Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Biblical Pestilence?

                                                            What Have We Wrought?


                                                               Can it be true,

                                                               or can it be not,

                                                              what we have brought

                                                                 upon ourselves?

                                                              Could it be a divine

                                                                   old Testament 

                                                                     pestilence

                                                               reminding us sins are

                                                                      counted

                                                               and the numbers are in,

                                                                         God

                                                                    smiting us like 

                                                                so many wayward

                                                                     Egyptians

                                                                  in a blood-red  

                                                                         sea?
                                                                     
                                                                        Again

                                                                  having done what,

                                                                    what have we

                                                                         done

                                                                 to be punished so?


While of course an exaggeration, it does at times seem that we in taxi industry are cursed or under attack from less than benign spirits, given the numbers of obstacles placed in from of us, obstructing from making a simple dollar.  Last week four Yellow cabbies were given citations from the City of Seattle for the crime of not having their for-hire licenses copied, enlarged, then posted in the cab.

That the 10,000 plus Seattle Uber and Lyft drivers, under the same requirement having a current and valid for-hire license are neither stopped nor cited for similar violations says much about what is occurring.  The question is both why are we treated differently and just why does the City of Seattle and King County think we in the taxi industry will continue to accept the unacceptable?  Puzzling it is but certainly not indecipherable.

When actions like these are this contradictory, there must be an easily assessable key to unlock what isn't truly a mystery, Sherlock Holmes I am sure quickly solving the case because the perpetrators are well known, knowing who they are other than personal motives.  Just what are their motives, and if they are not working for us, who is their employer?  Yes, Mister Holmes, help us as we tire, growing weary from this unjust and inhumane persecution. Enough already, enough!

Laura Nyro's "Save the County"

For anyone depressed about current happenings in our country, I suggest you listen to Laura Nyro's (1947-1997) song from her 1969 album, "New York Tendaberry"----"Save The Country," something that might boost the spirits.

"Come on people
come on children
come on down to the glory river
gonna wash you up
and wash you down
gonna lay the devil"

(we're gonna lay that devil down!)








                                                               




Thursday, January 12, 2017

Essay: The Psychological Toll Of Driving A Cab

                                          Why Driving A Taxi Is A Mental Heath Issue


Everybody knows cabbies are crazy.  Just visit Manhattan and manifested before your eyes will be thousands of Travis Bickles, Robert De Niro's famously deranged character in the 1976 film, "Taxi Driver."  But what is never discussed is why even I can become, even just for a minute, another Travis Bickle, a human being suddenly out-of-their-mind, recklessly accelerating their cab down the crowded roadway?

Inherently connected to cab driving is an unending, incessant battering of body and psyche guaranteed to debilitate anyone. From my personal experience I don't see how anyone alive could remain immune from the combined insult that is taxi, Darwinian evolution not adjusting fast enough to the untenable, when within a mere few minutes with the wrong passenger, all personal tranquility is utterly and instantly destroyed, breaking you down and transforming you into something you never, ever wanted to be: a thoroughly discouraged and miserable human being, with your worse instincts taking over, especially immaturity, miring you in a sticky morass not completely of your own making.

Again, what I have found is that this state of mind, or state of mental health, is unavoidable when driving a cab, the implications serious and personal.  Of course every occupation, even the highest and most prestigious, contain drawbacks and inherent negatives. The real danger and problem connected to the "crazed cabbie" syndrome is its potential permanency, similar to various types of schizophrenia, this very real psychosis incorporating into an individual's real and extant personality; and once entrenched, making it extremely difficult to remove.  How many cabbies are inclined to seek therapy, parking themselves upon the psychiatric couch or join the embracing circle of group therapy?  Not many is the quick answer.

As said, it is nearly impossible for me or any other cabbie to resist the unavoidable, the unrelenting physical and mental beating we all experience daily.  Imagine the interminable pounding of the sea upon the shoreline and you have a good idea of our average day.  My sole motivation for writing this examination is concern over my own behavior, worried that carryover is affecting what I am doing overall, which for me means my writing, my current book and what I am doing to ultimately be successful and live solely from my writing.

As mentioned multiple times, my previous professional background as counselor, case-manager and therapist puts me in a special position to comprehend what is happening around me.  And seeing I am unable to insulate myself from taxi's damaging impact, it scares the hell out of me, strongly suggesting that what I am doing might be suicidal, ultimately killing myself by a thousand cuts.  I have always viewed taxi as the means to a positive conclusion, not a dead-end leading to confusion and failure.

And given that, there has always been an assigned logic for my travelling to Mexico and other points across the globe as often as I do, travel acting as a necessary antidote to the poison that is taxi. Without travel I could not keep driving cab.  It is as simple as that but as is usually acknowledged, poison habitually ingested leads to inevitable death regardless of steps taken.

Friday I will be back in the cab for a least a half a shift, fully knowing it is a less than healthy choice.  As is well-known with the therapeutic process, awareness of a personal  issue or problem is just the beginning of the path forward toward resolution and well-being.  Can I and all my fellow cabbies do the work necessary to alter the unchangeable?

My honest response  is I don't know, feeling the odds are against us, the raging taxi sea the ultimate victor, old Neptune throwing his net and dragging us down to deepest fathoms of despair, our broken selves then tossed back upon the rocks, destined for the fishes or unmarked graves, collectively more than forgotten, our suffering never noticed nor seen, acknowledgment never to be our final benediction.






Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Worst New Year's Eve Ever? Instead Of A Big Bang, A Fizzle

                                                        Snow whispering down
                                                           all day long,
                                                           earth has vanished
                                                        leaving only sky.

                                                                     Joso   1662-1704                                                  


Historically there have been great expectations connected to the yearly January 31st celebrations, cabbies fighting to get a cab for the legendary night.  I left the first company I worked for, Classic Cab, over an argument over an invented fee created just for me---one hundred dollars to drive New Years Eve 1989, more or less beginning what was my second year in the business, my first New Years Eve 1988 as a cabbie spent not driving but instead eating Chinese take-out in London while recovering from a cold, not anywhere near the interior of a Seattle cab.  I was on my way to northern Wales and damn glad I went, a most memorable ten days lounging in a library reading ten books and drinking strong tea and scotch whiskey, a very good way to start a new year.

I remember one past celebratory night when I grossed  (or rolled) over $600.00 during a standard 12-hour shift; so as is said, those were the days and unfortunately, at least for one night, that kind of occurrence appears to be long gone. What it means for the future long-term, I can't tell you, perhaps a post-midnight snow storm or post-election fatigue factoring into 2017's low turnout. Simply why would you want to cheer and welcome in the new year when instead you just want to cry, snow and bad news chilling the very bone.

Though it isn't like there wasn't an initial burst after midnight because there was a quick frenzy lasting a mere 3 hours or so instead of the usual blast lasting deep into the morning, business once extending past seven, people going every which way north, south, east and west. Those were, even recently, the "great times" when everybody on a busy holiday were making money "hand over fist," averaging something like $50.-70.00 per hour, with some guys making in one shift what they might bring in over the course of a normal  week.  That's why everybody wanted to be out there but alas, no more, the taxi bell tolling but not for thee!

Bad News on the Sea-Tac Front

A year-end news followup from the Seattle Weekly confirmed what has been screamed out recently, that the taxi transition at the airport has been a near failure, with the now 405 taxi owners paying $155.00 a week for an nonexistent dispatch system.  It appears that the Port of Seattle needs to speed up its scheduled six-month review to the present day, asking both Eastside and themselves who is responsible for a completely unacceptable situation.  Sea-Tac E-Cab operators are freaking out because they are not making any money.

And how is this fair?  Not in any way, shape or form can any of this be considered fair. Again, what was  the Port of Seattle thinking?  I think the answer is clear. They were not thinking but instead, angered and flustered, assigning ultimate blame to the innocent.

Well, if this is what the Port  intended and wanted, they have certainly accomplished it, the drivers now truly suffering, having problems paying their bills.  It is as if the Port of Seattle were suddenly  the Roman Catholic Church, grading all actions as culpable sin.  As nearly 2000 years of liturgical history have shown, it isn't the most effective methodology.  Shall we instead tear down the confessional closet, and begin, since it is a new year, real and constructive conversation toward finding viable solutions?  Let us pray that this will be the course taken, or "heaven help us," as there might be "hell to pay" or other less than positive avenues raising their ugly heads in the very near future.  May peace reign and mouths fed, in whatever appropriate order.

Surge You!

If there is one positive, Uber now tells the consumer when it is about to screw you, a big improvement over the recent past when, surprise, surprise, your expected rate had somehow quadrupled and your cheap ride suddenly wasn't cost-effective any more.  Post-New Years midnight Uber again instituted its now infamous surge charges, asking a hell a lot of money for a basic ride home.  One example was the guy I took to Redmond, Washington after the guy refused to pay Uber $90.00 for the same ride costing him $30.00 to Beacon Hill earlier in the evening. My meter was just over $52.00.  He gave me $63.00, making it my best post-midnight fare.

After him I got two guys going from Capital Hill to Magnolia who gave me thirty for a twenty dollar fare which included a stop at a store.  Uber at that moment was requesting $50.00 for what is at most a $17:00 ride.

And what was the Uber quote for a ride from Sea-Tac to Ballard?  $180.00 for what would be a $50-65.00 taxi ride depending on the Ballard address.  As Bob Dylan sang, When will they ever learn?"  Good question, isn't it?

Thank You, Seahawks!

Since our local NFL team won their division it means that we cabbies will be working another home game come late Saturday afternoon.  Yea team and all that kind of stuff!


Poem:                                            A Quick Thought


                                                     There was Simple

                                                     who wasn't

                                                     and Complex who tried

                                                     to understand

                                                    when it wasn't difficult

                                                    unless you thought

                                                    it was easy;

                                                    and I dare say not

                                                    this instance,

                                                    moment or night,

                                                             as

                                                       basic is simple

                                                       translating into

                                                            the

                                                         complex.


This might or not apply to the situation at hand, it being something I wrote last October 2015 in Krakow, Poland. I will end this week's posting with a haiku by Issa 1763-1828, a poem relating to authority:


                                                    In my small village
                                                        even the flies
                                                        aren't afraid
                                                    to bite a big man.


Both haiku are taken from "Haiku Harvest---Japanese Haiku, Series IV"

Translation by Peter Beilenson & Harry Behn" and Published by The Peter Pauper Press, 1962

I suggest to everyone to remember the Issa poem when considering legal responses.  Don't let yourself be stepped upon by those in power.  It is a very bad idea.  Just because they have the power doesn't mean they are either just or correct.  Back on December 18th, 1944, the United Supreme Court upheld, in a 6-3 decision, the constitutionality of the internment of Japanese-Americans on the basis of military necessity. Even though new legal rulings have been made, that 1944 decision continues to stand as established law. Both amazing and scary to think we might have to address again what never should have happened in the first place.  Using FDR's 1942 rationale, he could have locked up my grandparents, their home countries making up part of the enemy AXIS alliance (Germany, Japan, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania).  And what purpose that would have served I would never know?  For that matter they could have interned my own parents.  Truly mind-boggling to think that such things could occur to one's own family, having Toledo, Ohio's Hungarian community rounded up and sent to concentration camps.  But as American history has shown, strange and stranger things have happened.  When a die-hard liberal like LBJ's vice-president  Hubert Humphrey could once support concentration camps, then anything might be possible.  Watch out!












                                                 

                                                 




Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Who Is Ultimately Responsible?---A Year-End Postscript

While I'd rather not point fingers or assign blame, isn't someone other than the driver liable for issuing for-hire driving licenses to the blatantly ill-prepared?  How can that not be true when the City of Seattle and King County are making the final decisions as to who is and isn't qualified to drive a taxi or flat-rate or Uber car?   By presenting a few anecdotal examples I'll let you the reader decide what is true or not.  If the regulators are not responsible, then does it fall completely upon the newly arrived immigrant or driver amateur  to solely understand something that is totally new to them?

As I have noted many times before, most professions demand clear demonstrations of knowledge and ability before certifying that the doctor or attorney or airline pilot  is ready to enter and practice their profession. But if "adding water and mix" is your sole criteria for licensing individuals then it is not surprising that too many of the new for-hire drivers are clueless, and moreover,  a clear danger to others.  Again, see if you agree after reading these few choice examples of what should be avoided not once, not twice but for all times in the future.

---Saturday a passenger told me about the accident she witnessed at the intersection of 3rd & Bell, when a flat-rate for-hire driver hit a pedestrian and attempted to drive off without lending assistance.  She saw all this firsthand because she was sitting in that very same flat-rate car which kept driving until she called the police from the back seat.  The driver was from East Africa, spoke fractured English and was at that point scared out of his mind.  I am sure he will never drive professionally again.  What will happen to him or his family I hate to think.  Thankfully it sounds like the injuries to the woman struck by him are minor but trying to leave the accident scene was a huge error.  As I keep telling (when the situation warrants it) many fellow cabbies, that even though you are now an American citizen, it doesn't me you can't be deported back to your home country.  I guess, unlike me, they never read the newspaper and the repeated accounts of felons sent back to where they never wanted to return.

---Picking up at a post-Seahawk game about a month ago the passengers recounted a story  how their young flat-rate driver neither knew where the Seahawk stadium was nor how to get there though their hotel located at 4th & Spring is only about a half-mile away as the taxi flies.  A nice young man, they said, but clearly not ready to be driving people around for a living.  They felt sorry for him.

---Sticking to the flat-rate theme, yesterday a passenger at the train station made sure my car had a meter because of recent experiences with those non-metered flat-rate cars, drivers providing him estimates usually 50 percent higher than legal rates.  Enjoying the ride home, he said that my kind of professionalism is underrated and unrecognized, meaning he was tired of getting ripped-off by all those drivers who fall in a different category.

---Not to leave taxis totally out of the maligned limelight, a passenger last night told me about a crazy, speeding Orange taxi driver who recklessly tailgated a city bus. "He scared me!"

---Two weeks ago I picked up a drunk young man whose Uber driver had dropped him off at the West Seattle ferry terminal, a location literally four miles from where he wanted to go.  Putting his destination address in his app request, he fell asleep only to be put out next to Lincoln Park.  Where  he needed to go and where I took him to was a house located in the 8000 block of 36th Avenue South over on Beacon Hill. Another lament was that his telephone had been left in the errant Uber and he didn't know how to get it back.

---That same day but later in the evening two party goers told me how earlier their Uber driver had scared them "to death" by insisting by not once but twice making a left-hand turn from a middle lane, their driver in this instance a middle-aged white woman.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So reader jury, who is to blame, who is responsible for these small and not-so-small instances of professional driver failure?  Last year there was a rookie Yellow cabbie who didn't know how to get his passengers from King Street Station to the airport, yet another example of what I am pointing out, a problem affecting all of the driving services regardless of what they call themselves.   My guess, if all the mistakes were listed from a given day, they might amount to the hundreds if not the thousands, unseen errors cluttering a given professional day and night, unknown to everyone but the frightened passenger clinging in terror to the back seat.  

And when will this kind of nonsense stop?  Clearly when, and only when Seattle and King County's licensing administrators recognize that what they are doing is neither reasonable or justifiable: licensing the unprepared to do something that is very difficult---taking passengers safely and efficiently from point A to B over Seattle's clogged and dangerous streets.  If the situation doesn't change, isn't it time to ask just why are they not changing  licensing criteria and polices?  It is a good question, one begging for an answer in 2017, not 2117!

Happy New Year!  Be safe!  And given all this rain we are having, no tailgating, please!











Thursday, December 22, 2016

Did Everything Go As Planned?---A Quick Year-End Glance At The Taxi Year 2016

Assuming there will be no startling revelations during these last remaining nine days in this rapidly waning year, I will attempt to review much of importance occurring in 2016.  What promises had been made and subsequently broken; which dreams punctured and deflated?  Or is it easy to say that, as in previous years, the "taxi baby has been tossed out with the bath water?"  Early 16th Century German proverbs aside, it has been true that over the past few years, local taxi interests have been swept into a dusty corner where they remained ignored and unnoticed.  What about this past year 2016, can the same be said to be true?  Or have new and different attitudes prevailed, repairing the damage and associated despair?

Without question the year's two biggest events was the Eastside-for Hire changeover at Sea-Tac International Airport and the ongoing appeasement aimed at Uber.   What both developments quickly translate to is a further loss of taxi market and income, resulting in an overall financial hardship taking years to recoup, if when, if ever.

While the issuance of new taxi medallions should be considered an ultimate positive, too little and too late must be the final assessment, when sometime around 2008 three hundred or more cabs could have been added.  If that happened, more than likely the transportation phenomenon that is the local flat-rate for-hire industry would not exist, and the threat represented by Uber/Lyft might have been largely militated.

Mistakes made by City of Seattle and King County taxi regulators and administrators over the past eight years bring us up to where we are now, history coloring our current day to day operations. What will be most helpful in 2017 is for all of in the local taxi industry to recognize our present reality and both create and grasp all available opportunities. They exist, with only depression and our ever-present dysfunction preventing us from making some gains this upcoming year, however small they might seem, going forward always preferable to the opposite direction. .

When the Port of Seattle awarded Eastside-for-Hire the Sea-Tac new outbound service contract, they, intentionally or not compounded Seattle's original administrational  error of one, writing into existence the legal conception of flat-rate for-hire vehicles; and two, releasing into the local transportation sector over 250 City of Seattle flat-rate licenses or medallions, with King County issuing unlimited licenses minus any viable business options and plans. While nonsensical, this is what occurs when an administrative bureaucracy, managed by regulators having no prior experience in a given field are handed the keys and told you are now in charge, do what you will minus consequences.  And when mistakes are made, all questions concerning accountability are either  ignored, or worse, assigned bogus justifications, compounding error after error into what becomes an opaque, unresponsive wall

All this of course I've addressed previously but what it meant is that to survive, Eastside and other flat-rate companies essentially had no other option but to operate illegally within Seattle's city limits, providing some solvency until approximately  3 years later they were finally given legal legitimacy by Seattle and KC. But still, notwithstanding those actions, the collective flat-rate industry remains legally liable, and subject to violations, fines and compensatory damages from that roughly three-year period, given that neither amnesty or exemptions were granted (or for that matter, could be granted by legal authorities).  And amazingly, even knowing Eastside's history, the Port of Seattle still thought it prudent (and wise?) to award Eastside-for-Hire the five-year outbound contract, the ramifications of which still reverberate, clearly harming the over 230 independent taxi drivers then operating within the Yellow Cab Taxi Association service umbrella, Sea-Tac's previous outbound service provider.

What makes all of this the more confounding is that Eastside itself did not have within its initial control any metered taxis, meaning it would first have to negotiate with the very operators it had displaced.  In other words, the Port of Seattle awarded its outbound contract to a company it knew wasn't prepared to begin operations until it finalized agreements with the same supplanted cabbies. Putting it another way, the Port of Seattle made Eastside the winner, telling the losing cabbies you had no choice but to join your adversaries in a joint, cooperative effort.  I suggest everyone grab a dictionary and look up definitions for empathy and see if that applies to the Port's collective actions.

Making all of this even worse, the Port of Seattle knew that Eastside did not have an operational dispatch system for the now 405 taxis now signed up to replace the smaller Yellow cab contingent.  Yes, that correct, Eastside signed up nearly 180 more cabs to operate a now smaller market share due official Uber and Lyft availability at Sea-Tac.  Those additional cabs display the real desperation felt by many taxi medallion owners in Seattle and King County.  High operational costs and fewer drivers willing to cover shifts are forcing owners into a corner, making acceptable what was once clearly unacceptable.

As noted in previous posts, Uber and Lyft has gained nearly 50 percent of once was a more or less 90 percent exclusive taxi market share.  So the math here is further skewered against the taxi operators, with the 405 cabs divided into A, B & C sections, limiting their overall access to Sea-Tac to twenty days out of a given month, which is why the new E-Cab operators can be now seen languishing upon Seattle hotel stands, trying to make up for loss revenue. One E-Cab driver told me that their color scheme was confusing to consumers, many not realizing they were actual taxis.

Oh, and on top of paying $7.00 per Sea-Tac pickup (rising to $9.00 at contact's end)  regardless of ride distance, they are now paying Eastside $155.00 for an almost nonexistent dispatch.  A close colleague and friend of mine currently assisting Eastside has assured me that by this January, meaning a mere nine days from now, all 405 cabbies will have an revenue equal to last January.

While a laudable goal, I personally will be amazed if it is reached, something within the imagination of Lewis Carroll.   But if it isn't, there is only one party to blame and that is the Port of Seattle and no one else as it was glaringly obvious to anyone paying attention that Eastside would be hard put to create an up-and-running taxi company literally out of thin air.  That the Port of Seattle did this says everything that needs to be said about the Port CEO, the Port Commission and its overall management of outbound taxi services, all this, making cabbies pay $7.00 per outbound trip and the official opening of their direct competitors (Uber & Lyft) to Sea-Tac accessibility: that revenue stream is their only concern, and how it affects all the independent operators is purely incidental.

The Port of Seattle will deny this, and a few months ago I received a Port email verifying their concern but the fruit is in the taxi pudding, with the only question remaining is how can this situation continue without all the cabbies going completely broke?    Even with an impressive improvement from Eastside dispatch services, there still remains one very inescapable fact: that the overall market transportation of taxi-like services remains too small to sustain everyone.  That is the truth, with everyone one now fighting for a very reduced slice of operational pie.  To believe otherwise is to believe in a real and breathing Santa Claus coming down your chimney every hour with yet another fare to Lynnwood or Everett or Olympia.  Hey cabbies! this Christmas you ain't getting no sweet kiss beneath the mistletoe but instead a big slap in the face, reddening your nose just like Rudolf, your very favorite Uber reindeer!

Thus summarizing this nearly past year of 2016, I must say all promises concerning business equity have not been met, and grand dreams of renewed profits have been flushed down the toilet.  From the regulators, the best I see from them is a "wait and see" approach, hopefully understanding their embrace of Uber in particular has been wholly unsuccessful, and that holding Uber accountable is the only way to protect the transportation consumer.  It is past time that Uber accidents both locally and nationally are made public, along with consumer complaints.  That the City of Seattle and King County and the Port of Seattle continue to coddle Uber is something that cannot be condoned.  And as the recent experience in San Francisco shows, with Uber refusing to cooperate with the City of San Francisco and the State of California over required permits for self-operating cars, Uber continues to believe (and act) like it is above the law.

When will bureaucrats finally recognize the animal they are dealing with?  How much evidence do they need before they act in the consumer interest?  Currently in the Seattle Times newspaper, Uber is running full page ads against proposed unionization rules put forward by the Seattle City Council, not wanting the City of Seattle to recognize the reality that the majority of Seattle's Uber drivers are not the mythological part-time grandma of Uber promotion but hardworking driver professionals working 50-60 hours a week.

Will 2017 be the year that local administrators and regulators recognize functional reality as it truly is, minus rhetoric and wishful thinking?  One can only hope that they will all find common sense in their packages sitting beneath the Christmas trees.  Wouldn't that make, as the late Burl Ives sang, for a "Holly, Jolly Christmas" and of course for a Happy upcoming New Year!

Sunday Birthday Boy

While I'd rather not, I don't mind working on my birthday but one does hope to have  a little business sweetening the day but this past Sunday the outlook was indeed grim.  Coming toward evening I had rolled only $210.00, resigning myself to the day being a complete "bust" when in succession the fare dam burst and money rained upon my disbelieving head.

After Chinese at the Honey Court (and given an unpicked up call-in order by Shelly, my favorite waitress)  I headed up to West Seattle to gas up the cab but being offered a fare I accepted and off we went to Magnolia and thirty-three dollars.  Gassing up there and heading back to my personal car I was again offered a fare, this time at the Greyhound where a stranded Metro bus driver took me to Renton and another forty dollars including tip.  As all us cabbies know, we never truly know what is going to happen next so thank you "taxi universe" for remembering my birthday, a bright red bow tying up the day, singing me one last birthday greeting.











Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Two Days Destroyed By Taxi Plus Necessary News For All Interested Taxi-ites

One could say, or might say that running any kind of business translates into something occupying more time than you wish though hopefully the payoffs out gaining deficits, resulting both in profit and peace of mind. Whether in my case that's true at this point I cannot tell you but if operating a business means no sleep and exhaustion then I can attest that is certainly true.

Specifically last Wednesday at about 7:15 AM I received a call from Tom, my day driver alerting me to there being something seriously wrong with the power steering, and that he was attempting to make it to the shop.  Falling back to sleep I was again awakened at 11:00 AM with the bad news that an attempted repair didn't take and Tom was once again heading back to the shop. If there is anything a shift driver hates is car trouble, a kind of cancer eating into the day and any possible money making.  I've experienced the pain myself  more times than I wish to remember.  In short, it is horrible, agonizing and every bad emotion in between.

Understanding that whatever was happening was more than Tom could or should handle, I leaped out of bed and into the shower, throwing on clothes and flying from Tacoma to Seattle knowing "there goes my day!" but since there were few good options I had no choice but to do whatever was necessary to get 478 back on the road.  Upon my arrival the prognosis was now  known: a high pressure power steering line was blown and without question had to be replaced.  A simple issue but complicated by a scarcity of replacement parts, something that would drag the repair into the early evening.

Taking Tom back to his car, I drove up to White Center and visited not one but two auto supply shops, Shucks-O'Reilly and Auto Zone.  O'Reilly's found that they had one and one only in the entire state of Washington sitting in their Puyallup warehouse and deliverable by 4:30 PM that same day.   Telling me it was ordered but if I found the part elsewhere not to worry about it. So at least reassured the car would be repaired I still wanted it to be sooner than later if at all possible.

The Auto Zone employee had better news, that the needed part could be picked up at their Burien outlet just a few minutes south.  Great, I said, and roared off to get the part.  With  a new line in hand I dropped it off with Taki at the shop and away I went to to take care of other put-off business, happy as a taxi clam that it had been so easy dealing with the problem.

Coming back nearly 2 hours later I discovered that Burien Auto Zone had given me the wrong line.  Why didn't you call me, I asked, with Taki replying he wasn't able to find the telephone number I had left on his counter.  Beyond frustrated I was again back at O'Reilly's where I was told no, the part hadn't arrived but was assured it would be there by 4:30 PM.

Now hungry I walked over to a local pizza shop, looked at my emails and 15 minutes later walked back to the store, chomping down piping hot slices.  Five minutes later I now hopefully had the correct part and soon thereafter was back at the shop where Taki was inundated with anxious cabbies, who just like me, wanted their car to be repaired instantaneously. With failing light and cold coming on all I could do was wait, my fate preordained.

Finally around 6:00 PM everything was done and I was free to go and embrace an evening of cabbing which I didn't want to do.  Along with a much needed oil change I was out $145.00 to Taki and another fifty dollars for the new line.  All this also meant that my night driver had to call off, meaning I was out another sixty dollars.

Deciding to recoup some of my losses, and with Tom calling off due to a medical appointment, I stayed in Seattle and worked part of his day shift.  Was it worth it?  No, because I was tired and pissed that the two days I had  planned were completely thrown away, poof! like black magic destroyed in a taxi instant, two days ruined due to a failed power steering hose.  How wonderful it wasn't but there you have it, a very boring yet too typical taxi story---not exciting, not romantic, just mundane and tedious, tedious, tedious!

How Unusual---Fifty-four Simultaneously Happy Cabbies 

Yesterday the City of Seattle held its orientation for all of us lucky taxi ducks who won a free City medallion through the most recent lottery.  Usually more than three cabbies thrown together constitutes a moaning and groaning riot but not yesterday as a contented contingent of smiling cabbies gathered to receive Seattle's official largess.  Telling us all we needed to know, with the most important date of having until March 31st, 2017 to put the cab on line, I have never seen a more patient or contented taxi crowd.  My only wish was that more of my worthy brethren could have been included, knowing how nearly everyone desired a coveted license.  Interestingly to me was that I was the only native-born and Caucasian driver in the room, everyone else immigrant drivers, starkly displaying the literal changing of the taxi guard that has taken place since I first started in 1987.  They are a good and hearty and hardworking group of guys, building new futures for their families.  I am happy for them.  Good luck to all!

My new taxi number will be 1092.  Years ago I used to drive YC 92.  Am I making progress?

Auto Auction Info

Talking to some of my cabbie friends yesterday I promised some info concerning cars available by auction. Here it is.

James G. Murphy Company---Commercial & Industrial Auctioneers   425-486-1246

http://murphyauction/Auction?Details/4786

Register with them on-line.  Good luck finding a cheap Crown Vic!

Editorial Postscript 12/15/2016

Thinking about it last night, I decided more elaboration was necessary concerning the demographic change amongst the taxi driver population, both here in Seattle and nationally.  Consider the reason to be twofold, one of opportunity and lack of opportunity factoring in what is clearly an ongoing trend--immigrants from East Africa, Haiti, India deciding that taxi is a good personal choice both for them and their children's future. Call taxi then the opportunity and call the barriers put in front of professionals from so-called Third-World nations the lack of opportunity forcing them into a cab instead of where they truly belong.

As mentioned in previous postings, I have friends and colleagues who, trained as lawyers, agronomists, environmental scientists are instead driving taxi and not practicing their profession.  Did you know that the average immigrant Seattle cabbie speaks at least three languages?   While yes, it is true you can make upper-middle class money driving a cab, it still is a waste of valuable human resource having doctors and PHDs plying the the taxi byways.  An applicable question will always be, "Who really wants to be a cabbie?" with the real answer, almost no one despite the inherent money and free time associated with the occupation.  As my body told me once again this morning, it is a hard life.

Another reason there are so many Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali drivers in Seattle is due to European (and American and Soviet Bloc) interference in East Africa since at least 1930 and unfortunately continuing on to this date. Most don't know that Italy began what was the first modern saturation bombing campaign during its 1935 invasion of Ethiopia.  The end result of nearly 90 years of international interference in the internal affairs of Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea has been a wave of immigrants fleeing never ending turmoil and starvation.  When you begin to think everything is simple, please reconsider because real causes are usually not at all simple, instead complex with a long accompanying history.  That is the reality, as it is, adding up to what we see today.  There is a real reason why my friend Dawit speaks Russian.  It is not accidental.










Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Better When It Is Busy

Suddenly, thanks to a Seattle Seahawks rout of the Carolina Panthers Sunday night, the slumbering weekend awakened to business anywhere and everywhere, beginning just before halftime and continuing into the early morning hours, celebrant fans embracing the 40-7 victory.  Instantaneously I was the ball in the taxi pinball machine, shooting all over from one fare to the next, no time to respond other than say "Git in!" and off we sailed down the road..

Flying around like that removes the usual misery, having no time to think other than considering best  routes from A to B and watching out for this weekend's amazingly wreckless drivers, which was never ending--- irresponsibility and madness an never subsiding theme.  You know it is completely nuts when unforgiving fools continued aiming for unlucky wrong-way one-way drivers, not caring if they smash headlong into the other car.  Thank goodness the hinted upon snowfall never arrived, perhaps killing off half of Seattle's drivers if it had, recklessness and ice a fatal combination.  I doubt if these drivers could survive in a place like Chicago, slip sliding into Lake Michigan off Lakeshore Drive.

For me Sunday night ended early Monday morning washing the cab in West Seattle, taking one final fare in White Center after watching it offered multiple times on the "bid" screen," understanding it  would be a long while before another cabbie accepted the call.  My "mission of mercy"  found a young woman just needing to get home but no one wanting to take her there.

My body was also not interested in any further driving, "screaming" at me as I got her home, my muscles "burning" from fatigue, with me telling her ten but giving me thirteen anyway.  And thanks, I was  glad to do it, and then a little bit  later, sleep, glorious sleep that ultimate taxi balm taking me down a car-less dreamy highway away from taxi and stupid, idiotic drivers attempting once again to kill me how many times over.