As usual, many things occurred this past taxi weekend but first I want to talk about what allows me to keep driving crazy taxi every weekend, meaning prioritizing anything that isn't taxi, as exemplified by my recent travels to Mexico, or, as I did toward the end of last week, driving over the Cascades and walking in the Spring-scented high desert. If I didn't practice this kind of life-giving oriented self-therapy, I wouldn't last another day yet a month laboring beneath the top-light. Even if I am not leaving the area, daily I take long walks in local parks, and another priority, reading good writing, anything to keep me connected to a life totally separate from that alienating profession known as driving a big Yellow car in and around Seattle's clogged paved arteries. In 2003 I tried a schedule of driving ten single shifts in a row. I am not exaggerating when I say it almost killed me. It was not fun in any way, shape or taxi form.
The Quincy Game Range, also know as the Quincy Lakes, is a high desert wonderland containing seven large lakes and a variety of smaller lakes and ponds and steams and seasonal wetlands, plus especially this time of year, waterfalls dropping from the basalt cliffs. Arriving there in the early evening Thursday I found the majority of the better campsites already taken by a small invasion of horseback riders, their horse trailers and campers taking up much of the available space. Knowing the area well, I found a somewhat secluded camp near a canyon's edge, snugly situated between rocky basalt outcroppings that were clearly home to a clan of desert marmots. Reluctantly giving way to this human intruder, I awakened Friday morning to a marmot's impatient scrutiny fifty feet away, wondering when the hell is this troublemaker going to leave.
Taking my customary walk down to Dusty Lake I weaved through acres of desert flowers---yellow, blue, violet, purple and pinkish white blooms bordering the paths. Arriving waves of redwing blackbirds were preparing nests while high up in the sky large Canada geese convoys flew overhead. Eating breakfast while overlooking the canyons I watched hawks swooping over the lush cattails and mischievous swifts soaring in gigantic circles, drifting closer and closer to my perch, displaying brilliantly white bellies.
It was hard to leave this paradisaical setting, taking solace by choosing State Route 410 back west, sneaking up upon Mount Rainier from snowy Chinook Pass. Tired but content I threw myself into bed, prying myself out of bed a mere five hours later, memories of Eastern Washington fueling me down the taxi road.
The weekend itself was the usual continuation of the commonplace taxi theme, too many drunks intertwined with some very decent rides which included a ride from Sunday's Marnier's game all the way to Lakewood, Washington, the $118.00 fare paid by the baseball team, my passenger two-thirds drunk and injured from a fall. As comparison, I had five airport trips versus the sixteen from last weekend, showing how unusual that was. I did go to Edmonds,Washington from the train station, which was good to have, $52.00 to the ferry dock. The airport is great but in the context of the taxi universe, there are many great places to go.
Reading the Instruction Manuel Before Turning on the Key
The new dispatch system at Yellow still appears capable of a few surprises. Whether it was a good idea to begin with, management decided to try to a feature that penalized drivers for rejecting a fare. While personally understanding the long-term frustration of dealing with contrary drivers, the experiment turned into something altogether unexpected when suddenly 250 drivers were simultaneously suspended from the "bell," the system retroactively punishing anyone who had hit the reject button anytime during the past six months. While unintentionally comical, it kept the calls from being served while I am sure bewildering everyone concerned. I was told today that this particular feature has been permanently shelved. Let's hope so. It is back to the laboratory once again trying to figure out how tame the feral cabbie. Good luck with that!
Uber Stupor or Something like that
My last fare Saturday bar-break was a passenger from a Ballard 7-11 who had been abandoned by her Uber driver. Unfortunately for the slightly drunk young woman the driver drove away, taking her purse and wallet with him. Why he did this no one knows. Maybe he was offended she was buying beer. Who knows but the 911 dispatcher I spoke to had no ability of contact Uber. How she eventually retrieved her valuables, I don't know. My only advice is never to leave anything in an Uber car. Unlike the taxi associations Uber doesn't appear to have a truly viable lost and found. Sometimes I think Uber is just going to self-destruct, one day Uber being little more than a bad memory. Uber, Lyft and Sidecar as an effective business model, one designed to answer America's transportation needs, at least from my biased point of view, remains in question. I do know that many passengers will no longer ride with Uber, with Yellow appearing as a better option. Amazing, I know!
Still In Session
Last week, I reported to you that the new Uber bill had passed the Washington State legislature, and was sitting on the governor's desk. Well sorry, I was wrong, the local NPR station issuing a false report. The house and senate versions are currently in committee awaiting language changes which means the Labor and Industry coverage question remain unanswered. It also means you might want to investigate what kind of insurance that Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have before you jump in and experience a kind of ride you never wanted to occur. What will ultimately happen is any one's guess. Once the full details are known I will let you know. Having insurance coverage is something that shouldn't be quickly dismissed. It's an important issue even if it remains unspoken. Stay tuned.
Communication? There's No Communication
A taxi buddy was complaining this weekend that no one told him that physicals were no longer part of the for-hire license renewal process, saying he spent $50.00 for nothing whatsoever. Where does the failure lie, you might ask? Did anyone notice, like I did, that once the Mayor's Uber ordinance became law, no official notification was sent out detailing changes that personally affected for-hire license holders? Trying to read the law on-line was nearly impossible, making it very difficult to clearly comprehend what the new rules were or not. A simple letter highlighting the new rules and changes would have been extremely useful which is of course why they didn't do it, efficiency somehow counter-productive when addressing the taxi industry. And if this isn't true, why did S_____ go down to that dubious Chinatown clinic to visit the doctor well known to pass anyone who walks through his door. Deaf! Blind! Rapid heart-beat!---never a problem that couldn't be instantly cured, comedic relief posing as valid medical examination.
Not All Bad Category
Another taxi buddy, D______ told me that two weeks ago he picked up two drunk fish processor workers down at Lake Union and took them, first, to Fife, Washington, and then from there to the airport. The fare was $220.00 but both insisted paying him individually, meaning my friend received a $220.00 tip. While talking about "our best tips" he related how a passenger, pleased by his singing Christmas songs for her, wrote him a check for $500.00 for a $15.00 fare. The check was good, the teller handing him five $100.00 bills. See what happens when you are friendly? I should try that sometime!
As my SafeCo Field fare to Lakewood attests, the more sporting event attendance the better. Saturday's game had over 43,000 fans, with Sunday's game drawing over 31,000. A winning team, be it the Seahawks, the Sounders, the UW Huskies, all translates into money directly into the cabbie's wallet. Despite a slow start, the Mariners are odds on favorites to finally reach the World Series. What a windfall that would be for the city in general and the cabbies in particular.
One negative remaining from past seasons is the dysfunctional taxi stand, both pointing in the wrong direction and on the wrong side of the street. At least the Mariner's staff understand this, which is why I found my Lakewood fare on the "illegal" side of the street. All I can hope for is a newly tolerant SPD, allowing cabbies to pick up where the passengers are, not where they are not.
South Meed to Earl Northwest
One huge public service the cabbie serves is keeping drunks like the one I took from 51__ S. Meed to 65__ Earl NW. Halfway there he was on the telephone complaining to his friends that I was "jacking" him around, his inebriated state not allowing him to understand that I, one, knew where these somewhat obscure streets were, and two, the perfect route. Be glad he wasn't behind the wheel, instead safely insulting the cab driver. What an idiot he was!