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!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Three Taxi Hours----1:30 AM-4:30 AM Sunday 02/26/2017 & Back Down To One Hat---Deciding Not to Do It

The taxi roller-coaster, no, not the amusement park kind, was clearly in operation this past weekend.  Ah yes, the financial spills and thrills of an up and down and up business model---ain't it just exciting--- experiencing the daily (and nightly) unknown?  No, no it isn't but to provide all those who might be interested in knowing, the following is a peek into three select early Sunday morning hours, succinctly expressing the adage "God! you never know what will happen next!" which forever will be an accurate taxi truism.

And talking to folks Tuesday with Yellow's Puget Sound Dispatch side, they said "our accounts receivable are up!" which might be true but the sad and actual reality is that our off-street and hotel cab stand is down the past two months by at least 50 % or worse, meaning all of this is part and parcel of the roller-coaster. When telling M. that I will put her in a cab so she can see (and feel) the situation as it really is, she declined, she, and everyone one else I know in both in management and the taxi lobbyist world responding the same: "No, no, I can't do that!"

But I guarantee you that if they did obtain their for-hire license, plopping their buttock in a cab even once a month, they would be singing a far different taxi tune. God help them during their first traffic (police) stop, though in truth I wouldn't wish that kind of misery upon anyone.  What can you do when an officer is screaming at you, scaring you have to death concerning all the dire possibilities?  The answer is very little other than hoping for the best and wishing for the person to please disappear as quickly as possible.

Given my new twin position as both management and driver, I know I will have a huge advantage straddling both sides of the taxi fence, both realities smacking me in the face.  And wouldn't you know that once again this weekend I had to deal with an overly aggressive drunk female passenger, someone falling in the more traditional "permanently pickled" category, conscious yes, but similarly completely out-of-control.  What am I, some kind of human taxi punching bag?  Well, it seems to be true, making me dismal, if not totally black and blue, and if I had a taxi lawyer, perhaps I would sue.

Anatomy of 3 Taxi Hours---1:30 AM-4:30 AM 

Fare # 1---1:30 AM

Stuffed after eating my meal of the day at the Honey Court: clams in black bean sauce, I set off from Chinatown about 45 minutes before official bar-break wondering where to go and what to do when I get a call in Madison Valley for a house in an alley located at 30th & East Harrison.  Calling, it should have been easy to locate them but dispatch had the info as house behind a white fence when in reality it was a white house behind a metal fence, resulting in a few minute's confusion.

Once all mystery was dispelled a couple gets in the cab going all the way to the Motel Six situated at 160th & Pacific Highway South, just about a mile north of Sea-Tac proper.  Not quite believing my good luck, off we went, getting off at the Southcenter exit and heading up the hill to Pac-Highway.

Turning off the meter once we got to the highway, I got $42.00 and a big thank you from the passengers, telling the couple who happened to waiting for a cab that, "He is a great driver!"

Fare # 2---1:50 AM

What the young couple were doing standing there at the Motel Six I never asked but I assumed that they had been repeatedly  passed up because they were young and black, which for many cabbies means passing them by.  Me, I pick up everybody, and who cares about other cabbie's stupidity! taking them up to South 246th & Pac-Highway.  The young woman asked if I was a Sagittarius, which I admitted that, yes, I was part of that good fraternity. She said she knew by my "vibe."

On the way I pointed out the Chevron Gas Station where the kidnap victim had leaped out of into the safety of my cab, a memory forever staying with me.  A few blocks past the station I turned right off the highway, leaving them off on a darkened street.

No, they were not dangerous, only people wishing to get home.  I got them there.  And it was beginning to rain.

Fare # 3---2:10 AM

Ready for a nap, I pulled off  in a parking lot, quickly dozing off.  How long I slept I couldn't tell you but I was awakened by a fare offering, telling me Dave was waiting at 180000 International Boulevard (Pacific Hwy South).  What that was I wasn't sure but thought it might be  the Sea-Tac 13 Coins 24-hour restaurant, which turned out to be the correct guess.  By this time the rain was vigorous, saying the storm was here to stay, at least there in the south end.  Dave was going home to Burien, and ten minutes later, and $15.00 dollars with tip, I had him there.

Fare # 4---2:20 AM

It was now readily apparent I was the only Yellow cab in the greater Sea-Tac area as immediately I was again offered a fare, this time at Southcenter---four young drunken kids not understanding which side of the mall they were at.  After some questioning, I figured out where they were, four slightly damp and silly people heading to north Renton on the east side of Lake Washington.

The ring leader of the quartet thought he was a comedian, which he wasn't, and regardless I too tired to laugh.  And besides, he wasn't funny, something fully displayed by his question of why was I now going 55 MPH? Given that the rainfall was now the proverbial "cats and dogs" I said "didn't they tell you in driving education to slow down 5 MPH during hazardous driving conditions?  Making it worse, the not so comical clown was sitting in the front seat, annoying me more than usual.  $25.00 with tip and glad to be rid of them.

Fare #5---2:37 AM

Instantly I get another call, this time a very early airport run from the 9800 thousand block of Rainier Avenue South, a location directly across Lake Washington from where I had just vacated.  Not quite knowing the exact  location, and not getting a response to my calls, I peered through the murk before fairly easily finding the waterfront address.  Leaping down the steps, the door opened to multiple bags and passengers on their way to Loreto, Mexico, a 5:00 AM flight explaining their early departure.

Getting them to Sea-Tac minus any delays resulted in a very pleasant ride and $40.00 total for a $26.00 fare.  Viva Mexico!

Fare #6---3:30 AM

Having enough and heading back north to close out my day, I got yet another call as I nearing downtown, this time a club in the opposite direction  south at 2905 1st Avenue South.  Knowing that there should be, as usual, a fleet of patrolling cabs  trolling for errant drunks I headed out there anyway, but lo and behold these 2 guys from NYC were actually still there, faithfully waiting for their yellow steed taking them back to the Thompson Hotel at 1st & Stewart.

We had a good conversation about NYC and cab in general, resulting in 20 dollars for a ten dollar fare. I was glad to have it, thinking it was a good way to end the night.

Fare #7---4:10 AM

Having just finished gassing up at 105th and Aurora Avenue North, the night that wouldn't end finally concluded with one last forlorn soul, having missed his final bus, taking him to 120th & Roosevelt NE for ten bucks.  God! was I glad I could finally call it quits and sleep, which I did just after 5:00 AM but not before I had to pet Roxy, my sister's very insistent dachshund, Roxy my usual early morning greeter when I stay in Seattle.

Ah yes, true taxi reality and over $168.00 for three hours work.  If only it was always like this, but can I please be a little more awake?  That would be taxi sugar and spice and everything cabby nice!

One Hat Again

Yesterday I trained and today I quit, writing a letter of resignation even before I signed a contact.  Too much, too much is the quick answer, along with the realization I would not be getting any sleep.  If anyone, who is extremely experienced and willing to untangle the knots, please do apply.  They need you!

Postscript 03/03/2017 9:55 AM:

With more time, I will more fully explain my reasons behind declining on what first glance looked like a wonderful opportunity to both assist, influence and shape the Yellow Fleet side of Seattle Yellow Cab in particular and the combined association as a whole.  What became clear on Tuesday is that they wanted me to do the duties once done separately by my friend Abebe and the superintendent's office.  On top of that I was expected to be there seven days a week.  All I can say, that for me personally, already up to my neck in work and projects, it is not feasible. More next week.











Thursday, February 23, 2017

I Will Now Be Wearing Two Hats

"What you should do is start running as fast as you can in the opposite direction!"  Larry the Mechanic

I have an announcement to make which I have very mixed emotions about. While it has been clear for a long time I have remained interested, in my small way, in making needed changes concerning the local taxi industry, I never thought (not realistically at least) I would be asked to directly contribute by entering management, but this past Monday, that is exactly what happened when I accepted the task of managing the taxi side of Seattle Yellow Cab.

Yes, whatever my job title is, be it general manager or operating manager of Yellow Fleet (formally known as the BYG Co-op), I have entered a period when Yellow is going through a time of great transition, with the request made for me to shepard the taxi lambs to greener ( dollar green) pastures.  And most importantly, creating a permanent financial solvency by putting more drivers in the cabs and keeping them there for more than a few days.  In short, I have been asked to put the taxi jigsaw puzzle back together again.  At least it isn't Humpty-Dumpty I am trying to paste back together.

For those wondering why I was chosen, explanation one is that I have been planning, as mentioned in previous posts, to begin a comprehensive training program at Yellow, so in one sense a dialogue was already ongoing between me and Yellow Fleet. And finally, like the recent Swedish Hospital CEO change, replacing a non-physician with a very experienced doctor, Yellow decided it would be best to have a "long-in-the-tooth" cabbie in command. That fact, along with my proven track record as someone who once negotiated successfully with the State of Washington over L&I charges, is why I was asked to facilitate the repair. If everything is about money, then it was clear that I once saved everyone a bunch of money, of course endearing me to anyone paying attention to something that might have bankrupted the entire State of Washington taxi industry on the whole.

Do I think I can accomplish what at first glance seems formidable, if not impossible given both present and inherent obstacles and hurdles blocking easy and quick remedy?  Yes, my answer is in the affirmative, only because, no matter how wounded Yellow might be, we still retain a very significant customer base which can be, and must be, built upon.  But, as I am gaining quick understanding about Yellow Fleet's current situation, I now understand I will have to act quickly during March and April to stem the bleeding.

While the situation isn't particularly positive, it's not like it was in the past, when some mistakes and miscalculations seemed to be either intentional or systemic, more recent errors appearing due more to inexperience and a lack of coordination between Yellow Fleet and Puget Sound Dispatch than anything else.  It appears that some issues can easily be put to rest, with others taking a bit more tinkering.  Again, gaining ground quickly by the end of April is crucial, with the end of August telling everyone just how well, or not, we are doing collectively as a taxi association. If we are not doing well after six months, I am sure I will be chased out of town all the way down to Mexico.

And what will this effort require, making Yellow Fleet financially strong again?  Coordination and cooperation from all concerned, meaning all the drivers and owners and, most importantly, the dispatch side of Yellow operations, Puget Sound Dispatch, allowing us to do what we must most urgently need to do--- creating more 24 hour, around-the-clock business. Even getting close to the old normal will help immensely. Who wants to sit hour after hour staring at the dispatch computer?  No one, I can assure you of that!

It may sound obvious, and that's because it is, because at the bottom of all of Yellow's ills and problems is inconsistent business for all the cabbies out there sitting and driving around.  What made Yellow so successful was our once large business and customer base.  When the Blood Bank utilized Yellow as its sole courier, everyone was busy regardless of time of day and night. While it is true certain kinds of business will never return, assigned to the "Age of Taxi Dinosaurs," there are areas ripe for expansion, especially our Seattle to Sea-Tac business.  If we expand our "to Sea-Tac" customer base by at least 50% from where are now, we will be more than fine.  Cabbies will be smiling.  I can, with a second thought, guarantee you thatwill be true.

The same scenario, once having a large and successful customer base, and seeing it diminish, can be realled by looking back to the 1980s and early 1990s version of Farwest Taxi, which at that moment was the dominate Seattle taxi association.  And w hat killed Farwest?

Very poor management making bad and even worse business decisions, this occurring when a large group of arrogant owners (self-appointed know-it-alls) took over and destroyed the greatest account-based customer-base I have ever witnessed.  When you're dumb, you're dumb and these guys were the taxi  poster-child for unbridled idiocy.  On a given noon Monday through Friday there would be 50-60 bells alone sitting downtown crying out for cabs.  It was amazing.  Even more amazing is how it was all destroyed over an approximate 24 month period, fools plundering the taxi pantry, efficient in their inefficiency

And just what wounded Yellow, albeit not fatally?  Yes, management issues to some degree, especially in regard to not quickly adjusting to the competition provided by Uber and Lyft.  At various times day and night, Uber has taken 50 to 75 % (my own rough estimate) of what once was our off-the-street and bar-break business. While the situation remains dire, we still have a good percentage of brand loyalty left, something we can and must build upon and expand. While not completely writing off the "20-something, 30-something" customer demographic, I don't see it coming back anytime soon unless Uber's investors tire of annually losing billions of dollars.

But again, I believe innovative advertising and customer outreach plus greatly improved driver professionalism will begin to bring us back to even.  And I have given myself 12 months to do it, having given a year commitment and no longer.  I already have in mind a few able folks who might be interested in succeeding me.  Officially my duties begin March 13th, 2017.

In the meanwhile I will try to get myself oriented to the point where I won't be completely mystified come that pending second Monday in March. I also have to complete by that same March 13th my medallion change from 478 to my lottery acquired City medallion, number 1092. Yes, it is true, that unlike many folks making the transition from worker-drone to management, I will be both, making me somewhat singular in the everyday, workaday world, meaning  I will see for myself if indeed we are progressing forward or not.

So, as I began, I am, and will be seeking assistance from everyone connected to Mother-ship Yellow.  We are all in this together.  Unlike some examples from the past 20-30 years I promise to be completely transparent and, time permitting, always personally welcoming to everyone sharing their ideas and thoughts.

Yellow Cab, being more than one or two managers and supervisors, is a viable community of real living and breathing human beings.  I understand that.  I recognize that. And that will always be my administrative approach during this upcoming year.  If you ever think I have forgotten, please, please remind me and tell me what's what.  Again, if I fall asleep, be a friendly alarm clock and wake me up.  Though at times sleepy, when its time to be awake and alert, its time and that is just the way it is.

In other words, everyone, Good Morning, Seattle Yellow Taxi! drink that cup of coffee while turning on the cab. It is time to get going, having passengers to pick up and places to go.  And can I say, shall we have fun in this entire process here of operating a professional cab company?  I hope so, and shall we also make some money while picking up all our happy and satisfied customers?

Fantasy?  I don't think so. Instead, I believe success will be our ever present and growing reality. Spring is nearly here.  Pick a bunch of taxi blossoms and make a bouquet, presenting it to your passengers, pleasing them and you too, a taxi flower nodding ascent to the world.

Again, Good Morning cabbies! Good Morning! tossing out the old and welcoming the new! Good morning!

Seattle's Traffic Congestion 20th Worst On Planet Earth?

According to something called the INRIX Traffic Scorecard, Seattle's Metro-area traffic ranks 10th worst nationally and 20th overall worldwide.  Astounding if true, and after spending a little more time recently on the local taxi roads, I can literally see what they are referring to.  Two others ranking systems put Seattle's traffic nationally at 4th and 6th worst respectively.  What no one is talking about is why, why is this truly small metropolitan area so clogged with traffic?  One answer is geography, essentially locating a relatively large city amidst a mountain range.  Bad, bad idea.  The other is a lack of vision by city planners.  Yes, they are now attempting to catch up but guess what, they are, instead, falling behind.

This reminds of a local news item from Mayor Murray decrying about the homeless situation in Seattle, calling it a true emergency that must be urgently addressed.  Only problem with the mayor's concern is that he has done little to address outrageous rent increases.  In the Ballard neighborhood a friend's rent increased by $900.00. a month.  A recent passenger, now staying at an Aurora Avenue North motel, being in-between apartments, had his Ballard studio-apartment go from $500.00 monthly to $1200.00.  

Yes, locally, the sky is falling but whose fault is it?  Being dimwitted I think I know who is responsible.  Or maybe I just don't know anything, having dropped out of school so long ago I can't even write my own name.

USA 2016 Traffic Deaths Increasing Over Past Years

According to new data, the United States traffic deaths for the year 2016 were 40,200 give or take a few random bodies.  Yes, not only are the local Seattle and area streets more clogged, they are certainly more dangerous, driving around here becoming some deranged version of automobile dodge-ball.  As I tell anyone who is interested in listening, the only terrorists I meet are my fellow motorists who are making every effort to kill me and themselves and everyone around them.  Is this an exaggeration?  No, it is reality, as the recent national body count shows.

Just for example, how many American soldiers were killed over the three-year long Korean War?  23,000.

And what about the Vietnam War, stretching from 1959-1975?  58,000 Americans dying for what we will never know.  There have been individual years during the past three decades where up to 50,000 people have died upon America's vast roadways.  While one death is too many, 40 to 50 thousand killed is far beyond acceptability.

So while the Federal Government worries about a few errant individuals you can be sure one of your fellow red-blooded Americans will soon try to kill you.  But please, don't take it personally, they have places to go and things to do.  They gotta move and you are just in the way.  And if you are either injured or killed, that, brothers and sisters, is just how it is.

State HB 1917

Whether it will ever become law, who knows but down in Olympia, Washington's lawmakers are back at  work, and one bill of interest is trying to get the fees Sea-Tac cabbie's are paying down to a $2.00 gate from the current $7.00 gate.  Why this can be controlled by the State is beyond me but I for one endorse the idea because, as I have said in the past, they (the Sea-Tac cabbies) are, plain and simply, paying way too much.  I have also heard of infighting between Teamsters 117 and some who are advocating for the change. What's truly up and truly down I can't tell you but once again, as the old story goes, who ultimately pays the price is the cabbie and no one else.

WA State Bill SB 5620; Just what is Uber & Lyft trying to do?

Again, the Seattle & King County taxi industry owes a great thank you to The Seattle Weekly and staff writer Sara Bernard for keeping us informed upon all items Uber and Lyft.  In its Feb 15th. 2017 edition, Bernard writes about the combined Uber and Lyft effort to shift regulatory authority from the municipal and county to the State, making it even harder to get a grip upon the ever elusive Uber.  That SB 5620 waters down regulations should go without saying.  The taxi industry lobbyist Cindi Laws says "This is a giveaway on the magnitude of a Boeing tax giveaway."  And I would agree with that, meaning SB 5620, if becoming law, would further hurt the already wounded Seattle and area taxi industry.

What I find most interesting is not Uber's efforts toward self-preservation.  No, it is who is named as the primary sponsor, that being WA State Senator Curtis King, a Republican from the very rural, eastern Washington town of Yakima.  As I said in an email to King, why is someone from Yakima working to promote and expand the very urban Uber?   I for one think this is a very good question.

If you have any questions you would like answered, please email the good senator at curtis.king@leg.wa.gov.  On his website he says he wants to hear from you.  So take him at his word and tell him what you think.  From what I can see, regulation of Uber and Lyft is currently abysmal.  Can it get any worse?  I believe it would if Uber and King have their way.

I should add that the same thing is also happening in the state of Iowa, with Republicans in control of both the State House and Senate.  The sitting governor is also a Republican.  Just like Senator King, his fellow Republicans in the "Hawkeye State" are attempting the same thing, writing legislation that ends municipal control.

Again, Sara, thanks for trying to keep all us sleepyhead cabbies awake.  It is appreciated.










Thursday, February 16, 2017

Even The Unconscious Must Pay Their Cab Fare

It has been said that beneath human civility lies the primitive nature, a hidden animal ready to pounce and devour the unsuspecting.  And in the introduction from the 1930s radio series, "The Shadow," the narrator poses the question, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"  His reply is that the "Shadow" knows. And I can now add that perhaps I too know all about it.

Taking it even further, I give you the three following quotes from Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Eric Berne, Berne being the founder of the therapy modality I studied for three years back in 1974-77, Transactional Analysis. Here in Seattle, our TA studies, taught by my mentor Molly Johnson, were aligned with an  associated  psychological umbrella called Radical Therapy, Radical Therapy itself a TA offshoot founded by Dr. Claude Steiner in Berkley, California.

Back in 1976 I met the famous Steiner himself at a TA conference outside of Iowa City, Iowa.  At its height our Seattle-based therapy collective had nearly 200 members including a physician I remain convinced to this day was a government informant.  It was those kinds of days, Molly and her various friends and followers chased out of the state of Indiana.

Radical Therapy operational theory was that therapy is a political act, translating into that all human interaction holds a political basis or foundation.  Whether true or not, that is what we were all talking about way back then during those very different of times.  Ah yes, what mysteries, not to say confusion, lurks in the brains of both men and woman?  Do I really want to know the answer to that question?  No, I don't think so.

"The tendency of aggression is an innate independent instinctual disposition in man....it constitutes the most powerful obstacle to culture."----Sigmund Freud

"Man's task is to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious."----Carl Jung

"Awareness requires living in the here and now, and not in the elsewhere, the past or the future."  Eric Berne

I mention all this due to a short ride from the Dock Tavern to an address a couple miles away near the intersection of North 45th & Sunnyside Avenue North, having quickly turned into an instant nightmare, with the young woman, clearly in some kind of altered state of consciousness from it seems an unfortunate combination of alcohol and drugs, first refusing to pay the eight dollars owed, then physically attacking me, both hitting me in the face and knocking off my glasses.  There are many inherent lessons contained here, but most importantly for me is that I must pay attention at all times regardless of how tired I am.  If  perhaps I had been paying better attention I would have noticed how disconnected she was, realizing how unsuitable she was as a passenger.

I have met others like her, individuals who are "blacked out" on their feet, making it impossible to communicate in any normal way, their overall quality (and state of mind) being violent aggression melded to a childish immaturity. If you can think of a worse combination, I suggest running as fast as you can in the opposite direction.  I assure you it isn't anything you want to be involved with.

My only excuse for all of this is the usual taxi exhaustion blanking my mind at a time I truly needed to think quickly, forgetting to both send message 57 indicating I had an "emergency" and not hitting the emergency button next to my knee.  I truly wanted the police to respond but at that moment my telephone screen had gone blank, allowing me to accept calls but not to call out.  Since the fare was small I should have just let her go but in my lack of wisdom, deciding to keep the doors locked in a misguided attempt to hold the idiot accountable.

One step I sometimes take in situations like these is to take the person back to where the fare began but again this was a bad idea because the woman was completely berserk and clearly dangerous.  On the way back to the Dock I got the bright idea to ask a group of "twenty-somethings" to please call the police.  To my dismay they collectively refused, not having the ability to comprehend that something quite serious was occurring, or to put it another way, were confused by the woman screaming, and grew suspicious that the horrible cabbie was going something "mean and awful" to the innocent and victimized passenger.

When it became clear they were all about to become righteous vigilantes I kept going but stopping when I came across another Yellow cabbie, telling him to call the police.  While waiting there, some of the heroic "twenty-somethings" came running up, with one offering to pay the fare.  Handing me a ten, I gave him back his change.  Given half a chance I would have told him I would now take the young fool back to her address but he and his comrades appeared more interested in saving the day so whom am I to argue?

My only vindication is that suddenly they had her on their hands, having to deal with the unconscious zombie that she was.  Given that, I am sure they all had a good time. How do you communicate with a blank wall? From my experience you simply don't, walls very poor conversationalists.

Later I found her debit card on the rear floorboard, along with a drug pipe and various cosmetics. Anyway, if there is ever a next time, I am letting the fruitcake run where ever they like.  I still remember a similar case, upon getting the guy to pay me, I last saw him running down the street screaming at the "top of his lungs." But hopefully, if there is a next time, I will be more alert and never, ever let such people into my cab again.  While she was attacking me I clearly pulled a muscle in my back.  Oh yes, isn't taxi fun?  No, I wouldn't say it is, would you?

My final comment is that the lack of assistance from the kids on the corner reminded me of that famous murder in New York City dating from March 13th, 1964, when Kitty Genovese was stabbed repeatedly by Winston Moseley while people ignored her blood curdling screams.  Would they have responded if I had been repeatedly stabbed?  A good question for which I have no answer for but since I didn't the time to count all those kids, I still think there were fewer than 37 of them.  God lets hope so is all I can say!

Hey, if someone asks to call 911, just do it minus any attempt toward unnecessary analysis.  No, heroics aren't required but commonsense certainly is. What is that?  Well if you don't know I give up, tired of explaining the what should be as obvious as, is said, the nose on your face. You do know you have a nose, don't you?


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

42 Minutes From NYC

Greetings from the great public library at 42nd & 5th, NYC.   Now I just have over 40 minutes left to complete this week's posting.  If not then I will have to wait a few minutes to get more time with the public computer.  Leaving my laptop at home forces me to utilize other computers, similar to my last trip to Europe back in the autumn of 2015.

Let's say everything I am doing has been delayed due to the snow back in Seattle. Yes, snow! began falling on Sunday evening, and by Monday morning there were 2-3 inches, with more coming.  My delay was caused by them taking over 2 hours to de-ice the airplane, meaning we left Seattle at about 10:15 AM instead of the scheduled 7:45 AM.

While a great and uneventful ride, it meant I arrived in the dark of a New York City evening, further slowing me down to my eventual arrival to my Brooklyn Bushwick neighborhood AirB&B abode, a room in a house for $118.00 total for four nights. Cheap, believe me, for staying anywhere in greater NYC.

This morning I walked around the clearly shop-worn working-class area while searching for a good cup of coffee.  Finding a "Dunkin' Donuts" I joined the many others just escaping the streets for a strong espresso and cake donut.

It was fun just walking the streets, just as I have been doing here in Manhattan.  Walking around I can clearly see I am suffering from boredom, Seattle's too well known streets offering me little in terms of either novelty or entertainment.  Not only am I bored with taxi, Seattle too adds to the tedium of something I dearly need to say goodbye to.  At this point, I require either the noise of a giant city or the compete reverse, the total quiet of birdsong and the great prairie and its open skies.

In terms of Seattle taxi news the only important item to report is the sudden resignation of Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick, who stands accused of many things including giving himself an unreported $24.000 raise.  With more time I will list the litany of items the Port Commission is unhappy with but short to say, some of the charges are disturbing, including one alleging he directed Port business contacts to his father's company.

Fick himself got my attention during the various Port hearings concerning Seattle Yellow's  past Sea-Tac contract, during which he couldn't conceal his displeasure when Yellow's issues were brought up for discussion.  His obvious disdain was expressed through his irritation with Port staff and what he saw as their poor accounting practises in relation to Yellow Cab's potential Sea-Tac ride-counting errors.  Going back to a 17th Century Spanish proverb, it is now seems like Fick is the "pot calling the kettle black."  How I love the righteously indignant, especially when it proves otherwise.  Should I laugh or cry?

Upon that I have 8 minutes to do my final editing.  By the way, I left the snow behind in Seattle.  Here in NYC it is a spring-like 46 degrees F.  God! what a world and planet!