Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Greetings From San Miguel De Allende: Uber Not Reporting Santa Clara County, California Sexual Assaults To The Police & Taxi Deleterious To One's Health & Transportation In San Miguel---An Unfriendly Cabbie

Here to Finish & Soak  

While incredibly interesting driving around the USA and jumping in various hot springs, getting the work done and finally finishing the final editing on "To Age 13, An Examination of a Childhood," requires I have few to no distractions, thus my reasoning to seclude myself  here in San Miguel and write minus excuse.  Amazingly to me it has been ten years since I started this project, and in fits and starts I have gotten close to the finish line, determined that by October 19th it will be submission ready save for one last independent review.  

The blog this week is a kind of fill in for what will be coming in the next two weeks: a review of former NYC cabbie's poetry volume, "Today in My Taxi" and Craig Leisy's book concerning Seattle taxi and Uber, "Transportation Network Companies and Taxis---The Case of Seattle."  I am still reading both books so until then, here is some reporting about San Miguel cabs and all those buses going up and down San Miguel's hills.  As someone who once briefly drove city buses I marvel at the drivers here. You have to be incredibly skilled to negotiate these narrow streets.  It is not easy.

NYTime October 4th, 2022 article, "Silicon Valley County Battles With Uber Over Reporting Of Sexual Assault," reported by Cade Metz

Has anything truly changed at Uber and how they conduct themselves?  It appears not , as Uber, as a matter of policy, DOES NOT report immediately to the local police when a passenger alleges a sexual assault committed by an Uber driver.  And this isn't only occurring in Santa Clara County but across the USA.  Santa Clara County wants this policy to change, ensuring that every rape and sexual assault allegation concerning an Uber operator is quickly forwarded to the proper authorities but Uber remains resistant, wanting to deal with this kind of horrific crime in private.  

My response is is how the hell did Uber get the permission to conduct rape investigations on their own?  How could Uber, and local government officials across the USA allow this type of behavior?   It's nonsensical and extremely dangerous, essentially telling female passengers that what happens to you is not Uber's priority, their priority instead, at all costs, first and foremost, is the protection of company reputation.  Another good question is why these assault victims aren't bypassing Uber to begin with, and filing charges directly with the police.  It's a mystery.  One would think there would be some urgency after being attacked by your driver. 

And does anyone believe that if a passenger was raped in cab, that government response would be, "Hey taxi association, you deal with it, we trust you to fully investigate and prosecute the offender?"  If you believe that, you'll believe anything, including that Uber can be trusted with your wife, mother, sister, girlfriend, partner, grandmother or daughter.  So much for fantasy!  Uber's approach is despicable, a continuation of a reprehensible legacy originating from its earliest minutes, an institutional slap in the face to reason and good sense. 

Unhealthy Taxi

It has now been over two months since I've been in the cab but still I remain in some kind of recovery mode, the damage done by too many accumulative hours driving taxi still active in my poor body.  Now I will say that driving all those miles here and there and everywhere across the USA hasn't helped but taxi has been unkind to my aging body.  For those who don't know I am 68 years, nine months old, and what I could put up with, 12 hour plus shifts plus too many days in a row is no tenable.  Not only do I not want to go through that kind of physical abuse again, my body won't allow it.  

Recently during June and July, I would begin to get physically sick after three or four taxi days, taking another three or days more to recover and return.  If I do return to driving, it will be abbreviated.  How could I look forward to dealing once again with Seattle's stupidly crowded roadways and ignorant drivers?  I don't.  Driving cab in Seattle has become nightmarish but at least the West Seattle Bridge is now open, so that's a positive, isn't it?

Buses and Cabs and Walking in San Miguel de Allende 

San Miguel is a city (and municipality) in constant motion, at least until nightfall, its 60,000 residents, and 175,00 overall in the greater area going up and down the steep narrow streets in buses and taxis and on foot.  People are everywhere and San Miguel is one very large human anthill, everyone intent upon their business whatever that might be.  Everywhere you will encounter the local buses, purple and white Ayco  Magno Mercedes Benz buses maneuvering through impossible streets, with every ride witnessing feats not thought possible but somehow the driver makes its through.  It's incredible to watch.  And the buses are very affordable, 8 pesos (40 cents American) will take you to every corner of the city.

The green and white taxis, usually the famously deathtrap Nissan Tsuru, are everywhere and used by everyone but maybe to the high price of gasoline, about 23 peso per liter, some of the cabbies are getting a bit surly.  To this point I have taken only one cab, that was to the La Gruta Hot Springs spa from the outskirts of San Miguel, about a 5-6 mile drive, and the cabbie was very unhappy to have settled for 200 pesos, having initially asked for 250.  Given that the bus ride to La Gruta is only 15 pesos (about 75 cents), paying what is the equivalent of about ten dollars is about all I am willing to pay.  A local resident told me the average fare is in and about town is usually 60 pesos, or three dollars. 

You will also see many people walking, including me, especially when I am in the Centro or the center of town.  Yes the streets are busy and tight with cars and trucks and buses but there is much to see, and what better way is there except to hoof it up and down the hills.  One very major drawback to all this vehicular traffic in tight spaces in the pollution, which explains why I am solo this particular visit minus my usual companion, "she-who-can't-be-named," who got me going here in the first place.  The exhaust was making her sick.  But don't let that stop you from visiting at least once.  San Miguel is a wonderful town.  And La Gruta, now just over $12.00 for an all day soak, is a wonderful place to be. 

Poem: Drowsy Vendor

Nearly asleep behind his piles

of limes and tomatoes and 

other fruits and vegetables

I thought a purchase would

awaken him to carrots

and potatoes and one

delicious papaya serving

me breakfast four 

sunny mornings in 

a San Miguel row. 

Ayco Magno. Nissan Tsuru 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Greetings Again From Hippie Arcata: Criminality And The Taxi Industry: Fact Versus Mythology & Seattle Yellow Cab's Fabled Thanksgiving Dinners

 From the Redwoods

I always enjoy being in Arcata, a faint reminder of what might have been if America and the world had truly embraced the 1960s Hippie Cultural Revolution but alas, tie-dyed T-shirts and organic food and long hair only small incremental steps toward where the world needs to proceed, Arcata a few inches forward to the kind of sane outlook that might save our disinterested human species from destroying the very foundation that is our spinning planet.  At least here in Arcata there is some pretense that we can change. Elsewhere, in cities like Fresno, that fantasy is just that, a kind of fanciful delusion spoken in whispers in the dead silence of middle-class nights---instead cowboys in big pickup trucks race into the sky, circling the moon and stars and the Milky Way. 

But one positive minus argument here in Arcata is the Cafe Mokka/Finnish Country Saunas located at 495 J Street, 707-822-2228, the hottest sauna you'll find this side of Tallinn, Estonia. $12.50 for half hour sessions, $24.00 for the full hour.  Hours are 11 AM -11 PM.  If passing through on Highway 101, call at 11:00 AM beforehand to make a reservation.  They also have hot tubs.  Soak, bake, and enjoy.

Criminality and the Taxi Industry: Fact versus Mythology 

Any cabbie everywhere has heard this accusation more times than they can remember: "You are taking me the wrong way!" or "The long way!" or some variation upon a crooked theme, the passenger knowing beyond a doubt that you, you the disreputable taxi driver---"nature's criminal"---is doing what we all do: ripping off the customer as a matter of general practice. and routine.  Yeah they know, and how do they know?  Because everyone knows the cab driver is Mister or Ms "Botton-of-the-Barrel," desperate and barely employable, driving a cab because they "can't do anything else," otherwise why would they do what others would never in a million years consider doing?  

While the preceding description might be slightly exaggerated, it accurately describes a prevalent attitude toward cab drivers and the taxi industry overall: you are not to be trusted.  Try as you might to find one but there is no other industry or occupation that lists customer complaint telephone numbers as the door is opened.  Imagine entering a Macy's or Starbucks or an United Airlines 737 and festooned everywhere are complaint telephone numbers encouraging you to report all the bad things they are doing, or will do to you their hapless customer.   

For the cabbie, it is their reality, tried and convicted before moving an inch down the road.  But is any of this actually true or only a kind of demeaning mythology unfairly denigrating an entire industry minus real evidence, a kind of mindless discrimination embraced by unsophisticated dopes, fools and ciphers?  How, one could ask, did we arrive at this unpleasant juncture?  

It might have started long ago in 19th Century London with horse-drawn hansom cabs.  Who knows what are all those bad horses did?  More likely the mythology began with the 1922 advent of Checker Motor Corporation onto Chicago and New York City streets, the beginning of Checker's domination of the taxi car industry, fully extending into the late 1970s and early 1980s.  

Anytime an industry flourishes, the potential for abuse expands, perhaps explaining the genesis of a suspicion coloring every driver and every taxi ride today.  When there has been real criminality, it has been usually connected to large cab associations or individuals owning multiple cab medallions.  But while some drivers will succumb to temptation and deviate from honest procedures, most just keep their nose to the taxi grindstone and work, work, work until they drop, go to sleep and begin all over again the next morning or day.

One of the fundamental reason for this is that grim taskmaster called time, going the wrong way taking valuable time away from the next fare, and the cabbie is always focused upon the next fare, already knowing what he will getting from the passenger sitting behind him.  The key to making money driving cab is volume, putting as many fares into a given hour as possible.  Scrounging for an extra dollar or two makes no economic sense whatsoever.  Does alienating the passenger generate a good tip?  No, not at all which is another incentive for playing it straight, dishonesty a deep, dark hole no cabbie wants to fall into. 

As someone who once returned over $10,000 left in my cab by an elderly couple, I can attest that the vast majority of cabbies would have done the same.  We are not thieves.  Yes, often ill-tempered and many other fill-in-the-blanks but robbers we are not.  If you don't agree, like many of my brethren, I will pull to the curb and invite you out of the door.  But believe me, it isn't personal, merely not interested in being treated poorly.  And thinking I am out to steal your money is insulting.  Please, I repeat, get your butt out of the cab, pronto!

The Biggest Tragedy

Big bully Uber "busted" up much of American taxi, and the damage done in Seattle led to the cancellation of an annual tradition: Yellow's sponsor of a superb Thanksgiving Dinner for all of its drivers and their families.  The food was usually fantastic, cooked by various ethnic restaurants from year to year, the traditional turkey teaming with various delicacies changing the mundane into a dining adventure.  And of course the meeting of friends only usually seen flying by was wonderful, the dinners a time to sit and relax and be with whom, though few would say it, we loved and cared and would kill to defend. And that is what Uber destroyed, not caring one iota concerning an intimacy lost, never to be regained. 

Poem: Into The Ansel Adams Wilderness

Walking to Doris Lake in the high Sierra,

a perfect blue sky morning warm upon a trail

hugged by granite formations taking us up 

and to cold amber colored water, 

and jumping in, hundreds of tiny fish 

questioning our unclothed flesh. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Greetings From South Lake Tahoe, California: Bellingham, Washington Taxi & More Concerning Uber

Too Wet

Greeting from the California/Nevada border, writing from a local Motel 6, rain chasing us from campgrounds to more standard shelter.  A wide-reaching storm in this part of California and Nevada, while making life somewhat difficult for us, is bathing the parched landscape along with putting out the Mosquito Flat fire northeast of Placerville.  The rain is welcome though somewhat dampening our overall experience.  Again, more on my travels in a later post.

Deb and Ron---Salt-of-the Earth Bellingham Taxi

A few days before setting off on this car trip, 7000 miles and counting, I finally got to my oft delayed visit to Bellingham Yellow where I met Ron and Deb, two real taxi denizens if I have ever encountered one, and in their situation, two.  Ron is originally from San Francisco and drove in that Golden Gate city for many years, Ron a counter-culture relic transferring from the Bay area to that Canada gateway city, Bellingham.  

At first, Ron and his wife Deb didn't initially start their company but a few years after their arrival, they decided that owning their own cab company was a good idea.  Even Deb's mother, who had been driving cab on Cape Cod, migrated from the East Coast to assist, driving for few years for her daughter.  As you can see, at least for us in the "taxi know," I am portraying "real" taxi people who know the business inside and out and back inside again.  It was refreshing to spend a few hours with them, with folks who speak the language and lexicon. 

Upon my visit, they were in the last hours of finalizing the sale of their company to former and current employees, ready to say goodbye to something that has dominated their lives for all these many years.  During our visit, they took many calls from their dispatcher, making it clear what I know too well, you don't just drive taxi, you "marry" taxi and that it how it is regardless all argument.  

The reality of taxi is many, and when they decided to transition from a lease-only driver base to an employee-based company, "Big Government" began making demands by saying your Washington State Labor& Industry (L&I) insurance payments would now be $1.25 per hour, prompting them, amongst many reasons, to say "they kinda have had enough" and begin planning their exit.  All I can say is that I hope they enjoy their retirement and forget about taxi altogether, otherwise it will remain a sinkhole drawing them in to its terrible bottom.  And who wants that!?


Ron is originally from Lynden, Washington, a town near Bellingham, which explains why, after leaving San Francisco, he moved back to that part of the state of Washington.  The sale is still pending.  And the transition from lease-driver to employee-driver was to better provide for the drivers, government demands notwithstanding. 

Asshole Uber

In Mike Issac's book, it was clear that Uber in its formative years had no interest in embracing normally accepted business practices, doing whatever it wanted both here in the United States and around the world, not caring who it hurt and what damage it caused.  Why that was true is less due to Uber's founders than a prevailing attitude from all involved, that being "we are the anointed" and because we know more than you do, we have the privilege to do what we want to anyone we want at any time we choose.  Where does this come from, what is its foundational basis?  

Obviously to me it is the too old story of class privilege and how people from the economic so-called Upper-Middle Classes, believing themselves to be superior are then just that, superior.  As I have just written, when you have this attitude everything you might want to do is justifiable, destroying people's lives the least of your concerns.  

And that in short, is the real Uber story.  Bribery, bullying, lying, it was and is all okay, as long as the business organism known as Uber strives, nothing else was and is important.  Yes, it is a standard American corporate attitude but Uber took it many steps forward past known bounds, "screw you" and "go to hell" their operational credo and motto.  

The sad part is that Uber found so many business and government partners willing to grease the wheels, letting Uber bludgeon anyone who might get in their way.  But when the "superior" gather together, hold hands and dance down the financial highway, you will be run over and that's how it is.  Scream and yell, no one cares, you are dead, roadkill festering upon the roadside, carrion vultures picking at your bones. Whoever has the money are the bees that make the honey.  Welcome to America, the ghost of Christopher Columbus forever proud, the blood of the Kalinago staining his hands.


Saturday, September 10, 2022

Greetings From Williams, Arizona---Book Review: "Super Pumped---The Battle For Uber" By Mike Isaac

Since leaving Seattle on August 13th, I have driven nearly six thousand miles plying the many interesting roads taking me first to Ohio, and now finding myself heading back west on I-40 (old Route 66), where on September 13th I will be stopping at the Fresno, California airport to pick up that famous personage, "she-who-can't be-named," where we are then off to someplace called Mono Hot Springs and peace and quiet in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  And in between all these miles I have been able to get some necessary reading in, finally reading what is the 2019 more-or-less biography of the ex- Uber CEO and Founder, Travis Kalanick, Issac's book a slightly myopic examination of a subject broader than the irascible Kalanick.  

Sometime during the next month or so I'll provide a condensed version of my travels across two/thirds of America, as some of my readers appear to be as interested in my wanderings as they are about all things taxi.  The Ohio river is one big drink of flowing water!  And southern Missouri just above the Arkansas border is a wonderful blend of green rolling hills and verdant deciduous forest, the Mark Twain National Forest encompassing much of that area, Route 9 taking me through and past all that delightful country and into northern Arkansas.  

A Review: "Super Pumped---The Battle for Uber" by Mike Isaac,  W.W Norton & Company, 2019  

For those who are interested in learning the genesis and rise of Uber, this book is for you, a smoothly written account by a New York Times reporter whose primary focus was Uber and what it was doing.  If only I had known much of this narrative before Uber came calling at Seattle's door in 2013/2014, my response would have been much stronger and better informed.  The title of the book comes from 14 bullet points Kalanick presented at a 2015 Las Vegas Uber convention, "Super Pumped" being number twelve in that long list of what he saw as "Uber values" conquering the known world. "Pumped" is a term adopted by the tech world in Silicon Valley, something emphasizing one's energy for your project.  That Uber's "energy" spiraled out of control is also part of Isaac's story.

The car hailing concept originated not with Kalanick but with Garret Camp, a newly minted 75 million dollar tech millionaire who was irritated that he had trouble getting a cab late at night in San Francisco.  Being who he was, and having absolutely no understanding of the taxi industry, he thought that an app-based ride hailing service would be the answer.  Relaying this to his fellow tech millionaire (22 million dollars) Travis Kalanick, the rest is history of how and why they decided to take on the evil, uncaring taxicabs, bent upon a destructive and arrogant campaign to overwhelm and conquer the taxi-like transportation world. 

Much of the book then is about how Uber did that, raising money from people and companies whose primary purpose was only to make money regardless of any and all consequences, and how their ruthless CEO battered anyone who got in his way.  While that part of the book is comprehensive, much of the story is left out, as the recently released "Uber Files" have made clear, Isaac's book half of the story, if even that much.  One big criticism I have is, that in total print, Isaac wrote less than a full page about "Big Taxi" and why, from Uber's standpoint, it needed to be destroyed.  As I personally know, that kind of mythological world did not exist in Seattle.  Far from it, as the local industry was forever victimized by City, County and State governments.  

In short, Isaac knows "shit" about the American cab industry, this serious shortcoming weakening his overall narrative.  While clearly a great researcher, he shortchanges the reader by not fully understanding the territory he entered.  Yes, he does make brief references to other related issues, like how Uber and car leasing companies trapped immigrant drivers into catastrophic financial deals, but Isaac not going far enough in dealing with this and other examples of a company completely out-of-control.  Did Kalanick care about what happened to the very people making Uber successful?  No, not at all.

Despite its deficiencies, I  strongly recommend that all taxi industry related folks and interested parties read the book.  You will be better informed having done it.  And Travis Kalanick is once again in the news, raising money for his newest tech adventure.  All I can say is that there is something seriously wrong with the guy.  He can't stop himself even though he now has over 5 billion dollars in the bank.  He doesn't seem to know how to stop and that again is the Uber story.  Will it ever stop tormenting the world?  That history is yet to be written.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Again From Toledo: For The Taxicab Passenger, Taxi Is Life

 Taxi is Life!

As I have previously described, taxi for the cabbie is at best drudgery but for the usual passenger, it can be life, and quite often, sometimes life lived to its fullest, many on the way to a domestic trip or European adventure, while for others, they are simply glad to be getting home after a long, tedious workday, pleased to having avoided a laborious and lengthly bus ride.  My first numerous cab rides occurred on a 1982 honeymoon, five weeks in West Germany, Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal, taking cabs to dinner and elsewhere, we the happy couple oblivious to the thoughts and emotion of the drivers taking us to pleasant destinations, Madrid especially memorable, zipping around, for us, in that Easter Sunday city in Spanish-made Fiats.  

The taxi then, for many tourists and travelers new to a given city, is freedom from the perplexity of unknown streets, the cab their magic carpet ride to restaurants and hotels and cars and nightclubs.  For the many medical patients also using the cab, the taxi is often what keeps them alive, dialysis and cancer patients at times very reliant upon taxi services taking them to and from life-providing  and life-sustaining appointments. 

Yes, taxi can be seen as death to the cabbie, a never ending night minus morning's dawn but for many passengers it is a celebration about everything worth living, embracing each breath as they exit the cab, life and all it entails waiting at the next curbside, the cab their vehicle to the next pleasant minute and hour waiting around the corner, surprise and exultation host and hostess to an expressive and exciting night, cab a quick pathway to what all we hope may be an earthly heavenly garden.  While the cabbie growls, the passenger smiles, and "thank you," they say, "thank you very much, we enjoyed the ride!"

Art is Life!

Instead of first flying off to Paris or Madrid or Rome or Amsterdam to see the art and explore all of their great museums, first consider these terrific museums here in Midwestern America,  a wonderful trio all residing within a compressed, narrow 280 mile triangle of each other.  I know because I have just visited all three and all of them are world first class pillars of art and the creative spirit.   The three, in order of my visitation are:

The Art Institute of Chicago 

The Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art

Detroit Institute of Art

The highlights are many.  In Chicago, the Thorne Miniature Rooms are unique, located nowhere else.  In Toledo, the Glass Museum located across the street from the main building, along with the two Van Goghs, are enough to incentivize a visit, and do check out the incredible Max Beckmann painting, "The Trapeze," an artistic expression of post-WWI Germany.  Detroit has Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry Murals," along with an incredibly comprehensive collection of art from every corner of the planet.  

Chicago is 245 miles from Toledo and 281 from Detroit.  Toledo is only 58 miles south of Detroit.  Take seven days and explore.  Rent a car like I did in 2012 and drive across Indiana.  There is so much to see, not only in the museums but along the rural roads taking you west to east, east to west.  I love Paris but these museums are a match, and you don't have to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to see them though looking down at Greenland is always fun.  See Greenland before it melts away into climate-change gloom and doom.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Greetings From Toledo,Ohio:Taxi Is Death

Early Tuesday Afternoon in Toledo

Having arrived yesterday, I will be leaving on September 3rd, heading down to West Virginia, then into Kentucky, two states new to me.  Driving here I really enjoyed much of what I came across, including parts of South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.  Northern Iowa can be damn beautiful, lovely terrain along with nice small towns filled with many ornate wooden houses.  Viewing the many old downtowns along my travels has also been fun.  Contrary to rumor, much of America is alive and well and thriving, yes, doing okay, thank you.  And many folks along my route have been downright friendly, even to a counterculture relic like myself.  Above all the noice and rhetoric, the majority recognizes that we are all equal citizens of our wonderful country.  "This land is your land, this land is my land....." sang Woody Guthrie, and its true, his words, his lyrics ringing genuine and true, a liberty bell minus any cracks. 

Now for an essay describing what taxi is really like for me and for the many others driving beneath the toplight.  I call it death because, for me, there is no other way to accurately describe what is essentially an inhuman experience.  While many jobs and occupations dominate one's life, taxi is a specter haunting body and mind, no fun for those tied to a nightmare never ending.  

After leaving the parking garage after my visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, I saw a taxi with a sticker advising "Call 311" to report the awful cabbie.  Catching up to the driver at an intersection, I was able to ask him about it.  He said, "It's the money.  They want my money!"  And I said, that's right, I can now call and say you have done anything, running me over, etc and they will make you responsible. "Yes," he laughed, "Yes!"   

And there you have it, the ongoing insult that is driving a cab.  Think you are gonna see that sticker on the back of Lyft and Uber cars?  No way, Mister Jose!

Taxi is Death

Driving taxi is a python, a boa constrictor squeezing the life out of you as ply the streets of any given city.  Why is that true?  Its due to two foundational elements that is taxi: a stressful work environment and a high overhead---a never ceasing request for your hard earned money, because taxi is all about money, both the money you make and the money everyone wants to take from you.  Whether you own or are leasing, you are liable for expenses from the beginning.  If you lease, you have your "gate" or "nut" plus all that gasoline to pay for.   And it's even worse for the owner, with insurance and dispatch fees hanging over you, along with local government medallion fees and costs, which in NYC can mean, even with the now celebrated "medallion loan" reductions, another $1200. monthly payment on top of gasoline and potential car loan payments.  More than just squeezed, it is a heavy weight crushing, pressing you into the ground.  These kinds of financial pressures can be overwhelming, destructive, sometimes leading to utter despair and suicide.  

Then there's the "human punching bag" working environment that daily pummels the cabbie, the taxi driver never forgetting that he/she is "public property" permitting anyone who wants --passenger, cop, fellow motorist---to abuse and attack and assault you in whatever fashion they wish.  Add the stress of working in a congested city dealing with traffic, pollution, unrelenting noice, excessive heat in the summer, icy roads in the winter, all of it tied with having to make the MONEY! lots of MONEY! to keep the taxi wheel turning, you have the living nightmare that is taxi, death on four rotating wheels, keeping you from actually living the peaceful life you deserve.  Taxi ain't heaven, it's hell!

What should be clear is that driving taxi is not truly living.  If it is, it is life encased in a moving metal box, a yellow coffin with a meter and toplight.  Since leaving Seattle August 13th, I saw the rising full moon transition from a glowing orange to yellow to a pure beaming white coloring the night desert sky.  In Montana while driving along a forest road, I was forced to stop for a herd of big horn sheep, fifty or more ewes and lambs crossing from one grassy pasture to the next.  The next day, also in Montana,  I woke up and walked a mile to Upper Potosi Hot Springs, having the pool entirely to myself.  What a beautiful, sunny morning it was, treading my way through golden fields.  In Iowa, after surviving a night filled with hail and driving rain, the eastern horizon a flashing light show much of the night, in the early dawn I stood next to a meandering river, unknown birds singing.  Further miles down the road, I found a trout stream bordered by flowering bushes---both orange and yellow slippers delighting the eye, thrilling the brain, the air clean and fresh.  And yesterday, in a kind of punctuation, while waiting at a light on Route Six in Edgerton, Ohio, a ruddy-headed perhaps eight-year old boy crossed in front of me, catching my eye and flexed his right bicep, an unexpected human communication.  All of this and more I would have missed if I had instead been in the damn taxi.  

Yes, driving the taxi is death.  Stepping out is life, and thank goodness for that, stormy weather, big horn sheep and flowering bushes embracing my life.  Thank you, thank you very much, drenching me with life!


August 21st Lost in Rockford, Illinois 

In the night,
my camp rained out,
my hair and clothes wet,
I drive east seeking shelter 
upon roads new to me, numerous
construction detours transforming 
vague notions into "I have no idea"
except continuing east toward Chicago
and a hopeful theoretical respite through
this infernal Midwestern downpour
reminding me, if I had ever
forgotten, I remain very
much alive. 

This was after yet a second night of torrential rain.  I found a motel and was glad of it.  Expensive but I was dry and able to dry out my tent.  

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Greetings From Quincy, Washington: "Do Local Governments Understand The Taxi Industry?"

From the Eastern Washington High Desert

Day 2 of my sojourn from taxi to where I exactly end up I don't know but last night I camped in the Quincy Game Range, and at this very moment I am in the wonderful library that is the town of Quincy's public library.  Being open on Sundays, 1:00-5:00 PM is a boon for travelers like me wandering these sage brush hills.  And I now can finish what I began a few days ago in Seattle, an essay on why it is important to have officials who intimately understand what they are overseeing.  I use the example of David Trimble and his Roman Catholic counterpart and Noble Prize partner,  John Hume, to helpfully illustrate that essential point.  Having visited Belfast in 1991 and witnessed the many British troop carriers patrolling the streets, seeing personally how misguided bureaucratic meddling impedes rational outcomes.  Has the Seattle and American taxi industry ever had regulators taken directly from those plying the taxi streets?  Not that I know of, which is why our industry remains the mess it is.  Would you take anybody off the street, hand them a scalpel, and say "here, this patient needs a brain tumor removed, start cutting?"  No, of course not.    


"I believe that a sense of the unique, specific and concrete circumstances of any situation is the first indispensable step to solving the problems posed by that situation." 

David Trimble, from Northern Ireland, speaking in 1998 when accepting his shared Nobel Peace Prize

Intractable, Unresolvable Taxi?---The Misunderstanding of an Industry

I quote Mr. Trimble, he a veteran of "The Troubles" that afflicted Northern Ireland until the Good Friday agreement was signed in 1998, bonding Protestants and Catholics for the first time into a cooperative, power sharing government.  The above statement relates to the many experts saying that the Good Friday agreement could serve as a template for resolving similar sectarian conflicts but Trimble disagreed, inferring that each situation is in a sense endemic to its particular environment and circumstance, underlining how important it is to know the entire anatomy of the subject at hand.  If you don't know it, how then can resolution be reached?  A similar example is when police are called to intervene in an domestic argument, the officers suddenly finding themselves immersed into personal histories totally unknown to them, making each step forward fraught with danger.   Even when proceeding cautiously, the atmosphere is potentially explosive.   Knowledge then of every parameter is imperative if resolution is to be achieved.

This preamble brings me as to why the USA taxi industry is severely wounded and what should be done to stem the bleeding and subsequent infections.  Yes, in 2014, when municipal governments embraced Uber and Lyft, they began what has been the taxi industry's precipitous fall to where it is now.  But even before Uber's arrival, the industry was in serious trouble due to regulators essential cluelessness in how to effectively manage what was then America's most important 24 hour, seven days a week ground transportation system, taxi filling the gaps when the buses, subways and trains were not running.  This explains why New York City government promoted million dollar medallions, encouraging the innocent to make insane investments thus jeopardizing their future and personal finances, NYC not caring in the least any longterm consequences.  If real cabbies, like myself, had been involved, we would have put a stop to this kind of nonsense.  

When visiting NYC in 2010, a medallion broker offered me a medallion for $750,000. but said, if you want two, we'll sell them to you at $675.00 each.  Such a bargain it wasn't.  Any veteran cabbie knows that a medallion is only worth as much as you can make in a given year.  Most taxi drivers I know are making between $50,000 to $75,000 dollars per year.  Good money but in expensive cities like Seattle, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, that is little better than minimum wage.  Experienced taxicab industry professionals know all about this, which is why they are the ones who should be sitting in the City, County and State offices making the rules and decisions for their respective taxi industries, and not bureaucrats who have never driven a cab, no matter how well meaning they might be.  

One good, bad example I participated in was the Seattle/King County Taxi Advisory Commission, a great idea until you saw how it was put into practice, providing equal status to non-taxi driver member participants.  It was pure chaos, and even when appointed Chair, productivity was stymied by an inherent dysfunction sabotaging our every minute.  Nothing could have changed the situation other than removing the ordinary citizens off the commission but the City of Seattle and King County had their theories on how to manage the taxi industry, translating into the opening Uber stepped into.  The commission's taxi professionals were neutered, preventing anything good to occur or come to fruition, blocked from using what we knew for the betterment for both drivers and passengers.

So to answer the essay's title, do governments understand the taxi industry they are regulating?  No, barely at all.  And if they were interested in truly understanding it, they would recruit and hire people like me to run the show.  But that would be too scary, allowing a bunch of taxi renegades to infiltrate the Ivory Towers of non-functional government.  Why they might have to hire armed guards to watch over us, no telling what kind of efficiency we might effect.  All hell might break loose and customers would start getting their cabs arriving on time.  But that would make Uber very unhappy, and Uber must be happy, and never, ever sad.  No, you can't make Uber mad!

A desert haiku, August 13th

a rising full moon

coloring the night sky orange to

yellow to white.