What is true is that I could drive taxi for a thousand years and still experience something unique and new though not necessarily anything I ever desired to see or know, taxi "force-feeding" you the world as it truly is minus scripting. Go to the movies or the live theatre for fictional portrayals but drive a taxi to be tossed pell-mell into life's random and erratic milieu. As I keep saying, I meet everybody and I mean everybody.
A good current example is "Joni" who just called me a few minutes ago for a ride. Joni defies accurate definition, a young man presenting himself as an "Ethiopian Jew" and having 2 undergraduate degrees and scheduled this upcoming fall to study law at the University of Chicago. Given his descriptions, clearly he has hiked and climbed in California's mountainous terrain and yet, from where I first encountered him at an East Marginal Way South AM-PM store, he currently resides in a cheap motel, buys and consumes street drugs, and is at this moment, obviously "half mad."
And this is only the beginning of his description and who he potentially and actually is, fully knowing I will never know his real story and don't want to, having no ability to positively affect his situation other than providing a reasonable and honest cab ride. Saturday night he called me from the Wedgwood district QFC, right arm in a sling, wanting a ride somewhere which finally turned out to be the NE corner of North 123rd and Aurora (Highway 99) Avenue North, Joni quickly slipping into the shadows, again where or why I don't want to know.
The Confounding Mr. Swift-Albro
Mister "Swift-Albro" himself was a very interesting gentleman who clearly had some cognitive difficulties, making communication an ongoing, up and down adventure. Picking him up at the Pyramid Brewery just after the Seattle Seahawk's failed attempt at a second consecutive "Super Bowl" victory, he addressed his desired destination as the repeatedly announced, "Swift-Albro, Swift-Albro, Swift-Albro!' meaning a major intersection and I-5 exit ramp on the western side of south Beacon Hill known as South Swift Way & Albro Place South. Any questions requesting more specificity were met with the splendidly redundant reply,"Swift-Albro, Swift-Albro!"
With everything seemingly normal other than this linguistic peculiarity I continued on, exiting off of south-bound I-5 and asking, "Left or Right?" only to discover that his "turn right," instead meant "turn left." or some other interpretive response. Initially thinking he lived somewhere near the intersection it was quickly apparent that wherever we were going I wasn't going to know until we arrived, first directing us onto Martin Luther King Way South as we proceeded together all the way down into Renton, Washington.
Believe me, only my 25-plus years experiencing the odd and unusual kept me on track, tempted of course to make sense of this seemingly nonsensical jaunt but having personally worked in the past with many individuals suffering various types of neurological and cognitive disorders I remained cool, calm and collected believing correctly that this circuitous and impromptu tour would somehow successfully end, and it did, soon concluding about a mile north of the Renton airport, having taken us in half circle and back pointed toward Seattle.
During our over 30 minute long ride I had "trained" him to give more or less coherent directions resulting in him correctly saying "turn right," taking us to a gated complex on the south shore of Lake Washington. Paying cash, my final assignment was getting the correct payment, pointing out the two $20.00 dollar bills bunched in his hand, pulling up and away a $5.00 dollar bill much to his "wide-eyed" astonishment, taking full care of the $44.30 fare.
Thoughtout the entire journey this puzzling gentleman remained cheerful and pleasant. Thank goodness it was this cabbie who picked him up because any rookie probably would have ended up in a confounding battle, more than likely over reacting to the inexplicable and indecipherable that was the goodly gentleman, the amazing Mister "Swift-Albro."
And yes, this is the same job that the misguided folks down at Seattle and King County consider to be entry level and easy, something anyone can do. All I know is that few if any of the current folks governing Seattle and King County could have successfully negotiated this confusing "mine field" of a ride. It takes a professional psychologist, which I more or less am, to understand that a passenger like Mister "Swift-Albro" must be professionally assessed otherwise all "hell breaks out" and what could be successful instead instantly transforming into unmitigated disaster, not to mention an unnecessary fistfight.
If only he could have told me where he was going perhaps I would have saved him maybe ten dollars. To say I was relieved to have finally safely delivered him home is the greatest understatement, glad to have the conundrum he presented solved. There would soon be other stories to respond to that evening, including a SPD call taking a drunk upper-middle class woman home from a confrontation in West Seattle to her Bridal Trails neighborhood house in north Bellevue. The cops were relieved when I told them I had been driving over 25 years. They were worried but I wasn't. Hadn't I just navigated Mister "Swift-Albro's" hazardous waters? No one and nothing, not even Moby Dick could sink this taxi vessel, the roughest seas now smooth sailing!
This afternoon, over the telephone, I talked with Eddie Cantu, the recently appointed head of King County Licensing. After meeting him at a TAG meeting a few months back, I knew him to be reasonable and friendly. Talking about the fingerprinting and my concerns about ticket and accident records, he promised to look into these very important issues. I also expressed my oft mentioned concern that the current crop of taxi drivers are not close to being prepared for the task ahead of them. While all these issues might be beyond his operational authority, at least they will receive some examination. If not change, the minimum I ask for is awareness of our taxi reality. I told Eddie that if he got his for-hire and drove for a week his "eyes would be opened." Taxi is scary, every day each driver experiencing their own, very personal Halloween, witches, goblins, vampires, ghouls and ghosts entering the interior of your cab. Required reading for every driver should be Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House." I guarantee you that will put you in the correct mood for something few of us have ever wanted to do.