In the Summer 2013 issue, volume 14, number 3, of Doctors Without Borders/Medecines Sans Frontieres quarterly magazine there is a feature about Afghanistan based on a blog by Stefan Kruger, a medical volunteer based at MSF's Kunduz Trauma Center. It details how an extremely ill patient was taken, not by ambulance but by taxi cab on a 350 kilometer (210 mile) emergency ride from Kunduz to a better equipped facility in Kabul. The route took the driver over the Salang Pass, which at an elevation of over 10,000 feet traverses the legendary Hindu Kush Mountains. Anyone who has been following international affairs the past ten years knows there is a war going on in Afghanistan, making it one of the most dangerous places on the planet. Given that, still the Afghan cabbie braved not only severe driving conditions but checkpoints and potential gunfire and roadside bombs to get his passenger to the required medial care.
I am relaying his story because it is clear that during the past few year of discussions concerning the state of the taxi industry locally, little has been said about the innate value and importance of taxis and the essential services they provide. More times than I can remember I have rushed ill passengers to the hospital. Sometimes the hacking and coughing is disturbing but nothing is more important than getting someone to the care they need.
Last Sunday I drove a very sick passenger to Northwest Hospital, her dire situation concerning me. She was in great distress. I could go on but suffice to say too many instant critics do not understand what cabbies do, in Seattle, in Afghanistan and over the face of our spinning globe. On November 4th, upon my late arrival in Mexico City, I will be relying on a taxi to take me to my hotel. On my trip to Eastern Europe in March of 2011, more than one cabbie quickly delivered me to my hotel in unknown and darkened cities, despite my bad habit of picking difficult locations.
All I request, and will ever ask for, is that everyone attempt to understand and appreciate the service taxi drivers provide. Simply put, the world needs us, as illustrated by the Afghan example. Next time you see a taxi, wave, and if she/he isn't busy they will take you where you need to go. That is what we do, whether it is around the block or driving over the Hindu Kush! Twenty-four hours a day, the usual rain or shine or exploding missiles or treacherous mountain pass, we are there for you. Many years ago, coming back from my first fare to eastern Washington, I was caught in a raging blizzard. I had gotten the train crew up and over the Cascades to their assignment. I was glad to do it even though afterwards I couldn't see a damn thing with the blowing snow blinding me. Such is taxi driving and our shared world.