Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Taxi Quiz: What Do You Think The Answer Is? & My Choice For Seattle Mayor

To me it is obvious, which it should be, when passengers have crossed over the line of both sanity and civility to the point where the ride must be terminated.  Of course why would I want to literally take the money out of my pocket, telling the offending passenger you have to go? 

The clear answer is I don't want to, instead wanting to continue taking them to their requested destination.  And it just isn't about the money either because, despite whatever crazy behavior displayed, I have no desire to  inconvenience them, grieving me each time this happens.  I do have a very high tolerance for misbehavior but clearly situations arise when there is no alternative to telling  the passenger that they need to find some other means of transportation.

I say all this because my oldest sister commented that I was "about to snap," that two recent posted ride profiles showed I was seconds away from emulating Travis Bickle, Robert DeNiro's deranged cabbie in the Martin Scorsese's movie, "Taxi Driver." She does know that in 30 years I have never carried a gun along with me in the cab.

She also made the ill-conceived  remark that the aforementioned passengers had done nothing to elicit any response but to take them to where they were going.  But in the second case I never truly knew where she wanted to go, and remain suspicious that she herself didn't know. As I said in my post, going home with me wasn't an option.  And one should ask, why did she think it was a possibility, having barely said ten words to her?

Responding to my sister's email, I said, "That's funny!" because it is, further commenting that her remark "treated me like I was some stranger, and not her brother"  It is also another example of someone thinking they know all about the taxi experience while not understanding it one iota.

I also said that the situation reminded me of our father, someone who failed to recognize anyone for anything but especially focusing his unseeing upon his wife and sons and daughters.  Did we even exist, seemingly a mystery marking him to the end of his days upon our planet?  Given that, I remain sensitive to being misunderstood, at least expecting people to make the smallest of efforts toward seeing who I might be.

So instead of remaining resentful, I think a quiz is in order, giving you the opportunity to decide just what state of mind the passengers were in when, in the first situation, the woman saying we were proceeding west while going east; and secondly, the second passenger denying she had routed me to the top of Queen Anne Hill, and as I said, inferred she wanted to sleep with me. Crazy and crazy and, of course, insane!

Quiz # 1

Was the woman who refused to to be reasoned with while we headed in the correct direction down East Aloha Street:

1) drunk

2) on drugs

3) experiencing a psychiatric break

4) or all of the above

I say the answer is number 3 because she was instantly agitated, making all attempts toward resolution impossible.  My "Hey, don't you see that the street numbers are ascending upward." being completely ignored, finding her fury misplaced and completely unnecessary, with it all adding up to that she appeared to be experiencing some kind of mental disorientation that very likely was psychologically-based. 

What was making her "so crazy?"  I don't know and as I said in my post, it wasn't my place to make that kind of determination, having left my DSM (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual) at home.  Maybe in the future I should keep one beside me, and when called for, flip to the correct page and read the pertinent diagnosis to the passenger.  I am sure they would be overjoyed with learning more about themselves, but upon second thought, perhaps not!  Why know about yourself when instead it is so much fun being nuts, the proverbial walking and talking fruitcake!

Quiz # 2

The passenger who directed me from Ballard to Queen Anne was clearly "impacted" upon entering the cab.  Was she under the influence of:

1)  alcohol

2)  drugs

3)  drug & alcohol combination

4) held emotional or psychological components to her behavior

My choice are clearly numbers 3 and 4 because she was definitely "blitzed" out-of-her-mind on what I don't know.  And after she denied she had taken me to 3rd West and West Galer, she tried to direct me back again along the very same route.  Did any of this make sense?

Not to me, and not that anyone, especially my sister, might have noticed that I was the one driving the car.   I just can't let anyone willy-nilly direct me anywhere they want to minus commonsense.  It makes no sense and besides, its dangerous because it I find it very distracting having some lunatic in the backseat telling me where to go.  Regular readers might remember when, a few months back, some drunk insisted I drive us into Lake Washington.  No, I am not going to do that, 1092 not the best of swimmers.

I hope you enjoyed the quizzes, and since you passed the test, just like I did in 1972 during my battery of pre-induction testing, you are now drafted into the taxi army.  Be sure to salute me when I walk by.  And I am not just blowing taxi smoke.  Soon after I successfully completed the Selective Service testing, the US Navy sent me a letter offering to make me an officer.  While always wanting to be in command of my own destroyer, I declined and now sail the cabbie seas in my big, Yellow motorboat skimming over the urban, asphalt waters, ever vigilant for pirates and police.

Without Question, the Best Choice for Mayor: Jenny Durkan---Please, No Bad "Moon" Rising!

"I see the bad moon rising
 I see trouble on the way
 I see earthquakes and lightin'
 I see bad times today"

from "Bad Moon Rising" (1969)  written by John Fogerty and performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Of course I am referring to that other current candidate for Seattle mayor 2017, Cary Moon, that most theoretical of electoral candidates, and if I can say it, a "liberal and progressive" version of Donald Trump.  I find the parallels between the two compelling due to having very similar lives---growing up wealthy, working for their parent's company, and never having to truly work for a living, with both of course sharing a propensity for thinking they have ideas that should be listened to and embraced.  The reference in the CCR song to earthquakes is important to any consideration of Cary Moon's candidacy, given that she was a proponent of keeping the damage prone Highway 99 (the Alaskan Way Viaduct) bridge standing.

While many might remember the February 28th, 2001 magnitude 6.8 Nisqually earthquake, with an epicenter 11miles northeast of the state capital, Olympia, many don't realize that if it had been shallower, the Alaskan Way Viaduct, along with much of downtown Seattle, would either have tumbled down or been rendered irreparable. As the saying goes, Seattle and area "dodged a bullet" but unfortunately the seismic gun is slowly reloading beneath the earth's crust, meaning that within the next 50 years, there is 87.56 percent probability of a 5.0 or greater earthquake occurring.

In Oakland, California, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed the similarly designed Cypress Street Viaduct with a loss of 42 lives.  Given that 110,000 cars cross the Alaskan Way Viaduct daily, one can see the potential for hundreds of lives loss if the "big one" hits Seattle today in the near future.  Also during that same earthquake, San Francisco's Embarcadero Freeway was severely damaged, resulting it being removed in 1991.  In other words, it was preordained that the Alaskan Way Viaduct was slated for some future catastrophe potentially killing how many motorists I hate to think about.  That is why it is being thrown down and taken away.

If you need further convincing that Cary Moon's advocacy to keep the Viaduct up and working was misguided, please note that since 1931, Seattle has experienced 1,113 earthquakes within a 30 mile radius.  And given that Moon is an Operations Engineer, what in the world was she doing saying it should remain as the monument to the 1950's era engineering it is, opening for traffic April 1953,  eight months before I was born in Puyallup, Washington.

This period of Northwest engineering certainly has a tainted history, exemplified by the opening in July 1940 of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge (the legendary Galloping Gertie), a construction promptly collapsing into the Puget Sound on November 7th of that very same year.  If the ancient Romans had built the bridge, it might still be standing but since it was built, like Moon, by American educated engineers, some question might be applied whether she, and others like her, know what-the-hell they are talking about.  Just ask her.  I know she will be quite reassuring about everything she doesn't know anything about. It comes with very familiar territory: hubris.

In reference to Moon's opponent, Jenny Durkan, while coming from a similarly coddled background, she did strike out on her own and teach school in the Alaskan wilderness, along with working as a baggage handler for Wien Air Alaska.  That she also served as the United States Attorney for Western Washington from 2009to 2014 suggests she understands politics and issues on a far more workable level than Cary Moon.

And another reason for Moon wanting to be mayor: having so much spare time she needs a hobby, and running Seattle would fit in perfectly into her assumed lifestyle. Some people collect stamps, others famous autographs, so why not run a big city?  Why, it might even be fun!

That is why, despite similar policy positions, I think Durkan is the correct choice to be Seattle's next mayor.  Moon also unfortunately reminds me of all those so-called policy expects featured on NPR radio.  If you have a degree in whatever subject and are currently teaching at whatever university, you are then completely qualified to render both opinion and solution upon subjects that have plagued humankind for millenniums.  Have anyone noticed how simple the issue or problem appears to be when they speak?  If only they were in charge, everything would be solved instantaneously.  Ain't that grand?

And according to Cary Moon, she has the answer to Seattle's most pressing problems.  And how she knows is a simple matter of privilege, her leisurely life having provided her plenty of time to lay around upon a couch and think about the world's problems, coming up with all the answers.  Just like Donald Trump, wouldn't you agree, two "green" peas in the same upper-middle class pod?

















Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Julie Gave Me A Free Slice Of Pizza

As I have duly noted many times previously, I never ultimately know how passengers will react, or are responding to me.  That I am considered somewhat unconventional I suppose goes without saying, especially amongst you readers, my blog often exposing a more feral and undomesticated side of my normally civilized self.

In short, all I try to be is myself minus embellishment one way or the other; and that I am a hippie, a refugee from the1960s who just happens to be driving a cab I make no effort to conceal.  With all my other endeavors I remain the same but it is true that cab driving often makes me more irritable than usual, often resulting in a "bitter and biting" tongue though for the most part I make every effort to remain both responsive and congenial.  Peace, brothers and sisters, will always be my primary objective, peace both on earth and inside my taxi!  If only others were so benign, tranquility might reign across our world.

All this leads up to this past weekend and getting free slices of pizza both Saturday and Sunday courtesy of Julie, employee and pizza maker at the local Capitol Hill pizza establishment, Hot Mama's Pizza,  Julie being someone who, along with her record collecting boyfriend, rode in my taxi a few months back to their north end home.

Picking them up at Hot Mama's, they gave me a few slices for the road, and in general we had a pleasant ride to their home abode, all the while discussing records and such.  The ride ended with a great tip provided by these nice folks, the kind of interaction making up for the many other less-than-pleasant encounters.  As said, that was the last I thought of it, other than occasionally seeing the young woman making pizza when I stopped in for a slice, a pleasant interaction remembered and noted.

But this past Saturday night, coming in for a quick slice, the cashier smiled and said Julie had taken care of it, and there she was in her usual spot, making dough.  I was so shocked I forgot to leave a tip but did take a moment to thank her.

And yet again, Sunday night the same occurrence, Julie once more providing me with a complimentary slice.  This time I remembered to tip 2 bucks, again thanking her for the recognition because somehow I had done something right, as opposed to the many theoretic wrongs often flung my way.  Great thanks, Julie, as your kindness makes that pizza taste ever better, being more than food, clearly a Communion host containing the friendliness of emotions!

Not A Good Place To Put A Table!

Speeding (more or less 60 MPH) to Sea-Tac Sunday night southbound on State Route 509, suddenly in the dark I saw a small table directly in my path a mere 75-100 feet away.  Had it just fallen onto the roadway?  That is my guess.

Hitting the brakes and swerving to the left, the table bounced off to where I will never know, as my concentration was solely focused upon getting the suddenly fishtailing 1092 back under control.  For a quick moment I thought we were going to roll.  Thank goodness my driving instincts, dating way back to age 12 and the autumn of 1967, kicked in, saving the taxi day and perhaps our lives.  Once we got to his Sea-Tac area hotel, my grateful passenger shook my hand, thanking me for my "professional maneuver."

Is SR 509 inherently dangerous?  I pose that question because my near accident occurred within a mile of where my friend Jack received his fatal injury when YC 478 slipped off the roadway into a hillside.  Damn taxi! is all I can say.  Tables upon the roadway?  Amazing!

HopeLink's Tyranny!

Too often recently I have witnessed theoretic "good people" do incredible damage to everyone minus any thinking of real and actual consequences.  Whether it is the 'liberal" Seattle City Council uncapping Uber or the mayor installing bike lanes on already impassable streets, it is truly troubling that these "saviors of all human kind" forget that they are impacting the innocent, seemingly concerned only with their immediate priorities regardless of all associated consequences.  And you can believe there can be, and are, repercussions to arrogance and hubris.  Case and point is the helping agency HopeLink, like the animated Mister Magoo, leaving destruction and mayhem in its unseeing wake.

Monday afternoon I got a HopeLink $41.00 flat-rate fare from north Seattle to Bellevue, leaving me no option but to take the Evergreen Toll bridge, the toll at that moment $4.30.  Minus that from my fare, and minus a further $4.30 heading back, and you see I netted $32.40.

When I inquired if I could protest, I was told what I already knew: that imperious HopeLink makes us take all liabilities while handling their "civilization saving" missions.  Whether 20 % of their calls are no-shows or the majority of the flat-rates do not equate assigned costs means little to nothing to them.  They are the moral Royalty and we, the local cabbies, are their minions.  Any complaint is met with "stuff it!' and you know, they really do a great job jamming it down the cabbie's throat.  And you wonder why I am choking?

Ain't that nice?  No!

Did the SPD Hear?

Whether the UW and Seattle Police Departments heard my lament I will never know for sure but something concerning their collective approach to traffic management dramatically changed during Saturday's Husky football game because I found the lanes open throughout the course of the UW 38 to 7 victory over Cal.  I even got a fare to Mountlake Terrace.  Hurrah!  Go team!

And perhaps many thanks to Seattle City Council members Bruce Harrell and Mike O'Brien and the good SPD traffic division Sargent.  Like said previously, the ways of the Seattle traffic Gods are mysterious, beyond the reach of mere mortals like me.  I just say a prayer and hope for the best.  It is all I can do!




















Tuesday, October 3, 2017

While A Good Weekend It Was Also Very Strange!

I keep repeating "I don't want to do this any more" and after some of the rides I had both Saturday and Sunday I can definitely say, "I don't want to drive taxi again!  No more, no more, let me please exit the cabbie door!"

As it was strange in Seattle, it appears it was odd everywhere, exemplified to the extreme by the shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada and the killing of 59 and the wounding of over 500 concert goers.  If it is true that something mysterious and unexplainable took over the United States, affecting myriad and unconnected events, just what is it, what is this invisible phenomena wreaking havoc across the nation?  Damn if I know but it is as real as me sitting here typing in a Tacoma coffee shop.  I don't like it, not enjoying being manipulated by the unknown cosmos.

One major reason why these kinds of weird rides irritate me so much is that I feel victimized for no reason whatsoever other than I'm in a cab.  It is apparent that is quite enough justification for passengers treating you unjustly.  All I did Saturday night was answer a call at 14th East and East Aloha, and once the woman was in the cab, began losing her mind when I started taking her to the requested destination of 26th South and South Lane.  East Aloha at that point is a local arterial and the routing couldn't have been simpler, proceeding east then turning south on 23rd and following that all the way to South Lane Street, taking a left and three blocks later, 26th South.

But no, she immediately began telling me to "Turn around. You're going in the wrong direction!" Telling her that we were heading east and planing on taking 23rd southbound did nothing to dissuade her.  As she grew more agitated, I zipped a U-turn at 19th East, telling her I had had enough of her confusion.  "Oh," she suddenly exclaimed," I'm sorry.  You're right, we were heading in the right direction."

Knowing that, given immediate evidence, she could again come up with more nonsense, I stopped in front of her address and said, "Get out!"  Stepping out, she proceeded to lecture me upon my lack of customer service.  I guess she thought I was either a psychiatrist or a drug counselor but given I was at that moment only a frustrated cabbie she will have to seek those services elsewhere.

Even more bizarre was what turned out to be my last Saturday night (early Sunday morning) bar-break passenger, a woman wanting to go to the top of Queen Anne hill from Ballad.  Making the conclusion even odder is that she was very specific in her instructions, routing me to West Nickerson and then up 3rd Avenue West, finally taking us to 3rd West and West Galer.

Having grown quiet, I asked her where she needed to be, with her response slightly more than crazy.  "I want to go home. Is your home ready?" somehow implying that she wanted me to take her back to my place.

Responding that this was nuts, I again asked her where she wanted to go but this time I needed the money upfront.  She said she wanted to go to North 43rd and Wallingford North, where her house was located.  When I questioned her to just why she took us in the wrong direction she said " I never asked you to bring me here."

That is when I pulled over and "I don't want your money.  Just get out!" understanding that whatever was occurring with this woman, the results for me wouldn't be good,  ranging from not getting paid to having to summon the police.  Pissing me off further is that I ignored taking a dispatched call when I saw her waving.  Having cost me money and time I just gave up, and headed north to five hours of total sleep.  As said, I don't need this kind of treatment, doing absolute nothing for me, a total wash on every conceivable level.

Fast forwarding to Sunday night and halftime at the Seahawk game, an older upper-middle class couple got in and asked if I knew how to get to 28_ _ Elliott, a destination about 12 blocks away in an almost straight line, I responded that it was about 3/4 of a mile away, meaning "just get in because we are almost there."

But no, not trusting any cabbie, lumping me into whatever "servant"category they felt I fell in to, did not like my response, finally getting out one block later, saying I had run a red light.  In these kinds of situations I usually just say "you don't have to pay" but given they had wasted my valuable time I requested the $3.00 on the meter.  If they had just been normal and simply said "Take me to _____, please!" like 99 % of the human population I would have had them there in 2-5 minutes.

About 1 1/2 hours later I took a group of ladies from Pier 69 to the Bellevue Hyatt, and the woman sitting next to me, having exchanged little more than 30 words with her, gave me a one hundred dollar bill for the $32.00 fare and said "Keep it!"  All she had done was give me the name of the hotel minus any questioning.  And guess what, I got her there, and not even charging her for the 520 Bridge toll.

Was I somehow a different cabbie, magically changed in a mere short period of time?  No is the answer. No.

All of this reminding me of an old business card where I stated "Depending on your attitude, The Best! the Worst!" which pretty much sums up the taxi experience, madness and stupidity lurkng "round the next corner!  Again, I don't need this crap in my life.  I really don't!










Thursday, September 28, 2017

Who Speaks For Us?---Taxi Lobbyists and Other Industry Advocates & Update Concerning Changes at Sea-Tac Airport

From my experience, beginning with my childhood years, it is problematic when represented by someone other than yourself.  Of course when I was five my sole representatives were my parents, people I had already found to be, even at that precocious age, dysfunctional and less than reliable in almost all areas of adult endeavor.  So, commencing from that startling revelation in 1959, I quickly understood that it was pretty much up to me to communicate to all concerned who I was and what I wanted and needed. If I needed a lobbyist, it was clear I was hiring myself for the position, obviously picking the best qualified candidate.

 Fast-forwarding up to the present year, 2017,  I find what I knew to be true remains accurate all these years later, that when it comes to explaining my reality to others, it is best left to no one else but me.  I decided long ago, if ever serving in an elected office, it will be me and me alone writing my speeches.  How could it be any other way?  I would find it akin to having someone else lift the spoon to my mouth.  Why would I want that?  I don't, and never will allow someone to do something that I am perfectly capable of doing, much preferring death than artifice mimicking life. 

Which brings to the specific subject of taxi lobbyists, what they do and don't do for our industry.  Amongst these lobbyists are those not specifically designated as lobbyists but who circumstantially serve a similar role, for instance Teamsters 117 and their ilk, who like the professional lobbyist espouse policy minus any true working knowledge of the cabbie experience.  In other words, they have never driven a taxi, and never will, having decided it unnecessary to obtain their for-hire and sweat for a few weeks beneath the top-light, thus gaining what they currently do not have: a nose bloodied by taxi reality.    

And why do they think they understand what they don't know?  From my observation, it sources from being upper-middle class and attending college and being told countless times that more than special, they are seraphic; and since they are, they, like Superman or Superwoman, can leap great lengths in a single bound, coming to understanding and comprehension beyond ordinary less celestial individuals, especially those categorized as the great unwashed: misbegotten children lost in a much bigger adult world, clad in dirty diapers. 

If this isn't true, then what is certainly true, speaking from my own personal experience, it taking years to master a particular field of study, talent being only one small part of the larger equation.  In 1974, at age 20 I obtained my first professional counseling position, finding myself groping forward into the psychiatric darkness.  After bumping my head countless times against unpadded walls, I found it taking many hours and years before I had even a rough idea of what was truly going on inside the schizophrenic mind.

Recently I found my first poem written when I was 9, while also finding my first "adult" poetry published at age  25.  While the young and older poems displayed promise, it was not until I was nearly 30 did I write anything that just might withstand the literary test of time.  A NOSE IS A FLESHY ROSE THAT I BLOWS!  See what I mean!

Taxi was also the same for me, initially displaying talent but little beyond that, my money-making abilities masking my true ignorance of the industry, taking me a minimum of five years to transition from novice to any kind of real competency.  Am I still a Seattle taxi "green pea?"  Probably.

So when a lobbyist says, as one recently did, that riding around with a cabbie a few times makes her totally prepared to speak for us, my quick response is: that isn't possible.  And clearly that reality remaining the same if she were representing plumbers or horse jockeys or graphic artists. How could she know, not knowing the territory but instead speaking solely from her imagination. While she might, in that sense, write a novel it wouldn't be a very good one, guesswork the worse literary foundation, destined for the paper recycling bin.

So why has the industry allowed the uninformed to speak so long for them, to set policy, to literally frame their existence?  I'll respond to that another time but I will quickly say that when you have been stepped upon for years, you begin to think less of yourself, volunteering to be roadkill.   That is the simple answer to something deserving more time than I can currently give it.  As history isn't created in moment, neither is my answer, not wanting to explain 30 years of study in 60 compacted minutes.  What is the hurry anyway?  Is anything going to change?  No.

Good News from the Port of Seattle

I am pleased to pass on that those representatives of Sea-Tac International Airport, the Board of Port of Seattle Commissioners, have decided to give the cabbies and flat-rate for hire drivers a break, reducing their gate fee by one dollar per trip to the now required $6.00 per outbound fare.  This also means there will be no annual fee increases, as was previously scheduled.  And after reports of shabby conditions, four million dollars has been earmarked for refurbishing the building at the taxi holding lot. 

Why now is the commission responsive and empathetic?  I am guessing that a change in Port of Seattle leadership along with a year's reflection have resulted in a more compassionate response.  Was everyone mad at Yellow Cab for under reporting earning?  Yes, they were, and unfortunately it appears the cabbies took it on the chin for transgressions not of their making.  Why they are even looking into solving the short-haul problem, which would be great news for those just driving across International Boulevard to the Red Lion or the Double Tree. 

And it appears the good work isn't completed, with the commission looking further into how they can assist the long suffering Sea-Tac cabbies. Hurrah!









Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More SPD & UW Police Overstepping At UW Husky Football Game & Not One, But Two New Seattle Mayors

Saturday night the Seattle police and their University of Washington counterparts were up to their old tricks, denying taxi access to the frenzied hordes exiting the UW versus Fresno State game, complicating everything by closing off streets just mere minutes into the second half.  And adding yet another new dimension to the usual confusion and traffic mayhem, they stopped all access immediately after the game, meaning thousands of fans were left puzzled and stranded waiting for taxis and Ubers that never arrived.  Why the authorities did this I don't know but I will attempt to get an official reply but from my experience I might as well be trying to contact Vladimir Putin, meaning they don't make it easy to communicate with them.  I wonder if this is intentional?  What do you think about bureaucratic distance, the hiding behind grey, opaque walls?  Is it true or perhaps I am just not trying hard enough?

When I did make it in toward game's end, it resulted in two Kirkland trips and one final "searching for my friend Mike" who had evidently taken a drunken plunge into the Montlake Canal, only to have been rescued by a passing boater.  Maybe it was best we didn't find Mike because my passenger kept saying "I am going to punch him in the nose!"  Doesn't that make sense, taking all this time and effort to find someone for the sole purpose of beating him up?  All I can say is welcome to post-Husky delirium, something I have seen too many times over my 30 years working the games.  Go team! rah rah rah!

Mayor Murray Resigns 

The past two weeks two weeks have seen the resignation of Mayor Ed Murray and the installing of not one but two new Seattle mayors.  This all came about when Murray's second cousin came out, 40 years late, to say that he too had been sexually abused by the now former mayor.  One can ask why it took him so long when he could have stopped Murray in his sexual tracks years ago?

There are so many important questions concerning all this, including if Murray has committed what is said, why in the political world did he think he could get away with something that was in plain view?  Could it be that since he never had done anything wrong in the first place, how could he think he would be  held accountable for crimes that never happened? 

Another question is, has anyone been paid?  I say this because the entire situation started with an infamous muckraking lawyer dredging up alleged victims from the far past, some of whom are convicted male prostitutes.  Has any of those intrepid Seattle Times reporters checked out bank accounts and sudden changes in life styles?  If they have, it hasn't been noted.

The outraged rhetoric has at times been appalling, epitomized by former mayoral candidate, Nikkita Oliver shouting just how outrageous Murray has been,  expressing"she just will never understand" how this horrible person got away this long with years of repeated sexual misdeeds?  Yes, it is mysterious on many levels.

I guess she and others have all forgotten how Trump, who was not only accused but actually bragged about his sexual improprieties, has not only avoided prosecution but now holds an elected office? That I am not impressed goes, as the saying goes, "goes without saying" but I had to say it anyway.

At least Seattle Council Member Bruce Harrell gave up his week-long mayoral tenure to Council Member Tim Burgess, who remains the Mayor of Seattle for 71 days.  Harrell brief tenure led to a series of emails between me and a known taxi industry lobbyist.  A focus upon that is something you might look forward to in next week's posting.  She did say that a few hours riding along in a taxi makes her extremely knowledgeable concerning industry issues. Hey, that reminds of Sarah Palin's famous "I understand Russia because I can see it off the coast of Alaska?"  She did?  Maybe she was wearing a special set of eye glasses.  I suppose anything is possible.






Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Panic In The Taxi Streets & Shirley Jackson Was Correct About Human Nature

Monday night I attended a special dinner commemorating both Merkel Cell cancer research and Merkel Cell survivors with my longtime friend Marty C. (fellow writer & Vietnam-era 1-0), Marty having, a few years back, successfully beaten what unfortunately has proved to be a quick death sentence for many who develop the disease.  The dinner was held at the sparkling new University of Washington Lake Union Research Center located at 750 Republican Street.  The food was quite good, along with unlimited glasses of decent wine.

As usual, having little time to spare, I took in the dinner, and not the accompanying lectures and presentations, wanting to support Marty in his continuing support and advocacy of his fellow cancer survivors.  Like Marty, who is currently residing in Tennessee, everyone sitting at our table were from out-of-state, one couple from Alabama, along with two friends from Albany, Oregon.  The sole reason I have for mentioning this event is that their stories about taking Seattle Yellow cabs were both disheartening and alarming.  Not that I wanted to be but instantly I was appointed lead interpreter for a troubled industry, translating the unintelligible to the novice speaker. 

How do you explain when a Seattle cabbie, one, asks someone from Alabama about how to find a Seattle address; and two, doesn't even know how to provide change for a ten dollar bill?  Another disturbing story concerned being fought over at the train station, only to be insulted by the winner when it turns out she isn't going far despite having luggage, it being her bags sparking the cabbie conflict. Another time, she couldn't get a cab at all, having to call a friend to pick her up.  These and other tales of taxi woe led me to provide explanation for what was for them inexpiable, telling them that inexperience and panic was the more-or-less answer to what they experienced, fully displaying our current sorry taxi state-of-affairs.

I told them that the very nature of taxi makes people crazy, and because it is getting harder and harder to find a fare, cabbie's are panicking, acting in ways they normally wouldn't, impacting both themselves and their customers.  A story featured yesterday on the New York Times front page, "As Uber Ascends, Debt Demolishes Taxi Drivers," reported by Winne Hu, examines what is happening in New York City and in tandem reflected in Seattle and other American cities: cabbies are simply having difficulty making a living.

Early Saturday morning, something very unusual happened, meaning that for the very first time in 30 years I failed to get at least one fare during "bar-break," no flags or dispatch calls, no nothing, being shutout for 2 entire hours.  Amazed more than anything else, I didn't panic and soon thereafter business picked up, leading to a reasonable successful weekend.  As is obvious, if "Mister Pro" is experiencing this kind of stuff, what is happening to the rookies?  They are going completely nuts is what is occurring, their behavior instant psychosis at the drop of the taxi hat.

And relating back to what I mentioned last week, about money-making troubles at Sea-Tac, I talked to someone over at Eastside/E-Cab and was told that they do indeed have a working dispatch system, and more, often can't get those E-Cab drivers to answer the calls, this in direct contradiction to what the E-Cab owner told me last week, saying dispatch didn't exist.  So what is actually true or not?

Perhaps, as I have observed much recently, many of my fellow cabbies, despite living in the USA for a long time, have simply failed to fully transition to the new, sometimes very confusing reality around them.  If there is another explanation I would like to hear it but after much observation I believe I am right.  At least the guys at the train station, after my repeated annoyance, have begun to move forward in line, thus filling the gap and not allowing Uber drivers to pull in and drop off and pick up.  Talk about annoying, being lectured by arrogant Uber operators, trying to tell me about taxi driving.  God help us all!

Shirley Jackson Knew All About it

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965), at least in the 20th C, next to Earnest Hemingway, might have written some of most important short stories during that particular period of American writing history, her story "The Lottery" expressing quite accurately what human nature can be, and perhaps is all about, concerned only about their personal welfare and little else.

The reason I mention Jackson is due to having YC 1092 clipped by a driver Sunday in downtown Seattle.  An unthinking passenger from Florida opened the right rear door into traffic, she being damn lucky to be alive.  The driver of the car was a young woman I suspect was an Uber or Lyft driver who wasn't completely in control of her car.  I have asked the proper authorities to check out just exactly  what she was doing at that moment. If she is Uber, she didn't provide me me verification of commercial insurance.

Where "The Lottery" comes into play is when I told the _______ tourist, that in the State of Washington, she was liable for opening the door into an oncoming car.  Remember, all I had done was pull up to the hotel and park, something I have done thousands of times over 30 years.

But since I told her and her friends something new to them, and potentially consequential, the good ladies, just like the good citizens in Jackson's story, began throwing stones, wanting to kill me while emotionally embracing the young woman who had nearly killed one of their party, thus ruining their Northwest vacation.

It was an amazing performance, made even more amazing because they were following a natural script, instinctively knowing their lines and parts.  AsI keep saying, taxi driving provides a front row seat to all varieties of human behavior, in this case spontaneous theater composed and directed by anger and hatred.  But if you think my ticket was free, think again, my cost of admission more than I could ever or want to afford, the cabbie paying, paying and paying some more to the end of known time!

Postscript 09/14/2017: More Pattern

In last week's posting, I inferred how the downtrodden are stepped upon by those in power, by those who have lots of money, or by people simply marginalizing others for no other reason than they can, their victims defenseless, unable to protect either themselves or their interests. Two good/bad examples of these kinds of behavior came to light last week, one featured in the New York Times; the other in reports about Houston, Texas and Hurricane Harvey's aftermath. Another comes from the most recent economic report concerning American income.

The NY Times article compared corporate eras, featuring a former Kodak (Rochester, NewYork) janitor, who through company care and assistance rose to to become an executive in various companies over the years; and a current janitor working in Cupertino, CA cleaning Apple offices.  One was given opportunity while the other seems fated to work herself to death, making $16.00 per hour and paying over $2000.00 a month for rent.  I know Cupertino because it was the home of my ex-in-laws, eventually moving their business from Saratoga to Cupertino.  I have to laugh at the fact that the great American folk singer, Joan Baez, that battler for human rights, and once married to a jailed Vietnam War-era conscientious objector,  David Harris, was for a period of time, the lover of Apple founder Steve Jobs.  Remember, you read it here first!

And the big hearted Houston-based companies, enjoying a combined 7 billion dollar tax break from the city, announced that they would be donating 65 million for post-Harvey cleanup.  Do the math and you will find 65 million divided into 7 billion 107 times, meaning the percentage of aid is low, and I am not even talking about annual combined corporate profits. 

And one other piece of news is that combined American annual household income is at its highest level ever, $59.000.  While at first glance seemingly a great pronouncement for all things American Capitalism, divide that number by 2 working people comprising that household and you come up with $29,500 each, showing you just how much money people are truly making.  Dividing 2,080 working hours (based on 52 40 hour weeks) into $29,500, and you see that folks are working for just over $14.00 per hour.  Last week I showed how the Federal minimum wage increased by just about 88 cents per decade.  Taking the figure of $14.00 per hour, that shows an increase of $1.76 per decade since 1938.  Real impressive, wouldn't you say, the richer getting richer, and the poor and working class fools, why they are just quietly buried six feet under, that's all. 

It is clear that this pattern of financial inequality is entrenched, and as is the case currently throughout the USA, stridently defended by the worker drones, ever so happy swilling beer and watching football players delivering brain disease causing blows to each other's heads.  Ain't life fun in America?  Sure it is, and I am just a complete asshole for implying otherwise.  Go 'Hawks! pound those hated 49er's into the turf!













Thursday, September 7, 2017

There Appears To Be A Pattern.... & 30 Year Anniversary & Sea-Tac Cabbie Trauma In The News

Two events last week, the bombing and killing of unarmed civilians in Yemen by the Saudi Arabian air force; and the capsizing of boats filled with Rohingya refugees fleeing ethic violence in Myanmar (Burma), drowning at least 46 mostly women and children, got me to thinking about the disenfranchised, the poor, the disadvantaged and simply, the more forgotten residents of this planet.  A New York Times photograph displayed bodies lined along a river shore in Bangladesh, the country where the drowning victims were seeking sanctuary.  And the New York Times photographs originating from Yemen were taken by a reporter who snuck into the country because neither Saudi Arabia nor its prime supporter, the United States, wants anyone to see the destruction first hand.  While this is awful, unfortunately, it is nothing new, not in this century, the 20th century or any other period in recorded history.

What is theoretically different now from say atrocities from the past, like the Belgium killings in West Africa during the late 19th Century of 2-15 million Congolese, or the Ottoman (Turkey) Empire massacre of over 1 million Armenians, is the now popular and  modern (and collective) pretense of caring, where diplomats appointed to the United Nations sit and argue while murder and famine persists in plain view.  As during the murder and maybe in Rwanda during their 1994 genocide, everyone, including the Clinton Administration, just sat there upon their hands and stared at the ongoing carnage.

I am guessing that many readers, while potentially aware of the killing of 8000 man and boys in July 1995 in Srebrencia during the Bosnian War, probably don't know that they were handed over to the Serbs by United Nation Dutch peacekeepers.  Such is how it was then and in the past, remaining to this day and moment.  If you are on the cultural sidelines, like the Pequot Indians in New England in 1636,  or the European Jews in 1933 or the Bosnian Muslims in 1995, good luck because you are going to need it, hatred equalling genocide guaranteeing your fate.

How this pattern of disregard relates to cabbies and the taxi industry is readily apparent to anyone driving beneath the top-light: we are subjected to "last class" treatment; and what is currently happening at Sea-Tac amidst recent labor strife underlines that no one, especially those in power, like  for example the governing members of the Port of Seattle commission, care little to nothing about the well-being of current taxi independent operators.  Not only have they been unaware of the trouble they have caused, I will take a Loyd's of London wager they will do nothing to change the situation. 

More upon that later but even those of us operating in the City of Seattle and King County know full well just how much we are beneath the uncaring (and spiteful?) bureaucratic thumb, the most telling example being the unleashing of over 15 thousand Uber and Lyft drivers, saturating the market and strangling the local taxi industry.  Too obvious, then, that you don't do something like this to a business community you care about and support, the City Council's message to us abundantly clear: you are not important, and even more, we want you to know and understand, minus any doubt, exactly how we feel---you are completely expendable!  Go away!

But as I said in the beginning, this is how the poor, or more politely, how the misconceived have been treated, in this country and around the world.  If you think I am mistaken, consider the history of the Federal Minimum Wage in the USA and get back to me.  And if you hadn't heard, the legislators in Missouri (The Show-Me State) forced the City of Saint Louis to rescind it's minimum wage law offering Saint Louis residents $10.00 per hour, making the city adhere to the Missouri state minimum of $7.70 per hour.  While pathetic, that is more than the current Federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.  Do you think you can live on that hourly wage?  I know I can't, no doubt about it.

In 1938, the FDR administration mandated, for the first time, a Federal Minimum Wage of 25 cents per hour.  If that doesn't sound like much, understand that the cost of living was much lower during the Great Depression.  A loaf of bread cost you 9 cents, with a pound of ground beef only 13 cents.  Average rent across the country was $27.00 monthly, with the cost of a new house averaging between 2-4 thousand dollars.  The sticker price for your new Ford or Chevy or Dodge would be about $765.00.  And how much was the gasoline in 1938 to power that car down the road?  A mere 10 cents per gallon.   Compare those prices with today's and you can see how, nearly 80 years later, a Federal minimum wage of $7.25 is not only wholly inadequate, it's immoral.

If you still are not convinced, thinking that $7.25 is okay, then let us do the math together, rounding out the figures and dividing $7.00 into 80 years, which comes out to a wage increase of about 88 cents per decade, meaning that every ten years the average American worker will not be meeting the usual rate of inflation in terms of their yearly income.

In Seattle, average rent now ranges between $1500-3000.00.  If you want to buy a house, you will have to fork out between $500,000 and $1,000,000.  You think you can do this upon $7.25 per hour? Even with Seattle's mandated $15.00 per hour (at a current $13.00 per hour),  you will still have a difficult time affording much of anything.  Instead, like me, you will have moved to Tacoma but Tacoma too is now beginning to match Seattle, day to day rents and food getting more expensive by the inflationary hour.

One last point about patterns concerning the "thrown away" sectors of a given culture, society and country, is an article in yesterday's New York Times featuring the French city of Marseille and how children from the Arab-majority neighborhoods fail to learn how to swim, something, along with reading and writing the French government back in the 1970s mandated as a human right.  One young man's story is featured, detailing his struggle to become a competitive swimmer as his area pools are shut down and never reopened.

Again, to this day, obstacles, monetary and others, are constructed to keep those on the outside looking in, assuring that those who fall into what can only be called undesirable categories remain there.  Another prime example is how the Roma (Gypsies) are still treated in Europe, Europe of course the perceived bastion of Everything Great that is Western Culture.  It was, and remains a bad story, the Roma too included amongst Hitler's Holocaust victims.

My 30th Taxi Year Anniversary

This September makes it thirty off-and on years for me in this crazy taxi business.  I had quit in the Spring of 1991, thinking I was done, never to return but prolonged illness and other life circumstances forced my return.  While appreciative of the good living taxi has provided, as said before, I am ready to say goodbye to the insanity I know too well called driving a cab.

Trouble at Sea-Tac

An article by Heidi Groover in the  Stranger's August 30th edition entitled "Screwed at Sea-Tac" continued an examination of Port of Seattle policy begun by the Seattle Weekly's Sara Bernard.  This time the focus is upon Eastside Flat-rate For Hire (ESFH), the group that won the current Sea-Tac outbound service contract and how it impacts their single-owner taxi partners, collectively known as E-Cab.  The E-Cab lament is that they are barely making a living while operating under the current conditions; and taking information from available anecdotal evidence, it appears to be more-or-less true.

Sunday evening, an E-Cab owner told me he was facing financial difficulties due to ESFH scheduling protocols, providing him alternating weeks of 4 days and 5 Sea-Tac days on, leaving working gaps of 2 to 3 days where he is banned from working the airport.  He said if he could just work a full 7 day week he would be fine but since ESFH demands that everyone pays the required $495.00 regardless of allowed Sea-Tac days or functional dispatch, he is facing a real dilemma trying to maintain a living.

Given I know everyone at ESFH, I believe I know how they could operate better or more fairly but despite Teamsters Local 117's insistence that Eastside is solely responsible, I instead point to the Port of Seattle and its questionable reliance upon independent taxi and flat-rate operators to fund Sea-Tac operations, requiring that each ride originating from the airport cost the drivers $7.00 for the privilege.  As I have stated in a past posting, my per-ride cost is about one dollar, far less than what Sea-Tac asks.  To me, Sea-Tac is totally unjustified in demanding such an enormous fee.  You also might notice that it nears the Federal minimum hourly wage.  That is to me a pretty amazing comparison. How could anyone think this is reasonable?

And the solution to all this turmoil and angst?   It is clear that circumstances necessitate that the Port of Seattle's Board of Commissioner's revisit their rate structure and recalibrate what they are making drivers pay.  Currently, the fee is scheduled to go up, not down.  Any increase, along with the current fee rate, is not sustainable.  Nor in my opinion is it moral.  As a fellow cabbie, I know how hard everyone is working.  And need I say that Sea-Tac's decision to accommodate Uber and Lyft operations only deepens the issue, making it even harder upon the cabbies.  Give everyone a break, won't ya?  Wouldn't that be nice!
























Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Is It Time To Form A Taxi Union? & Transporting A Secret Agent To Tacoma

Last week the courts ruled that Seattle efforts to allow taxi and flat-rate and Uber drivers to unionize can now go forward, recent attempts to halt the process by both the United States Chamber of Commerce and a small group of Uber drivers having been turned down.  While this is a potential victory for local independent driver operators, I am suggesting that we in the taxi industry begin our organizing efforts sooner than later because I expect more upcoming legal efforts to stymie this kind of unionization. Why does corporate America want to stop a handful of drivers trying to control their personal destiny?

Because, if successful, it clearly holds national implications which scare Uber, Lyft and any other ersatz taxi-like service.  That they want to hold their drivers beneath their corporate thumbs should not be doubted.  If organized, it will cost Uber money, something they truly do not want to share with their drivers.  Again, Uber has reported a quarterly operational loss of over 600 million dollars, making them more suspect with their investors.  As someone at Wall Street might say, this is no way to keep a corporate romance alive, that first kiss suddenly stale.


And I should emphasize that this same attitude can be applied to our local taxi associations.  Do you ever feel powerless to change anything at Yellow, Orange or Farwest,--- money, the making of money for their personal profit seemingly their primary priority?  While this kind of indentured servitude does hold some advantages, the fact that we have little option but to accept what is dished out daily is something that should change, regardless of any kind or variety of unionization.

And yesterday a driver told me something, that while unverified, is very interesting about Puget Sound Dispatch (PSD) finances.  He told me that he and others figured out that PSD (Seattle Yellow Cab), after taking in account salaries and other operating expenses, is earning $200,000 monthly in after-expense profits, adding up to two million & four hundred thousand dollars.

To where and to whom these potential profits are going is something that should be known, especially since we at Yellow are experiencing the worst summer business-wise in 20 years. As all of us know, we all pay $10.00 per week for advertising, something I have personally yet to see anywhere.  If anyone driving at Yellow believes they are getting their money's worth, both through dispatch and media advertising, please hold up your hand.  But please, not with an extended middle finger.

My last comment about unionizing is that any new union should be run and controlled by the cabbies themselves.  Being babysat by Teamsters Local 117 is not the answer.  While officials there are good people and well meaning,  they do not and can not understand our shared reality.  And what will be my role in any effort toward unionization?  Given personal time restraints, like selling my place and moving and focusing on getting my newest book published, I am still willing to assist in working toward some functional structure and framework.  Again, I know this needs to happen.  Do you agree?

Working with Putin?

He was walking shirtless down East Marginal Way South near the Areo Motel looking for a taxi. Waving his hand, I stopped and the gentleman indicated he wanted to go south to Tacoma.  "Great, I responded, "Money up front and off we go."  As I turned 1092 around, he told me to make sure we weren't being followed, saying he would pay for any necessary detours.

Putting his shirt back on, he proceeded to tell he was on a mission and some nefarious parties were attempting to stop him, in additional to warning me not to answer my cell phone because he might have to kill me.  He also told me me that just 4 days previous, Vladimir Putin himself  had the secret agent's new wife flown to Seattle, the agent finding this all very exciting.

Responding back "That this was all fine." the secret agent slid down in the back, curled up and thankfully fell asleep.  Nearing his requested destination, Tacoma Community College, I woke him up, and rubbing his eyes awake , announced we had just shared an important historical moment. "Glad to hear it," was my thought.

Putting his socks and boots back on, he departed 1092 but not before leaving me with additional words of spy wisdom.  Most importantly for me, he left me a new $100.00 bill, the agent carrying a roll of one-hundred dollar bills tucked in a sock.

Having ignored her calls twice, I called "she-who-can't-be-named" back, quickly describing what had just occurred.  "Are you making this up?" she exclaimed, but no, I swear, this account is completely non-fiction, written and composed by disturbance translated into madness and now delivered to you through the world-wide web.  How exciting, wouldn't you agree, spy work just for you hot off the taxi presses!

Postscript August 30th, 2017

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit entered a temporary stay yesterday against the City of Seattle ordinance permitting unionization by taxi and other for-hire drivers.   A more permanent decision might occur as early as next week.  I also have two new pieces of information that I find somewhat disturbing.

Eastside-for Hire has joined with Uber to form something called "Drive Forward," which appears to be some kind of advocacy group promoting the current status quo, meaning independent operators would remain under corporate control minus any real option or legal recourse and appeal.  Especially in the labor situation with Uber, drivers remain quasi employees minus the rights and benefits of actual employees.  Does Uber, Lyft and other such companies want people's labor on the cheap, interested only in corporate profit and not the actual well-being of their independent operators?  I'll let you answer that.

More troubling information that's new to me is currently, the way the law was initially written, all official organizing efforts must begin with one labor body, that being Teamsters Local 117.  While it appears that Local 117 might be open to some alternatives, I am displeased that the Seattle City Council wrote  this kind of limitation into the ordinance in the first place.  What were they thinking, or were they thinking at all?

Stay tuned.








Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Everything That Isn't Fun About Taxi: Nearly Mashed By A Dump Truck!

Making sense of taxi is like making sense of the human experience: it doesn't always add up to something reasonable; or if it is considered reasonable, that very assessment must be suspect simply by who is making it.  One amazing example of that was taking someone from Dexter Avenue North just west of Lake Union all the way to Bellevue and back again just to pick up a take out order.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" I asked, and yes, he did was the answer.  Forty-five minutes and $89.00 later I had him back at his hotel with his Indian food order.  I could comment further but I will leave it at that, his culinary excursion my biggest fare of the greater taxi weekend.  I will say that, business-wise, this is the slowest summer I have ever seen.  More people and cars that ever before but it hasn't translated into more money into taxi pockets.  Whatever the cause, it is nothing good, that's for sure.

And what happened early Saturday night is past explanation other than pure recklessness because if I hadn't been in the far right corner of SW Thistle Street and 8th Avenue SW, the roaring dump truck would have slid up 1092's hood, killing me instantly. While the situation was simple, the truck driver's actions were anything but, flying up the middle of a residential street and cresting the hill at 30-40 mph, making it nearly impossible to avoid a collision.  That I did attests to my having driven cars since I was 12 and plain, old dumb luck.

As I said in my last posting, I don't want to do this anymore.  This very real question must be posed. Will I get out of this insane business before I am killed?  Stay tuned and hopefully I can respond in the affirmative.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Analysis Of A "Close Call"

Near accidents are a cabbie's everyday, and seemingly, our moment to moment reality, the cabbie exposed to death and destruction and catastrophe each time the car key is turned, the engine roaring to life reminding once again it is time to go and repeat ad nauseam what you did yesterday and the day before.   Who wants to do this?  I don't want to do this any more.

Even when you are not moving, it is dangerous, a fact exemplified by the death August 8th of a NYC cabbie, Mehari Bokrezion, who stopped upon a stand to rest and died from a heart attack, only to be found 18 hours later by his distraught wife.  His death reminded me that recently I found the business card of the late Bob Miller, a longtime Seattle cabbie who stopped his cab at a grocery store, getting out to sit on a bench, and dying there.  

Accident statistics for the United States tells us that a car accident occurs every 7-10 seconds, and every 14 seconds an injury occurs.  Every 12 minutes someone in America dies in a car accident.  If you don't believe this, last night I was driving on a darkened part of south-bound Aurora Avenue North, and suddenly, to my horror there was a homeless man running across six lanes and directly in front of 1092.  Slamming my brakes and jerking to the right I avoided the fool by inches as he dove out of the way.  Recently there was a Seattle Times article about how a large percentage of Seattle jaywalking tickets are issued to blacks (African Americans), with this insane and very lucky fellow falling into that demographic. Something the article didn't mention is that the majority of Seattle jaywalkers are homeless blacks daring you to hit them, a kind of very misguided protest.  

But what I want to analyze instead was a different close call occurring during a run to the airport Sunday morning, the kind of secret and unknown history no one ever knows about unless, as in this case, it is pointed out and examined.  In basic terms, it was something completely commonplace, my attempting to change lanes to the left, only to avoid a near collision with someone in that same lane.

What happened?  What did I do wrong?  I did glance to my left and only saw a white car a few car lengths back, and not the red SUV I almost hit.  Did I not turn my head sharply enough to get a complete view, somehow missing a vehicle in my "blind spot?"  Or did the driver not notice my turn signal and the big, bright Yellow cab inching to the left, entering the lane the moment I turned my head forward?   I will never know but I do know that more and more drivers appear to have no idea that "blind spots"exist, that location on the roadway just behind the driver concealing a car's close proximity.   This particular driver, aged in his early 70s, surely must have known about blind spots but perhaps not.  What he did know was how to overreact, honking his horn and in general acting maniacal and the complete fool

What it did do to me is have me once again examine my own driving, telling myself that regardless of anything, I am the one that must be in control.  Perhaps that reexamination saved the life of that deranged jaywalker.  Sure he was a complete idiot but that wouldn't helped the situation if he had been struck.  

All I can say is, 'let me out of here, please!"

Postscript August 16th, 2017

At least for me, one very interesting and surprising fact came out from all the news concerning the White Supremacist demonstrations in Charlotteville, Virgina, and it didn't personally involve the current president.  It turns out that one of the Alt-Right leading organizers, Nathan Damigo, spent four years in a California prison for robbing at gunpoint a San Diego, California cabbie named Changiz Ezzatyar.  Being a former Marine, and having served 2 times in Iraq, his defense held the claim that he is ill with PTSD, thus altering his normal behavior.  Just recently, during a Alt-Right protest in Berkeley, CA, he was seen hitting an unarmed woman in the face.  What will this guy do next is the question at hand.  As Trump said yesterday, these White Supremacists are good people. They are?  Is that really true?








Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Maybe Not Understanding At First Glance But A Real Taxi Poem

How can a poem concerning Haworth, England, Yorkshire be about driving taxi in Seattle?  The answer is simple because if I hadn't been driving a cab, hadn't been depressed and in a general "quite-out-of-it" state of mind, not for a moment would I have  found myself walking in Haworth with the woman I reference in the poem.  The poem is also inspired by something cabbies are always doing: reading the newspaper while waiting for the next call, two Sundays ago a travel article in the SeattleTimes featured Haworth and the Bronte sisters, taking me back to England and July 2001.

Many things from that era remain memorable and true, including the sad fact that if she hadn't been completely nuts I would now have a teenage daughter or son to be complaining about.  And as implied, if I too hadn't been nuts I wouldn't have allowed myself to be pursued by a waitress working at  a 24 hour restaurant where "steak and eggs, rye toast" was my usual order, eating out late and avoiding inappropriate relationships of various kinds inherent to the known taxi experience. Such is taxi as I knew it then and know it now, not much changing other than Uber continues to bedevil us, making taxi harder than I want it to be.

                     
                                                                  Haworth


                       What was I doing?  I didn't know what I was doing
                       but there I was, walking down the street with you in
                       Haworth.

                       Nothing you now did or say was surprising because
                       you stopped making sense from our very beginning
                       but that not dissuading me from avoiding the obvious,
                       not acknowledging what was evidently clear:
                       just how troubled you were.

                       Now over a year later walking down lovely Yorkshire
                       lanes you tell me once you were one of the Bronte sisters,
                       which one I can't remember but whether it was Charlotte,
                       Emily or Anne truly not mattering
                   
                      given the woman walking beside me has completely
                      failed knowing herself, and not so surprisingly,
                      not recognizing the man walking next to her,

                      someone suddenly a stranger and totally unknown,
                      puzzling her to just why he was holding her hand?  


             
                   

                   

                             

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Are You A Cop? Will You Tell Me If You Are A Cop?

Taxi driving is, and always will be about meeting people, people of course our industry, the transporting of people from a given point A to B.  Along with the actual physical body is the accompanying personality: who the individual is and all related behavior.  I often tell passengers that I meet everyone, meaning every kind of person possible in every possible state of mind and life circumstance upon our planet's surface steps into my cab; and sometimes I wish they hadn't, the experience just plainly more painful than I want to endure.

As I often say to myself, taxi is bad enough without this occurring, encountering a difficult or unpleasant person, exemplified this past Sunday by a young man in his late 20s coming from the West Seattle Trader's Joe's.  Not only did I have major problems just attempting to stop at the poorly designed parking but one glance at my customer told me everything I didn't want to know, obvious trouble was coming my way.

It was quite evident Trader Joe staff were glad to see this guy go.  Why?  Because he was clearly upset and disturbed in a manner not easily if ever resolved.  He was distressed and the source in part appeared to be a deformed and shrunken right arm, offsetting what was in every other way a normal body, the man not unlike a tilted pinball machine refusing to properly function.  I instinctively knew that he was unfortunately past immediate recall.  In other words this "goose was cooked" and there was no going back to the kitchen, this particular entree brunt to the proverbial crisp.

I initially remained calm as he kept abruptly changing our destination and route, wanting to go where no human, and especially no cabbie could ever take him.  And topping it all off, he kept asking if I was a cop. Having been through this kind of scenario before I just didn't respond, knowing crazy is crazy and there was no changing it.

Upon his persistence I finally joked that it "all depended on what his crime was" before I could determine whether he should be arrested.  That remark essentially had no impact other than to temporarily confuse him, quickly returning to having us turn this way and that in greater West Seattle. Finally, having had enough, seeing no end to it, I hit the brakes at Southwest Myrtle and 39th Southwest, saying "I have had enough.  It's over!"

Thankfully, understanding what I was saying, he peacefully paid and went on his way to where I have no idea.  He was impossible.  The situation was impossible and there was nothing I could do for the guy.  As I again sometimes remark, "I am not a social worker" and more and more I am glad that I'm not, letting someone else try to save this and any other distraught soul.  Besides I am too tired, having other priorities like closing my eyes and forgetting all about it, sleepy avoidance sometimes the best solution to the intractable.

August 1, 2017 Primary Results:  No Bob Hasegawa

Early election returns from yesterday's primary appear to indicate that my favorite mayoral candidate will not make to to the November runoff.  Just as I thought, Jenny Durkan and her $400,000 electoral war chest has surged ahead, with Cary Moon and Nikkita Oliver in second and third place respectively.  As of this afternoon, 250,000 King County remained to be counted, I don't see Hasegawa improving much upon his 8.6 percentage of the vote.  Too bad but why have the son of  interned parents when instead you can have a former US Attorney who will adjust the mechanisms of local government ever so slightly?  Change?  What the hell is that?

Who will be Seattle's next mayor?  Durkan of course, anointed in an election where a mere 34 % of the eligible voters filled out their mail-in ballots.  And by the way, during the campaign it was found that Oliver has missed many voting opportunities but I bet she voted yesterday, casting for herself.  I guess she just needed some incentive.  That's understandable, isn't it?









Wednesday, July 26, 2017

South Carver Street? And It Was 2:30 In The Morning, Tuesday, And Certainly Not In the Mood For Surprises

It still amazes me that even after nearly 30 years plying Seattle's streets I come across an address totally unfamiliar to me,  and in this unusual case, a call at the 6100 Thousand block of South Carver Street located just off of Rainier Avenue South in the greater Rainer Beach/Skyway neighborhood. Though new to me, I essentially guessed where it had to be, and I was correct, South Carver intersecting Waters Avenue South, a local major arterial intersecting with South 57th Street, S. 57th acting as a kind of formal entrance ramp to that part of southeastern Seattle.

While it is true I have driven by South Craver, I hadn't noticed it, meaning I had violated one of my own taxi commandants:  remember the first time the streets and avenues you pass, because you never know when you will need to know where it is.  That I almost knew means I had downloaded part of the info into my taxi brain depository, understanding how S. 57th and Waters S. correspond.

Perhaps even more astounding is that the young man standing at the corner bidding his girlfriend goodbye actually expected a cab to promptly show up at what, in Yellow Cab terms, is the middle of bloody nowhere.  And he even had the exact fare in hand, nine dollars taking him almost to the Renton and Seattle boundary on Renton Avenue South.

One reason this week I focused upon the taxi mundane is that I have been ignoring basic taxi for other issues.  For instance I could have instead written about the great NW writer, the late Raymond Carver whose poetry is far better than his much celebrated short stories. So here it is, in quick passing, hoping beyond hope that some reader out there will investigate Carver's writing and say, hey! that guy could write a line or two.

LGBTQ Commission 

I thought I had made my last comment upon outgoing Mayor Murray but a further request by a prominent Seattle Gay/Homosexual organization for him to resign got my attention due to its dishonesty, since anyone remotely aware of gay subculture are aware of its less savory sides.  That someone as prominent as the American writer Allen Ginsberg, a 1974 National Book Award Winner spent much of his latter career promoting sex with underage children, should tell anyone interested that what Murray is accused of is something that is not only condoned by large percentages of the Gay community but actively seen by some as a political and human rights issue.  Ginsberg not only associated himself with NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) but even appeared in its pro-sex-with-boys documentary: "Chicken Hawk: Men Who Love Boys."  Distasteful yes but unfortunately a reality permeating male gay culture which in short, says, to me, that this LGBTQ statement is disingenuous.  What else could it be?  How can they truly be shocked?  I don't know how they can be.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Recommendation For Seattle Mayor: Why It Is Important For The Local Taxi Industry To Support A Knowledgable Candidate

On Monday I voted in the Seattle mayoral primary for Bob Hasegawa (www.bobhasegawa.com). Why, you might ask, did you vote for him when there are literally 20 other choices to pick from?  Three of his opponents have major newspaper endorsements, all three media outlets deciding there exists someone more capable and qualified than Hasegawa.  Is that actually true?

Jenny Durkan (www.jennyforseattle.com), former US Attorney for the Western District of the State of Washington, is the Seattle Time's choice, feeling the very professional Durkan is the correct combination of intelligence, experience and political connections to remedy what ails Seattle. And if there is safe choice, Durkan is certainly that, positioning herself as the "proverbial voice of political sanity," in the very real sense saying vote for me because I know, beyond anyone, how to change Seattle dirty diapers.  But I believe it is not certain that Seattle requires a political nanny, shaking her finger at the electorate, telling us it is time to drink your cup of warm milk and go directly to bed.

Nikkita Oliver (www.nikkitaoliverformayor.com), a lawyer and local civic activist, won the Seattle Weekly's backing for mayor.  In a very well written piece, the Weekly coherently describing the problems now facing Seattle, and as to just why they feel Oliver is best suited to take on the arduous task of running a city of now over 700,000 residents.  Oliver has also got the backing of defiant members of The Stranger's editorial staff, four of whom openly objecting to the newspaper's official choice, preferring the more alternative Oliver to the clearly upper-middle class, and more conventional Cary Moon.   

As said, The Stranger's first choice is local engineer and urban planner, Cary Moon (www.carymoonformayor.com), a fairly unknown candidate despite her efforts to block the construction of the waterfront tunnel that will be replacing the current Highway 99 Viaduct Bridge. For me the most interesting part of her candidacy is that she lists having no income, somehow implying she is independently wealthy.  I suppose that gives her considerable free time to think about Seattle's issues and problems but again, that might make her more theorist than someone "living and breathing" the city's thornier urban headaches, Moon another potential "nanny candidate," prepared to gently scold all us Seattle children.  


Somewhat humorous, or leastwise I find it amusing, is that whenever I search out articles concerning mayoral candidates I end up finding them flanked by a smiling Jenny Durkan wearing a custom-made Jenny Durkan sweatshirt.  I guess this is what $321,630 dollars in contributions gets you, meaning that the big political and big business money is being put upon one particular horse.

I understand it because Durkan is a political thoroughbred, having been appointed US Attorney by Obama and whose father twice ran for governor.  Whether she can come down from the mountaintop and mingle with the peasants is an open question, something the current mayor, Ed Murray could never do, superiority and arrogance his adopted middle names.  But if you like smooth, Durkan should be your pick, a filtered cigarette of a candidate, worrying about nicotine and other adverse affects later.  How could Durkan be bad for Seattle's health? 

The one odd aspect of The Stranger's July 12th endorsement of Moon and and other candidates are the use of words like asshole and f_ _k and f_ _king in their article.  I have noticed a long time ago that these folks like seeing themselves as both hip and outsiders, giving the finger to all and everyone, which makes their choice of Moon both curious and funny.  This is also the local paper featuring sex ads for you and me and _____ too!  I do recommend that you check out the new secondary Oliver endorsement in the Stranger online edition, featuring a saucy and spunky Oliver photograph, provoking my biggest question concerning her.  Just how mature is this woman?   I do wonder.  

Getting back to Mister Hasegawa and why I voted for him, it comes down to his family background and what he has done both in his working and political life.  It is a very personal bias that I trust people more who have worked, and I mean having really physically worked for a living.

Hasagawa once drove UPS trucks and led their union to victory when UPS told them they were now suddenly expected to lift twice the weight as before.  One strong point for Jenny Durkan is that she once taught school and coached basketball in Alaska, something my father also did in northern Alberta, implying that she probably understands something about the human experience.

Hasegawa certainly does, simply due to his family being interned by the FDR administration during WW II.  Need  I remind everyone that President Roosevelt was considered a raging liberal, someone to this day disparaged by the majority of Republican  party members.  Just as the it was the good liberal Seattle Council members who voted to uncap Uber, so it is in our nation's history---money, fear and ignorant public opinion often prompting both so-called conservatives and liberals to make bad and erroneous decisions.  It was none other than President Bill Clinton who set the tone for the current welfare policies, where the needy are treated as if they societal bank robbers stealing from the public good.

I can report that Hasegawa responded back to me today to an email written a few days ago, telling me that in the State Senate he spoke against Uber sponsored bills and has been in contact with Teamsters 117 concerning related issues.  If for no other reason, this is why you should vote for him because it appears to be clear that voting for Hasegawa is a vote for your own future and the future of your family.  But let me say, that regardless of who you ultimately vote for, join the democratic process and cast your ballot.  From my personal experience, there is nothing more important than voting your conscience.

A New & Improved Mike McGinn (www.mcginnformayor.com)?

Like the label upon a box of breakfast cereal, McGinn, in a statement today, said that he too is new and improved, suddenly more humble and wiser since he is now older, which is an odd statement, somehow implying Seattle voters were unwise to elect the younger (and dumber?) version of himself.

Given the incredible Seattle traffic congestion his polices have caused, it is surprising he is again asking voters trust his judgment.  And let's say he is again elected mayor, and four years from now we are again subjected to a new rationale to why he failed the city, how then are we supposed to react to yet another "heartfelt" apology?  What worries me most about the now more edible McGinn is that, just as in the recent past, he will remain oblivious to voter indigestion, voting once again for McGinn a new kind of electoral cannibalism, with McGinn eating us!  What a scary thought.

A Final Comment Upon the Outgoing Mayor

With new more alleged details coming out this past week from the Seattle Times concerning Ed Murray, one current Seattle Council member and at least four mayoral candidates advised Murray to resign.  Other than accusations, there is no bonafide evidence that the did anything to anybody.  Yes, while the reports about long ago sexual impropriety are shocking, none of it is conclusive, and from what I can see, will never be proven.  Isn't the fact that his political career is shattered and his good name sullied not revenge enough for the political vultures picking at his exposed corpse?  It is truly distasteful and speaks to the political amateurism in Seattle posing as professionalism.  As I often comment: ya gotta be kiddin'!

What these bozos don't realize that disturbed, mentally ill and emotionally distressed people have a pronounced tendency to act crazy and deranged, and often cannot be trusted to be anything but that.  I discovered that upon my first professional psychiatric job way back in the autumn of 1974.  It isn't that the patients and clients I met back then were bad people.  No, that wasn't the case at all but the majority of folks I worked with were chronically mentally ill, with all that implies, their profound illness often controlling behavior and subsequent judgment.  So despite having no love for many of Murray's political decisions, especially the uncapping of Uber and Lyft, I still hold some sympathy, seeing him as some character out of Shirley Jackson's famous short story, "The Lottery" as he is ritually stoned to death.  Not nice.  Not nice at all.















Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Could I Do Any Worse?---The Seattle August Primary Season Is Approaching

As more than 20 mayoral candidates line up at the primary starting gate, only two will make it to the general election, meaning your vote in the upcoming primary election is essential because we are past the point where we need a true taxi advocate in the mayor's seat.  While outgoing Mayor Ed Murray has, overall, been a decent mayor, rating a C grade from me, he was a complete disaster in how he dismembered our local taxi industry and promoted TNC/Ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft over our needs and interests.

That he, like so many municipal and county administrators, by simply not comprehending in any real way the menace posed by the monster Uber, miserably failed both the American taxi industry and similar taxi-like services and their  passengers and customers, thus creating a situation seeking uncertain resolution toward a problem not of our own making.  When considering your mayoral choice, please consider if that particular candidate will be at best neutral in their overall policy decisions, and not making things worse, as the past five Seattle mayors, Rice, Schell, Nickells, McGinn and Murray have, comprising a 27 year long span of at best mediocre, and at the worse, complete incompetence---the WTO and Pioneer Square Mardi Gras  riots and the giving away of an invaluable NBA franchise heading the sorriest examples of an abysmal list.

Public policy should not, and I repeat, should not be some conflated version of "pin-the-tail-upon-the donkey" because too often the administrators involved end up looking like the proverbial "horses' ass," with the voting public kicked squarely in the buttock.  While slapstick comedy worked quite well for the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers and Laurel & Hardy, public and governmental policy is neither a movie script nor comedic routine.  While trying to find a serious candidate who understands this obvious point will be difficult to locate, still, despite the low odds, we must continue attempting to both find that correct candidate and keep communicating our thoughts and political aspirations.

Already there are two mayoral front runners: former United States Attorney Jenny Durkan and former mayor Mike McGinn.  The big money is pouring in for Durkan,  ensuring she will reach the general election.  The second slot is more uncertain, with McGinn being penciled in due to his familiarity with the voters.

While McGinn is clearly a nice guy, he is the mayor whose bike-lane polices have clogged the already un-drivable streets, McGinn somehow not noticing that Seattle now has 200,000 more permanent residents, translating into at least a 40-50 percent increase in citywide car ownership. Where are we going to put all these cars when lanes have been eliminated and on-street parking greatly reduced?  

If interested in viewing his handiwork, trundle down to the east-bound Pike Street at First Avenue and see for yourself McGinn's failed version, how the heavy traffic is now funneled down one narrow lane.  Just as the pin-the tail game is played with a blindfold on,  that is good description of McGinn's governing style, closing his eyes and hoping for the best.  Unfortunately, for those of us who can see beyond our nose, remain appalled at the results, McGinn destroying reasonable traffic assess at one of the nation's most popular tourist destinations.

Again, if this were comedy, it would be funny.  But since it is governmental policy it is farcical. Something called the INRIX Parking Ranking announced today that Seattle is the fifth hardest city in the entire country to find a parking space, saying the average Seattle-lite spends 58 hours per year looking for available parking.  If you find that to your liking, then do vote for McGinn because he is the individual who eliminated miles of on-street parking.

And if you are curious, there are over 35,000 recognized American cities and towns, meaning a fifth overall ranking means you have truly screwed up, a kind of reversed efficiency.  I personally at  this point have no one to recommend but remember the name of Washington State Senator Bob Hasegawa because he might be the one candidate who is not sold out to special interests.

The reason I entitled this week's posting the way I did is because I know, beyond any doubt, that the majority of folks managing the City of Seattle, are clueless, and dangerously clueless at that.  This point was reinforced Monday when I took a passenger from the train station to the 2300 hundred block of1st Avenue.  Given the amazing congestion now clogging both directions north and south-bound on 1st, I chose to take north-bound (its one-way) 4th, turning left (or west-bound) to access that part of 1st Avenue.

Five years ago this would have been an easy task but no longer because those idiots in Seattle City government decided to transform the arterial Bell into a glorified park, restricting access and the ability to turn both left and right. Avoiding that mess and a myriad of potential  moving violations I picked Wall Street to turn west but even that wasn't the best choice due to the no-left turn sign posted at 1st and Wall.

Even what would be the final choice, Clay Street, doesn't work either since it now closed  west-bound due to construction at 3rd.  The only legal option left then is to go 6 blocks out of your way and turn left onto Broad Street off of 3rd Avenue.  I would wager any amount you suggest that NOT ONE INDIVIDUAL in the entire Seattle City government knows they have created this kind of complication for what used to be a very simple matter.

The best thing about this particular fare is that the old soldier told me that the US Army in 1955 were taking him somewhere downtown Seattle when he saw a red convertible being chased by a motorcycle cop who suddenly flipped into the air after colliding with a seat cushion tossed out of the car.  Now that was when Seattle was a real rough and tough city, and not the wimpish suburban center is has now become.  Could you imagine anyone in Seattle now disobeying the good officer?  No, neither can I.

And do I want to be mayor of Seattle?  No, but if I were you can bet I might understand just a little bit better the real down-to-earth issues facing the Emerald City.   Instead I would rather run for Congress in Toledo, Ohio, representing the honesty of a rough and tumble, Rust-Belt City.  Both of my grandfathers worked in the local factories there, supporting as well as they could their large families.

Back then life was more black and white sans the grayer areas now known as excuse and obfuscation. In the other words, my grandparents lived in the good old (and bad) days when corruption was shoved in your face minus pretense.  Back then, you knew exactly what they were thinking and doing to you, which is quite unlike today when simultaneously government says "I love you" while cutting your throat with high property taxes and of course, no parking spaces for the car whose licensing just cost you a King's random.  Just be glad you will have access to better public transportation in 2022!  Isn't that great!

Postscript Wed July 13th, 2017

Today's Seattle Times On-line edition has a very helpful guide to all 21 mayoral candidates.  I encourage everyone to check it out.










Thursday, July 6, 2017

She Scared Me! & Other Small Horror Stories

What I find so successful about Edgar Allen Poe's stories and poems is how they often capture human personality as it truly is, Poe of course presenting our more confused, distorted and sinister sides---accurate psychological profiles years before Freud and the advent of modern psychiatry.   While debate continues about just what motivates human behavior, there is one, unavoidable truth:  as a fellow homo-sapien you are surely going to be affected by what another member of the species does, whether or not you want it to,  or like it,  because it is going to happen.  And of course taxi is all about human interaction, voluntary or not, you instantaneously receiving a concise introduction to who just entered your cab, the invitation reading: welcome (or not) to my world and all my assorted pluses and minuses and personality-based bugaboos.  The inspiration for this brief preamble was a police call in the Fremont ushering forward a very drunk woman concealing herself behind a car:

"Get me out of here," she exclaimed, "it is all too crazy!" And so I took her home to an address almost parallel to where I found her, an address on the other of the canal located on the northern face of Queen Anne Hill.  Taking three minutes to get her there, she announced that her husband would be paying the almost seven dollar fare.  "I know he won't be happy with me," she commented, "we are just two days away from our first wedding anniversary."

Understanding her state of intoxication I waited at the open door while she looked for the money, asking her husband, also sounding drunk and hidden from view, where his wallet was.  After taking a couple minutes she reappeared with a five-dollar bill prompting me to say, "That's fine, it's enough." which elicited a spreading of her arms into a wide U, signaling she was about to embrace me in a passionate "bear hug." Scaring the "hell-out-of-me" I swiftly avoided her octopus arms and escaped back to 1092, wanting no part of what she was offering.  And there was her husband, sitting a mere four feet away!  Heaven help us all is my best comment upon the subject.  And good luck too because they are going to need it but perhaps not as much as four-year old Andrew who is clearly involved in a living hell not of his making.

Andrew

My newest book, the nearly completed "To Age 13," is all about a child, me, who is repeatedly victimized by less-than-aware parents, which is why Andrew's situation for me is all the more poignant, understanding too well his personal dilemma.  His father seems okay but his mother is entirely another story.  I will never forget Andrew's anguished face.  It is not funny.

I picked up Andrew and his father at the train station, both of them having just come up from Portland, Oregon, their destination an address in the Magnolia neighborhood.  The two of them kept up a rousing dialog, Andrew clearly a bright and aware child.  All seemed normal until the father told me we were heading for Andrew's mother's apartment building, where he had left his car.  Suddenly comprehending the situation, we actually passed the mother walking with her new boyfriend.

Stopping, it turned out that Andrew would remain with his father for the afternoon while the mother wanted me to take her and the boyfriend over to a Ballard pot shop.  Witnessing various interactions between all concerned is when I saw poor Andrew's pained face.  I didn't want to see his intense suffering but I saw it and will never forget, his face a permanent photograph in gallery of my mind''s eye.  All I can hope is that Andrew's young wisdom is somehow transferred to his adult self.  Best wishes, my young friend!

More Uber

Post- 4th July fireworks the passengers at Queen Anne's Kerry Park wanted to go to either North Everett or 130th & Greenwood Ave North.  Most recently Uber riders, they were avoiding the Uber surge by taking a cab, the Uber surge rate to their Everett address being $188.00, greatly surpassing my estimate of $95-100 dollars.  My meter to their Greenwood condo was $26.00, which got me a nine dollar tip on top.  What was Uber asking for the same ride?  $66.00.

Postscript Thursday 5:30 PM---They didn't get me but got my money instead!


Today I stayed in Seattle so I could attend my moving violation court date where I was represented by Doug Silva.  Doug negotiated a deal where I pleaded guilty to to non-moving violation and in return receiving a reduced fine and nothing on my driving record.  Though it cost me, including Doug's fee, a total of $275.00, it would have cost me much more in increased insurance costs if I had been found guilty of not obeying a traffic devise.  I did enjoy my post-courtroom conversation with Doug, someone I have now known for nearly 20 years.  Thanks Doug!  And what a crazy world it is!