One major positive of driving taxi is being immersed in life in a highly unusual way, suddenly aware and involved into matters normally outside your experience, scenarios you would have little to no idea about--- other people's lives as distant as our orbiting moon. And what might be unique about my blog is its sometimes element of secret history, facts and personal details concerning the average person, quite often describing life as it truly is, and essentially unknown, for you and me and everyone during this first part of the 21st American Century. These next two examples, one about Holland America; and the other concerning an international prayer group composed of older Filipino women holding their annual conference, is what I am talking about, encountering people and situations in a manner, as I have said, that is uniquely part of the taxi driving experience.
Late Saturday afternoon I picked up a cruise ship passenger from Saint Lucia who had been kicked off the Holland America ship because he had failed to obtain a required Canadian Visa due to one scheduled Canadian port stop. That he didn't know one was needed appears to fall solely upon the business shoulders of Holland America Cruise Lines. The gentleman had done all his reservations online and never saw anywhere in print stating he must first obtain that very necessary Canadian Visa due to being a citizen of a country not having a corresponding formal "no-Visa needed" agreement with Canada.
One would logically think that Holland America would either have some kind of software coming into play when a foreign customer booked a cruise, fully knowing what would happen if the customer didn't have the required paperwork; or if not any kind of online pop-up, something clearly in writing warning people what they must have before boarding the ship. The Saint Lucia resident said that he wasn't the only one that day told to leave the ship, he and a hand full of other foreign travelers, including a woman from China, being escorted off the boat to whatever fate beyond all care and concern.
If having their trip cancelled wasn't bad enough, even worse was the treatment received from Holland America employees, being refused any refund along with having to pay for the cab ride back to the airport. In the past, it was my experience that Holland America would provide a taxi voucher to the customer but evidently that is no longer the case, the blame and responsibility falling solely upon the aggrieved customer. Mr. Saint Lucia said he had just lost the entire cost of the trip, a figure of over $2000.00. That he was angry is clear. And also insulted and confused that this could happen to him.
And what about the Chinese passenger, now stranded in an unknown city, minus hotel and airline reservations? I truly don't understand how Holland America justifies this kind of treatment and response. Do they not think that, unlike United Airlines, they will not be held accountable for treating their customers like numbers, and not like the living, breathing humans that they are? Despicable corporate behavior is my comment. And totally unjustifiable.
Filipino Prayer Group El Shaddai
"God is more than enough!" she told me, the saying apparently a theme of her completely now international Roman Catholic Charismatic prayer group, "El Shaddai DWXI PPFI," founded by Manila (Makati City) radio station owner Mike Velarde. Started in 1982 in the Philippines, this very orthodox Roman Catholic group has spread across the theological world to where it now has over 8 million members, giving credence to what I keep saying about people: you can convince them to become and believe anything and everything. Even my late 1st cousin, Ed from Toledo, Ohio, a truly bright and modern individual, to his last breath believed that "Mary" was in his life, holding his spiritual hand.
My front seat passenger, along with her backseat friends, were all on their way to a Seattle waterfront hotel to attend what is a yearly gathering of her fellow "El Shaddai" members. Now living in Maryland, she was part of the Washington DC chapter. Originally from the Philippines, she, like so many other Filipinos, has travelled the world looking for work, having lived in the Mideast and elsewhere. Currently she is taking care of an elderly woman in the DC-area.
What really struck me about her was her support for that murderer of his people, current Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, who at last count has acquiesced to the killing, minus trial, of nearly 4 thousand suspected drug users and drug dealers in his country. On the scarf she gave me is an emblem of a dove. Raiding slums and indiscriminately killing people appears to be contradictory to any peace loving dove but she justified it by saying these folks deserved what they were getting. I asked her if poverty wasn't their true crime, and if Duterte, if he was truly interested in justice, would instead provide real financial assistance to the hugely impoverished Philippine population? She thought that was a good idea.
The New 1092 Struck on 4th Avenue
Poor Gabriel, on my second full day, was hit by a tourist in a big Jeep near 4th & Virginia. Thankfully, other than black markings left by the Jeep's bumper, there was no damage. I am letting it go, and not requesting any money from the driver. Just glad it was very minor because otherwise it would just consume more time than I want to give it. Did you know that an accident occurs every 7 seconds in the USA?
I have tried to find out but can't confirm whether the cartoonist Peter Kuper ever drove a cab but in his 2000 collection published by Eye Press, "Topsy Turvy," on page 72 he has a cartoon entitled "My Checker Past," which I can relate to, having driven Checkers my first 2 taxi years.
Divided into four boxes, the first shows the cabbie approaching his 1978 Checker Cab, saying, "and let me tell you, she was one in 5000..."
The second box shows him driving the cab DT, the caption in part saying, "We kept wild hours..."
The third box displays a female passenger and "Through I've picked up a lot of women over the years, she (the cab) has remained my constant companion..."
The last box shows the back of the cab while driving up a street, "There will never be another like her. On July 26th, 1999, NYC's last Checker cab picked up it's final fare."
My first NYC cab ride was in a Checker Cab, Jan 1990, with "she-who-can't-be-named" taking a cab from JFK to her first home in Brooklyn. The driver was a real cabbie. I remember that!
Postscript Wed 05/24/2017
My friend Stacy emailed Peter Kuper, asking whether he had ever driven a cab. Kuper responded back saying, no but he rode in a cabbie friend's Checker Taxi in 1982, thus inspiring the cab cartoon.