I wasn't planning on posting anything else this week but a local article caught my attention. Three woman from Mexico, using some kind of GPS monitoring system, were guided not to their Bellevue hotel but onto a dock and into the Mercer Slough they went nose first. Other than getting soaked the passengers were not harmed though their Mercedes probably wasn't overjoyed. There have been other recent incidents where drivers were mislead down the road by their trustworthy GPS system., crashing into overpasses and walls. Whatever happened to the old fashioned map, pulling off to the side of the street and letting your brain figure it out? We know what has happened, assigning our thinking to an artificial satellite orbiting our planet. Why utilize your brain when technology instead can do the work for you? Do you have any pride left in being independent? I will let you provide the answer.
All this had me immediately thinking about all those local cabbies with a GPS device mounted on the dashboard. I began thinking about the training the local drivers DON"T receive and how prepared they are to give customers a professional ride to and from. My friendly suggestion is not to get into such a taxi because the implication is clear, hinting that the driver DOES NOT know where he/she is going once a given address or destination is provided. Or at the very least, the driver is in the process of learning something better known than guessed at. The traditional training method in the taxi industry in the USA is throw the driver into the taxi pool, swim or sink being your only option. Seattle and the other American cities are not like merry, old London, England, UK, where they expect you to know the streets. It is of course known as "The Knowledge" as so many passengers enjoy telling me, thinking that it is news to me. Not quite!
What of course is true is that where ever you might be driving taxi, it should not be OPTIONAL to know the city or town or county you are driving in. As I keep repeating to anyone willing to listen, taxi is a professional activity that should not be taken lightly. When I say that the full time driver working his or her buttock off for an entire year can clear $100,000 folks look at me like I just told them that you can reach the moon by bouncing upon a pogo stick. That is because no one really is interested in knowing the truth concerning this unusual business.
As I also have been known to say recently, when lying prone upon the surgical table staring up at the lights, you expect that physician wielding that sharp scalpel to comprehensively know the anatomy of the human body, helpful to know the various locations of your vital organs. Similarly you should have the same expectation when entering a local taxi. The driver should already have an intimate knowledge of the given anatomy of that city. If they don't, as most passengers can attest, including myself, you can be in serious trouble. Some time in the future I will tell you about the worse taxi ride I have taken, dating from 1984 in Budapest, Hungary. Yes, as you will see, I know all about bad taxi rides.
So then what is the problem? Why don't new Seattle & King County taxi drivers know the city? Why can't the majority of them even drive a car properly? You could say that it is because they are from a different country or culture but while that might be a small factor, it is not the larger or more concise explanation. Anyone from anywhere, be it a far off land or San Diego, CA can soon apply and become a taxi driver in this fair city. I believe that they are now requiring that you have a Washington State driving licence for a minimum of one year. I have told licensing that five years would be a much better minimum but when you are attempting to save the world, the minimum on every level appears to suffice.
After previewing this post, I realize I have taken on a subject that is far greater than what one entry can allow. Next week I will delve further upon why taxi service in Seattle can be so unreliable. It is all about insufficient training and extremely low expectations for the new driver. There are real reasons why 500 or so new cabbies quit within 12 months. You too would say "the hell with it!" if every shift is so mentally painful that you feel you are going to die. As all of us taxi veterans know too well, driving cab is akin to being on the front lines of an actual war. You have to be very canny and wise to survive. Sitting in that taxi can be a very lonely experience, even if you have four _______s chattering away. No one tells you what it is really like. They just point you in the general direction of your taxi and maybe say good luck. Maybe!