In the middle of all this bureaucratic and cultural argument I have the strong impression that what defines taxi, what taxi really is all about has been forgotten and lost. A driver told me this year is Seattle Yellow Cab's 100th anniversary, serving at this point millions of passengers over an untold zillion pothole miles.
Imagine a century of service from the beginning of the First World War to the Space Age and now to the Age of the Internet and beyond. Love them or hate them, taxi here in Seattle and across our spinning globe is here for you when you step off that jet, train, bus or boat. Having travelled round the world I have and continue to utilize taxis.
When in March 2011 I was in Moldova and wanted to visit a remote cave monastery in the countryside, how did I get there? By taxi of course. The driver was professional, taking me directly to the monk reading scripture by the dim light provided by his rocky cell. That is what I and almost every other passenger receive, quick and reasonable and mostly cheerful service. Taxi drivers serve everyone regardless of social class. We are there for you, including these few examples from last weekend, fully illustrating taxi as it is minus myth and hyperbole.
----I found the old guy at a motel, totally dismayed, not knowing what he would do. His debit card wasn't allowing to him to pay for his room. Discharged after 3 months in Harborview and no home to return to, having burned to the ground while in the hospital, he was utterly stranded. Knowing that I too might not get paid I took him anyway in a further search for motels. After $25.00 dollars on the meter and again his card malfunctioning I drove him to the nearest Denny's, gave him $5.00 for coffee and told him to call his bank when it opened. Whether I will ever get the card authorization and be paid I don't know but for me the way I responded to his dilemma was my sole option. Yes, taxi as it really is.
-----Bar-break and they are going east of Mill Creek. Nearing the Melrose freeway entrance, the young woman suddenly begins vomiting, thankfully missing most but not of 478s interior. Finally we again get underway and drive first north then east into the suburban wasteland. The guy sitting in the front seat spontaneously says "I like you!" which I respond by joking you better not say that on Capital Hill! What he meant was I remained calm and collected and friendly despite all the distress. A $73.00 fare became $120.00. The post-ride clean up was minor. Again, taxi as it is.
-----I fly over to the 265 from the 285, finally picking her up on the 9200 block of 17th SW. She is fine until 13 dollars later she hands me an one hundred dollar bill which would had been okay except a couple rides back I had cashed another hundred dollar bill for a five dollar fare. I asked her why hadn't she warned me she was paying with a large bill and why didn't she cash it at the 7-11 store we stopped at? She started yelling, "You are the taxi driver, you have to have the change." as we drove up the hill to the next 7-11, interestingly telling me she was going to report me to "Jim" who is none other than the head of dispatch, meaning Jim would certainly know who this clown was. Long and short of it the 7-11 didn't have the change and before I could respond she and her money ran out the door and down an alley. Funny thing is she left her radio/headset combination in the cab. Ha Ha! Taxi, folks, as it really is.
If only all these folks making these important decisions for us knew taxi as I do they would respond differently. I know that. Driving taxi changes you. It really does, opening your eyes to the great wide world!