Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Cancun, Mexico Taxi Drivers Battle Uber Incursion & Not At All Funny---In 2014 The Seattle Taxi Industry Traded Mandatory Black Pants For Blue Jeans And The End Result?: The Destruction Of An Over One Hundred Year-Old Industry

Cancun Cabbies Mad as Hell!

This week the US State Department issued a travel advisory warning that Cancun taxi drivers were becoming progressively more violent while protesting the new court-ordered arrival of Uber into their transportation market.  Roads were blocked.  Uber drivers were yanked out of their cars.  Frightened tourists needed to be escorted to safety by police.  Simply, the thousands of cabbies dependent upon the legions of tourists visiting the Cancun Tourist Mecca were not happy now that they must contend with Uber, their displeasure, as noted, expressed in a variety of ways, appropriate or not.  But I for one can't argue with their response, knowing full well how Uber destroyed the American taxi industry.  At least the Cancun cabbies are putting up a fight, something not occurring for the most part here in Seattle.  Instead it was capitulation, and after that surrender, what I see is the now slow "dying upon the vine" for the local industry.  You have to be stupid to continue driving a cab in Seattle.  For what reason, I ask?   For no reason whatsoever is the sad answer.

Ain't It Nice Wearing Blue Jeans?

This past taxi weekend I decided to wear the once mandated old Seattle cab uniform of formal black slacks and white button down shirt.  Did anyone notice or comment?  No, not at all, no one caring at all what I or we wear, the uniform mandate amongst other concessions traded for Uber and Lyft's unfettered entry into our transportation market.  I warned everyone at Yellow Cab (the BYG Co-op) that it was a bad idea. And having not listened to my protests, we got what we got which was a BIG kick in the taxi rear end.  At least we can now look like your ordinary bum driving down the street.  Great tradeoff, wasn't it?  




Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Did He Fall Onto The Train Track Or Did He Jump? & A Very Poisonous $5.00 Cab Ride & Russian Merchant Marines & Municipal Court Date Rescheduled & SPD Up To Old Tricks & Goodbye Kshama Sawant

Focus Upon Passengers

In part I am featuring those folks we cabbies both love and hate but without passengers we wouldn't be able to complain about them.  Eons ago, often packages and not human customers were our taxi bread and butter, a long past era never returning.  Yesterday I had some kind of medical package but that was a rare deviation from the passenger-oriented norm.  So you get what you get and sometimes its neither straightforward nor pleasant.  Welcome to taxi as I know it!

Mike

Mike presented the classic taxi conundrum: do I take this guy on this long ride, knowing I might not get paid, or more wisely, tell him no and go on to the next fare?   It is something that often occurs and in this example, the passenger waiting at Harborview Hospital was sitting there only wearing hospital garb, saying he needed to go all the way up north to Arlington, a ride turning out to be $120.00.  The question posed was, do I be sympathetic or go with my instincts that nothing about this situation seems normal, far best to just drive away.  And when he said, "no problem, my mother will be paying," I knew I was looking for trouble I didn't need.  Despite that, judging the best I could, off we went with me hoping for the best outcome.

Mike was all banged up, his left foot broken in three places along with various bruises from head to foot.  How did this happen?   Drunk, he had stepped into the path of a train.  Plausible yes, and lucky to be alive.

Upon arriving at his mother's building, where a resident thankfully let us in, and now at his mother's fifth floor apartment, his shocked mother opened the door saying, "What are you doing here?   You are supposed to be in the hospital!"   

Ah yes, Mike was an escapee, leaving the hospital minus permission, and I was the unlucky accomplice, taking him to where he didn't need to be.  His mother, reasonable when she had no reason, agreed to come down to the cab and pay the fare with her credit card.  

It was in the elevator where she told me Mike had intentionally jumped in front of the train in a failed suicide attempt.   All she could do was shake her head.  And all I could do was thank the taxi heavens I got paid.  What a bad story.

Poison

Leaving her hair appointment, barely in the cab before she both began directing me while complaining about previous rides.  This was a short ride to an uncomplicated address but this not stopping her mouth from slewing garbage.  Sometimes I'm not in the mood and I hinted that she was simply out-of-control, worrying for no reason whatsoever about a five dollar fare on her way back to her $10,000 a month retirement home.  Her last bit of bullshit prompted me to say, Lady, you ain't paying me no money.  Here we are. Out!"  And telling her, "No one likes to be picked on!"  She was nuts and didn't give a damn she was crazy.  Has her money made her happy?  Or sane?  Obviously not.

Two Russian Sailors

Needing to go to a local Apple Store, I took them from their ship to South Center, and on the way there had some interesting conversation.   They were nice guys, and when they asked if I could pick them up again, I said, sure, try me, here's my card.

About three hours later, I was summoned back to the shopping center, finding them happy to be returning, saying they could understand my English, having difficulty comprehending the American speech.  I said it was all in the enunciation, not the pronunciation.  Not sure if they understood.

But I became disappointed when they repeated the argument that Mister Putin has made, that the Ukraine was part of a historic Russia.  Knowing a little bit about it, I mentioned Catherine the Great and border and territory changes through the centuries, almost twice missing my turns.   Nice people, and they both shook my hand but please, Putin invading the Ukraine was unnecessary and crazy, no justification whatsoever.  Just like the USA and the Philippines 1898, America and Vietnam 1959, America and Grenada 1984.  America and Iraq, twice!  And Afghanistan, both Russia and the USA.  Will stupid governments please stop killing people!  God almighty.  

No In-Court Appearance

Pissed me off, getting up early only to find there is no in-person court for these dumbbell bus lane violations.  For parking tickets, yes but not these.  I have rescheduled for February 6th but I am weighing my options.  Sick of this crap.  Waste of my bloody time, and money!

Nothing Like the Seattle Police Department

As any Seattle cabbie knows all too well, there ain't no love lost between us and SPD, exemplified by the actions of one officer near the stadium when the Seahawks played the New York Jets.  Sitting where I alway do, and have for years on Occidental South, this cop motions to me and other cabbies to "get moving" when no one else has cared.  Other cops didn't, only him, Mister All-Powerful, not caring a second either for us or the fans needing a cab.  Why should he care?  Obviously no reason at all, taking a broom, sweeping away the chaff! 

It's A Great Day

Yes it is, now that the ever fraudulent Kshama Sawant announced she will not seek reelection for the Seattle City Council.  I of course remain unhappy that she, that great leader of the unwashed masses, voted to provide Uber and Lyft unfettered access to Seattle's taxi market, thus destroying an one hundred year-old industry.  And I was there when she once pledged to support us.  What a liar!  What a fraud!  Now she will be leading her own labor organization knocking down the hated Capitalist's Door.  Ha Ha Ha!  But the people we elect?  Not so funny.


 




 


Saturday, January 14, 2023

Greetings From Surprise Valley Hot Springs (Cedarville, California): The Financial Mystery That Is Puget Sound Dispatch (Seattle Yellow Cab)

Soaking Our Heads

This week being "she-who-can't be named's" birthday week, we have been enjoying the hot water that is Surprise Valley Hot Springs, a wonderful "middle-of-nowhere" locale in the far northeast corner of the state of California near the Nevada border, accurately known as Modoc County.  For little more than than the inflated price of your average awful roadside motel, you can have your own 24 hour mineral springs supplied hot tub, taking it easy while enjoying a Big Dipper star-filled night sky.  Listen to the coyotes howl.  And when taking a break from the stuporific waters, there are nearby hiking trails, and further south, the South Warner (Mountains) Wilderness to explore.  

How to get there?  Shoot down southbound I-5, and at Redding, California, turn off onto to State Highway 299 heading northeast until you are five miles east of Cedarville, which means you are there.  It is very easy to find.  Route 395 out of Oregon is another  good way to get there.  If you do, check out the John Day Country--- dinosaur fossils and pastel colored hills reminding of Death Valley, another place one needs to visit before exiting this earth.  But watch out for the Panamint Valley rattler, crotalus stephensi, and having met one such example in 1974, I know.

                                                                    January snow

                                                                    tinting the Warner Mountains 

                                                                    white over the blue. 

We experienced all kinds of moody winter weather including snow coating the surrounding mountains.  Beautiful upon a winter's day.  And Happy Martin Luther King Junior Day!

Since the Yellow Cab single owner/operators are Financing Puget Sound Dispatch, shouldn't we have a say in Day-to-Day Operations?

I have made this point before but it continues to be utterly true.  Without our weekly dispatch fee of a now too high $195.00, PSD would not exist.  It is that simple.  Something beyond all deniability.   Given that sober reality, why does PSD continue to act like it has no real accountability to the single owners keeping the company extant as a taxi association and dispatch company?  

Once the BYG Co-op folded, ending its lease-driving operations, everything changed though it's obvious that PSD doesn't understand that, continuing to act like they own the pursestrings when they don't.   The thousand or more lease-drivers that once funded the Co-op are gone, with an entirely different business model taking its place.  The sad reality is that we single owners are treated more like employees than the independent business operators we are.  And until they recognize that, conflicts will continue, eventually leading to a revolt and the disappearance of Puget Sound Dispatch altogether.  

It should be more than obvious that what all we owners need and want is a dispatch company providing professional dispatching, something we can own and operate ourselves if we choose.  The resource to do this is the money we are now giving weekly to PSD.   As far as I know, current PSD board members have once again begun taking our weekly dispatch fees and putting whatever sizable percentage directly into their own pockets instead of reinvesting it back in the company itself, perpetuating ever ongoing staff shortages and inadequate dispatching that continue to daily plague us.  

With the advent of a new year, how can anyone call this acceptable?   I for one don't which is why I am requesting a new dialogue between the single owners and PSD.  If PSD is going to continue in its current form, it must be with our input and knowledge of how PSD operates, what its staffing and financial goals and priorities are minus all obfuscation.  We require transparency, yes, like a clear blue high desert winter sky in northeastern California.  Let the taxi deer and antelope roam!

On a walk before driving taxi on Christmas Day 2022

What makes this a taxi poem is that I was taking a walk along an urban trail before setting out in the cab, unfortunately noticing a man lying on top of a pile of debris obviously dying from a drug induced overdose.  I called 911.  It was raining and having no protection from the elements, his body soaked by the falling moisture.  What a Christmas present to the world it wasn't, unwrapped, bare to the eye.

Poem:  "Jesus Christ On A Christmas Morning"

A new Christ Child upon a Christmas dawn

arms outstretched lay dying for whose sins

he of course never knew, 

prematurely crucified even before Bethlehem ox  

and ewe and ass could kneel and in sweet tribute 

sing out his birth in celestial chorus;

instead deceased, the searching Three Kings

stumbling over a stiffening cadaver, spilling their

frankincense and myrrh, this Child never again

rising up on April Spring Sunday mornings, no

Easter chocolates sweeting the tongue 

of someone lost to God's memory,

forever forgotten in the anointing rain, his

mouth agape, never 

to smile.  

__________________________________

Check out the Thomas Hardy poem "The Oxen"

PS 01/16/23

The Seattle Times reported today that in 2022 310 homeless died on the streets.  I am guessing that my "new Christ Child" was one of them.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Ringing In The Taxi New Year---2022 Summary & No More Hopelink For Me & A Hard Choice: Auburn Or Blaine

More Business on New Year's Eve

Was it a hopeful sign that business was better for the cabs on the 31st, suggesting better days ahead?   I would like to say yes but the true answer is no, our outlook is dismal despite upcoming policy changes from the City of Seattle and King County.   I see us, at least in Seattle, as an industry running in circles, round and round we go heading nowhere fast.  The reason for this is that Uber and Lyft won the transportation argument years ago, out maneuvering a moribund American taxi industry.  First we were undersold while overwhelmed by greater number of TNC operators.  Then after reducing our actual fleet numbers, it forced many to leave the business, or worse, they themselves turning to Uber, TNC's efficiency pushing us further into a bad corner.  And while all this has been occurring, our overall costs have been getting higher, not lower.  

All this is a bad combination, meaning much longer wait periods for those who call taxis and an in general lassitude overtaking all of us fighting to stop taxicab's decline into oblivion.  While I am stubborn, as the saying goes, the "writing is on the wall" and crumbling bricks are bonking, falling upon our poor heads.   Is it knocking any sense into us?  No, of course not.

Hopelink is now Hopeless

Once my favorite account, providing me with the longest trips/rides during my many years beneath the toplight, I had myself taken off the account, no longer interested in putting up with 30-35 percent "no-shows" and declining rates, all combining to take money out of my pocket.  It is all part of the decline I was just speaking to.  Taxi is only fun when you are making "real" money.  Take that incentive away and the motivation to drive a cab disappears.  It is that simple.

$90.00 vs $335.00

While saying taxi is all about making money, customer service is certainly connected to that, as illustrated by what happened to me on Friday night after belled in to the Greyhound for Charlie going to Auburn.  Charlie, a guy nearly 80 years old, had been on a bus two days coming in from Bakersfield, California and needed a ride home.  I got his big bag in the trunk, and while backing out, a guy walks up and says he is going to Blaine, Washington, on the Canadian border.  Many would have booted good, old Charlie out of the cab and taken this guy named Alex for the big money.  Instead I called a friend and gave him the fare.  I did what I had to do, and my friend owes me a burrito, calling it a small service charge.  He can now afford the $7.71, tax included.  

Happy New Year!







 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

City Of Seattle Bus Lane Cameras---Officially Sanctioned Entrapment? & New York City Cabbies Paid $10.00 A Pop To Jump JFK International Fare Lines

Watch Out for Those Bus Lane Cameras!

On January 17th, I am scheduled in Seattle Municipal Court for not one, not two, not three but four camera generated bus lane violations, having all of a sudden become a serial lawbreaker.  How could that be, someone ever vigilant concerning school-zone and red light intersection cameras, somehow deciding it is now okay to blatantly violate rules governing bus lane restrictions enforced by the City of Seattle?   

If it were only that simple, having suddenly lost my mind, and in a holiday mood, gifting the City $75.00 times four.  Though the truth is more prosaic, the signage in all four cases not obvious, with one sign shrouded in darkness.  The question then is, is this all intentional on the City of Seattle's part, proactively making it difficult to see and understand what is posted; in other words, is Seattle engaged in a kind of entrapment?   

Of course on January 17th, the good City of Seattle lawyers will say otherwise but I will ask them why do the Red-light cameras feature bright colors when, in comparison, these new bus lane and lane blocking cameras signs are painted in mundane, nondescript black and white, mimicking ordinary non-punitive street signs.  And some of the bus lane warning signs face in only one direction, meaning you can change lanes and unknowingly, be in violation.   Again, is all this deliberate or instead another bad example of uncaring, sloppy bureaucracy?   I will be asking for reason and commonsense.  Will I receive it?   I will let you know how this fighting City Hall goes, this tilting at windmills. 

I have even thought of recruiting that stalwart, beaming light of taxicab justice, the illustrious taxi lawyer, Doug Silva but since there are no moving violations involved, he might not be interested in what is in reality complete nonsense.  Of the many folks I have met during my taxi years, Doug will always be a big favorite, indeed a friend to the "downtrodden and beaten into the ground" cabbie.  While missing my interactions with Doug, I don't miss getting the once commonplace moving violation ticket, those red flashing lights shining in your rearview mirror.  No fun at all.  

Taxi Dispatch Line Is Latest Target for Hackers, U.S. Says

This is the title of a NY Times Thursday, December 22, 2022 article reported by Benjamin Weiser and Nate Schweber concerning shenanigans occurring on the taxi line at New York's John F. Kennedy airport. The article's first two paragraphs pretty much sums up what happened:

"Russian hackers have carried out cyberattacks on hospitals, oil and gas companies, a presidential election and a massive fuel pipeline.  But cyberwarfare reached a new battlefield on Tuesday when the authorities said that two Queens men working with Russians had been able to hack the electronic taxi dispatch system at Kennedy International Airport."

"The goal?"  To allow taxi drivers in a holding lot waiting to pick up their next fare to jump the line---for a $10.00 fee."

I find the story amusing because usually hackers are going after bigger fish than desperate cabbies trying to nab a $52.00 flat rate fare heading back down to Manhattan.  The two bad guys orchestrating this scheme have been indicted, a Mister Daniel  Abayev and his friend, Peter Leyman.  It seems this hack has been occurring since sometime 2019.  You think someone might have noticed, or objected that some cabbies were getting to the head of the line before everyone else.  There is no mention of any of the thieving cabbies being punished.  Obviously the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey should give those drivers a lifetime ban.  Doing that would send a strong message.   Would the usual stubborn cabbie take heed and start behaving?  Probably not.    

Good Chow Now Available for the Hungry Seattle Cabbie---Drive-in/Dine-in/Call for pickup

Two Seattle outlets of "Aliberto's Jr Real Fresh Mexican Food" have recently opened.  Big burritos for $7.79 including tax.  Delicious and filling.  Plus many other items on the menu.  Open early and late.  go online and check out their menu. 

2425 4th Ave South---206-588-0101      

14300 Aurora Ave North---206-466-5626

The food is really good.  And most importantly, digestible, meaning they are using good ingredients.  This is high quality fast food.  McDonald's etc makes me sick but not Aliberto's.   Don't be a clown.  Chow down! 

Thank You, Puget Sound Dispatch, for the Holiday Feast

This past Wednesday, Yellow Cab (PSD) put on an incredible spread of Ethiopian cooking for all of us drivers.   The food was amazing, reminding I need to start going out to more Ethiopian restaurants.  I love the injera bread, sopping up all those delicious spicy concoctions.  Happy Holidays, everyone.

Another Example of Why Driving Taxi Makes Little Sense

Unusually cold icy wintery weather kept me off the roads until rain washed all the trouble away late Friday night into Saturday morning.  What I am now facing is having to make  a full week's money in three days.  And what became obvious is that this December 24th Christmas Eve day was an up and down day.  As I have noted previously, each week I have a $195.00 dispatch fee "nut" to crack.  Given I ended the day with two airports runs, I covered the dispatch fee but did I truly make any profit despite working over 12 hours?  Hardly and that is the problem currently driving a cab in Seattle.  Too many hours are expended merely covering your overhead, and to my mind, that ain't cool and not something I want to continue.  Screw this pouring all my labor down the taxi drain.  What a bloody waste!

PS on Comment 12/27/22:

Thanks for the funny comment, pointing out I misspelled bread, instead making it a beard, something less than eatable.  




Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Local Lyft Driver Gets 27 Days Of Sick Leave Times $300.00. What Do Seattle Cabbies Get? A Kick In The Buttock!

 Do the Math: That's $8,100 Dollars!

Due to the Seattle City Council's generous negotiated benefits for Seattle Lyft and Uber drivers, a former cabbie I know had accrued 27 sick leave days, and taking them all at once, received a very nice paid vacation.   All I can say is good for him, getting the kind of benefits one might expect from normal employment.  We of course who drive and own taxis in Seattle and King County do not enjoy such perks, instead receiving as I am wont to say, a firm kick in the buttock.  With high dispatch fees and annual insurance averaging $5000.00 dollars, we pay all this money for what reason, I ask, for what good reason?  And on top of that is the 3% service processing fee Puget Sound Dispatch (Seattle Yellow Cab) takes from each credit card transaction, with 5% processing accounts.   

Calling it a "Fool's Paradise" is being kind.  Instead it is "Hades Beneath the Toplight" and there is no escaping that hellish reality.  While the new upcoming City of Seattle/King County policy changes that appear to be coming in early 2023  might help a bit, they will not alleviate the cost and benefit disparities between taxi and TNC (Uber & Lyft).  Clearly we are Yellow dinosaurs heading for extinction, and any and all roaring at the sky will not prevent our demise, the TNC asteroid striking the taxi planet, destroying all known life. 

On Sunday night a friend tried to get a Yellow Cab, and after twice being told that his cab was on its way, having waited 30 minutes in the cold and rain, requested an Uber instead.  His driver arrived within five minutes.  All I have just described is today's taxi reality in Seattle, Washington, United States of America.  It is not funny.  I am not laughing.  I am totally stupid remaining in such a dysfunctional work environment.  I will not stay here.  I will be leaving.

Monday, December 12, 2022

A Birthday Greeting From Someone Who Knows All About Taxi & She Is Flying Home To Die

The Lucky? Birthday Boy

Next Sunday, December 18th, is my 69th birthday, and scary to think I was 34 when first stepping in a cab back in September 1987.  I think the only thing that's kept me alive this long is that for the majority of all these years I have worked part-time, beginning with weekends only during those early years.  I mention all this due to "she-who-can't-be-named" annual homemade birthday card, something I truly look forward to, this year telling her she missed her calling, Hallmark Cards a suitable home for her skills in addressing crazy taxi one more time.   She rode along with me way back in 1989.  She knows taxi almost as well as I do, and hates it even more.  A faithful companion she is, and certainly wiser than I, who can only be termed a very dumb guy.  The birthday text in all of its glory:

                                                                        69

                                                              Isn't that just fine

                                                              While the jury's out

                                                              he doesn't pout

                                                              but does he fume

                                                              and fly about on his taxi

                                                                       Broom

                                                              Lucky he's a cat

                                                              and a lucky cat at that

                                                              or else we'd be telling

                                                              TALL tales of that 

                                                              taxi-poet Brat

                                                              It's time to let up

                                                             on that metal pedal

                                                             You have earned 

                                                                   a lifetime medal

__________________________________________________

The "jury's out" comment refers to my newest book and the hopes we have for its success.  And yes, if taxi medals were issued, I kinda deserve one, at least a cabbie version of the Purple Heart.  Greytop Taxi almost killed me back in November 1995.  My bent nose will never be the same.

Incurable Cancer

Last night late I picked up a woman heading back to Alaska to die, somehow her experimental lung cancer treatment cancelled, and refusing chemo therapy, has decided to give up and die back home with her children surrounding her.   A retired medical professional, she was very matter-of-fact concerning her situation.  Having been failed by her doctors here in Seattle, and the lung cancer "kicking her ass," she has had enough of months of nonsense, preparing herself for the inevitable.  She coughed repeatedly in the back of the cab. 

Finding her with more luggage than my cab could really hold, I nonetheless packed it "to the gills" and off we went to Sea-Tac.  Once there I interceded with various Alaska Airline employees, assuring she got the kind of customer care needed to make her journey a successful one.  For the uninitiated, this is what driving cab is all about, responding properly to the situation handed you.  Life is at times no joke, having to do what is necessary minus argument.  We hugged as I left the terminal, life and death the full circle we all know.  Best of everything!