Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More SPD & UW Police Overstepping At UW Husky Football Game & Not One, But Two New Seattle Mayors

Saturday night the Seattle police and their University of Washington counterparts were up to their old tricks, denying taxi access to the frenzied hordes exiting the UW versus Fresno State game, complicating everything by closing off streets just mere minutes into the second half.  And adding yet another new dimension to the usual confusion and traffic mayhem, they stopped all access immediately after the game, meaning thousands of fans were left puzzled and stranded waiting for taxis and Ubers that never arrived.  Why the authorities did this I don't know but I will attempt to get an official reply but from my experience I might as well be trying to contact Vladimir Putin, meaning they don't make it easy to communicate with them.  I wonder if this is intentional?  What do you think about bureaucratic distance, the hiding behind grey, opaque walls?  Is it true or perhaps I am just not trying hard enough?

When I did make it in toward game's end, it resulted in two Kirkland trips and one final "searching for my friend Mike" who had evidently taken a drunken plunge into the Montlake Canal, only to have been rescued by a passing boater.  Maybe it was best we didn't find Mike because my passenger kept saying "I am going to punch him in the nose!"  Doesn't that make sense, taking all this time and effort to find someone for the sole purpose of beating him up?  All I can say is welcome to post-Husky delirium, something I have seen too many times over my 30 years working the games.  Go team! rah rah rah!

Mayor Murray Resigns 

The past two weeks two weeks have seen the resignation of Mayor Ed Murray and the installing of not one but two new Seattle mayors.  This all came about when Murray's second cousin came out, 40 years late, to say that he too had been sexually abused by the now former mayor.  One can ask why it took him so long when he could have stopped Murray in his sexual tracks years ago?

There are so many important questions concerning all this, including if Murray has committed what is said, why in the political world did he think he could get away with something that was in plain view?  Could it be that since he never had done anything wrong in the first place, how could he think he would be  held accountable for crimes that never happened? 

Another question is, has anyone been paid?  I say this because the entire situation started with an infamous muckraking lawyer dredging up alleged victims from the far past, some of whom are convicted male prostitutes.  Has any of those intrepid Seattle Times reporters checked out bank accounts and sudden changes in life styles?  If they have, it hasn't been noted.

The outraged rhetoric has at times been appalling, epitomized by former mayoral candidate, Nikkita Oliver shouting just how outrageous Murray has been,  expressing"she just will never understand" how this horrible person got away this long with years of repeated sexual misdeeds?  Yes, it is mysterious on many levels.

I guess she and others have all forgotten how Trump, who was not only accused but actually bragged about his sexual improprieties, has not only avoided prosecution but now holds an elected office? That I am not impressed goes, as the saying goes, "goes without saying" but I had to say it anyway.

At least Seattle Council Member Bruce Harrell gave up his week-long mayoral tenure to Council Member Tim Burgess, who remains the Mayor of Seattle for 71 days.  Harrell brief tenure led to a series of emails between me and a known taxi industry lobbyist.  A focus upon that is something you might look forward to in next week's posting.  She did say that a few hours riding along in a taxi makes her extremely knowledgeable concerning industry issues. Hey, that reminds of Sarah Palin's famous "I understand Russia because I can see it off the coast of Alaska?"  She did?  Maybe she was wearing a special set of eye glasses.  I suppose anything is possible.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Panic In The Taxi Streets & Shirley Jackson Was Correct About Human Nature

Monday night I attended a special dinner commemorating both Merkel Cell cancer research and Merkel Cell survivors with my longtime friend Marty C. (fellow writer & Vietnam-era 1-0), Marty having, a few years back, successfully beaten what unfortunately has proved to be a quick death sentence for many who develop the disease.  The dinner was held at the sparkling new University of Washington Lake Union Research Center located at 750 Republican Street.  The food was quite good, along with unlimited glasses of decent wine.

As usual, having little time to spare, I took in the dinner, and not the accompanying lectures and presentations, wanting to support Marty in his continuing support and advocacy of his fellow cancer survivors.  Like Marty, who is currently residing in Tennessee, everyone sitting at our table were from out-of-state, one couple from Alabama, along with two friends from Albany, Oregon.  The sole reason I have for mentioning this event is that their stories about taking Seattle Yellow cabs were both disheartening and alarming.  Not that I wanted to be but instantly I was appointed lead interpreter for a troubled industry, translating the unintelligible to the novice speaker. 

How do you explain when a Seattle cabbie, one, asks someone from Alabama about how to find a Seattle address; and two, doesn't even know how to provide change for a ten dollar bill?  Another disturbing story concerned being fought over at the train station, only to be insulted by the winner when it turns out she isn't going far despite having luggage, it being her bags sparking the cabbie conflict. Another time, she couldn't get a cab at all, having to call a friend to pick her up.  These and other tales of taxi woe led me to provide explanation for what was for them inexpiable, telling them that inexperience and panic was the more-or-less answer to what they experienced, fully displaying our current sorry taxi state-of-affairs.

I told them that the very nature of taxi makes people crazy, and because it is getting harder and harder to find a fare, cabbie's are panicking, acting in ways they normally wouldn't, impacting both themselves and their customers.  A story featured yesterday on the New York Times front page, "As Uber Ascends, Debt Demolishes Taxi Drivers," reported by Winne Hu, examines what is happening in New York City and in tandem reflected in Seattle and other American cities: cabbies are simply having difficulty making a living.

Early Saturday morning, something very unusual happened, meaning that for the very first time in 30 years I failed to get at least one fare during "bar-break," no flags or dispatch calls, no nothing, being shutout for 2 entire hours.  Amazed more than anything else, I didn't panic and soon thereafter business picked up, leading to a reasonable successful weekend.  As is obvious, if "Mister Pro" is experiencing this kind of stuff, what is happening to the rookies?  They are going completely nuts is what is occurring, their behavior instant psychosis at the drop of the taxi hat.

And relating back to what I mentioned last week, about money-making troubles at Sea-Tac, I talked to someone over at Eastside/E-Cab and was told that they do indeed have a working dispatch system, and more, often can't get those E-Cab drivers to answer the calls, this in direct contradiction to what the E-Cab owner told me last week, saying dispatch didn't exist.  So what is actually true or not?

Perhaps, as I have observed much recently, many of my fellow cabbies, despite living in the USA for a long time, have simply failed to fully transition to the new, sometimes very confusing reality around them.  If there is another explanation I would like to hear it but after much observation I believe I am right.  At least the guys at the train station, after my repeated annoyance, have begun to move forward in line, thus filling the gap and not allowing Uber drivers to pull in and drop off and pick up.  Talk about annoying, being lectured by arrogant Uber operators, trying to tell me about taxi driving.  God help us all!

Shirley Jackson Knew All About it

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965), at least in the 20th C, next to Earnest Hemingway, might have written some of most important short stories during that particular period of American writing history, her story "The Lottery" expressing quite accurately what human nature can be, and perhaps is all about, concerned only about their personal welfare and little else.

The reason I mention Jackson is due to having YC 1092 clipped by a driver Sunday in downtown Seattle.  An unthinking passenger from Florida opened the right rear door into traffic, she being damn lucky to be alive.  The driver of the car was a young woman I suspect was an Uber or Lyft driver who wasn't completely in control of her car.  I have asked the proper authorities to check out just exactly  what she was doing at that moment. If she is Uber, she didn't provide me me verification of commercial insurance.

Where "The Lottery" comes into play is when I told the _______ tourist, that in the State of Washington, she was liable for opening the door into an oncoming car.  Remember, all I had done was pull up to the hotel and park, something I have done thousands of times over 30 years.

But since I told her and her friends something new to them, and potentially consequential, the good ladies, just like the good citizens in Jackson's story, began throwing stones, wanting to kill me while emotionally embracing the young woman who had nearly killed one of their party, thus ruining their Northwest vacation.

It was an amazing performance, made even more amazing because they were following a natural script, instinctively knowing their lines and parts.  AsI keep saying, taxi driving provides a front row seat to all varieties of human behavior, in this case spontaneous theater composed and directed by anger and hatred.  But if you think my ticket was free, think again, my cost of admission more than I could ever or want to afford, the cabbie paying, paying and paying some more to the end of known time!

Postscript 09/14/2017: More Pattern

In last week's posting, I inferred how the downtrodden are stepped upon by those in power, by those who have lots of money, or by people simply marginalizing others for no other reason than they can, their victims defenseless, unable to protect either themselves or their interests. Two good/bad examples of these kinds of behavior came to light last week, one featured in the New York Times; the other in reports about Houston, Texas and Hurricane Harvey's aftermath. Another comes from the most recent economic report concerning American income.

The NY Times article compared corporate eras, featuring a former Kodak (Rochester, NewYork) janitor, who through company care and assistance rose to to become an executive in various companies over the years; and a current janitor working in Cupertino, CA cleaning Apple offices.  One was given opportunity while the other seems fated to work herself to death, making $16.00 per hour and paying over $2000.00 a month for rent.  I know Cupertino because it was the home of my ex-in-laws, eventually moving their business from Saratoga to Cupertino.  I have to laugh at the fact that the great American folk singer, Joan Baez, that battler for human rights, and once married to a jailed Vietnam War-era conscientious objector,  David Harris, was for a period of time, the lover of Apple founder Steve Jobs.  Remember, you read it here first!

And the big hearted Houston-based companies, enjoying a combined 7 billion dollar tax break from the city, announced that they would be donating 65 million for post-Harvey cleanup.  Do the math and you will find 65 million divided into 7 billion 107 times, meaning the percentage of aid is low, and I am not even talking about annual combined corporate profits. 

And one other piece of news is that combined American annual household income is at its highest level ever, $59.000.  While at first glance seemingly a great pronouncement for all things American Capitalism, divide that number by 2 working people comprising that household and you come up with $29,500 each, showing you just how much money people are truly making.  Dividing 2,080 working hours (based on 52 40 hour weeks) into $29,500, and you see that folks are working for just over $14.00 per hour.  Last week I showed how the Federal minimum wage increased by just about 88 cents per decade.  Taking the figure of $14.00 per hour, that shows an increase of $1.76 per decade since 1938.  Real impressive, wouldn't you say, the richer getting richer, and the poor and working class fools, why they are just quietly buried six feet under, that's all. 

It is clear that this pattern of financial inequality is entrenched, and as is the case currently throughout the USA, stridently defended by the worker drones, ever so happy swilling beer and watching football players delivering brain disease causing blows to each other's heads.  Ain't life fun in America?  Sure it is, and I am just a complete asshole for implying otherwise.  Go 'Hawks! pound those hated 49er's into the turf!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

There Appears To Be A Pattern.... & 30 Year Anniversary & Sea-Tac Cabbie Trauma In The News

Two events last week, the bombing and killing of unarmed civilians in Yemen by the Saudi Arabian air force; and the capsizing of boats filled with Rohingya refugees fleeing ethic violence in Myanmar (Burma), drowning at least 46 mostly women and children, got me to thinking about the disenfranchised, the poor, the disadvantaged and simply, the more forgotten residents of this planet.  A New York Times photograph displayed bodies lined along a river shore in Bangladesh, the country where the drowning victims were seeking sanctuary.  And the New York Times photographs originating from Yemen were taken by a reporter who snuck into the country because neither Saudi Arabia nor its prime supporter, the United States, wants anyone to see the destruction first hand.  While this is awful, unfortunately, it is nothing new, not in this century, the 20th century or any other period in recorded history.

What is theoretically different now from say atrocities from the past, like the Belgium killings in West Africa during the late 19th Century of 2-15 million Congolese, or the Ottoman (Turkey) Empire massacre of over 1 million Armenians, is the now popular and  modern (and collective) pretense of caring, where diplomats appointed to the United Nations sit and argue while murder and famine persists in plain view.  As during the murder and maybe in Rwanda during their 1994 genocide, everyone, including the Clinton Administration, just sat there upon their hands and stared at the ongoing carnage.

I am guessing that many readers, while potentially aware of the killing of 8000 man and boys in July 1995 in Srebrencia during the Bosnian War, probably don't know that they were handed over to the Serbs by United Nation Dutch peacekeepers.  Such is how it was then and in the past, remaining to this day and moment.  If you are on the cultural sidelines, like the Pequot Indians in New England in 1636,  or the European Jews in 1933 or the Bosnian Muslims in 1995, good luck because you are going to need it, hatred equalling genocide guaranteeing your fate.

How this pattern of disregard relates to cabbies and the taxi industry is readily apparent to anyone driving beneath the top-light: we are subjected to "last class" treatment; and what is currently happening at Sea-Tac amidst recent labor strife underlines that no one, especially those in power, like  for example the governing members of the Port of Seattle commission, care little to nothing about the well-being of current taxi independent operators.  Not only have they been unaware of the trouble they have caused, I will take a Loyd's of London wager they will do nothing to change the situation. 

More upon that later but even those of us operating in the City of Seattle and King County know full well just how much we are beneath the uncaring (and spiteful?) bureaucratic thumb, the most telling example being the unleashing of over 15 thousand Uber and Lyft drivers, saturating the market and strangling the local taxi industry.  Too obvious, then, that you don't do something like this to a business community you care about and support, the City Council's message to us abundantly clear: you are not important, and even more, we want you to know and understand, minus any doubt, exactly how we feel---you are completely expendable!  Go away!

But as I said in the beginning, this is how the poor, or more politely, how the misconceived have been treated, in this country and around the world.  If you think I am mistaken, consider the history of the Federal Minimum Wage in the USA and get back to me.  And if you hadn't heard, the legislators in Missouri (The Show-Me State) forced the City of Saint Louis to rescind it's minimum wage law offering Saint Louis residents $10.00 per hour, making the city adhere to the Missouri state minimum of $7.70 per hour.  While pathetic, that is more than the current Federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.  Do you think you can live on that hourly wage?  I know I can't, no doubt about it.

In 1938, the FDR administration mandated, for the first time, a Federal Minimum Wage of 25 cents per hour.  If that doesn't sound like much, understand that the cost of living was much lower during the Great Depression.  A loaf of bread cost you 9 cents, with a pound of ground beef only 13 cents.  Average rent across the country was $27.00 monthly, with the cost of a new house averaging between 2-4 thousand dollars.  The sticker price for your new Ford or Chevy or Dodge would be about $765.00.  And how much was the gasoline in 1938 to power that car down the road?  A mere 10 cents per gallon.   Compare those prices with today's and you can see how, nearly 80 years later, a Federal minimum wage of $7.25 is not only wholly inadequate, it's immoral.

If you still are not convinced, thinking that $7.25 is okay, then let us do the math together, rounding out the figures and dividing $7.00 into 80 years, which comes out to a wage increase of about 88 cents per decade, meaning that every ten years the average American worker will not be meeting the usual rate of inflation in terms of their yearly income.

In Seattle, average rent now ranges between $1500-3000.00.  If you want to buy a house, you will have to fork out between $500,000 and $1,000,000.  You think you can do this upon $7.25 per hour? Even with Seattle's mandated $15.00 per hour (at a current $13.00 per hour),  you will still have a difficult time affording much of anything.  Instead, like me, you will have moved to Tacoma but Tacoma too is now beginning to match Seattle, day to day rents and food getting more expensive by the inflationary hour.

One last point about patterns concerning the "thrown away" sectors of a given culture, society and country, is an article in yesterday's New York Times featuring the French city of Marseille and how children from the Arab-majority neighborhoods fail to learn how to swim, something, along with reading and writing the French government back in the 1970s mandated as a human right.  One young man's story is featured, detailing his struggle to become a competitive swimmer as his area pools are shut down and never reopened.

Again, to this day, obstacles, monetary and others, are constructed to keep those on the outside looking in, assuring that those who fall into what can only be called undesirable categories remain there.  Another prime example is how the Roma (Gypsies) are still treated in Europe, Europe of course the perceived bastion of Everything Great that is Western Culture.  It was, and remains a bad story, the Roma too included amongst Hitler's Holocaust victims.

My 30th Taxi Year Anniversary

This September makes it thirty off-and on years for me in this crazy taxi business.  I had quit in the Spring of 1991, thinking I was done, never to return but prolonged illness and other life circumstances forced my return.  While appreciative of the good living taxi has provided, as said before, I am ready to say goodbye to the insanity I know too well called driving a cab.

Trouble at Sea-Tac

An article by Heidi Groover in the  Stranger's August 30th edition entitled "Screwed at Sea-Tac" continued an examination of Port of Seattle policy begun by the Seattle Weekly's Sara Bernard.  This time the focus is upon Eastside Flat-rate For Hire (ESFH), the group that won the current Sea-Tac outbound service contract and how it impacts their single-owner taxi partners, collectively known as E-Cab.  The E-Cab lament is that they are barely making a living while operating under the current conditions; and taking information from available anecdotal evidence, it appears to be more-or-less true.

Sunday evening, an E-Cab owner told me he was facing financial difficulties due to ESFH scheduling protocols, providing him alternating weeks of 4 days and 5 Sea-Tac days on, leaving working gaps of 2 to 3 days where he is banned from working the airport.  He said if he could just work a full 7 day week he would be fine but since ESFH demands that everyone pays the required $495.00 regardless of allowed Sea-Tac days or functional dispatch, he is facing a real dilemma trying to maintain a living.

Given I know everyone at ESFH, I believe I know how they could operate better or more fairly but despite Teamsters Local 117's insistence that Eastside is solely responsible, I instead point to the Port of Seattle and its questionable reliance upon independent taxi and flat-rate operators to fund Sea-Tac operations, requiring that each ride originating from the airport cost the drivers $7.00 for the privilege.  As I have stated in a past posting, my per-ride cost is about one dollar, far less than what Sea-Tac asks.  To me, Sea-Tac is totally unjustified in demanding such an enormous fee.  You also might notice that it nears the Federal minimum hourly wage.  That is to me a pretty amazing comparison. How could anyone think this is reasonable?

And the solution to all this turmoil and angst?   It is clear that circumstances necessitate that the Port of Seattle's Board of Commissioner's revisit their rate structure and recalibrate what they are making drivers pay.  Currently, the fee is scheduled to go up, not down.  Any increase, along with the current fee rate, is not sustainable.  Nor in my opinion is it moral.  As a fellow cabbie, I know how hard everyone is working.  And need I say that Sea-Tac's decision to accommodate Uber and Lyft operations only deepens the issue, making it even harder upon the cabbies.  Give everyone a break, won't ya?  Wouldn't that be nice!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Is It Time To Form A Taxi Union? & Transporting A Secret Agent To Tacoma

Last week the courts ruled that Seattle efforts to allow taxi and flat-rate and Uber drivers to unionize can now go forward, recent attempts to halt the process by both the United States Chamber of Commerce and a small group of Uber drivers having been turned down.  While this is a potential victory for local independent driver operators, I am suggesting that we in the taxi industry begin our organizing efforts sooner than later because I expect more upcoming legal efforts to stymie this kind of unionization. Why does corporate America want to stop a handful of drivers trying to control their personal destiny?

Because, if successful, it clearly holds national implications which scare Uber, Lyft and any other ersatz taxi-like service.  That they want to hold their drivers beneath their corporate thumbs should not be doubted.  If organized, it will cost Uber money, something they truly do not want to share with their drivers.  Again, Uber has reported a quarterly operational loss of over 600 million dollars, making them more suspect with their investors.  As someone at Wall Street might say, this is no way to keep a corporate romance alive, that first kiss suddenly stale.

And I should emphasize that this same attitude can be applied to our local taxi associations.  Do you ever feel powerless to change anything at Yellow, Orange or Farwest,--- money, the making of money for their personal profit seemingly their primary priority?  While this kind of indentured servitude does hold some advantages, the fact that we have little option but to accept what is dished out daily is something that should change, regardless of any kind or variety of unionization.

And yesterday a driver told me something, that while unverified, is very interesting about Puget Sound Dispatch (PSD) finances.  He told me that he and others figured out that PSD (Seattle Yellow Cab), after taking in account salaries and other operating expenses, is earning $200,000 monthly in after-expense profits, adding up to two million & four hundred thousand dollars.

To where and to whom these potential profits are going is something that should be known, especially since we at Yellow are experiencing the worst summer business-wise in 20 years. As all of us know, we all pay $10.00 per week for advertising, something I have personally yet to see anywhere.  If anyone driving at Yellow believes they are getting their money's worth, both through dispatch and media advertising, please hold up your hand.  But please, not with an extended middle finger.

My last comment about unionizing is that any new union should be run and controlled by the cabbies themselves.  Being babysat by Teamsters Local 117 is not the answer.  While officials there are good people and well meaning,  they do not and can not understand our shared reality.  And what will be my role in any effort toward unionization?  Given personal time restraints, like selling my place and moving and focusing on getting my newest book published, I am still willing to assist in working toward some functional structure and framework.  Again, I know this needs to happen.  Do you agree?

Working with Putin?

He was walking shirtless down East Marginal Way South near the Areo Motel looking for a taxi. Waving his hand, I stopped and the gentleman indicated he wanted to go south to Tacoma.  "Great, I responded, "Money up front and off we go."  As I turned 1092 around, he told me to make sure we weren't being followed, saying he would pay for any necessary detours.

Putting his shirt back on, he proceeded to tell he was on a mission and some nefarious parties were attempting to stop him, in additional to warning me not to answer my cell phone because he might have to kill me.  He also told me me that just 4 days previous, Vladimir Putin himself  had the secret agent's new wife flown to Seattle, the agent finding this all very exciting.

Responding back "That this was all fine." the secret agent slid down in the back, curled up and thankfully fell asleep.  Nearing his requested destination, Tacoma Community College, I woke him up, and rubbing his eyes awake , announced we had just shared an important historical moment. "Glad to hear it," was my thought.

Putting his socks and boots back on, he departed 1092 but not before leaving me with additional words of spy wisdom.  Most importantly for me, he left me a new $100.00 bill, the agent carrying a roll of one-hundred dollar bills tucked in a sock.

Having ignored her calls twice, I called "she-who-can't-be-named" back, quickly describing what had just occurred.  "Are you making this up?" she exclaimed, but no, I swear, this account is completely non-fiction, written and composed by disturbance translated into madness and now delivered to you through the world-wide web.  How exciting, wouldn't you agree, spy work just for you hot off the taxi presses!

Postscript August 30th, 2017

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit entered a temporary stay yesterday against the City of Seattle ordinance permitting unionization by taxi and other for-hire drivers.   A more permanent decision might occur as early as next week.  I also have two new pieces of information that I find somewhat disturbing.

Eastside-for Hire has joined with Uber to form something called "Drive Forward," which appears to be some kind of advocacy group promoting the current status quo, meaning independent operators would remain under corporate control minus any real option or legal recourse and appeal.  Especially in the labor situation with Uber, drivers remain quasi employees minus the rights and benefits of actual employees.  Does Uber, Lyft and other such companies want people's labor on the cheap, interested only in corporate profit and not the actual well-being of their independent operators?  I'll let you answer that.

More troubling information that's new to me is currently, the way the law was initially written, all official organizing efforts must begin with one labor body, that being Teamsters Local 117.  While it appears that Local 117 might be open to some alternatives, I am displeased that the Seattle City Council wrote  this kind of limitation into the ordinance in the first place.  What were they thinking, or were they thinking at all?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Everything That Isn't Fun About Taxi: Nearly Mashed By A Dump Truck!

Making sense of taxi is like making sense of the human experience: it doesn't always add up to something reasonable; or if it is considered reasonable, that very assessment must be suspect simply by who is making it.  One amazing example of that was taking someone from Dexter Avenue North just west of Lake Union all the way to Bellevue and back again just to pick up a take out order.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" I asked, and yes, he did was the answer.  Forty-five minutes and $89.00 later I had him back at his hotel with his Indian food order.  I could comment further but I will leave it at that, his culinary excursion my biggest fare of the greater taxi weekend.  I will say that, business-wise, this is the slowest summer I have ever seen.  More people and cars that ever before but it hasn't translated into more money into taxi pockets.  Whatever the cause, it is nothing good, that's for sure.

And what happened early Saturday night is past explanation other than pure recklessness because if I hadn't been in the far right corner of SW Thistle Street and 8th Avenue SW, the roaring dump truck would have slid up 1092's hood, killing me instantly. While the situation was simple, the truck driver's actions were anything but, flying up the middle of a residential street and cresting the hill at 30-40 mph, making it nearly impossible to avoid a collision.  That I did attests to my having driven cars since I was 12 and plain, old dumb luck.

As I said in my last posting, I don't want to do this anymore.  This very real question must be posed. Will I get out of this insane business before I am killed?  Stay tuned and hopefully I can respond in the affirmative.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Analysis Of A "Close Call"

Near accidents are a cabbie's everyday, and seemingly, our moment to moment reality, the cabbie exposed to death and destruction and catastrophe each time the car key is turned, the engine roaring to life reminding once again it is time to go and repeat ad nauseam what you did yesterday and the day before.   Who wants to do this?  I don't want to do this any more.

Even when you are not moving, it is dangerous, a fact exemplified by the death August 8th of a NYC cabbie, Mehari Bokrezion, who stopped upon a stand to rest and died from a heart attack, only to be found 18 hours later by his distraught wife.  His death reminded me that recently I found the business card of the late Bob Miller, a longtime Seattle cabbie who stopped his cab at a grocery store, getting out to sit on a bench, and dying there.  

Accident statistics for the United States tells us that a car accident occurs every 7-10 seconds, and every 14 seconds an injury occurs.  Every 12 minutes someone in America dies in a car accident.  If you don't believe this, last night I was driving on a darkened part of south-bound Aurora Avenue North, and suddenly, to my horror there was a homeless man running across six lanes and directly in front of 1092.  Slamming my brakes and jerking to the right I avoided the fool by inches as he dove out of the way.  Recently there was a Seattle Times article about how a large percentage of Seattle jaywalking tickets are issued to blacks (African Americans), with this insane and very lucky fellow falling into that demographic. Something the article didn't mention is that the majority of Seattle jaywalkers are homeless blacks daring you to hit them, a kind of very misguided protest.  

But what I want to analyze instead was a different close call occurring during a run to the airport Sunday morning, the kind of secret and unknown history no one ever knows about unless, as in this case, it is pointed out and examined.  In basic terms, it was something completely commonplace, my attempting to change lanes to the left, only to avoid a near collision with someone in that same lane.

What happened?  What did I do wrong?  I did glance to my left and only saw a white car a few car lengths back, and not the red SUV I almost hit.  Did I not turn my head sharply enough to get a complete view, somehow missing a vehicle in my "blind spot?"  Or did the driver not notice my turn signal and the big, bright Yellow cab inching to the left, entering the lane the moment I turned my head forward?   I will never know but I do know that more and more drivers appear to have no idea that "blind spots"exist, that location on the roadway just behind the driver concealing a car's close proximity.   This particular driver, aged in his early 70s, surely must have known about blind spots but perhaps not.  What he did know was how to overreact, honking his horn and in general acting maniacal and the complete fool

What it did do to me is have me once again examine my own driving, telling myself that regardless of anything, I am the one that must be in control.  Perhaps that reexamination saved the life of that deranged jaywalker.  Sure he was a complete idiot but that wouldn't helped the situation if he had been struck.  

All I can say is, 'let me out of here, please!"

Postscript August 16th, 2017

At least for me, one very interesting and surprising fact came out from all the news concerning the White Supremacist demonstrations in Charlotteville, Virgina, and it didn't personally involve the current president.  It turns out that one of the Alt-Right leading organizers, Nathan Damigo, spent four years in a California prison for robbing at gunpoint a San Diego, California cabbie named Changiz Ezzatyar.  Being a former Marine, and having served 2 times in Iraq, his defense held the claim that he is ill with PTSD, thus altering his normal behavior.  Just recently, during a Alt-Right protest in Berkeley, CA, he was seen hitting an unarmed woman in the face.  What will this guy do next is the question at hand.  As Trump said yesterday, these White Supremacists are good people. They are?  Is that really true?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Maybe Not Understanding At First Glance But A Real Taxi Poem

How can a poem concerning Haworth, England, Yorkshire be about driving taxi in Seattle?  The answer is simple because if I hadn't been driving a cab, hadn't been depressed and in a general "quite-out-of-it" state of mind, not for a moment would I have  found myself walking in Haworth with the woman I reference in the poem.  The poem is also inspired by something cabbies are always doing: reading the newspaper while waiting for the next call, two Sundays ago a travel article in the SeattleTimes featured Haworth and the Bronte sisters, taking me back to England and July 2001.

Many things from that era remain memorable and true, including the sad fact that if she hadn't been completely nuts I would now have a teenage daughter or son to be complaining about.  And as implied, if I too hadn't been nuts I wouldn't have allowed myself to be pursued by a waitress working at  a 24 hour restaurant where "steak and eggs, rye toast" was my usual order, eating out late and avoiding inappropriate relationships of various kinds inherent to the known taxi experience. Such is taxi as I knew it then and know it now, not much changing other than Uber continues to bedevil us, making taxi harder than I want it to be.


                       What was I doing?  I didn't know what I was doing
                       but there I was, walking down the street with you in

                       Nothing you now did or say was surprising because
                       you stopped making sense from our very beginning
                       but that not dissuading me from avoiding the obvious,
                       not acknowledging what was evidently clear:
                       just how troubled you were.

                       Now over a year later walking down lovely Yorkshire
                       lanes you tell me once you were one of the Bronte sisters,
                       which one I can't remember but whether it was Charlotte,
                       Emily or Anne truly not mattering
                      given the woman walking beside me has completely
                      failed knowing herself, and not so surprisingly,
                      not recognizing the man walking next to her,

                      someone suddenly a stranger and totally unknown,
                      puzzling her to just why he was holding her hand?