While reading Pearl Buck's "The Good Earth" during my California travels last week I came across a passage reminding me of the state of most new taxi drivers plying the trade in the majority of American cities, namely having little clue concerning what it takes to be a professional driver. Buck's description of Wang Lung's situation is one I find both apt and relevant:
"Take me to the Confucian Temple," and there he sat, erect and calm, and there was that in his calmness which allowed no question, so that Wang started forward as he saw others do, although he had no faintest knowledge of where the Confucian temple stood."
Anyone "taxi knowledgeable" instantly sees the parallel between the modern cabbie and Buck's Chinese rickshaw driver, a taxi passenger's expectations similar to this fictional representation. And too often today's version of the rickshaw driver knows about as much as Wang, meaning little to nothing about his profession and his adopted city. As mentioned previously, this point was again struck home when talking to three colleagues nearly two weeks ago. The reasons are many but the results are the same, an overall amateurism downgrading what should be a professional industry, leaving it vulnerable to the current competitive incursions we are all now too aware of. While business was very good at times this "Seahawk" weekend, it would have been even better minus all the illegal and newly sanctioned ride services.
And who is ultimately to blame for this? Why all the cabbie "Wang Lungs" who never fully comprehend what taxi driving is and its great potential, diminishing everyone and everything associated with our shared endeavor. Like the story of the Buddha implies, self-awareness is everything, taking you both internally and externally where you want and need to go. Instead of assigning complete blame and responsibility upon taxi associations and owners, the awake individual rubs his/her eyes, blinking at the bright sunshine, asking themselves, "What can I do today to make my life better?" Waiting for others to do it for you is a mistake, sitting beneath that tree of knowledge for eternity and waiting for opportunities to hit you on the head. Alternatively I suggest get up and stretch, and begin walking, or in the cabbie's case, driving toward a Nirvana of your own making. If there is another way, I personally don't know it. The road is your own. Time to say hello to your next destination.
Seattle Mayor's Misplaced Empathy
Last week in the New York Times I read a short news item expressing Mayor Murray's new plans for expanding tent cities for Seattle's homeless. While laudable I find it contradictory given how he intentionally blocked the city council's taxi/Uber ordinance limiting competition, instead lifting all TNC limits thus creating an operational environment where many can not provide for their families. Does the Mayor think that we too are interested with moving into his version of alternative housing?
As I keep saying, beware of those theoretic people making decisions for the rest of us while receiving a guaranteed paycheck. A novel approach instead would be a monthly poll asking the voters if the mayor and the council should get paid for that particular period. I do believe that if in a two or three month span their checks were withheld we would suddenly have more responsive government instead of the current prattle masquerading as effective initiative. Maybe then the mayor and the city council would understand that holding responsibility for an entire city is a sacred task, not something given to "sound bites" and idle thought.
And we the voters could display our caring by reserving tents for the mayor and the nine city council members. If they start to shiver, we will call for a special referendum asking if they should be provided with sleeping bags. That would be a humane response, don't you think, everyone deserving to be warm and having a canvas roof over their heads. Who can argue with that?