Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Crashes, Break-Ins & Springtime Baseball Has Sprung---A New Cabstand On Atlantic Street

Everything remains per usual in Taxicab Land----my taxi buddy E. destroys his cab on the freeway while swerving  out of the way avoiding yet another collision, his cab hitting a wall.  This after a month ago being hit head-on and damaging his cab's front end.  And all this after he was rear-ended by an Uber driver.  He is still trying to figure that one out after the Uber's operator's insurance carrier responded by saying he only held a personal not commercial policy.  In other not-so-pretty words, the guy was providing Uber rides minus viable insurance.

Lately I have been telling passengers, once the topic is broached, that before you go anywhere in an Uber or Lyft, first request to see their COMMERCIAL insurance policy.  If he/she can't, time to get out of the car. And after this conversation I ask my customer to guess how much I pay annually for insurance for me, Tom and Raymond?  The answer is $6000.00, and this with clean MVRs.  Again, another good reason to avoid all moving violation tickets because they hike up your costs.

At one point I believe Yellow's annual insurance rates were averaging ten-eleven thousand per car due to keeping on too many accident-prone drivers.  So one could say that regulators nationwide are allowing Uber and Lyft to endanger everyone concerned because of very poor insurance accountability.  As for my buddy E., he continues to have to pay and pay for the privilege of avoiding instant death while plying the taxi streets.  Good luck is all I can say!

And adding further outrage and to an already insulting business, you aren't even safe when your car is parked, as my 2012 Chevy Sonic was, at our taxi exchange point and broken into, the left-side passenger window smashed to smithereens.  For the past year we have been exchanging the cab near the intersection of S. Hudson & Colorado S., just across from what once was the entry to the Yellow parking lot, the thieves getting nothing of real value except what is truly valuable to me as they quickly swept though the two glove boxes, taking what they found.

Oddly, they also grabbed the Sufi prayer beads an old Sufi Holy Man gave me during a 1999 visit to Istanbul, Turkey, something I kept on my floor-installed gear shift.   All I can and will say is that I hate junkies, finding nothing amusing about addictive and destructive behavior.  While safe "injection centers"are all the recent health rage, does anyone ever ask these folks where they got the money to buy the heroin?

I am now thinking of a good alternative to our current location.  The corner around 12th & E. Jefferson used to be popular place to park your taxi.  That might be a very good choice.  If there is a positive to this incident, its that there is a very good chance, thanks to an adjacent business, All-City Fence and their 24-hour surveillance cameras, that the break-in was caught on film.  I will be filing a police report tomorrow.

New SafeCo Field Cabstand a Home-Run!

Something logical finally occurred when the City of Seattle put a two car cabstand on the Northwest corner  of South Atlantic Street & 1st Avenue South, placing it directly across from the Mariner baseball stadium.  The only problem was Monday, after the game, I found two Uber operators parked there.  Perhaps one of the police officers standing mere feet away will begin issuing tickets.  Boy, would that be another kind of home-run!

Falling in the "what took them so long" category

A new Yellow computer-generated message is now telling everyone that there are now penalties for dumping calls, saying a third offense means termination. How many decades did it take for this to become official policy?  Regardless, the newly stated stance concerning driver accountability is welcome, having personally grown tired of cleaning up another driver's transgression.  As I always say, just serve the bell and see what happens, one ride often leading to another.  Too basic a taxi equation, I know, for far too many of my fellow Yellow cabbies---now that I know my taxi ABCs----are you now proud of me?  No, I am not, your taxi illiteracy hurting me and everyone.

A real case of blind injustice

Thinking about it, the  cop who issued me the recent U-turn ticket also, in an inappropriate moment of generosity, gave me permission to further break the law by telling me I could proceed two blocks further north-bound on 3rd Avenue to take my right turn on Marion Street.  The only problem with that advice is that during the morning and evening rush hours, all vehicles other than buses are limited to driving one block and one block only on 3rd, allowing you to take necessary turns.  One could say then that his advice was totally contrary to his previous action of issuing me the ticket, and that it appears he felt an in-general permission to do whatever he wanted.

Unfortunately, that has been my overall experience with police in Seattle and King County, holding a discretionary permission to punish in one situation and in another, do nothing whatsoever.  While it might be impossible to regulate human behavior, it cannot be called fair.

And yesterday, a District Attorney located in San Bernardino County announced that the killing of a blind and mentally ill man holding a knife and rock was justified by the City of Fontana Police. They knew he was blind and schizophrenic  

How can a blind man holding a weapon other than a gun truly pose a threat to anyone?   Why not take a broomstick and knock the knife away.  Or just hit him in the head with the broom.  How could he stop you?   Instead he was shot dead with an AR-15 rifle.  If interested, go on-line and look at the various AR-15 rifles.  They look nothing like a broomstick.

No Longer a Hippie?

Over the weekend I picked up a woman originally from Germany who had written a book about Hippies and the 1960s.  Obviously having a personal interest in the subject I gave her a card with my email address on it, telling her she should email me because I knew she would like to know about this book about New Mexico communes I have been reading.

So far, she has not contacted me, which makes me think that, while she maintains an interest, she herself is no longer a hippie because the hippies I have known, especially back in 1969 and the early 1970s, were incredibly open to new contacts and people.  I personally have many stories, including ending up on a commune in 1970 while passing through Abbotsford, BC, Canada.  Two of my fellow hippies, Rick and Micheal, were living in Canada due to the American draft wanting them, against their personal wishes, to join military service.

Regardless, here is the title of the book which might intrigue you.  If new to the subject, the accompanying essays could be of great interest.

"Irwin Klein and the New Settlers---Photographs of the Counterculture in New Mexico," edited by Benjamin Klein.   University of Nebraska Press  2016

It really brings a pretty much long, gone era back to life.  As it turns out, "she-who-can't-be-named" moved to New Mexico and lived the rustic existence for a few years around 1970.  When I was 12/13 I lived in Grants, New Mexico during the 7th grade in 1966/67, Grants a rough & tumble town located along the legendary Route 66 Highway.

As near as I can remember, I did not see one hippie in Grants during that period of time.  In fact, contrary to peace and love, I was involved in 3 fights my very first day at Franklin Junior High.  But I did learn how to drive when I was 12, certainly a kind of hippie sentiment, my father flaunting society's morals and standards.

No, Dad, wasn't a hippie in the usual sense, just alienated and crazy, and I mean really, really crazy. Fast forwarding to late 1969, Dad could be found driving a cab in Denver, Colorado.  All I can say, he was eminently qualified.















Thursday, April 13, 2017

Beware! Emerald City Law Group Is Reaching Out For You!

It is never good getting a moving violation, in this case a U-turn ticket while serving a $5.50 HopeLink fare from 3rd & Cherry up to a First Hill methadone clinic---getting nabbed by a motorcycle cop when there was absolutely no other cars around.  But, as I know too well,  that certainly doesn't stop anyone from issuing an unnecessary ticket.  There can be craziness upon the local roadways 24 hours a day but a simple and benign U-turn is somehow deemed worth the time and trouble, plus of course blocking the bus lanes while the ticket is issued.

One could call my attitude self-serving but I will never, ever understand the necessity because I know there isn't one.  It simply doesn't exist, ticketing should be about public safety and nothing else; and not, as in this case, the iron-clad application of rules defying reason and commonsense. Seattle has been infamous for issuing jay-walking tickets at 4 AM.  Why, the usual out-of-town visitor protests, why did you give me this ticket?  To those of us whom are long-time Seattle residents, we know the answer, and it ain't a pretty one either.

And can you believe  Officer C___ even offered me legal advice, telling me to check the middle box because the magistrate issues warnings every seven years.  The only problem with his suggestion is that  it equates to being an automatic admission of guilt to the alleged violation; meaning by checking that little box I was giving up every legal right I have to fight the ticket.  Can police legally give legal advice while simultaneously issuing citations?  Logic also dictates that if the officer felt  what I did warranted only a warning, why didn't he just tell me just not to do it again and leave it at that?

But no, it wasn't the officer's suggestion rubbing salt into the wound, making me question just exactly what is going on here.  Instead it was receiving a "solicitation of service" letter to my home address from an entity calling itself the "Emerald City Law Group," and its owner,  who I assume is an attorney, Stryder Wegener.  I am sure you have heard the pubic warnings about scams perpetuated through the mail and over the telephone. The alarm rang upon my opening the letter.

 My very first thought was, "How in the world did these people have access to my private information?"  And when I called them at the number provided, they refused to tell me.  What the gentleman did repeatedly say to me was "Do you want us to represent you? all the while it being perfectly clear I was calling them because I was gravely disturbed by their unsolicited letter.

The letter itself, which includes my Seattle Municipal Court case and reference numbers, attempts to convince me that hiring them is my best option.  One quote is particularly telling:

"You can always fight the ticket on your own.  That costs you time to go to court (at least a half day off of work), time to prepare for court (several hours), and your changes of winning are slim."

If that isn't manipulative, I don't know the definition of the word.  They go on to say that they have an excellent track record of winning cases, providing the figures of 1,857 winning cases to only 38 cases loss.  Of course they provide no evidence proving this is true.

So what is true about about Emerald City Law Group and their attempt to sign on new clients?  At the very least their actions appear to be a blazon invasion of personal protections, acting upon some mysterious permission that they can and will do anything they want.  Whether they have broken any laws is something I hope will be determined by whatever responsible authority.  I have already filed a complaint with the State of Washington's Attorney General's Office.  They in turn referred me to the local bar association.  I will also be filing a complaint with and/or against the City of Seattle as some important questions need to be answered.

Is what Emerald City Law Group doing permissible and legal?

Are the records of alleged moving and non-moving violations,including jay-walking tickets, public or private information?

If private, how did Emerald City Law Group access the information?

If public, just how and why is this kind of information, including addresses and telephones numbers, freely available to anyone who wants it?

As said, I and the driving public require real answers to these questions.  That the letter from Emerald City Law Group is, to my way of thinking, predatory, is beyond any doubt.  Did I in any manner voluntarily provide them with my private information or request they contact me?   The answer obviously is not at all, having never heard of them before receiving their letter last week.

Again, that this is a serious invasion of personal privacy is clear.  The only remaining question is whether Emerald City Law Group will be held accountable.  I will keep you posted.  I am looking forward to knowing their response.  As should be clear, an issued ticket is never a trivial matter.  And Emerald City Law Group's actions only underline this reality.  Beware, and remain aware, is my advise upon this and other situations regarding traffic violations.

And if, like me, you get strange letters in the mail from unknown lawyers, whatever you do, don't sign up with them.  Instead, like me, contact the City of Seattle and others, asking,"just what the hell is going on?"  A good and pertinent question, I am sure you would agree.












Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Where Would You Be Taking A Cab From A Homeless Shelter On A Monday Morning 2 AM?

Okay, it was two in the morning and I was both done, and done in, ready to gas up 1092 and head home but, as cabbies are wont to do, and given that refusing a fare is against our religion, something akin to blasphemy, I accepted a call at the Pioneer Square Union Gospel Mission, thinking they couldn't be going much of anywhere at such an hour, more than likely to the Shell station down at 5th South & S. Dearborn for cigarettes and sodas. But where they actually wanted to go, and where I took them, was the Tulalip Casino in Maryville, Washington, a fare totaling $104.60, a lot of money for folks residing at an homeless shelter.

Who these people really were I couldn't truly tell you because I had almost zero conversation with the pair, a couple more intent upon themselves and their joint mission toward a successful gambling session.  The woman was heavy, approximately 350-400 pounds or more heavy, upsetting the usual expected equilibrium making for a safe and manageable ride.  She also left a strong fecal smell upon her departure, requiring a twice concerted wiping down of the rear seat.  The male version of the two was mostly quiet, only occasionally coughing.

Other than the unusual starting point, the ride was usual and mundane, no argument about payment or anything else.  As for me personally, I was exhausted but, as I said, I wasn't going to pass up $100.00 even if it meant an additional sixty minutes or so of suffering and fighting to get through, all too typical when it comes to taxi, driving cab just many versions and levels of hell-on-earth where guardian angels are too few and very far between.

"She-who-can't-be-named" comment upon the whole affair was "There is something wrong with this world!" Hard to disagree with that assessment, when the truly impoverished throw their money away, the good after the bad.  I can only hope they hit the jackpot and zoomed to a better and kinder universe.  I also can only wish and hope that indeed that was their early morning fate, winning a bunch of money and, in celebration, taking a much needed shower along with quickly heading to the nearest laundromat.

Uber Unleashed Upon the Unsuspecting

On the front page of the Monday, April 3rd, 2017 edition of the New York Times, there was a featured article by Noam Scheiber concerning Uber entitled "How Uber Pushes Drivers' Buttons,"  describing in detail how Uber, through its app, manipulates drivers to work longer hours, thus increasing Uber profitability. Two quotes from the article I find especially revealing, unmasking Uber's underlying motives.

""By mastering their workers' mental circuitry, Uber and the like may be taking the economy back toward a pre-New Deal era when businesses had enormous power over workers and few checks on their ability to exploit it."

Another is a quote from University of Washington law professor, Ryan Calo:

"Uber officials," he said, "are using what they know about drivers, their control over the interface and the terms of the transaction to channel the behavior of the driver in the direction they want it to go."

All I can say is that if you are an Uber driver, watch out! because Uber is out to manipulate the hell out of you!   And if you don't think it is true, well guess what, Uber has already won, taking over not just your brain but your entire physical body, you suddenly no longer human but robotic, responding favorably to every Uber command.  Scary, huh!?

Meanwhile, at the Airport

All along, the cabbies who transferred to Eastside to work Sea-Tac have been complaining that their dispatch system wasn't functional.  Finally, Eastside admitted that it is true, saying it is now finally up and running.  All I can say is, who if anyone amongst the Port Commissioners are overseeing Eastside operations?  If there is said person, they might be due for a new set of eyeglasses.

Objective Criteria?

Yellow it seems is forging ahead toward a change to a new DDS-based computer dispatch system.  My one question is why are so many owners interested in doing this?  Can they provide objective criteria proving this very expensive changeover is necessary?   And what about accountability?  Will anyone be held accountable if it proves too be a very bad decision?

In other words, as usual, will all the consequences be felt solely by the lease drivers while those who made the decision will go asleep each night totally unaffected?  If that is the plan, it is a poor one, one that should not be accepted.  Instead, can we please consider all consequences before proceeding forward?  That is all I request, little else.















Thursday, March 30, 2017

Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo---Huh? Or As Sylvester The Cat Would Say: Sufferin' Succotash!

As I keep saying, until I am completely and permanently disconnected from the wonderful world that is taxi, everything that might be and is "stranger than fiction" will continue to embrace me, and a truly poisonous entwining it is, similar to a 23 foot python swallowing me whole.  As I mentioned last week---a  fellow cabbie both harassed and maligned by some fool for no reason whatsoever---last weekend I too had a similar experience, my big crime of the recent Century being dumb enough to check out a call at the 1410 East John Safeway.

That it turned into what I am about to describe says everything about taxi, at least the side that is odd and odder and getting stranger, it appears, by the day if not every ensuing second and minute tick, ticking away. And all I can say, repeating that appropriate commentary by the that great furry black & white philosopher, Sylvester, and his ever relevant: sufferin' succotash!  I couldn't agree more.

Driving up to the most likely suspect, an older woman pushing a walker  who responded, no, the cab wasn't for her,  but wait a minute, the passenger who had been waiting was now standing at the bus stop at the other side of the store. Taking her lead, I made a full circle around the Safeway, coming back around on East John but not finding my passenger, if one had ever truly existed, which I doubted.

But working upon the premise that you never know, fully assuming that the lady was probably mistaken, and again turning into the Safeway driveway for a last glance, a shortish, plump gentleman sporting big black-framed glasses pointed back into the store  Once again I meet the same woman, again saying that no, she was waiting for a Metro Access Van, not a cab. And give it a break already--- there wasn't anyone waiting for me at the bus stop!

During this fairly innocuous exchange, the not-so-shining knight in rumpled clothing shouted, "Stop harassing her," the guy suddenly and instantaneously violent, quickly approaching my cab all the while chanting that famous 13th Century Buddhist prayer, "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo," popularized back then by the Japanese monk Nichiren.

When I tired to explain myself, he again chanted "nam-myoho-renge-kyo" in an attempt, near as I can tell, to transform all immediate suffering he might be experiencing to some expectant bliss.  Flustered with this nonsense, I finally responded that "you are out of your mind" which, while probably true, did not appear to assuage his suffering in any measurable degree.  I then tried to reason with the fellow but muttering something "beneath his breath" he, thankfully, just walked away, perhaps searching for that next eternal Banyan tree around the next Safeway corner. Should I hope for something to fall on his head?

I wonder what comments Tweedy Bird would have had upon the subject, Tweedy America's resident cartoon Stoic, regarding our un-feathered world while residing in a less-than-gilded cage.  As is obvious, the average cabbie can be doing nothing whatsoever yet will still be targeted simply for being a cabbie.  I think somewhere therein lies a life lesson.  I wonder what it could be?

No Glory

Transmission issues continue to plague my cab, what is simple isn't, and making it worse.........

Taki's Yellow Cab Shop is Closing

Yes, after nearly 20 years, Taki, Yellow Cab's mechanic supreme, is fleeing Yellow Fleet after just over a year in the new location, due, it appears, to many unresolved issues with current Yellow Fleet management  Taki is mad as hell! and next week is heading back to his homeland, Vietnam, for a 3 week vacation.

 That it complicates my life cannot be understated because neither he nor good Randy could figure out the seemingly electrical problem compromising 1092's overall automatic transmission function.  While I hope we can limp along until his return, I will be accelerating my reach for a newer replacement car.

Uber Threatens to Leave Seattle

Uber, unhappy with the City of Seattle's progress toward an unionized Uber workforce, has said it will stop operating in Seattle if an actual union is formed.  If they do go, maybe I'll start a new TNC/ride-share company, calling it Blubber,  an app devoted to trimming the fat from customer's wallet's. I envision it would be very popular with the "carrot & celery" crowd.  Why we would be gluten-free too!

And Speaking of TNC Companies

A rider I had the day before wanted to go to Lynnwood on Tuesday during evening rush-hour but was concerned with the cost, saying he was thinking of taking Lyft instead because they quoted him $25.00 for what could be $60.00 in the cab due to traffic.  I told him to take Lyft but to be conscious of the Lyft reality, forcing the driver to an hour-long drive minus their fee and gasoline in addition to how long it will take to get back.

In January 1863 President Lincoln freed the American slaves.  Most recently, Uber and Lyft, far smarter than Southern Plantation owners, have convinced millions of men and women worldwide to voluntarily enslave themselves.  And to pay for their own enslavement. Wow! what a great deal!  Can you believe it?

DDS?

I couldn't believe it, when I heard it, Yellow Cab and the single owners planning on bringing back a new version of the DDS dispatch computer system, this after changing over to our current system and nearly destroying the company with more confusion and mishaps that I had lost count.

Over-my-dead-taxi-body is my initial response.  Some not very wise folks have suggested that we can even choose between one or the other, keeping the old system in our cabs if we want to.  Huh!?




Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Taxi Potpourri----Various Fragrances Sweet And Vile: Welcome To The Odoriferous Pile

Ah yes, Spring is now official---deciduous trees and blackberry vines are now budding, with forsythia and ornamental cherries presenting early blooms for our mid-March pleasure.  Accompanying this seasonal greening symphony are subtle perfumes announcing to both insect and human alike that pollen and scent is in the air.  Oh yes, if only, if only all fragrances were subtle or sweet, accenting the brain like Wordsworth's immortal daffodils.

 If only but no, the world I share with fellow cabbies is often toxic, diesel fumes and blatant insult our accompanying atmosphere. But too there is also kindness and expressed interest mellowing out the sour, gently anointing the unexpected brief pleasure and occasion caressing hour. Such is a cabbies' life and times upon the blacktop in the darkened night and dawning day.

The Taxi Gods Wag a Finger, Warning Do Not Harm or Insult the Good Driver

Example # One:

Twice this past greater weekend Karma took my side, saying, minus all doubt, please to not injure the good cabbie, all he/she doing is making every attempt to do what we do, transporting passengers Point A to B as efficiently as possible.  When the drunk woman from that venerable West Seattle Tavern, "The Pogi" became mean and controlling, not "taking" but "commandeering" the cab, using her "I am paying" as her gun, I turned around and took her back.  What she is like minus too much beer I do not know but at that given moment her worst nature was on full display.

What occurred after that was instant vindication, getting a late evening airport fare, and I was off and running, even getting a last 3:45 AM airport run which made me 17 minutes late getting the cab back to my day driver.  My fare from Mercer Island to the Fremont I will spotlight in a few paragraphs down.  Truly amazing was this quick succession of great fares.  Interestingly, when coming back from the airport the first time, I was again offered a pickup for the same "Pogi" troublemaker.  I called dispatch and politely declined, not wanting to find out how another hour of drinking had improved her saturated temper.

Example # Two:

Yes, amazingly it is true, Yellow is indeed paying too much money  (I believe it is $6000.00 monthly) to Amtrak for our exclusive access to King Street Station.  This makes me wonder why I and all my fellow Yellow-ites are subjected to incidents like the one occurring Monday night when two well-dressed upper-middle class fools (man and woman in their early 70s) refused to move their blocking $60,000-plus car when it was self-evident that an entire line of cabs were attempting to move up and pick up passengers.  They were truly out-of-their-minds, angry that I would ask them to just move forward 30 feet.  The woman laughed, derision and disdain her misplaced crowning glory.

Passing them by, I picked up a gentleman going to the closest hotel possible, the Yesler Best Western, allowing me to fly back to the train for other possible customers.  Arriving back there was a line of folks waiting, and, what would you know, just like the Sunday incident, I was instantly offered compensation by a fare to the Sea-Tac Marriott,a pleasant couple from Idaho flipping me a fifty dollar bill for my efforts.

Why that privileged couple felt they could and can do anything they want anytime they want is anyone's guess but I it looked like to me that, for them, they were the new American Brahmans and I was just another unwashed Dalit.  If karma has any say, I have no doubt they lost a bunch of money in another Monday Wall Street panic.  At least I had a kindly nod from observant gods in the know.  Thanks!

Usually Only Pooches are Allowed

Something occurred that I have never allowed in my nearly 30 years plying the taxi byways: allowing a passenger to transfer from the back to the front seat, that privilege previously only granted to dogs of all persuasions. Picking her up on Mercer Island just off of East Mercer Way,  we immediately began an interesting conversation, she a Sanitation engineer based in Switzerland who travels all over sub-Saharan Africa creating sanitation systems for those in the greatest need.

Heading west-bound on I-90 she started to maneuver up to the front seat because it was hard to hear me in the back. Previously only hungry dogs and either the insane or the drunk or both have tried to make it across that sacred barrier.  That she is not insane prompted me to quickly pull over and let her up to the front.  We talked about schizophrenia and dropping out of high school and how people are formed psychologically.

That this was a singular experience goes, I suppose, without saying.  That it all ended up with a fifty dollar bill was the taxi cherry atop an interesting fare.  As I always say about taxi: you never know and man! that is certainly true.

Stench!

An unpleasant odor it is when a cabbie must, first, fight Uber and others to get upon a designated cabstand, and compounding the insult, an insane person interferes.  That this happened to a longtime cabbie who once owned and ran his own taxi company says that, regardless of your experience and taxi seniority, bad and stupid things can and will happen.

The situation was simple but is now more complex.  When telling the two offending drivers that they must move from the Terry & Republican cabstand, some crazy person across the street began yelling and flipping the driver off, shouting that the drivers should stay  where they are.

If the veteran  cabbie made a mistake, it was walking over to the guy's car and taking pictures.  What this resulted in a few minutes later was the fool calling dispatch and saying the cabbie had "hit and run" him.  He even went as far as filing an official complaint with the City of Seattle.

While a true pain-in-the-ass dealing with this kind of nonsense, it is good that the _____ went so far to identify himself, leaving him open to various kinds of prosecutions and legal action.  I have recommended that the cabbie go legally after the guy, knowing full well he will be completely absolved by the City.

Yes, this is the kind of bullshit we all must deal with daily.  And making this worse is I haven't seen nary one time in my 30 years an offending motorist ticketed for sitting upon our cab stands.  Yes, we will be cited by the City for all kinds of petty offenses but stopping idiots from clogging our stands they never do. Such is our world but must it be our constant fate?

I suppose we all know the answer.  Too obvious to not understand that priorities, being what they are, nonsense will continue until it doesn't, but as is said, don't hold your breath, blue not a natural color.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Great Unraveling---An Examination Of Current Industry Health

Introductory Note:

Since my recent experience of almost being Seattle Yellow Fleet's (Yellow's cab side) operational manager, and hence, receiving a birds-eye of their operations, I felt it time to explain, from my many years of experience, just how Yellow and the other Seattle taxi associations arrived at where they currently find themselves.  To say it is a complete mystery, or solely Uber's fault, would be incorrect, given there is a traceable history taking us from when the local taxi industry was relatively health and thriving, to where we find ourselves today---commercially wounded and bleeding money.

And I also want to dispel any misunderstanding to why I backed down from a position that potentially would have affected positive change at Yellow.  The answer is simple, because I realized it would have been impossible to both manage Yellow Fleet and drive enough hours to support myself.  A much larger salary would have changed the equation, allowing me to fully concentrate on the job at hand. While fully sympathetic to Yellow's current financial woes, sometimes expenditures are necessary to rectify current issues. In this situation, it appears Yellow Fleet's very survival could be at stake.  Hopefully the training program I plan to have up and running by the end of April will bring in enough new drivers to stem any pending closure.

Another important point pertaining to the views expressed in the following essay, is, that unlike many of my colleagues, when I am in a taxi I am a true-blue cabbie, and not just someone driving some version of "service-transportation" vehicle.  Believe me, there is huge different between those of us who want to be there and those who don't.  In short, I am a cab driver, which, despite all dispersions to the contrary, is a noble calling, providing essential services to all and everyone. My response to all those who fail to understand this, is to say "screw you!" having tired of dumbbell rhetoric and nonsensical opinion. Who needs it?  Well, we as an collective industry certainly don't, and I am sick of being wrongfully maligned.

While certainly holding criticisms of Seattle's various taxi associations and some individuals involved, I ultimately respect what we are collectively attempting to do: transporting all of humanity from point A to B in an increasingly congested workplace environment.  The following analysis then is meant not as unbridled criticism but more, I want it to be seen as an attempt to focus everyone involved in a joint effort to resolve obvious issues languishing in front of our noses.

While at times I certainly have displayed  irritation and frustration, ultimately my affection for all involved remains unlimited, caring as I do for all those toiling beneath the top-light, recognizing that we are all in this together, various parts equaling one united effort. As has been said countless times over the modern centuries, divided we fall, united we win.

And that is my ultimate desire, a taxi industry beneficial for everyone concerned, rising from the dust and ruin to new unencumbered roads.  Again, all I ask, is for everyone to join me in this effort, and make some money in the process which of course must be our individual goal.

The Great Unraveling

From a historical perspective, my story might begin from very origins of early 20th Century motorized taxi services, when motorized cars replaced replaced horse-drawn hackney carriages and hansom cabs.  Many large companies, including the Checker Car Corporation located in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in an era where private car ownership was exceedingly rare, began running large fleets of taxicabs in America's larger cities like New York and Chicago, providing a kind of speedy and personal transportation never before seen.

If there was a problem associated with this arrangement, and there was, it was that the companies wanted to make money, money being their foremost prime objective, the transporting of people being secondary. And taking us up to now, that primacy, the making of money over any and all other considerations, is where we remain.

Recognizing that, in 1975 the City of Seattle and King County decided that the best way to balance out the situation was to deregulate the taxi industry locally, hoping beyond hope that right-minded individuals would lead taxi to equable compromise. What happened instead was complete anarchy, which is why I begin my story from that period, when Seattle's great taxi experiment blew up in its face, setting the tone of what we are today---a cannibalistic industry consuming itself.  If Seattle's cab industry wasn't in an unraveled state before deregulation, it certainly was thereafter, with all  of us grasping for threads.  As the present situation shows, it is not the most effective way to operate.

What deregulation exposed, beyond any doubt, is that the tradition established earlier in the century remained intact, embraced by newer generations of cabbies---greed, or the making of money past all other priorities---having become the industry's calling card. And it certainly wasn't a phenomenon isolated to Seattle, New York City's egregious medallion system inflating their taxi license plates to over one million dollars each, an incredible sum for the privilege of operating a cab in NYC.  What this showed was an overarching philosophy, saying that commonsense be damned, money, the grabbing of as much  money as you can, is always justified regardless of consequences, everything else secondary---customer service, safety, anything other than making money the very bottom of the taxi totem pole.

Beginning my entry in the business back in the fall of 1987, I soon saw what I have just expressed to be completely true, having cut my finger on the exposed steel belting of my cab's left front tire telling me everything I needed to know about the efficacy of typical taxi operations.  Later, when driving for Farwest Taxi, this same notion was further verified when, upon returning a cab back to the lot due to safety issues, a mere hour later I saw that very same cab back out on the street once again, Farwest shouting out that it didn't care one iota about its passenger's well-being, money, the making of money its sole priority.

Further industry unraveling has been the clear withdrawal of support from municipal, county and state regulators.  What so many cabbies in Seattle and NYC and everywhere in the USA failed to understand is that their shenanigans were in full view of shocked industry regulators and administrators, the taxi industry as a whole operating as if they held some unwritten permission to do whatever they wanted, never fearing overt consequences.

That they were wrong  in this unfounded belief is displayed locally with decisions to 1, force all single owners to join or form an association; 2, create the flat-rate for-hire industry; 3, overturn the Seattle City Council's law to cap Uber and lyft; and finally, 4, lose the Sea-Tac contract to Eastside Flat-rate For-Hire.  The Port of Seattle was furious that they potentially lost up to five million dollars due to alleged Yellow Cab improprieties. Again, didn't those operating PSD at that time realize that what they were doing was in plain view, open to examination and criticism?  Evidently not can be the only answer.

I could list more specifics but I don't want to malign many whom I consider friends and fellow colleagues. If Yellow and other associations cannot be called criminal, they certainly can be called both self-serving and sloppy, operating as if their eyes are closed.  During the past year, Yellow Fleet and Puget Sound Dispatch have been downsizing essential personnel, making it even more difficult to both serve our customers and address daily issues that are a constant at the taxi door.  And when problems are pointed out, denial and obfuscation is the usual response, our unraveled industry a mess of uncoiled twine upon the taxi floor.

And when will all the loose ends be tied back together in some kind of cohesive ball?   Only when priorities are changed, understanding that investment must be put back into the business, both monetarily and personnel-wise, rebuilding what is broken down.  For too many years, associations have used the taxi industry as their personal ATMs, funding their lifestyles upon both the sweat and blood of ordinary cabbies and the good faith of our customers.  With the transfer of both drivers and customers to Uber, new approaches must be taken.  What was done in the past has failed.  There can be no argument.  Our industry is grasping for breath. Who will provide the needed oxygen?  Just who will do what is necessary is the great question facing us.  What about you?  Do you have any answers?

Why Is Gasoline Costing More?

Locally gasoline prices are now on the rise.  Why is the question, when per barrel costs yesterday 03/16/2017 were listed as $47.72, down a full $6.00 from a week ago.  The issue is the old one, an oversupply upon the world oil market.  In other words, worldwide we are experiencing an oil glut, with too many producers and not enough customers.  Then why are we currently paying more than necessary?  Greed?  Stupidity?  Asshole-ism?













Monday, March 6, 2017

Two Breakdowns In Five Days---Going Nuts But Not Nervous

Wednesday the alternator went out, meaning I had to fly back to Seattle and deal with a broken down car on a major roadway.  A pain but early yesterday, meaning about 11:00 AM Sunday morning I noticed what no cab owner wants to see: a slipping automatic transmission.  The only good part was that I was able to make it back to the shop in second gear, thus avoiding a tow.  Wednesday night we had called for a tow but disappointingly I was actually able to beat the tow truck to the cab, allowing to me skip the tow and get the cab both started and back to our usual parking place.

Nobody should have to wait an hour, especially when you are blocking traffic near Costco on 4th Avenue South.  There are more details but given a couple bad choices by Raymond, I was truly ready to kill my friend, more angry than I have been in a very long time. Yesterday I stopped by his house and shared some strong coffee. Peace again reigns supreme. He is a good guy and always pays his lease. Who can ask for anything more?

This second breakdown is more than inconvenient due to this week I am transferring 478 to my new 1092 medallion, translating to having to shift everything around an extra day.  At the moment it is 10:40 AM and I am still in Tacoma. Taki (the lead mechanic and shop owner) said the used transmission should be in by sometime noon, one-o'clock. And here I am composing the blog ,which this week will be necessarily shortened.

Who has time?  I have no time, on top of having to get everything changed over to # 1092 so Raymond can work Wednesday night and Tom can drive Thursday morning.  I am glad they both can afford to miss a few days.  Me, I have make up for the $800.00 I am paying today in addition to a bunch of smaller costs associated the the medallion change.  Ah yes, as has been said perhaps billions of times, oh the joys of business ownership!

Given all this, my detailed explanation why I decided not to run the Yellow Fleet side will come next week.  If only I had two simultaneous bodies!  What a help that would be.  And by the way, I'll tell you a secret.  I hate taxi!