In today's (Monday October 21st, 2013) Seattle Times editorial page, there is, surprise of surprises, a balanced and fair editorial concerning the local taxi industry, entitled "Level Playing Field For Taxis, Ride-Sharing. Despite the title, it is clearly on the side of taxis which I find very rare, confirming the editorial board is paying attention. Hallelujah! is all I can say given my too many years of reading and hearing erroneous opinion.
Their editorial fits in well with what I was planning on writing today because the majority know little about taxi realities and that needs to change pronto, as quickly as possible. If any of the current City of Seattle decision makers, be they city council members or the mayor or my various friends and acquaintances at Finance and Licensing, were they today plying the taxi streets I guarantee they would not for a moment think it reasonable flooding the city with non-professional drivers. They would know, like I do, one basic and simple fact: driving taxi requires great knowledge and skills ranging from knowing the local roads to being an instant psychologist.
During recent City Council hearings the testimony of local Lyft drivers shared one, overwhelming quality: naivete. Maybe when their crotch is grabbed, something I have experienced more than once, they will appreciate the wild world they've entered. I can only hope their victimization will be minor. Every time I drive by an intersection where the body of a cabbie was found, say South 55th Street & Bangor Avenue South for instance, I recite a silent prayer. From my experience, it is the rookies who are attacked, the criminals entering my taxi instead behaving themselves and paying the full fare, recognizing it would be a grave and potentially fatal error to do otherwise. As I keep repeating, taxi is not for the faint hearted. Professionals are required and no one else.
Early Saturday morning in the south end of greater Seattle, ground fog hugged the roadway, at times limiting visibility to ten to twenty feet. It was in this "pea soup" I had a 4:15 AM Sea-Tac time call at SW 115th Street and 30th Place SW. A difficult locale to find in sunny weather, try the early morning conditions greeting me that morning. Pleased I was only five minutes late to their house, I got the Disneyland-bound family to the airport in plenty of time despite roadways and freeway signs immersed and shrouded in impenetrable misty gloom, conditions hazardous beyond the usual Seattle experience. As I was thinking then, this is when the driving professional is required. Does the City and County really want ersatz taxi neophytes driving under these circumstances? I truly doubt it.
Same general neighborhood but fast forward to late Sunday night transporting two drunk Hispanic men from a Whitecenter address to Boulevard Park and then on to Renton. One, the routing was necessarily serpentine, twisting through Whitecenter and Top Hat and Boulevard Park and South Park and Skyway to an address near the Renton airport, and two, making it more interesting, my passengers barely spoke English. And topping it off, three, the gentleman paying starting making noises he didn't have the full fare. This is when I had to momentarily get a little verbally rough. It all worked out in the end though, with the jovial drunk tipping me two dollars. Again, you want a professional driving these besotted souls home. Nothing about this ride was easy. Even hardened veterans would be challenged. What would have happened to a rookie? Eaten alive and spit out, bones and all. It is unfair to subject the unsuspecting to such an environment. The only reason I survive is I am indigestible, all leather and gristle.
Since my concerns are primarily taxi, I am only concerned about two races, and besides, the mayoral and City Council Position #2 being the only truly contested positions, and with Murray, according to some polls up on McGinn by 20 percentage points, Conlin versus Sawant might be the only major mystery.
McGinn versus Murray
Ed Murray is an unknown other than saying he would "call a moratorium" upon the ride-share services. Whether he actually would I don't know but at least he pandered, reached out to our industry which is more than I can say regarding anyone else. Murray then might be our only hope for possible inroads at City Hall. It is only a guess.
I like Mike McGinn. Some have said I even played basketball with the future "his honor" at the DT YMCA. I do appreciate that he appointed me to the taxi commission. I know he had the city install perfectly useless "limited-hours" taxi stands but still I remain doubtful. While traffic volume has increased by at least twenty percent he has transformed many four lane roads down to two lanes, slowing down traffic and creating unnecessary jams. He is also responsible, along with the King County folks of making lanes "bus only" while simultaneously downgrading and eliminating bus service. All of this of course is a "pain-in-the-butt" to the harassed, hard working, fast moving cabbie. McGinn is full of dreamy theories that are somewhat nightmarish.
My tepid choice. Murray.
Conlin versus Sawant
Over the years I have had some pleasant email exchanges with Richard Conlin. Nice guy. I heard Kshama Sawant speak when she was running against State Senator Frank Chopp who definitely is not nice. My opinion about Sawant is that she is the theoretical candidate, thinking "she is one of the people" while clearly upper-middle class. In fact she thinks many things while in reality has done very little living, at least of the kind of living that bloodies the nose and dirties the hands. The problem with this kind of politician is, if elected, and upon coming down to earth from her cloud-bound heaven, like our friend Obama, we end up with the conventional, the usual, not the expected radical who would "one day change the world!" It is awful, that after their youthful idealism has faded, most become a slightly altered version of their parents, be that good or bad.
With Sawant and others like her I keep thinking about Orwell's Animal Farm and that final card game. Yikes! Flipping a coin between " I am a Progressive!" and the self-described "Socialist Economist" I have come up with theory standing on its head. I will be voting for Sawant. If nothing else she will cause trouble for a few sessions before morphing before our eyes into another kind of political creature. If she wins maybe they will build a stall for her, complete with wall to wall hay bales. And supplying her with organic oaken wooden buckets filled with filtered spring water. I wish I had more than one vote!
My editor from afar, "she-who-can't-be-named" spotted a number of errors which are now corrected. What you are seeing is the "taxi aftermath" and my attempt to do finished work when I am half-dead. I completed this posting last night at 10:20 PM. then with packing up and quickly going to the co-op I didn't leave Seattle until past 11:00 PM, finally arriving back in Tacoma a bit after midnight. In December I will be 60. My body collectively, my knees and ankles and afflicted brain all tell me I am no longer 20 but I keep wanting to be. All I request is patience and usually in a day or two I am caught up with everything, including my Monday night errors. Sleep helps and I will get more tonight. November 4th I leave for Mexico and much needed rest.