Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Greeting From Kansas City & (Lucky?) Maggie & (I've had a bad night!) Mike

I don't know if Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller actually ever made it to Kansas City, Missouri but I can say without a doubt that I have though I am not planning on writing a song about my experience but perhaps all that will change.  Yes I am here to visit that well known (at least to some) Kansas City art Museum, the Nelson-Atkins.  I say that some folks know and others clearly don't as represented by the nice lady at my hotel's front desk.  She had never heard of it and the guy at the Kansas City YMCA said that he had his picture taken in front but has yet to enter the establishment.  This after being in the city for nine years.  A gentleman walking out the door said it was a great museum.  It is good to know that at least one local citizen has been curious.  But I'll bet you that the entire greater Kansas City metropolitan area knows Wilbert Harrison's 1959 # 1 chart-busting version of the song about their city.  Even Little Willie Littlefield, who recorded it first in 1952, put out a 1959 version but it was Harrison who had everyone snapping their fingers and chugging down bottles of Kansas City wine.  It was possibly the first Leiber and Stoller song, both age nineteen at the time, to reach the recording studio, they of course of  "Hound Dog" fame and all those terrific songs by the Coasters.  Sadly one of the original Coaster members died sometime this past month.

More currently I can report that the current Kansas City taxi rate is a $2.50 drop and $2.10 per mile.  A driver I spoke to on a stand said that he usually makes $700.00 a week when he hustles and about $500.00 when he doesn't in his three hundred per week (his total lease)  non-dispatched independent taxi, and like us Seattle cabbies, an independent contractor.  He said the Yellow driver that had just left the queue pays $475.00 for his cab.  If that is for an entire 24 hour, seven day week I am ready to move to Kansas City! and see if I too can find, just like Wilbert Harrison, one of those "crazy little women!"  The cabbie said he liked driving Friday and Saturday nights because his inebriated female passengers start to "put their hands on him!"  It seems that these days the locals are drinking something more potent than wine.  Maybe if they would just dilute themselves with a few good paintings they might all sober up and have a nice turkey barbecue sandwich at Gates like I did.  The cab driver mentioned that he liked the Nelson-Atkins.  See, just another well-rounded cabbie with a variety of interests.  Who can deny that we are a cultured bunch!?

Maggie & Mike

Last Friday morning a number of taxi folks convened at the Yellow lot to discuss relevant topics such as time calls and other related dispatch issues. Gathered around that table was nearly a combined 100 or slightly more years of taxi experience.  What did all that taxi wisdom bring us?  An agreement to meet again in January 2013.  I can only imagine what the peace talks must be like between Israel and the Palestinians.  Negotiations can be tough.  At least no one is building settlements near the garage.  I doubt if either Taki or Randy would approve.  But what is clear is that our
conversation did nothing to improve Maggie's experience upon a taxi Saturday afternoon. There is much work left to do.

Maggie is an older woman, a regular caller who lives in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood.  In her quest to reach the Home Depot at 118th & Aurora Avenue North she took a bus up to the Crowne Hill Safeway located at the corner of 15th NW and NW 85th.  She was trying to save some money and only use the taxi for the last leg of her journey north. She made her first request for a taxi at 3:15 PM.  Her fourth and final request came just before 4:30 PM when fortunately for her it was me who answered the call and was there in my most usual instantaneous fashion.  Unlike some others out there in the taxi universe I don't discriminate between calls, treating a grocery store same as an airport run.  In fact I have gone to Sea-Tac from Safeway and other large stores.  Many eons ago I went to the small town of Milton, Washington from the old Roger's Thriftway located at East Union & Martin Luther King Way.  Every driver's daily credo and motto should be " to serve the call and see where they go."  Sounds simple, doesn't it?

It would have certainly helped that if dispatch had sent the first taxi to the "correct" store, dispatching Maggie's initial call to the Safeway on the top of Queen Anne hill, that is 2100 Queen Anne Avenue North.  This is not an unusual occurrence.  Earlier a woman from the southern African country of Botswana called for a taxi at the University Village Starbucks coffee shop.  Instead it was belled to one located on University Way.  Different zones and different locations but that didn't seem to matter.  She told me this happens all of the time.

I rescued Maggie, telling her to call me back personally and see if I was still anywhere close to the Home Depot.  If I was, I told her, I would take her back to Queen Anne and just pay what you could afford, that the money wasn't important.  The poor woman was just picking up some Christmas lights for her balcony.  She didn't deserve the bad service she had just received.

My next call was to a motel just north of the Home Depot, finding a young man who was going to the big "cage" fight at the Key Arena located in Lower Queen Anne. He was just checking in, so I said go ahead and I'll wait a few minutes.  Sitting there I was hoping that Maggie would call back and then I would ask the guy if he would share a bit of holiday inspired mercy. 

He was a bit slow but ten minutes later we were heading south toward the Queen Anne.  It was then, just as Home Depot came into view that my telephone rang.  It was Maggie and she was ready to go.  I said "let me pick up this lady and I'll cut $5.00 off your fare."  He agreed and the rest is history, getting both of them to where they needed to go, which is what taxi is all about.  Maggie was very appreciative of this small near-Christmas miracle.  I just told her next time don't call from a grocery store. Walk down the street and pick an address which is becoming my general advice.  It is best to fool the reluctant cabbie, and perhaps say a few prayers too directed at your local taxi Gods.

Mike Oh Mike!

Mike was one of those fares that have to be completed even though I wanted to toss him out on his heels but given his circumstances I felt compelled to stick with him.  I found him on the Opera House-side of the Seattle Center, not far from the Key Arena. I was dropping off a couple going to the Nutcracker ballet and there he was, drunk and slightly handicapped and very distraught.  At first he said he was going to Woodinville, then changing his mind and said I live in Monroe.  Both of these destinations cost a little bit and given his current state, asked for a deposit.  He showed me a wallet full of money which was okay but he didn't like my estimate to Monroe which was about 100 bucks.  I even called dispatch and Jeff told me about $104.00 to the Monroe city hall. After various rounds of disoriented discussion and repeated threats of taking him to the police or getting tossed out he relented.  Mike had gotten separated from his wife at the "cage" fight and he was simply out of his mind with grief.  After handing me a C note he repeatedly said "you really aren't going to charge me 100 dollars, are you?"  I told him more than once that he would just be paying the meter, getting any change back.  He kept saying that he was having a bad night. Multiple hands shakes reassured the poor fellow.  Once upon arriving at his home outside of Monroe he he again asked the same question which prompted another "if you don't get out I'll have to take you to the Monroe police" and gave him his two dollars change and also reminded him not to forget his false teeth which were on the back seat.  Again he said he was sorry and thanked me for getting him home.  And I was glad I had put  up with all of his nonsense.  He needed to get get home and simply I did what was necessary to get him there.  Real taxi as it is and always shall be.  Ready to sign up?

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