Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Four Essays---"When And Where I Learned About Racial Disparity" & 2 Portraits Of Poverty---"Georgia And Zorro" & "Can't Find My Hat" & How People Victimize And Profile Others: "Targeting"

Many recent interactions with both drivers and customers have gotten me to thinking thematically, thinking just what it means to be racially profiled and the often related consequences.  Oddly, I learned much of what I know today upon the subject way back in the years between 1957 and 1959 when our father moved us into a Toledo, Ohio housing project.  Though only age 3 when we arrived, I quickly received unforgettable lessons concerning racial tension and how it affects individual behavior.  In my book in progress, "To Age 13," I delve deeply into that period so this essay is designed only to be the briefest introduction to racial hatred becoming violent and dangerous.   To this moment I see myself chased across the field pursued by an adult swinging a baseball bat, trying mightily for a momentous home run, my head his baseball.

When and Where I Learned About Racial Disparity

Logic was not my father's focus, instead decision making his personal game of darts, randomly hitting the target and following it, and of course taking us, his family, along.  In deciding to return to his birthplace, Toledo, Ohio, he chose as our new home in 1957 that teeming cauldron of angry, displaced blacks known as the Ravine Park Village housing project, and amidst that roiling sea placing on us the solitary Caucasian street, the project's version of a DMZ zone, theoretically immune from the prevailing poison.
As that wasn't true I soon found out, my parent's setting me loose at age 3 upon the projects, not thinking through what they were doing to me as I wandered the streets learning about life and the world around me.  Why I was soon targeted I can't tell you, other than I was white, and the animosity around was a different color, even resenting a little boy incapable of doing them any harm.

One day my tricycle was destroyed.  Another time I was threatened for approaching a sizzling barbecue.  Then, upon an errand for my mother, a towering black man chased and swung his baseball bat at me.  But the crowning event, and perhaps my death save my neighbor's intervention, was being chased down by black teenagers and tied to a pole tighter and snug.  To this moment I see him, our artist neighbor running down the slope screaming as the teenagers fled, leaving me to thank my rescuer, taking me back to his place.

Yes, this is how I was taught beyond all doubt about America's race relations and how angry everyone was, somehow not taking it personally, instead remaining curious of what did it have to do with me, a little boy trying to stay alive, holding no ill will toward those who wanted to kill me.

Concerning my father it was entirely another story, disliking the man who I knew to be a fool, not fun discovering at age five your own father a dunce.  But being a little boy what could I do about it?  Nothing was the answer, there being nothing I could do except ignore both him and my mother which I did the best I could until I left at age 15, age 16,  age 17, and finally, 18.

I needed parents but truly mine didn't exist.  Some children pretend.  I wasn't pretending, Ravine Park Village a very real place, for me and my assorted assailants, a home not a home, a hell very far from any version of an imagined heaven floating upon our unconscious minds, all of us wanting to leave.

And we left! not sorry to leave!


The next two essays are about two kinds of poverty, one total, the other "working yourself to death" poverty.  Neither is a pretty story but the reality facing them and others sharing their situation: a grinding down to the bone.

Georgia and Zorro

Georgia is a Flathead Indian living in Kent, Washington but not for long, down two months rent and no ability to pay the $2,600.  She has been sharing the cost with her  sister but when the sister failed to receive a Social Security Review notice she was dropped like a "welfare hot potato," fating the both of them, along with Georgia's service dog Zorro and two cats, onto the streets. And since their total combined monthly Social Security equals just over $1,500, it means they have almost nothing left over after paying the rent.

Where is their free choice?  Instead, prisoners of an unfeeling culture they have no alternative but to remain enslaved to a situation not of their making.

Despite her age, Georgia is childlike, someone, like so many North American aboriginals, not belonging to the modern world, adrift upon a rushing river quickly taking them over a sheer and deadly cataract.  Zorro too has given up, grief his mood, depression his immediate reality.

Together they tell a story no one cares to read.  Soon, too soon, they will be dead, and no one will remember, dust strewn upon the wind.  They will be dead, that's all.

"Can't Find My Hat!"

The most important fact of this true "life-as-it-really-is" tale is the figure of $165,101,172.00; or to make it plainer, the Seattle Mariner's total 2018 payroll is One-hundred & sixty-five million, One hundred & one thousand, & One-hundred & seventy-two dollars and no cents.  I mention this because the middle-aged woman living way out south in Normandy Park was on her way to the Angle Lake Light-rail Link station so she could serve hungry baseball fans at SafeCo Field.

Having almost cleared her apartment complex, I had to turn around as she realized she had forgotten part of her uniform, her hat.  Watching the meter tick I became concerned that she was having trouble locating it, and sure enough, she came back in a panic, "They are going to fine me!"

As I sped forward, she talked to herself aloud, wondering just where that hat could be.  By the time we arrived, she sounded resigned to whatever fate awaited her.  She even tipped me a dollar.  And this is someone making the local minimum wage.

Want to guess how much "the King" Felix Hernandez is making this year?  Just over twenty-six million dollars.  And shall we estimate what she made during the game?  Just about $110.00 or so, minus the fine of course.  Now we know why Hernandez is Royalty and she is what, just what is she during these baseball games?  Does anyone want to guess?


This final essay is all about profiling, about how people just won't let other people be, letting them walk down the street minus all opinion.  Always, always, members of our species continually comment, silent or not, about others good and bad.  Can people just stop themselves and shut up?  No, the answer is no, they can't, it being far too much fun making someone else your personal business!


She stood on the street in front of the Victoria Clipper ferry pier extremely conscious she once again, as always, was on display for every one's long nose sticking itself into her private sphere, not wanting anything else but to walk on her way just like anyone else, just as it is her right to do.  But no, as she knew too well, everyone wanted to look at her, the men for obvious reasons, and their wives too, for motivations slightly more nuanced.

Escape?  No one escapes from the staring and judgmental eyes.  If you are brown or black, you are potential trouble.  If you're fat, you are disgusting.  If you are rail-thin, you're distasteful and culturally unacceptable.  If you are young teenagers laughing, you are boorish and immature.  And if you are a hippie, you stink, everyone knowing you require a quick bath.

And if you think it isn't so, just ask a passing cop.  They'll tell you all about it, they really will!

And if you're grabbed by the collar and pushed into a wall, you can thank that great liberal GOP Bloomberg, the once mayor of NYC reminding everyone who is young and black and proud that it wasn't a good idea six years ago and it still isn't, you being what you are and you damn well better not forget it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Say Hello To Richard, Former Graytop Cabbie And Two-Term Island County Sheriff & Traffic To The South, Traffic To The North---Caught In Place, Unable To Move

It's rare for me to have real affinity with a passenger but when I do, quite often it's with someone who has shared the taxi top-light and in some shape or form understands the inherent stress and pressure connected to the mundane madness we know and hate, consuming us to the cabbie bone.   One such person recently entered my cab, Dick, many years ago a Seattle GrayTop cabbie; and a few years after that, Langley, Washington Chief of Police, and again a few years later, finding himself the elected two-term Sheriff of Island County, Washington.

Now in his late 80s, he reminisced about his "days in law enforcement," saying little about his Gray Top hours other than it kept him going while in the Police Academy, but being more specific about his Island County Sheriff days, said he oversaw five murder and two rape investigations.  Knowing that Whidby Island has a big US Navy Air Base, I asked him whether he had dealt with misbehaving Navy personnel, and yes, he knew about them, about 20 percent of all incidents tied to the base.  "We tried them in civilian court and then the Navy took over," saying the Navy did the job of jailing the convicted sailors.

Dick said he did all the "hiring and firing" of his deputies, relating how he had to fire "one very smart guy from Florida," who upon arriving late at the Mukilteo ferry heading to Clinton, made the big mistake of "calling the ferry back," using his authority as an Island County Deputy.  He said that it was he who gave John Urquhart, the recently unseated King County Sheriff his first job.  "Smart guy, smart guy, a good cop."

In short, Dick is someone who simply believes in evenhanded fairness, never deviating from the moral norm.  I told him how I got my first taxi ticket when the Seattle cop, not liking my response of "I didn't run a red light." came back with not one but two violations.  Dick just shook his head.

Too Much Traffic!

Last Friday morning I started off with two good school runs, first from the deep North-end  in Shoreline to West Seattle; then from there to an elementary school in Renton near the Renton/Boeing Airport.  Great runs but I found myself trapped south at seven in the morning, all logical routes north blocked by walls of non-moving traffic.  One positive is that it gave me opportunity to check out a joint I've had my eye on---The Redwing Cafe (206-420-1706), a coffee shop and bakery located at 9272 57th Avenue South.  I took one bite of their croissant and thought, "Paris!" and damn was it good, the best croissant I've had in " ersatz city" Seattle.

Later, at about 6:30 in the evening, my mission was to take Deb, a regular Yellow customer home from North 185th & Aurora Avenue North down south to my old stomping grounds, Capital Hill but was again thwarted by some of the worst! traffic I have ever experienced on I-5.  As the meter ticked, ticked away, I finally got off and fought my way down past the University Hospital and up 23rd East and East Aloha to Volunteer Park, finally reaching her building on Bellevue Avenue East. It was horrible, costing her more than it was worth, as I cut off the meter at $40.00 when normally getting her home is $30-35.00.  Being a sport, she gave me fifty but I tell you, this kind of traffic is nuts, and yes, you can quote me!

A Good Guess!

Sunday the three Brazilians could not find anyplace in Seattle to exchange their Canadian money into American.  Looking like Sea-tac airport being their solitary option, I told him I'd take a Canadian fifty-dollar bill for the fare, which in Seattle Taxi-land, is a $40.00 flat-rate to the airport.  I was guessing,  once exchanged, I would be getting about $35.00 American.  I told Mary my favorite bank teller my guess, and she was impressed when it came out to be $35.69 but believe me, I am no mathematician, barely able to add and subtract.  I just got taxi lucky, with my well-honed cabbie instincts guiding me down the financial avenue. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Nation Built Upon Racial And Ethnic Violence And Discrimination: A Short & Quick History of Phyletic Bias In The United States

My first impulse to write this particular posting came out of concern that something I wrote last week could be misinterpreted as slanted against minority or immigrant groups, which it wasn't but anytime, especially in this current anti-immigrant era, anything hinting group accountability could be construed as condoning collective blanket punishment against an entire community, something I would never think of or could support.  That I am disgusted with lying by anyone for any purpose goes without question but I find myself especially galled when my potential customer base is deceived by fellow transportation providers for the sole purpose of extracting as much money as they can from the passenger's wallet.  Not only do I find these actions nonsensical and repugnant, I understand fully that the immigrant cabbie is endangering their very ability to remain in the USA because cheating a customer is a misdemeanor, which upon conviction, qualifies and targets them for deportation whether a Green Card holder or recent naturalized citizen.

This fact is no joke in these Donald Trump poisoned times, a period where racial hatred emanates daily from the White House.  Few know that in 1964 Donald Trump and his father were discovered by the Federal Government to have illegally not rented to potential black tenants in NYC.  Only a settlement and substantial fine prevented them from being formally indicted.

That this man is now President says much about America today and what it means to be a person of color living in the United States and obstacles faced.  And that this is nothing new shouldn't be surprising which I is why I will be briefly outlining America's sordid racial history and how it relates to the country we reside in today.   Knowledge, not ignorance should be our guiding light.

Again, I consider this outline, however comprehensive it is or not, to only be a primer upon the subject, encouraging everyone to delve deeper into a topic essential to every living American, newly arrived or native born.  Without knowledge, one is blind, and to not know our countries history is like not knowing your own name, who your parents are and where you were born.  Knowledge then is purposeful, taking you to where you need to be, knowledge forever your comfortable home, warm and well lit.

Historical Timeline 1492 to the Present, June 2018

Christopher Columbus arrives in North America on October 12th, 1492, landing on the island now known as Hispaniola in the Caribbean.  Amongst other actions, he captured over 25 Indians (he thought he was in Asia) and transported them back to Spain, with only 8 surviving the journey.

Tiguex War 1540-1541---Tiwa Indians from both sides of the Rio Grande River in what is now the State of Mexico and Mexico fight the Spanish army led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado.

American Indian Wars 1622-1898

Spanning three centuries, both early colonists and the post-1776 Federal Government fought wars of aggression against the North American tribal nations, killing hundreds of thousands, breaking treaties and acquiring Indian lands.  The first recorded war occurred in the years 1622-44, Virginia colonists battling the Powhatan Confederacy.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 resulted in the infamous "Trail of Tears" with the 1838 forcible removal of the Cherokee tribe from Georgia to the Oklahoma Territory, a distance of about 800 miles.

The last recorded action, known as the Battle of Leech Lake, was a Chippewa uprising occurring in northern Minnesota. 

It was not until 1924, and the passing of the Indian Citizenship Act, that Native Americans were granted American citizenship.

American (United States) Slavery 1641-1863

Beginning in the Massachusetts Colony in 1641, and more or less officially ending upon Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation 95 (the Emancipation Proclamation) on January 1st, 1863, an over 222 period where Africans imported as live chattel were expected to live and die in lifelong forced servitude.

1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision that slaves were indeed the material property of their masters.

Jim Crow Period 1865-1966

President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) in 1865 opposed the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, providing former slaves American citizenship, thus empowering Southern Segregationists and White Supremacists to resist black integration, creating the "separate but equal" mentality fueling "Jim Crow" which in some forms, remain throughout the USA, especially concerning relationships with police.

The NAACP says that between 1882-1968 there were 4,743 confirmed racially motivated lynchings.

President Woodrow Wilson, president from 1913-1921, who was an avowed segregationist, oversaw separate toilets for whites and black at his Treasury and Interior Departments.

Negro Baseball Leagues 1920-1960.  Until the black ballplayer Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15th, 1947, blacks were not allowed into the baseball major leagues.

When President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, a full year after Robinson joined the Dodgers, he fully desegregated the American Armed Forces.  During WWII blacks served in separate units, usually led by white officers.

1954, the Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court ruling that the racial segregation of school children was illegal.

Negro Motorist Green Book, 1936-1966, an African-American road travel guide to restaurants and motels/hotels catering to blacks in the South and elsewhere in the USA.  If African Americans wanted to eat and sleep without getting arrested, they needed this guide.

In 1964, pushed by President Johnson (LBJ) the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended an over 150 year span of segregation in the USA, while also banning employment discrimination due to race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Voting Rights Act of 1965, also by President Johnson, was aimed at overcoming and removing legal barriers aimed at preventing blacks from exercising their right to vote.  Unfortunately, this battle continues to this day despite the best efforts made by fair minded Americans.

Immigration Acts & Actions

Naturalization Act of 1798 required a 14 year wait to become an American citizen.  Currently you must wait 5 years before you can apply but only 3 years if you are married to an American citizen.

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.  If you were Chinese, you were not welcome, plain and simple.

Immigration Act of 1882 implemented "head tax" on all non-citizens entering the USA.

1885 Alien Contract Labor Law (the Foran Act).  Prohibited the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under any and all labor contracts. 

The 1892 Geary Act extended the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, requiring all Chinese residents in the entire United States to have a resident permit that acted like an internal passport.

!903 Philippines-American War, 200,000 to 1,500,000 to possibly 3 million killed.  What were the Filipinos fighting for?  Their freedom from the American colonists.

1917 Immigration Act required all migrants over 16 to demonstrate basic reading competency in any language, while also requiring increased taxes to be paid upon arrival.  All people of Asian origin were barred except for Filipinos and a very limited number of Japanese.

1917 National Origins Quota limited to two percent of total number of each nationality as of the 1890 census.  This means I am very lucky to be here because three of my grandparents were from Hungary and one from Sicily, people less than white.

The 1924 National Origins Formula capped annual emigration to the USA at 150,000.

Immigration Act of 1926 ( the Johnson-Reed Act) essentially excluded most anyone from migrating to the USA unless you were Anglo-Saxon.  You might remember Trump's comments about favoring potential migrants from Norway, their skin much whiter than mine.

The 1943 Chinese Exclusion Act of 1943 finally permitted Chinese nationals to become citizens.  That sounds great until you know that the Act limited potential Chinese entrants to 105 per year.

In 1954, Joseph Swing, then Director of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), led something called "Operation Wetback" which deported over 1.3 million people, including hundreds of thousands who proved later to be legal American citizens. Now do you feel safe?

In 2006, the Secure Fence Act was signed into law, mandating 700 miles of double-reinforced fence stretching from California, Arizona, New Mexico to Texas.  Obviously putting up a wall is nothing new.

Focus Upon Japan

On July 8th, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry and ships under his command sailed into Tokyo Bay demanding trade and contact with Japan.  When the Japanese didn't respond  properly, he once again in 1854 entered Tokyo Bay with many more ships and cannons, and Japan, clearly getting the message, signed something called the Treaty of Kanagawa, opening up ports to American traders and shipping and allowing the establishment of an American consulate.

Upon FDR's issuance of Executive Order 906 on February 19, 1942,  all West Coast Japanese-American residents, citizens or not, were ordered to leave their homes and businesses and be interned in concentration camps.  That they had done nothing to warrant their arrests didn't matter given American antipathy toward Asians in general and Japanese in particular, somehow being blamed for Japan's attack upon Pearl Harbor.  Many years later the survivors received a letter of apology and $20,000 dollars, this after many had lost everything they once owned.

On March 9th, 1945, the US dropped 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs upon the civilian population of Tokyo, killing between 80,000-130,000 people.  One American pilot reported that he could smell the cooking of human flesh, stopping him from eating for 3 days.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima, August 6th, 1945, and Nagasaki, August 9th, resulted in up to 226,000 deaths, including 20 Allied prisoners of war.

 German & Irish Migrants in the 1830s & 1840s

It seems if too many of one group decided to come to the United States to be free, trouble soon ensued.  The first large wave of Germans were harassed and maltreated and forced to live in squalor. Worse was the Civil War-era draft when poor Germans were seen as prime conscripts for the Union Army.  And since most didn't have the $300.00 to buy their out of the draft, the famously rioted in NYC.

Same fate awaited the Irish fleeing the potato famine, resident Americans not liking their Catholicism or their tempers, subjecting the Irish too to discrimination and hatred. Can you imagine hating the Irish now just for being Irish?  Hey, pour me a Guinness!

Eugenics---Darwin's Theory of Evolution Gone Amok!

Misinterpret Darwin's classic voyage upon the Beagle, then adding tainted elements of racism and class superiority and you come up with that bastard science, eugenics, once supported by the likes of President Teddy Roosevelt, H. G. Wells, Margret Sanger, Winston Churchill and Charles Lindbergh. The advocacy of such theory was popularized by a Darwin cousin, Sir Francis Galton who claimed that a "new social engineering" was a societal cure all, eliminating all those considered low functioning and feeble.

And it was the American Henry Goddard, whose 1914 book "Feeble mindedness---Its Causes and Consequences," later published the same year in German, that came the basis for some of Nazi Germany's most atrocious crimes, which of course clarified for the world what eugenics truly is---a bogus science used by fools for their own end.

In 1907, the State of Indiana passed the world's first mandatory sterilization law, mandating the "compulsory sterilization of degenerates."

In 1927, the Supreme Court, in Buck versus Bell, upheld the state of Virginia's right to sterilize young women considered "unfit to continue their kind."

In 1939 the transatlantic ocean Saint Louis held over 900 Jewish refugees escaping Nazi violence.  Famously refused entry into the USA, they sailed back to Europe.  Over 284 of those passengers seeking freedom in America were killed by the Nazis.

After what happened during WWII, eugenics, for the most part has lost its cultural appeal and the bulk of its supporters. 


Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria death toll: official 64 while the actual is closer to 5000.

Over 500 civilians killed by American bombs in 2017 in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin police swarm black NBA basketball for parking in handicapped zone, knocking him to the street and stepping on him.


If you listen closely, you hear the echoes of what I have referenced from the pass nearly four hundred years in the words of Donald Trump and his supporters.  That is why it would be wise to heed warnings taken from the near and distant past and make sure you don't involve yourself in petty actions that could jeopardize the well-being of both you and your family.  Play it straight because the history of this country says that it won't hesitate to kick you in the buttock all the way back to where you originally came from.  Taking a quote from Bob Dylan, "the cops don't need you and man! they expect the same."  Beware!

Postscript June 11, 2018

A few days ago, the American Historian Ira Berlin (1941-2018) died, a writer known for his thorough research concerning American Slavery.  Two books of his are especially recommended:

"Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South"  Published 1974

"Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America"  Published 1998

As I said, knowing our human history is essential, especially if you are interested in not repeating past mistakes.  Know the world's history and you will know life as it is.  Not knowing history, like Donald Trump thinking it was Canadian troops who burned down the White House during the War of 1812, when it was not until 1867 that Canada gained independence, is to be culturally and historically illiterate, something no one should want to be.

Monday, May 28, 2018

More Sea-Tac----The Stranger Article August 30th, 2017: The Same Story Now And Then & Flat-Rate And Cabbie Death Penalty: Is It Necessary ?

A friend sent an article dating from last year written by The Stranger's Heidi Grover, outlining what was going on with Eastside versus "everyone else," confusing me at first as it was nearly identical to what is occurring now, meaning little has changed in eight months, the shouting, if nothing else, gaining volume and range. Last week the leaders of South and North Korea physically embraced in yet another display of solidarity and commitment toward a peaceful and lasting political solution between their two countries.  One then might think that if they can do it, then it should be an easy matter for Eastside and the Port of Seattle to come to agreement and stop fighting over what, in comparison, is a very small matter.

But I must say it appears that some in the taxi community want to end Eastside's Sea-Tac contract now, and not later, which would fully explain their "tooth and nail" tenacity, Eastside literally fighting for its Sea-Tac life.  For what it's worth, my advice is for everyone to just back down, cooperate like the business partners they are, and attempt to operate peacefully for the remaining 1 1/2 years.

And why not, the world not ending if taking that route, allowing everyone to save face and get on with their lives, proceeding to the next chapter.  While complex, let it be simple, turning off the stove and walking away, knowing that when you let the water boil everyone will be scalded. It just isn't necessary regardless of all rhetoric and anger, it just isn't, much better ending both the argument and story, instead giving the commonsense God all the glory, turning out the lights and saying "good night!" to a nonsensical fight.

Lying to the Trademark Lawyers

The Turkish attorneys told me they were charged $75.00 by the ESFH flat-car from Sea-Tac to their downtown hotel.  The normal fare ranges from about $47.00 to $55.00. so clearly they were intentionally overcharged, something I heard multiple times during the week-long convention---that the flat-rate driving were lying to the lawyers.  Why any of them felt this was a reasonable approach is only something that can be answered by them.   But what is clear is that they drove many potential taxi and flat-rate customers straight into Uber's waiting arms, translating into lost income for everyone regardless of your honestly or inherent morality.  One fool even tried to charge a Seattle native $30.00 from DT to the Hillside Motel, an at most $15.00 cab ride.

Given this, I believe it is time for some kind of final directive be issued to all cabbies and flat-raters, telling them beyond all doubt that this kind of behavior will result in only one outcome: permanent termination from our industry.  This is more or  less what should be said to all those ciphers and fools masquerading as legitimate business operators as opposed to who they truly are: thieves and societal ruffians.

This is what should happen if a theft of any amount is confirmed by the City of Seattle and/or King County: the thief should be fired.  And then the City and County should permanently suspend his/her for-hire license.  The offense should be referred to the relevant police department for prosecution.  If convicted of a misdemeanor, all major American city licensing departments should be notified.  And if you really want to be nasty, tell ICE and see what happens to the fool, deportation becoming a possibility.  My guess if all the local associations took this stance, this kind of behavior would instantly vanish.

And if you wonder why I sound so harsh, I too receiving a backlash, passengers now not trusting me.  Hey, I resent being painted with the same stripe, looked at askance when instead, completely innocent, having done nothing personally to create suspicion.  I don't like it.

Another Cabbie Suicide in NYC

$700,000 in medallion debt, 56 year old NYC cabbie Yu Mien "Kenny" Chow jumped into the East River and drowned.  Missing since mid-May, his body was discovered this week.  He was reported to have been despondent over his inability to keep up his payments, thus resorting to taking his life rather than suffer further beneath the top-light.  Again, no cab anywhere is worth that kind of money.

Seattle Cab-Jackers Arrested

Ted told me that his assailants have been captured and await trail.  His cab remains in police custody.

Postscript 06/04/18

A Yellow Cab cashier (and current cabbie) took notice of my ICE comment, and I couldn't agree more, that the last anything I want to occur is for someone, anyone to be involved in having their immigration status questioned.  All I was doing, in shorthand, was stating that actions are consequential, and to not understand that the overcharging of a customer can lead to bad results is more than naive, it is dangerous, posing a direct threat to both the individual and his/her family. 

Due to the cashier's comment, I am inspired to to write a very quick and short history of America's history of blatant discrimination against ethnic minorities and people of color, meaning anyone who isn't "whiter than white" as the old laundry detergent jingo went.  By readying this brief history  I am posting this week, all recent immigrant cabbies will understand beyond a doubt why it is very unwise to think that America's current Federal administration has your best interest in mind.  To the contrary, and exact opposite, is far closer to the truth, meaning a very stern Santa Claus is watching to see if you are being "naughty or nice" and what that means to your immediate future.  Trump and friends are not playing games, doing anything they can to impede the future of anyone with an income under  a million dollars.  They want to "kick ass" and that is simply the way it is.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Summer Hiatus Series: Nine Years & Counting---The Challenge of Writing A Weekly Column

                  "Time, time, I have no time! and it's driving me out of my mind!"

Yes, that's it, that quote, quoting myself capturing my situation as I have no time to adequately accomplish anything, making this achievement of writing 468 plus taxi articles without missing a week miraculous and special, saying much about both dedication and allegiance to a cause,  conviction prompting me to weekly take the time to sit down and tell everyone all about it, even if you truly don't want to know.

But it isn't easy, trying to make this subject, taxi, fresh and interesting and not tedious week after month after year.  And perhaps even more challenging is ensuring that my prose meets the highest standards, too often disappointing myself when I know my prose styling on a particular day is crap, and despite all efforts remaining what it is: barely a small step above the lexicon rubbish bin.

And the reason is fatigue, I am tired, translating into exhausted prose collapsing upon the page.  Having read much JB Priestley, Willie Morris, Willa Cather, Earnest Hemingway, Virginia Wolff, Anita Brookner, Robert Graves, Raymond Carver, Edith Wharton, Charles Dickens I know what good and effective prose is, meaning my standards are high and when falling below what I know is acceptable I am not happy, no, not at all.

Taking last week's article concerning the ongoing madness at Sea-Tac as a good, bad example, my words swollen, over emotional raindrops splattered upon the page, blurring and smudging the text.  And yes, I was fully aware when I was writing that I wasn't at all pleased with my composition but felt helpless to do much about it, a poor swimmer just struggling to make it safely to shore.

What does working like I have the past five days, days filled with trademark attorneys flying from one scheduled event to the next, do to the literary mind in its brave attempt to form coherent and eloquent lines into grand sentences and paragraphs encompassing the well executed essay?

Nothing good, I can assure you, execution the proper descriptive, all this taxi nonsense killing the writing mind---words, words, all my words translating into unintelligible gibberish, sentence structure weighed down and mashed by repeatedly doing too much of nothing over and over and over again, all my well-intended phraseology mechanically softened turnip insulting both taste and sight, indigestible and bad and destined for the overheated compost heap, natural manure not for reading but for the growing of  garden vegetables. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Anatomy Of A Crisis: Debate & Chaos At Sea-Tac Airport

Anyone at all familiar with taxi as a business model understands, without being told, that on an annual basis there are a only finite number of fares, something true in the past and remaining valid today.  While some might enjoy pointing out that taxi medallion values in a city like New York remain much higher than Seattle's, despite recent dramatic declines, that deviation having more to do with artificial licensing caps than actual business volume.  But that doesn't mean that our business climate here in Seattle is healthy, because the exact opposite being true.

The primary reason for this are the high fare rates associated with cabs, often making them the last and not first transportation choice.  Why pay $45-50.00 for a taxi from Sea-Tac to downtown Seattle when instead the light-rail link will cost you $3.50?  You will have reason take a cab if you have 3 passengers and 4-6 bags but if not, why would you?  And overall response has been to choose anything but a taxi.

Unfortunately, now due to Seattle's now legendary traffic congestion, if you are in a hurry, taking a cab might not even get you there any sooner, again eliminating another reason to take that expensive ride.  In huge metropolitan areas like Chicago, New York, London, Paris, Mexico City, becoming an ant and descending underground to the subway is usually a far better and more sensible option. So why take a cab?  Only when are no good alternatives which, in most situations, is not the case.

All this is another reason why the Uber/Lyft/ride-share model, those direct taxi competitors, is ill conceived, trying to make billions from a million dollar industry.  There are real reasons why the recent MIT determined that Uber drivers were only making on average $3.33 per hour,  Uber having invaded a very modest taxi industry in an attempt to make it gold-plated.  Not a very good or bright idea.  But do all those Saudi Arabian and Japanese investors know this?  No they don't.

This truncated, strained business scenario exploded upon the local evening news April 17th when a large number of cabbies (members of the Western Washington Taxi Operators Association) serving Sea-Tac participated in a strike action coordinated by Teamsters Local 117, complaining that Eastside (ESFH), the company managing the Sea-Tac contract, was attempting to illegally downsize their fleet by 85 vehicles.  The rationale behind ESFH's action, thinking they held legal authority to proceed, was the great decline in Sea-Tac taxi passenger usage due to Uber and Lyft's recent dominance, now carrying over fifty percent of potential Sea-Tac customers requiring a ride home or north to a DT hotel.

This development, embraced and encouraged by the Port of Seattle, has upset what heretofore was a very tenuous balance: 405 taxis and flat-rate vehicles (up from an original 235 taxis)  serving a now far smaller market.  Given the ride-share onslaught, what is happening was predictable, along with the ensuing anger because, when including Uber and Lyft,  you can quickly see there are just too many operators sharing the same customer pie.

Along with the thousands of returning Sea-Tac passengers taking light-rail trains, thousands of others are taking shuttles and town cars in addition to the ordinary custom of being picked up by friends and family.  What appears to be clear is the Port of Seattle's focus upon generating revenue has left those once traditional service providers, the cabbies, behind, taxi not only losing their customer base but their very livelihood threatened.  And what is now happening is also too predictable, with the victims turning upon themselves, a kind of fraternal cannibalism ugly in its bloody realism, brother eating brother.  No, not a pretty sight to behold.

In early April ESFH sent out a notice to all its independent operators entitled "ESFH Notice of Voluntary Reduction in Airport Fleet," stating that due to having too many operators, 85 operators out of the current 405 would have to go due to the obvious drop in Sea-Tac business.  What ESFH was offering was a $20,000 buyout to those choosing to go.  But item #2 was perhaps less friendly, stating to "Implement fleet-size reduction if voluntary buyout does not result in 85 vehicles."  This notice also informed everyone that an answer was required by 5:00 PM April 17, 2018, leaving little time to consider a most monumental business decision.

While at first glance, it seemed the announcement was fair until everyone understood that the remaining 320 operators were required to pay $9000.00 each to finance the buyout.   Predictably this pleased no one whatsoever since the majority of them had originally paid $3,985.00 to keep driving at Sea-Tac after ESFH won the contract, this after paying I believe $10,000 over six years ago to Yellow.  An additional "salt in the wound" was the $245.00 weekly dispatch fee for an essentially non-existent system.  That it has reduced to $160.00 ( including a $95.00 gate fee) perhaps assuaged the tiger but never fully taming the beast.  Adding to operator  dismay was a rotation system limiting them to 4 days on, 3 days off at the Port, forcing many to work downtown Seattle and the misery of languishing upon hotel stands staring at the dashboard hours upon end.

The upshot of all this was the portrayal of ESFH as a renegade company that completely disregards established operating norms, often threatening their independent operators with termination while protecting others, especially Somali immigrant operators.  While some of this appears be both reality and myth, it might be indisputable that ESFH entered the Sea-tac market not fully comprehending the financial side of what it had committed itself to, like so many other associations incorrectly viewing Sea-Tac as the proverbial "pot-of-gold," Sea-Tac the "Golden Goose" superior to the turkey that is the Seattle and King County taxi market.

From the beginning, ESFH saw itself as being bullied by the local taxi single owner community, Teamsters Local 117 and the Port of Seattle (specifically the Port Commission); and because of that, took on an aggressive response, not caring who they alienated, their "us against the world" stance a middle finger at all presiding authority, saying, perhaps rightly, that they never wanted all those extra operators forced upon them; and sole responsibility lie not with ESFH but with the Port of Seattle and its labor ally, Teamsters 117.

Initially becoming a shouting match, it quickly quieted down after Mike Merritt, Port of Seattle Chief of Staff wrote ESFH a letter telling them that legally they were not entitled to either reduce or dismiss their independent contractors. That admonishment led to to a May 5th, 2018 ESFH response backtracking from previous statements, even stating a new policy of allowing operators to potentially work seven days a week, even though that might be a terrible idea in Sea-Tac's greatly diminished customer environment.

Given these recent developments, there appears to a temporary lull in active combat but unlike the famous WWI Christmas 1914 truce between front line British and German troops, I have no reports of carols sung or gifts of plum puddings and cigarettes exchanged, meaning tensions clearly remain high and could instantly flare upon the smallest provocation.  I can only wish that commonsense reigns during ESFH's remaining 1 1/2 years contractual years, with everyone focusing upon regaining some small percentage of lost customer base.  My major hope is that the Port of Seattle will somehow, someway enhance the ability of both ESFH and the cabbies to increase profitability because this is truly a economic issue transformed into cultural argument, something many have lost sight of.

As said earlier, this kind of infighting does little good, only heightening animosity.  I believe a huge attitudinal adjustment on all sides is due, and the faster this happens, the better it will be.  Part of what I mean is when I told someone today that some E-Cab single owners held hope to eventually win the contract upon its expiration, the immediate reaction was that they must be delusional.  How can wanting to be in charge of one's own financial destiny be equated to a kind of psychosis?  I just can't agree with that kind of response.

Above all, I feel, coming from all sides of this discussion, that we must have openness and clarity.  Without that, we in the taxi industry are doomed, not only at Sea-Tac but everywhere in the USA where top-lights illuminate the night, beckoning everyone to hop in and move down the road.  Shall all of us then calm down, engaging in productive conversation?  If it can be done in the midst of a shooting war, it certainly can happen with this situation.

And why not?  There is no earthly reason not to converse and shake hands.  None of us are the enemy.  Instead, recognize the opposite, that we are friends.  Once that is understood, then resolution will be found.  It is that simple.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Occasional Summer Hiatus Series: How To Make Money When There Ain't None

What I expected to be offering you tonight was a comprehensive look at the Eastside-for-Hire Sea-Tac labor dispute but instead is replaced by a brief tutorial concerning one important aspect of making money while operating a taxi.  Two reasons for the delay is the sheer complexity of the Sea-Tac situation, along with having 1092 go down with a malfunctioning fan, costing me hours yesterday and today, not to mention $275.00 hard earned dollars out the taxi window.

A very quick introduction to this monetary lesson is that during my first 12-15 months driving taxi I did it minus any real dispatch meaning that if I was going make any money I was going to have to figure out just where it was hiding.  Could it be on a particular hotel stand or the Space Needle or a concert or were the UW football Huskies home that Saturday?

With that fast summery I provided the primary clue to how a cabbie makes money when the town is dead, the weather fine and everyone is walking.  The key to survival then is to know beyond all doubt what is potentially happening, where it is happening and the given times you can expect to see someone get into your cab.

Sometimes it is knowing that a particular  hotel is full and guaranteeing an early morning rush to the airport.  Or it could be that a major college team like the University of Nebraska is down at Husky Stadium, translating into a huge percentage of visiting fans needing to go every which way in the city and Sea-Tac.

In other words, you have to be smart about it, tracking your taxi prey like a savvy hunter knowing every nuanced trait and behavior of whom you are seeking: the elusive passenger putting all that money into your wallet.  Persistence and positivity are key.  Depression, fatigue and anger are not, taking you down and keeping you there.

And just by following these very simple rules you will be ahead of the game, ahead of your competitors, and allowing you to sleep tight while your fellow cabbies are tossing and turning after a nightmarish day.

And as always, good luck, because luck helps when you feel like crying, luck the bandage upon the open wound.