the both of them ultimately were doing I don't care whatsoever other than I don't think it's the best idea to be threatening because you never know what kind of response you might elicit, especially since his words were "tossed knives" intended to cut and harm the receiver, in this case, innocent me.

It all started simply enough, with me asking what I have asked a least ten thousand times," Where are you going?"  When told the "H ________ Motel, I responded I had picked up there earlier.  This is when the young man, more or less 22 to 25 years old, asked very directly "which room, male or female, what time" which led me say "I can't tell you that."

With that interaction creating an immediate uncomfortable silence, I, intending to just be friendly during the next 7-10 minutes we had together, mentioned I had just come from Chinatown and my "meal-of-the-day," with the guy asking me where I went, along with a more general question about the "best dim sum."  Telling them it was the "Honey Court," and during the day, having great dim sum, he starting  aggressively asking me a bunch of rapid-fire questions which I first attempted to answer until realizing there was something odd going on, deciding to verbally slap him with a "I can't continue answering these lines of questions." which prompted his volleying retort of, "But you have!"

Suddenly I had the thought "How naive I had been!" way back in 1972, facing prison when it seemed I might have to refuse induction into the US Army, not comprehending who I would have been incarcerated with, dealing with people like this guy, obviously someone having spent many years "hardening behind bars," developing a survival strategy unequivocal its pugnacity, willing to kill anyone, me too if necessary.  That I now had a "killer" in the cab was now very clear.  Whether he had murdered someone, or would in the future, the potential was there, and I knew I was "nothing to him, nothing at all!" just another obstacle to kick out of his way.

Upon that understanding I shut up and got them to where they were going, not taking his "Thank you, brother." seriously as they left the cab.  And when I know that the prevailing current attitude is that anyone at any time can do this kind of occupation---hauling complete strangers from point A to B--- I say 'how naive" because being with people isn't simple, and if you think so, you just  might end up dead and that is just the way it is.   For many, life is no joke, and the passenger I just described wasn't laughing.

"You want to die?!  he says, "Why sure, I'll be glad to oblige you!"