Saturday morning a passenger told me he was twice robbed at gunpoint while navigating a two-month long taxi stint in San Francisco sometime in 1971. Both times he was surprised, not understanding he was being set up by willingly taking passengers to "unsafe" addresses. Having lived in San Francisco 1979-82, it was clear even then there were parts of the city you just didn't enter unless protected by armed escorts. Asking if anyone warned him about taxi's inherent dangers, he said the cabbie initially training him barely said two words, making no attempt tutoring the raw rookie. The guy is just lucky he wasn't murdered because it was an era when too many cabbies were killed and left bleeding upon the side of the road. At one point, on the opposite side of the country, NYC was averaging 50 cabbie murder deaths a year.
What this guy's story spotlights is one of the taxi industry's few consistencies: collectively a lack of concern for its drivers and ultimate consequences for everyone concerned. A taxi buddy on Monday told me one Yellow cab's insurance rates had doubled due to a combined four at-fault accidents in one twelve-month period. The cab is now sitting uninsured, with the single owner losing his financial butt. This is what happens when the inexperienced, minus all support, get in beneath the top-light. My night driver first started in 1973, once owning a cab in Los Angeles. He knows the taxi ropes, being the kind of driver we need out here 24/7.
One question might be, how are taxi robberies and taxi accidents related; what are their associated factors pointing to a shared source? Simply, when rookie drivers are not prepared, with no one---not companies, associations or government regulators preparing them in any meaningful way for the insane experience that is taxi--bad things happen. It is obvious then, clearly preordained, that when an occupation as unusual as taxi is treated as something mundane and commonplace, you get nationally what we have seen over the years: poor suckers who have no real clue about what they are getting themselves involved in. And I am talking about everyone, including my lifelong friend Marty, a University of Chicago graduate who was robbed by a gun wielding thug when driving a cab back in 1968. He is smart but clearly at that particular moment the assailant was wiser.
And what, you may ask, keeps a driver safe while plying taxi's mean streets in Chicago, Seattle and elsewhere? Well, being a human wolverine assists, which helps explain why potential criminals are uniformly scared of me, politely paying their fare and getting out, understanding making a mistake with me could be their very last bad decision, me and other professional cabbies having no time whatsoever for games and nonsense. They even say thank you upon exiting the cab, perhaps thankful for getting out alive, cultured civility wonderful, making for an orderly and peaceful society.
How could any potential ruffian disagree, knowing full well when they are being measured for a casket. Crooks may be dumb but they not that dumb, desiring, like all of us, the easy over the impossible. Every cabbies' personal credo then should be the same: my poison more lethal that yours, his/her determination the fatal hemlock, ancient Socrates, on some level, once knowing all about it.
Rumor and Otherwise Concerning Sea-Tac Service Award
At this point, I am finding it very difficult to sort out the various facts, fictions and rumors currently circulating over the taxi airwaves concerning Sea-Tac's outbound service award but if, as the old saying goes, where there is smoke there's fire, Eastside's hope of ultimately taking over for Yellow could be engulfed in flames. One source pulled me aside on the Victoria Clipper line Sunday, describing in detail what he knew.
One major development is that two Port Commissioners have balked at signing the new contract, possibly meaning the entire issue will remain deferred to at least March 2017, with Yellow continuing on as the month-to-month de-facto service provider. A major problem it seems, as I reported last week, is that Eastside bid too high, that generous bid having ripple effects across the Sea-Tac landscape. While much of this was confirmed by another source, all that I have just written should be treated as mere speculation until confirmed by official announcements. If all is true, it seems Teamsters 117 also made some valuable contributions to the taxi-operator side of the argument. As normal, stay tuned, and if breaking news develops, I will try to be your reliable source for all Sea-Tac related information.