Friday, December 30, 2011

Oh! Now I Understand!

As I scurry around getting ready for the always crazy New Year and what it brings, I have another thought concerning the L&I situation.  But first a suggestion if any of you cabbies out there are ever tempted  to work the New Year celebrations while suffering from the flu.  I have have one word for you. Don't!!!  I did it once about 8 years ago and it nearly killed me. An experience to avoid!

Finally I understand what we Washington State & Seattle & King County taxi drivers are according to Labor & Industry, not employees but some unusual animals called "covered workers."  If anyone truly knows what  this euphemism  means, please tell me.  I'd rather we be termed "covered wagons" then all of us could from into a protective circle and fend off all those flaming arrows!  Earlier this week I was playing around with the subject, thinking that if someone at L&I was "Australian-centric" they might call us kangaroos because don't we all "hop" around the city and surrounding landscapes?  I know I am being less than subtle but com' on! everyone, are we really "covered workers?"  Does this mean that L&I is our new security blanket? 

As should be clear, I now have a bad attitude.  We are being treated as less-than adult.  If that isn't true, then why do I feel like pouting?   Happy New Year from a latent infant.  And what will 2012 bring?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Coming to a Conclusion

Even though, as I have reported, that I played a role in getting Washington Labor & Industry to halve the requested amount the industry was expecting, I have remained uncomfortable and dissatisfied with the outcome.  Like a toothache, in a sense it has kept me awake pondering just what is the source of my intermittent pain.  Nagging at me like an unhappy wife, something I have also experienced.  Nobody likes being screamed at, and here I have found that I was shouting at myself. But why, didn't we just win a major victory?  And my reluctant assessment is that if we have won anything, it is slight, and potentially fleeting.  I don't sense any permanency.  All I really feel is a strong morbidity and dread.  I'll explain.

The Labor & Industry decision was based on what I see as an erroneous premise, the concept that somehow, someway that we, the lease-drivers that comprise the majority of the local and statewide taxi community, are, and have been maltreated employees, even if we ourselves were unaware of this shared malevolent reality.  In a very real manner, L&I was being parental and benevolent to Labor's wayward children.  It appears that the good folks at L&I felt we were trapped in an untenable situation, meaning we were not covered by any kind of labor injury insurance, and by golly they were going to come to our rescue.  The major problem though is that it wasn't our perception of our own situation.  Yes, life could always be better but the majority of us have been earning a very good living for years. We complain yet move forward.  Babies are born, children are raised, and teenagers are sent off to college.  Yes, taxi driving is hard work yet it is good and honest labor, and we are a proud bunch, we understand our daily achievements.  Enslaved or indentured servants we are not!  This is why I feel so dissatisfied with the Labor & Industry decision.  They misread our situation.  In short they got it wrong. And since they have, we and our passenger-base will be paying the price for years to come.

As the new year approaches, the City of Seattle's Department of Consumer Affairs is calculating just how much to raise the taxi meter rate and to what percentage will the lease cap be raised.  All this is based upon the  L&I opinion that the lease driver is some new version of taxi association or company employee though they know that all of us are required to yearly purchase business licenses and and pay city taxes on our income if it exceeds $50,000.  That the fact that legally we are regarded, and personally view ourselves, as independent business owners and operators did not dissuade Labor & Industry from their grand salvation toward the great unwashed.  And by going forward, their actions have been extremely consequential.

Not only are the lease-drivers being impacted but the "bad" associations and taxi companies have been audited throughout the state, some to the tune of nearly a million dollars.  Some small companies have gone under and folded.  Others are for sell.  And why?  Simply because Labor & Industry has greatly misinterpreted what the taxi industry is doing, and have decided, like some Holy Emancipator to open the Gates of Bondage and set us all free.  I might be slightly exaggerating but that is what it feels and looks like. Regardless though, L&I has upended the taxi world, which is now balancing upon its sore head.  Where we fall, and how hard, is anyone's guess.

Now getting back to the City of Seattle's response, we have now entered the realm of the nonsensical.  As I have just written, all of us lease-drivers have to have a City of Seattle business license.  While fully aware of that, Seattle is planing on forwarding on the costs because the State of Washington has designated us as taxi employees.  Somewhere here, the twain doesn't meet, and I am not referring to Kipling or the directions of East & West.  Somehow the taxi industry has become a Doctor Doolittle character, a "Pushme-Pullyou", a creature with two heads simultaneously tugging toward opposite poles. In more plainer words, none of this makes sense, which is why I can't keep pretending that it does.  If L&I wants the lease-drivers to be covered, why haven't they approached us?  Since we are responsible for everything else, why are we somehow exempt from paying for our own Labor & Industry insurance?  I don't understand it.  And I don't understand why the taxi associations and companies are being held liable for something that is not their responsibility.  I for one would be the first to say that the taxi industry could be doing a much better job.  But in this case I find them to be innocent.  They have not committed the crime for which they have been charged.  And why the lease-drivers and the taxi passenger public also have to pay for this imaginary offense I can't begin to accept or understand.  My verdict is that Labor & Industry is guilty of a gigantic overreach.

So write the governor!  Write to the Seattle mayor!   Write to the King County administrator!  And write to the various members of the Seattle City Council.  And to the County Council.  Do not sit idly by.   Attend the council hearing, whenever they might be scheduled.  Be proud and stand up for your rights!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Weekend: Always Surprises Pleasant & Otherwise

When people ask about working holidays I say that at least for the moment they are not a priority and I work my scheduled days unless I'm traveling which goes without saying though I just said it.  Both days were surprisingly busy which goes right along with the taxi axiom "you never know" and truly you don't, at least I make no claims in that direction though I do admit to have particular expectations.  I can't drive  taxi for free.  It just isn't that compelling.

But before I address Christmas I meant to bring up an intriguing coincidence from the previous weekend.  Why this kind of stuff occurs I don't know but it has happened enough times to make me curious.  I picked up this young man in the deep West Seattle, Arbor Heights area,  and began explaining to him what his own address told him about where he was located, the why and mapping logic of addresses in Seattle. To help it make sense, I picked an imagined address, 526 1st Avenue South, explaining that Yesler Way was the dividing line, making the address five blocks south of Yesler, contrasted with his own locale of SW 100th & 39th SW which of course placing him 100 blocks away from the starting line.  Can you believe that later in the afternoon I took someone from West Seattle to the requested address of 526 1st Avenue South! a building called the Florentine.  Ah yes, the mangled metaphysics called taxi even though the late C. Hitchins who died last week might scoff at such assertions.  Though he is off the taxi subject I might if time permits soon provide some commentary since I had met him briefly in December 2001 and respected his comprehensive research upon given subjects.  I recommend his Kissinger expose.  Not a nice man, that Henry.

The Why & the Wonder of Taxi Driving: Three Examples of the "Taxi" Unexplainable

So unusual to have three $100. plus fares on the same weekend.  Making them even more noteworthy were that none of them were account-based, which the vast majority of my longer fares are.  I would say that nearly 90 percent of them came from accounts.  The large "self-pay" fares are rare.

Miracle One

I was having a great Saturday start, and knowing that there would be a huge drop off in business with actual Christmas eve approaching, I knew I had to build on what I had already accomplished, five airport runs plus a $50.00 dollar personal topped off by a $20.00 dollar tip.  Being a taxi scientist, I understand chemical balances and compounds.  You never know when the beaker will explode into so many shattered pieces.  Two "no-shows" in a row, including an airport run told me I had just added some nullifying ingredients.  Something new had to be added.

The Seahawk-49ers football game was now about 5 minutes into the third quarter, experience telling me that regardless how exciting the game was, people would have their individual reasons for leaving early.  They always have and will continue to have matters more important than touchdowns scored.  Getting down to the game perimeter on South King Street I was somewhat deflated by the poor combination of many sitting taxis and few wandering fans.  Seeing an open space mid-street I pulled in figuring that the Yellow Cab sitting about 75 feet in front of me would soon get off and I would then zoom into his prime parking space.  So often successful taxi driving is all about positioning but in this case you will see it didn't matter.  Suddenly I noticed a fan who appeared to be approaching my taxi having passed up the lead Yellow.  He seemed somewhat dazed so perhaps he just didn't see the other taxi as stepping into 478 he said take me to Bothell, which my friend is a good twenty miles or so north of downtown.  He had Christmas Eve dinner to get to with his wife so off we flew north-bound.  Quiet and polite, he was the opposite of the unfortunately too typical Seahawk fan, too often drunken and anti-social.  Upon our arrival he gave me an additional $40.00 on top of the $60.00., wishing me a Merry CH\hristmas.   I was in a state of shock, amazed at the vagaries of fate and taxi!

Miracle Two

Much later now in the evening, finding myself again in West Seattle with little to do.  The lull had arrived and I was thinking how great it would be to be sound asleep. While contemplating the thought a fare came through and Dee, as she called herself, strode up to 478 looking to cash a check.  She was extremely high on something and had just left an "assignment."  I told her that everything was closed but she was too stoned to hear me so off we drove to the First Hill "Money Tree."  Being closed I called three others, all with the same results. She called her "trick" apprising him of the situation.  Over her speaker-phone he told me to drive back and she would find his credit card beneath the door mat.  Charge what was necessary and thank you very much.  Off we returned, estimating that all her meandering would total to about $90.00 as she had to buy her mother a card. The approval went through and off we sailed to Burien.  Arriving at the 24 Hour Walgreen's at SW 148th & Ambaum SW we joined all the other late Christmas shoppers packing the only place that was still open.  I bought some chocolates and she found a card to make her mother happy she had given birth.

From there we reached the airport strip that is Pacific Highway South/International Boulevard, nearing the conclusion of our shared adventure, and having said a number of times how she liked my "style," suggested how she might like to have me for "herself" for awhile.  Smiling but not saying anything I dropped her off obviously looking to score some dope, bidding Dee adieu into that good Christmas night.

Miracle Three

Christmas Day held even more suspense knowing that everything or absolutely nothing could happen.  But before I would start my day dim sum in Chinatown beckoned with friends, many dating from my earliest days in Seattle 1973.  We had a feast and fun talking amidst the din of hundreds of hungry Chinese. 

Finally getting started it was okay, tips providing many $20.00 trips my way.  Reaching the early evening and having made a strategic error that cost me a $35.00 return fare to West Seattle, I was still arguing and cursing my stupidity when a call came through for the 7-11 on W. Nickerson.  Arriving I found a young brother and sister combination from Calgary, Alberta interested in doing some early evening sightseeing, if such a thing exists.  First we went to the Fremont Troll.  From there we went to the Kurt Cobain house on Lake Washington.  Finally, with some computer assistance from she who can't be named, I had the number and the exit for Greenwood Memorial Cemetery in Renton, Washington,  famous for its Jimi Hendrix memorial and tomb.  Shining my headlights on the shrine, they took numerous photographs and declared themselves pleased with their efforts.  Taking the kids back to their waterfront hotel, the fare was $129.00 and then $185.00 after their amazing tip.  Such is taxi driving and the way it really is.  Makes any sense you say?  Probably not unless one prays to the taxi deities which I have been known to occasionally do!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taxi News: New York City & Local

Regular readers might remember my entry of a few months' past concerning the taxi situation in NYC.  Why should any Seattle taxi fellow or gal  be interested in the taxi shenanigans of the Big Apple?  Well obviously NYC is the industry leader. Not Chicago or LA or San Francisco, and certainly not modest Seattle despite all of the too many local government officials who think otherwise.  They are wrong.  Seattle & KC & the State of Washington are just an industry afterthought. You might have seen recent billboards (they call them "hoardings" in England) asking the question why certain ailments are particularly prevalent in the NW.  Is it the water, the rain, etc.  Yes, just why does everyone governmental think we are big stuff?  Mystery to me!

Anyway, getting back to New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo & Mayor Michael Bloomberg have just announced that compromises have been reached and the grand plan to expand real and actual taxi service to the outer boroughs and Northern Manhattan will now be implemented.  You might also recall that the governor's father Mario is on the board of something that finances medallions.  I bet they are going to get a big slice of the upcoming medallion pie but perhaps I am just cynical and jaded, and you know what, I am!

Here is the plan as it was reported in the New York Times.  18,000 livery (we call them"for-hire cars" in Seattle & KC) permits will be issued, 20 percent reserved for wheelchair-accessible vehicles.  These new livery "cabs" will have meters, credit card readers and honest-for-goodness top-lights.  They will also have the ability to pick up flagging customers in the outer boroughs.  To sweeten the taxi pot, NYC will also issue 2000 new wheelchair-accessible (Yellow Cabs) medallions, which NYC expects to bring in one billion dollars in a spirited bidding war.  That should make Mario Cuomo's friends at Medallion Financial quite happy.  But in a display of benevolence, NYC will provide up to 54 million dollars in subsidies for the livery folks.  Do the math and please don't laugh nor question the fairness or transparency.  She who can't be mentioned did the medallion math and she believes the 2000 medallions will be going for about $500,000 each, which adds up to one billion, we think.  Not being bankers, we don't usually toss around such large figures in our minds. Oh to be the ONE percent!  The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, the group representing the current medallion owners are taking a wait & see attitude and of course licking their taxi chops!

So  hey! all of you serious Seattle taxi drivers, those livery cabs sound like a viable opportunity to make some real money.  You might want to head East, you taxi beasts!


Be aware that Sea-Tac ground transportation has gone berserk and have begun issuing unwarranted tickets on the airport ticket level.  No, not the Port of Seattle Police but the entity calling itself ground transportation.  Whoever or whatever they are, do not, and I repeat, do not linger on the upper level.  If you have to continue doing your credit card processing, move to the far end past the last ticket counters, past British Air.  But don't tarry there either.  Get your paperwork done and get the heck out of there!

Soon in the upcoming year you will be hearing about the L&I rate hearings being held by the Seattle City Council.  Attend these hearing and tell them you are not employees!  If they insist that we are, then say, where is our health insurance?  Stay tuned!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Driving Taxi On My Birthday

Yesterday, Sunday, was my birthday.  Given my unusual schedule, two days on and five days off,   I  normally (for better or worse) take it in stride, knowing I can and will celebrate later.  Depending on my mood and the situation, I do or don't tell passengers that indeed it is my special day.  Taxi is insanity personified so I can only take everything so seriously though the past two weekends I've been a trifle over sensitive, doing a reasonable presentation of the various facets of taxi psychosis made manifest.  Don't tell me you want to take Madison.  You want me to ____ you?

Can you believe that after my more or less 24 part-time years I can't stand taxi any longer?  Tedium and boredom comprise a monotonous tune mirthlessly sung. My one disappointment this weekend was not making it to Ocean City for my greatly satisfying bowl of soup.  Ocean City is my Chinese stand-in for the Jewish mother serving up chicken broth minus the matzo.  Their broth is sustaining, getting me through and past the Saturday bar rush.  Perhaps that is why I had to pull over in the Wallingford and sleep for a hour.  Getting too busy I didn't stop and then about three AM I took a drug couple to one of a series of cheap motels that reside near and around the 72000 Block of East Marginal Way South.  I knew I was pushing it, going that far south only having to head back north but I liked them, the guy enjoying my response when I responded in an odd tone, no, I would not be taking them for only $15.00 dollars.  We all laughed and enjoyed the ride.

Small Revenge

I was totally surprised when the three upper-middle class kids left the taxi without paying.  It was silly.  Perhaps they were apprenticing as hoodlums.  I always find it humorous when passengers run as if I am going to chase and grab them, pounding them into taxi submission.  But since I know a trifle about basic psychology I yelled after them to just realize I will remember their well-fed faces and when I see them again up on Broadway they better watch out!  Nothing like instilling fear into the foolish, knowing that at least for the short term every time they see a Yellow taxi they will flinch, concerned that it is the big, bad ME seeking equal compensation.   It is well worth the eight dollars! knowing that guilt and their own idiocy will bop them on the head for me.  Now that I am 58 I am too ______to be pursuing goofballs into the night.  I would rather they bite and chase their own tails.  Let them lead themselves down their own misbegotten trail.  I personally am too lazy for such nonsense.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More of the Same & More of the Same Eating Away What is Left of My Brain!

Yes, always taxi fun & games, with this week adding a Seahawk Monday Night Football game to the mix.  Beginning to learn what I should already know that another day in the cab does nothing for me whatsoever other than making me more tired than I was to begin with.  I did see the early Saturday morning complete ellipse of the moon.  I was able to see about 45 minutes of the event in between an airport run out of West Seattle.  Now for your reading pleasure? a series of vignettes displaying why it is far better viewing taxi from a safe distance.

---from Monday: Pre-game traffic is hell.  I pick up an Israeli businessman from the 3800 hundred block of 1st Ave. South, his destination being a motel north of downtown.  My  "Mission Impossible" assignment was to get him past the various obstacles which I achieve to the amazing tune of only $17.00.  This passenger was the type who wanted to talk philosophy and questions like "Gods' Existence?" and was praising the taxi driver which all resulted in a $1.00 tip.  An average driver would have got him there for say $25.00 or perhaps more plus the pleasure of inhaling exhaust fumes.  Was he a fool?  Of course not!!

---from Monday: Sitting first on the train station when a driver pulls up and said dispatch had belled him in though everyone knows that it is not a "belled-in" destination. Happily there was a Yellow Supt standing by and rightfully directed the young woman toward my taxi.  She went to Ballard.

---from Monday:  After I drop her off I find myself first taxi in the deep Ballard zone 135.  Nothing is happening so I step into the nice little grocery, the "Green Grocer."  Of course I am booked off when I miss my fare and then I sit and sit.

from Monday: A bit later I get belled into Children's Hospital at the Giraffe entrance for customers going all the way to Deep West Seattle.  Pulling up there they go in another Yellow taxi.  They didn't even wave.  Just another duplicate  bell.  Thanks again, dispatch!

and I immediately get another bell, which I rush to, located on a dead-end street but only one problem, there is my passenger driving off in an Orange taxi.  They didn't wave either.  And I am sure that part of the problem was that dispatch was telling all the callers that they would have to wait until some time into the next century before their Yellow Cab would be arriving.  So of course they call another company!

And frankly at this point Sat & Sunday remain a blank or perhaps I just don't want to remember but Sunday's start is worth relating because I would leave one zone to book into another with all the fares then happening behind me, and I am going crazy until I get a 130 Ballard fare, I scare her white cat and the miniature poodles being walked across the street  find me of barking interest but the nice lady with no luggage heads to the airport and gives me $60.00 including tip & then from the 262 middle of West Seattle I take the native of Mexico City who can't believe I love Mexico City to 144th & Pacific Highway South and he give me $30. and what do you know all very quickly I have my lease.  Hey, why am I always complaining!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Continued Quick Summary

Today after four separate taxi appointments I am ready to just finish up and drive back to Tacoma.  But before I head off I will do some instantaneous reporting and finish the madness commentary.

From the weekend-----

Second fare Sunday she requests to be dropped off at a Capital Hill parking lot but only one major problem, an obstacle in the form of an upper-middle class mid-60s woman who refuses to not block the entrance, having decided that parking her SUV and not moving was completely justified but why she wouldn't say.  No amount of mild verbal abuse moves her.  She won but just what it was I have no idea.

Just after I had told the very nice mother and son that indeed, it has been strange, a homeless man holding a bowl of food casually without looking stepped in front of my accelerating 478 upon entering I-5 from the Cherry Street ramp, the same entrance that last week was completely new to me though having used it ten thousand times.  Luckily a combination of a quick foot and a steady 478 resulted in not catapulting the fool into the air.  Of course he gave me the finger.

Yesterday a Yellow taxi driver got out of his car on a steep part of Nob Hill Ave N. and then watched as his car suddenly bolted forward down the hill, unfortunately slamming against a concrete wall.  I have no details as to the cause.

And I also witnessed two cars in separate incidents driving down the opposite direction on one-way streets but this is getting boring, isn't it?  And three cheers for the official full moon coming up on Saturday, December 10th.  I can't wait for the all the surprises awaiting me!

Taxi News

Limo Bill was approved by the City of Seattle city council financial committee.  It has been forwarded for full council approval.  There were no town-car drivers in sight at the hearing.  A sure sign of surrender and inevitability.  There were two taxi drivers present, myself and Deb D.  Jeff from the Supt's office also gave testimony.

During the taxi commission meeting we learned that "for-hire" vehicles are the City of Seattle's new employment opportunity plan, at least according to one man's opinion.  It is rare that I take a opinion that is considered conservative.  Next thing you know I will be endorsing the Koch brothers but I don't think so.

During a discussion with a mayoral aide I received some positive affirmations concerning regional licensing.  Stay tuned.

Took a peek at the airport taxi feeder lot.  What an amazing slight, all these taxis packed tightly in the cramped parking space.  Shook hands with a number of Indian comrades.  Guys are worried about the L&I impact. 

And lastly, had lunch with someone who might be interested in joining my discreet band of political (non-violent) assassins.  Watch out as we might be coming to your neighborhood soon!   I can't expect all of the politicians to be like Cain and Governor Perry and conveniently self-destruct.  Sometimes they require a little assistance.  It would be fun to give them a little shove toward the cliff and get paid for it.  More on that effort as it occurs.

Monday, December 5, 2011

You Are A Terrorist & Other Tales From The False Full Moon (Dec 3-5 Version)

Others have mentioned how strange! it has been the past few days.  As I have said, and will always say, taxi drivers are immersed in whatever is in the local air.  We inhale and exhale the madness. The trick then is not to allow yourself to be colored by the prevalent atmosphere.  There may be a fog but you have to slow down, allowing a safe stopping distance.  Any other course is a cement wall, as I will  briefly explain.

Those limousine drivers!---Tomorrow at the Seattle City Council the Limo (Town car) Regulation Bill, the one passed and signed by governor, will be reviewed by the full council.  The major feature of this legislation is the transfer of authority from the Washington State Highway Patrol to the City of Seattle.  This has been a long and protracted and rancorous issue that has taken years to resolve.  From  the limo driver's  point of view, there has been no resolution.  Worse from their prespective is their shared perception that everything is poised to put them out of business.  And it is difficult to disagree that their continued portrayal as taxis will be terminated.  That they have been acting as "gypsy cabs" for years is without question.  Approach one today and they will without hesitation identify themselves as taxis.  Indeed the vast majority of them have driven taxi cabs.  Clearly they view and see themselves as a logical extension from whence they came. Unfortunately for them, and especially for the customer base, there is little legal legitimacy to justify that view.  Yesterday two fellows jumped in my taxi on the north side of Pike Place Market for a five dollar fare to lower Queen Anne, having just rejected a limo drivers quote of twenty-five dollars!

Last night on the Greyhound, I was speaking to a fellow I know from his years at Yellow, now driving a town car.  He is the nicest guy, I believe hailing from West Africa.  I was encouraging him to attend the city council session, and in my enthusiasm told him that "don't you understand, even though you are a citizen, a misdemeanor violation can get you deported!"  Becoming offended, he pointed to the Federal Court House and shouted, "There they are, tell them to come and get me!" and other things to that effect.  I stepped into the station, and upon coming out a another limo driver, someone who last year had shoved me, called me a terrorist and said he was a witness.  At that I just gave up and I do, I surrender to their obstinacy.  They know what they want to do and reality be damned, they are going to do it.  Sounds like the majority of taxi drivers that I have encountered over my twenty-four plus years. And as the tea shop is closing, so will I till tomorrow.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The L&I Rate Is Now Offical

The time is 2:17 PM on Thursday, DEC 1st, 2011.  I don't know the details of the announcement but the rate has been released as
                                   0.5443 per hour

or in other terms, .55 per hour as I reported yesterday.   More details as they are known.  Stay tuned to an ongoing and developing story. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We Now Know The L&I Request: A Surprising Call

At about 4:00  more or less this afternoon I got an unexpected telephone call.  It was from Judy Schurke, the Director of Washington State Labor & Industry.  This was my first verbal contact with her.  I had emailed her a number of times, and that, along with the various L&I contacts I have made in the past four weeks appears to have prompted her to call.  In my letters to her I attempted to communicate the realities of the taxi business from someone who knows.  My request was reasonably simple, emphazing the need for a fair and just decision. It seems to have been an effective approach.  She said that a decision had been made concerning the L&I request and she wanted me to be one of first of the many interested individuals to know.  As some of you might already know, the rumor was that L&I was holding firm to the much discussed amount of $1.11 per hour which translated into a request of $380.00 per month.  I was greatly relieved when she said that the amount was downgraded to 55 cents per hour, just less than half of what was expected.  She did acknowledge that some folks would still have problems with that but stated that this was the beginning of the process, not the end, and that L&I would be monitoring the overall effect of their decision.  She also invited continued input and I believe that I and perhaps other representatives of the local indsutry could be meeting with her as soon as next week.  I hope that is true.  The official announcement is scheduled for tomorrow.  I will keep you updated as new devleopments occur.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Taxi Stands & Yesterday Continued Today

Before I continue from yesterday you may want to know that the City of Seattle has announced the creation of some new late night zones (taxi stands), including one in the Pike Place Market, east side of 1st between Pike & Pine.  It must be adjacent to the strip club so expect the choicest of customers!  Regardless, it is great to again have some kind of stand in the area.  I have been bugging the City of Seattle to put one in ever since they took the previous one out.  ONLY in Seattle do they take out a stand serving possibly the most popular tourist destination in the entire state, ensuring that for the past ten years the tens of thousands of pickups at that corner were all done illegally!  Doesn't that warrant a good Ha! Ha! Ha!

Back to yesterday, returning all the way to Thanksgiving when I picked up in the Queen Anne a man requiring a ride to Kirkland to, one, pick up his girlfriend and her friend, and two, find a club to dance away a Holiday evening.  He was complaining about going but since a recent argument remained unresolved he felt that appeasement was the best strategy going forward, and in this case, Kirkland and the Bridal Trails neighborhood up and over Lake Washington.  This ride was all about waiting, waiting for the young women to leave the Thanksgivings feast; waiting for the friend to get to change into her dancing shoes in Bellevue; then further waiting for the girlfriend on Mercer Island as she too needed a change of costume.  Clearly the young Russian woman was taking advantage of her wealthy Indian (sub-continent) boyfriend, causing him to finance her friend's final night in Seattle.  Eventually we made it back into Seattle proper and Capitol Hill.  It was painful to witness, prompting me to admonish the girlfriend after some ill-advised remarks to the taxi driver.  All turned out well as I got $115.00 including tip and a big smile and peace sign from the misbehaving Russian. 

And I would be amiss not to officially thank Novin who once again sponsored his now annual Yellow Cab Thanksgiving feast though he might skip holding it again at a Mexican restaurant.  I truly prefer the Iranian (Persian) chow that has been served up in the past.  Pity the lamb!

And what happened on Sunday?  Why, the Seahawks lost!  What else can be said about a mythical species of bird!  For raptors their beaks are softer than their bite.

PS----Location of New Stands

Capitol Hill---South side of E. Pike between 10th & Broadway

Fremont---North side of N. 36th between Francis N. & Dayton N.

Belltown---East side 1st between Blanchard & Bell

DT/PP Mkt---East side 1st between Pike & Pine

Pioneer Square---West side of Occidental between S. Washington & Yesler

Stands are taxi operational from 10 PM-6 AM

Monday, November 28, 2011

What Did I Write Down & Where?

There's nothing like taxi driving to create a blank slate, meaning the average human mind after too many hours beneath the top light.  Yesterday I found this wonderful quote and immediately wrote it down thinking it would make a great title for today's blog.  Now sitting here ready to write I can not remember anything except I wrote something down.  Where it came from, be it a radio conversation or written article I couldn't tell you.  And this is someone, me, with the legendary memory.  Ah yes, the well-known taxi lobotomy eliminating all remaining grey cells.  Do I remember anything concerning the just past weekend?  Maybe.

Taxi is a series of interconnected moments.  Here are a few of them from this just past Thanksgiving &  Saturday & Sunday.

----Why do I still  have to remind myself not to pick up young, Caucasian men after a football game?  Every time I break my golden rules I get burned.  How many times do I require a lesson before it is fundamentally learned?  Obviously too many for this weak-brained individual.

After the interstate rivalry game, the Apple Cup, there were more available passengers than taxis.  Given that it was held at the Seahawk Stadium, the overflow branched out into Chinatown and adjacent areas of the greater southern end of downtown.  Though there were bells waiting in the "Medical" (zone 230), I  passed through and instead picked up three young men at corner the of 6th S. & S. Jackson.  Two guys entered and the eventual troublemaker called to his approaching buddy, "Hey Fatty, hurry up!"

I backed up and turned around, telling them that this was the shortest route to the freeway, given all the traffic on 4th Avenue.  One thing you quickly notice about a__holes: they never listen to anything you say.  Why?  Because you the driver are not really there, not in any real terms.  You are part of the car, part of a machine constructed with inanimate parts, not a real and actual human being.  This explains what happened over a span of perhaps seven blocks. 

They were heading to the Duchess Tavern, a well-known UW Husky hangout, a place I avoid given the usual drunken patrons minus any expected civility.  University of Washington appears in part to create a particular kind of monster: privileged and unkind, minus a heart, minus a mind!  It appears three of these creatures had just entered my taxi.  Like I just said, I do know better!

As we were approaching the intersection of 9th & James, the left turn arrow turned red and I continued forward because a left turn on Cherry will also take you to the north-bound ramp for the freeway.  The gentleman of the "Fatty" comment began questioning my decision and I responded less than favorably.  As we turned onto Cherry I said now that they could be helpful by deciding whether they would like to approach the Duchess by either NE 50th or the Montlake Blvd.  As I know all of the routes, I sometimes ask if one is preferred over the other.  These wonderful human beings then decided that  what I was really saying was that I didn't know the name or the existence of the Interstate system .  That is when I had to tell  them that it was time to find someone who did.  As they exited the taxi the usual insults inferring that I was a typical failed member of the species who could only drive taxi and that type of thing were hurled.  This by the way is predictable.  Again, the taxi dalit (untouchable) syndrome. 

And upon their exit I accepted a Medical bell and found myself taking a DSHS flat rate customer to Federal Way to the tune of $71.00 which just turned out to be my best fare of the weekend. Often it occurs that when once again I am bopped by ignorance the Good Taxi Gods in their benign wisdom assuage the wound. Call it a kind of instant reciprocity.  That it happens so often is no longer a surprise.  Such are the mysterious metaphysics of taxi! 

To be continued tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Governor Contact Info & Commission Report

As I have said, it is imperative that all you Seattle & King County taxi drivers contact Governor Christine Gregoire and tell her you are not interested in Labor & Industry saving you by killing you, all those good & kind bureaucratic parents unintentionally suffocating the taxi baby, because they hear the infant wailing! and our diapers must need changing.  No, I don't think so!  Bitter is the moment and worse is the outcome if we don't intervene.

I could not find the governor's listed email address so I suggest you do what I did, google Governor State of Washington, connecting with her website and emailing her from there.  It works!

To leave a message call 360-902-4111

Mailing address is POB 40002, Olympia, WA 98504-0002

but since L&I will be signing on November 30th whatever they come up with I suggest you either call or email or both!  The quicker the better!

Commission Natives Are Restless

Is the Seattle & King County Taxi Advisory a complete joke and failure?  Well, yes and no.  At our six month juncture some are recognizing that we have to get serious because we are a mere six months away from filing our first annual report and clearly we have accomplished nothing at all.  Today we discussed an arcane point for almost two hours.  Part of the problem is that the commission was intentionally structured to have non-taxi members providing input on a subject they know nothing about.  I have already commented upon this in past postings so I will not be repetitive.  The blame for the situation falls squarely upon the folks who engineered a predictable failure, and further compounding the error by choosing less-than-qualified members. One taxi member has failed to show up for any of the meetings. And no replacement is on the horizon.   Maybe we can get Texas Governor Rick Perry to come by and lead us in a prayer circle seeking divine intervention.  Or am I just being cynical?! 

And a Quick Clarification

Pertaining  to a reference yesterday about dalits rising from sewers relates to the real life situation of folks caught in the web of India's caste system.  There is an actual branch of dalits, or more commonly known as untouchables, whose sole purpose from birth to death is to swim in the sewers of the major cities and keep the sewage system unclogged and flowing.  And can you believe other higher caste members attempt to stop them from bathing afterwards?  Makes taxi a pretty picture but there are at times unfortunate parallels.  But truly, most of my passengers are wonderful.  Though we all know about the few bad apples spoiling the taxi barrel.  Such is life in the erzatz city.

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Routes & I Should Emulate Chekhov?

One thing you discover quickly driving taxi is that your passengers (or let's say an unfortunate minority) feel the freedom to say anything they choose, providing you with all kinds of unwanted advice and opinion.  One might say that their motivation is totally benign, feeling that since they know more than you they are assisting in your higher education.  It is their version of charity to the unwashed.  Maybe it is somehow tax deductible. How shocked they become when their unsolicited advise and kindness is rejected, confirming their worse suspicions.  How unappreciative!  And I must admit that I for one fall into the that snotty category. Many years ago an eighth grade teacher wrote on my report card that "Joe thinks he is smart.  He isn't.  He's lazy." Just shows that I have never learned that vital lesson, a rotten non-egghead to the bitter taxi end.

How simple is simple when it is too simple?  The guy on the 300 block of Bellevue East, after making me wait 7 minutes marooned on the busy street, gets in with the greeting of how I am going to get him to the chain Italian restaurant at the corner of 9th North and Broad.  I know instantaneously he is the "overseer type" and feels it is beneficial instructing me with the sweet lash of his whip. My usual response is to say that he (and anyone else sharing his attitude) is attempting to invent new streets and routes, the rationale being that Denny Way has been there nearly forever and really, do you truly imagine I don't know the 3/4 of a mile to your destination?  I am assuming that he was the manager and like a Blue Heeler, can not stop his instinctive herding.  Not appreciating my response, he asked to get out, saying he was going to call and complain on the taxi hot-line number.  I asked him if there was a number where I could place a complaint concerning him. He didn't like that either, not expecting the dalit (untouchable) to rise out of the sewer. I would have been glad to take the five dollar fare and be done with it.  But no, blood had to be spilled, the driver had to be insulted, assuming this must be his daily credo, bullying the unworthy who must be made whole.  One must understand that if everyone to you is a dog to be kicked you are occasionally going to be bitten.  Everyone knows that, don't they?  Or if they don't, torn trousers will be the standard dress of the day.  Didn't he see my snarling teeth?

West Seattle to Top Hat

These two guys were smart and one decided that I needed instruction.  I don't believe I mentioned that I write but this one particular gentleman started going on about Chekhov and that I should read one of his short stories, wait six months and see if I can recreate his style.  I said why would I want to do that?  I told him that if he was in my writing class he would be tossed out on his ear.  It reminded me that after reading a bunch of Charles Bukowski I wrote a poem about winning at the race track, getting roaring drunk then pummelling a whore all night long in a skid row hotel.  My wife was shocked but hey I said, you know this is fiction.  So much for misplaced emulation!  And so much for taxi advise.  I think I already know the roadway and the direction taken.  And if I don't, I know there will always be a benevolent sage ready and eager to instruct me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Call the Governor

Rumor has it, or is it factual, that two separate proposals originating from L&I have been sent to the governor for her inspection.  Now there is much suspicion concerning what they are or not.  Who knows?  At times it appeared that commonsense would prevail but perhaps not.  So now, meaning the next 3-4 days is the time to contact the governor and tell her that low is what we want and low is all we will accept.  Email, folks, email and also leave telephone messages. Don't just complain and act helpless. Get with it before you are again stepped on!  This might be another fight similar to our battle with King County.  Are you ready to do battle?  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Some Questions Concerning Light-rail & For-hire Cars as Taxis?

Some folks are under the illusion (or maybe delusion) that Seattle is a cosmopolitan and sophisticated city, both smart and efficient, a miniature Paris or London.  Those of us who have long observed the place know quite differently.  Add one confused Atlanta, Georgia businessman to that number of potential skeptics.  I found the guy at one-thirty Saturday morning standing outside the Beacon Hill Light-rail station chilled to his toes and mad as hell because a downtown train taking him to the airport had instead gone out of service half a mile out of the station.  I told him welcome to Seattle as I took him back to the Sea-Tac Doubletree.  He was so shook up that he even left his telephone in the back seat and I had to return it to him.  He just couldn't understand what had happened and why.  "And I had no idea where I was," he lamented.  As I told him, he wasn't the first victim of the light-rail system that I have encountered and nor will he be the last. 

Earlier this year I found a completely bewildered passenger with a bunch of luggage standing at the intersection MLK & Rainier Ave. South.  having been tossed off an in-bound train from Sea-Tac.  It was 12:30 on an early Monday morning and rain was falling.  He too couldn't believe what had just occurred.

Anyway, returning to Mr. Atlanta, he was freaked out.  I don't blame him for that. The experience was too much for him to bear. I suggested that next time he wear a hat.  I also told him to file a complaint.  Let's hope he did.  If Seattle/KC doesn't get its act  together  some isolated soul is going to be found murdered in Rainier Valley, all because of a simple expectation that a train ride begun will be a ride completed..  Ha Ha! that's certainly humorous, don't you agree?

Walking down Broadway East this morning I met an ex-Yellow driver now in his very own "for hire" vehicle. He showed me his very extensive flat-rate list covering every inch of Seattle and King County.  It was impressive.  He also said that he and his "for-hire" brothers are going to try to make it legal for them to pick up passengers just like the taxis.  He obviously was sitting on Broadway waiting for the random walk-up.  Even without any future legal permission he and everyone else knows that enforcement of the laws governing his actions are non-existent.  Craig Leisy and Seattle/KC have released a monster upon the local streets.  Will it ever be recaptured and and locked back into Pandora's Box?   Personally, I think it is highly doubtful.  The "for-hires" are here to stay.  Again, what is there to impede them?  We all know the answer.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Labor & Industry Official Ride-Along

It looks like I (and we, the local industry) made State of Washington history by having a L&I official, William Moomau, ride as an observer in my taxi for approximately three hours this past Sunday.  In an earlier email I had invited any and all L&I officials to come and take a glance at taxi as you and I know it. Mr. Moomau, an over 30 year veteran of the L&I wars proved to be a good student, asking many questions pertaining to our daily concerns. I made every attempt to communicate our reality versus any perceived scenarios.  He suggested that the amount L&I might be requesting of the local industry is falling closer to initial expectations.  Let us hope so.  As I have been saying, it is not reasonable to compare or suggest that out market matches a city like New York.  It also appears to have been helpful to have new voices added to the chorus.  L&I is truly interested in assisting and protecting the lease-driver/independent contractor community while simultaneously making a correct and fair assessment of what the overall taxi industry can afford.  I appreciate the effort being made.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

L&I Update 11/08/11

In a telephone conversation this morning with a L&I official, he sought clarification about lease-driver sentiment concerning Craig Leisy's (Seattle Consumer Affairs) proposed taximeter and lease-driver rate increase.  I told him that it was an unequal parallel, expecting Seattle lease-drivers to pay as much as $100.00 per shift, equal to what drivers in NYC are paying.  To think or imagine that Seattle's taxi market and consumer base matches that of one of the world's greatest cities is pure fantasy.  I emphasized that point.  I also pointed out that the current meter rate is nearly the highest in the country.  Raising it will only impact our ability to make a living.

He reported that it appears that our opposition has had an impact.  He believes that the current estimation of $1.11 per mile will be at least halved.  Let us hope so.  Potentially a decision will be made this upcoming Thursday, with that decision being signed officially for enactment at the end of this month.  My last suggestion is to contact Mr. Leisy directly and tell him how you feel.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Real Reason I Am Driving Taxi (or at least one of primary justifications) & How Taxi Drivers REALLY Feel About Working Beneath the Top-light

I saw him being passed up by a Northend Taxi at the intersection of NE 125th & 15th NE at about 1:30 in the morning just this past Saturday.   I pulled just past of the intersection and stopped, adjacent to the 7-11 store, waiting for him to cross the street.  "Are you stopping for me," he asked?  And, "Of course I am," I said, "where are you going?"  He seemed uncertain then said to take him up to NE 145th & 15th NE.  On this rainy and chilly evening he had on a heavy cotton shirt but no jacket nor hat. A bit shabby perhaps but not unlike myself, as I am more bum than bank executive.  He mentioned about the other taxi but I reassured him that it appeared to me that he was on his way to a call.  He then mentioned that he was treated poorly in the 7-11, having just gone there to get something to eat. He was browbeaten and downcast. He then said take me to the QFC, the grocery store located at the previously mentioned corner. I responded give me Five and be done with it.

A minute into the ride he asked if I knew where the tent city was, that being where he currently lives.  He muttered 'tent city, tent city" a couple of times.  As we neared the QFC he said it was hard to stay warm in a tent.  Exiting the taxi he repeated more than once how much he appreciated that I had picked him up, that other taxi drivers had kept driving by.  I responded it was nothing, and besides, that was what I am doing in the taxi, there to provide rides to those who required them.   I told him that he looked okay, that I was experienced and that there was absolutely no reason for anyone to not pick him up.  I watched as he steadied himself and began walking toward a destination he had no desire whatsoever to reach.

Sure, I drive taxi to make money and support myself while I continue to strive toward complete writing independence.  But meeting this fellow explains to myself why I am still doing this,  perhaps being the major (and solitary) reason: I am here to interact with the downtrodden, the disenfranchised.  Oddly the money, and I did make a small fortune this weekend is secondary to that kind of quick and momentary relationship.  His emotional state reminds me of the true state of the species and the world.  Privilege, even my own hard-earned ease holds a value that deserves daily examination, of how we justify our culture's goals and manifestations while the majority (this fellow & the developing world) peer in from the outside at the unattainable.  Empathy is what is called for, not the celebration of someone who cultivates chain hamburgers and eat-to-you-explode pizza as successful life and business formulas.  Clearly I despise this reality I reside and dwell, at least pleased that I can at step on 478's accelerator and temporary fly up and past the next desolate and despondent corner.

What Drivers Truly Believe

Waiting at the cashier's window today a fellow directly in front of me, a Bulgarian immigrant, was holding his young son, perhaps age 3 or 4, truly a cute tyke.  I hesitated then said, wondering what the reaction might be, that the child was  possibly a future taxi driver.  Immediately two drivers reacted strongly, saying let him be a doctor or lawayer, anything but a taxi driver, one gentleman saying that there had to be a reason to justify all the pain we experience.  That, in a taxi nutshell, is the true unadulterated opinion of perhaps all of us taxi warriors.  Wednesday night, as I was passing taxi 366 to Thomas, a long-time taxi veteran, he proudly told me that his 25 year old son had just passed the State of New York bar.  My friend John has a son, Sebastien, who is a junior at MIT.  The simple unblemished reality is that taxi is hell, plain and simple.  If I wasn't writing, I too would be gone tomorrow, the gutter an improvement upon unbridled insult.  Oh yes, you say, Mr. Blondo is so melodramatic!  Yes, that must be the explanation.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reminded Again Why I Don't Drive During the Week Plus Commisson & TAG Reports

It has been months since I have driven an extra shift other than a holiday.  Given that I had to be in town (I now dwell in Tacoma) Tuesday for the taxi advisory commission meeting and Wednesday for Craig Leisy's favorite forum, his Taxi Advisory Group (TAG) meeting, I thought why not drive a Wednesday night shift.  Amazing how I always discover just why it was a poor idea. Last night did hold the opportunity of the Sounder's playoff game, which guaranteed something if there was nothing else to be had. And without going into much of the boring details it was okay but really I wasn't much interested.  The "adjacent area (zone) automatic belling feature" on the MDT (computer) was totally maddening, offering you fares where you weren't, preventing you from picking up from where you were sitting.  Like the song moans, "when will they ever learn?"  At this rate I wouldn't place any bets with Lloyd's of London!  I did have a delayed round-trip from and back to Swedish Hospital, a nurse spending her long break at the Riverside Casino in Tukwila.  She recounted a miraculous  trip to Las Vegas where she won $100,000 over a long weekend.  This time she lost $100.00 and no tip for me due to her losing.  Later in the shift I had a few round-trips to ATM machines, those not-so-mysterious rides in the wee hours of the morn.  At times I truly hate knowing how folks conduct their lives.  Depressing is the word!  Who wants to know?! Not me!

Tuesday's commission meeting was so much fun we have decided to do it all over again on November 22nd.  Two members have a personal issue in the fire and monopolize the proceedings they have.  Though I do have sympathy for their plight, the commission was not designed to be one or two individual members' personal forum.  And besides, I know full well that the bad situation they are attempting to address was self-created.  I too would be upset if I had lost tens of millions in equity and most of my taxi association.  It all seems too little too late!  Regardless  I see the commission as a maturation process though I wish members would at least reach adolescence soon!  Diapers are so messy!  What else did we do? Craig Leisy made a presentation about his L&I-based proposals and also talked about the for-hire vehicles.  The meeting was held at the Yellow lot and everyone got a tour.  Is it only Seattle who appoints taxi advisory commission members who know little to nothing concerning taxis?  Let's hope so.  What other city would be this ________!?

As for the TAG, we were all much more civil while Mr. Leisy held court explaining the details of his L&I related proposal and how all of us drivers will make more money though he estimates we will lose at 159,000 trips (fares) due to the fare increase.  It was the last TAG of the year though soon you will be getting reports about the pending Seattle city council and King County council hearings.  I can't wait to be there. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Was Wrong. L & I Impact Upon the Lease-Driver

I have a quick apology to make.  I have been telling anyone who asked that the pending L&I decision would not have an immediate impact upon the lease-driver.  I was wrong, completely wrong.  If the rate of $380.00 per car per month holds up (though I don't believe it will), then the shift rate will be increased by $10.00 per shift.  For instance, a week day (M-F) day-shift at Yellow, when a driver has a NPG (natural gas) powered vehicle, he/she will be paying a total of $100. per shift when the $15.00 "green vehicle surcharge" is added on.  For all of us who knows just how hard it can be to earn a taxi dollar, does L&I understand just what that means on a January or February or March morning when nothing is occurring anywhere and the mere making of your lease and gasoline (or natural gas) is a small miracle. This is why it is imperative that the L&I rate becomes a figure that will not bankrupt the industry. Make no mistake, this kind of translation is unavoidable. Whatever the final decision is, the cost will be transferred to the lease-driver. Another factor to also remember is that the cost will also be transferred to the taxi customer as an increased meter rate, changing from 1/10 per mile to 1/9 per mile.  It is the unavoidable taxi food chain.  One major fear of course is that there will be fewer passengers or that a percentage of the customer base will use "for-hire" vehicles instead. None of this bodes well in the short term.  That is why it will be extremely helpful if you begin contacting L&I  and voice your displeasure.  In a future posting, perhaps later today, I will provide a list of important email adresses.

Monday, October 31, 2011

You Were Not Born in India, Were You? (or somethng to that effect)

Every taxi driver knows too well that passengers say the craziest (not like Art Linkletter, where kids said the darnest things) nonsense, bringing up topics more fit for an asylum than a taxi, but come to mention it the average taxi is a rolling psychiatric ward, where hopefully the most incoherent customers (inmates) disappear quickly and painlessly away.  This posting then is a brief entry into that lexicon-fueled world known as passenger dialogue.  Most taxi conversation is reasonable, friendly and coherent, but not always as the first example given here amply displays.

The guy from top of Queen Anne going to the Pan Pacific Hotel kept asking whether I was from India?  At first I responded not at all.  Upon persistence I initially told him that it was a big secret, too important to divulge.  Then after further consideration I confessed that no, I was not born in India but in a town named after an American Native tribe or nation, Puyallup.  He fortunately had no further comment but one wonders why the question was asked at at, just to why it held any significance one way or the other where the driver was born.  Clearly I don't look like any native of that distant subcontinent.  His genealogical interest was truly peculiar, motivated by what pathology I truly am not interested in knowing.  It is only too typical when the passenger sees you not at all and cares about you not at all and upon getting out of the taxi remembers you not at all.  Did I just have a human to human interaction?  Obviously, not at all!

I had a family in my taxi yesterday from Saudi Arabia, a father and his three children.  Being the only English speaker, the father began translating our conversation for his children's benefit.  Upon discovering that I was a writer and (very nominally) aware of his region and culture his questions became more probing.  As with the older couple from Kuwait last weekend, I have found that the majority of foreign visitors and temporary residents are always pleasantly surprised, if not shocked to meet a reasonably informed and knowledgeable American as it appears that American cultural illiteracy is now legendary and transferred to all of my fellow citizens.  I dropped the Saudi family off at the Red Roof Inn, Sea-Tac with the father repeating that he would buy my book on Amazon.  I would find that pleasing, as I am always ready to be a reasonable representative and emissary for our confounding country.

Yesterday I picked up at the Vulcan (Paul Allen) Boeing Field Facility.  As with my other contacts with the Vulcan empire I always feel I have been transported back to Iron Curtain Europe (I was in Hungary in 1984) where a secretive and opaque bureaucracy divulges as little as possible, suspicion the generously supplied entree.  I mentioned this Soviet-era atmosphere to the somewhat superior gentleman I was taking to Sea-Tac. He immediately softened and became more human. One point that hasn't been mentioned during these "Occupy Wall Street" times is that many of us are not at all interested in doing what is necessary to become a "one percenter."  I could care less.  I have more important things to do than manipulate money markets and require that others make my bread & butter.  How boring!  Why even driving a taxi is better than that!

Question?  Where was Winston Churchill speaking when he made his famous "Iron Curtain" reference? 
Answer:  A place of very little iron, Kanas!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Quick Report from Olympia L&I Hearing 10/28/11

Yes, I also made it to Olympia though not that I wanted to.  The hearing was scheduled for 10 AM and I get a call at 9:15 AM (because I live in Tacoma) and I am told that I have to go, that I am the only one, that it is being televised, etc. I was not pleased with the last moment request but throwing on a suit I was out of the door and flying to Olympia.  And I was glad that I did.

As opposed to Wednesday, this meeting was near capacity though I was the sole Seattle/King County taxi industry representative.(Guys & gals, we gotta we do better when so much is that stake!)  Regardless I got there in time to sign up to speak, and while waiting my turn, I listened to folks from the logging industry complain about what they felt were unwarranted L&I increases.  The general sentiment I got from them and others that all of this was a State of Washington tax grab, an attempt to fill empty coffers.  Whether that is true or not, many folks were and are quite unhappy with L&I and its proposed increases. One witness, Cindy Martin, former owner of DC Taxi of Olympia told her story of how she was put out of business by L&I despite her cooperation.  She was not happy.

My testimony was similar to Wednesday except I was much calmer and was able to reiterate that the proposed rates for the Washington State taxi industry were not reasonable.  I believe I did a good job presenting a clear and coherent position.  Again, I feel strongly that we are on the positive side of the issue.

I was nearly out of the building when I was intercepted by Bill M, a L&I official who bought me a latte and took me up to his floor to have an impromptu conference with three other L&I  folks.  For about an hour I gave them a quick and thorough history of our local industry, its concerns, trials and various tribulations.  Many questions were asked and I attempted to answer them to the best of my ability.  One final comment was very telling, with a woman saying that she had wished that they had this kind of meeting before all these negotiations and hearings had begun.  One reason for that I believe is that they have already heard from many of the various primary players and were ready to hear another voice. I made every attempt to make a fair and balanced presentation that included all of our concerns, meaning both the lease-driver and owner operator communities.  But in closing, let me again encourage you to contact the various officials on your own, telling them your concerns in your own words.  Always remember, by working together toward the same goal we will jointly arrive united at the desired solution.  Join me in this goal.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Report From Renton L&I Hearing, 10/26/11

The sad part of the hearing was the taxi industry attendance.  Perhaps 20 or so folks showed up, and that was it.  Now I heard that earlier this month there was over 250 taxi folks testifying, an in general show of force. Today was little short of embarrassing.  The witnesses who did speak made a credible effort at expressing industry position but where were the rest of you?  I will keep repeating the obvious until your behavior changes.  Change does not occur instantaneously.  It is not add water and mix.  It is, like any war, composed of many mundane hours slogging in the trenches.  Though given the poor attendance, I sense a positive shifting in our direction.  Those who spoke, spoke in unison, repeating the mantra that $380.00 per month or some similar amount is not viable, hurting the industry and impacting families. We need your participation to get our and your message across to those who need to know them.  We have until November 4th to tell Labor & Industry our opinions and feelings.  Tomorrow I will be be posting various names and emails you should be contacting.  Join me in this struggle and together we will succeed!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Short Saga of a Credit/Debit Imprinting Machine

She who refuses to be named said that my last few postings were repetitive.  Though I don't agree I thought that I would tell you a story about a credit card machine.  I challenge her (or anyone else) to find even one personal story regarding the lowly, plastic imprinter that we Seattle cabbies use.  Why this little piece might be unique in the entire annuals of non-fiction literature!  The truth is is that she has just heard too much about taxi. Twenty-two years of hearing the same old, same old!  The poor woman!  God I know the feeling!  Where is that winning lottery ticket?  Or my first best-seller!

Arriving at the taxi lot in the darkened morning I was not particularly happy, calling me less than pleased knowing that my card imprinter was missing. Before I left home I had discovered that it wasn't in the briefcase where I keep my Thomas Guide (map book) and other assorted important tools of the trade.  This little devise is essential as it is one of two necessary steps to process the many credit and debit cards we are offered as payment.  One is the swiping action on the computer which records the card's numbers and provides the authorization code.  The other is the imprinting of the card on an actual paper credit card slip.  After a shift is completed, the exhausted cabbie trudges to the cashier window to do his/her turn (pay the taxi lease), credit card slips and other charges in hand.  Without an imprinted slip the charge will not be finalized and paid. So the cabbie with an imprinter is like a runner minus shoes.  It is going to slow you down.  This then is a story of taxi synchronicity or how the taxi gods occasionally smile upon the dumbbell driver, me!

I had called the night driver, my taxi buddy Ali, and asked if I had been up to my old tricks and had left it in the taxi. No, he said, it wasn't there.  Searching my truck further I still couldn't find it, not surprising given the back was filled with assorted debris from a life disorganized and stupid. Luckily though, now sitting in 478, I found what I believed to be Ali's credit card machine tucked to the right of the driver's side seat.  I was surprised because I knew that he would need it on Sunday when he usually does an extra shift.  Just glad to have it, figuring we could deal with it later. I was just ecstatic that a major problem had been avoided.  Of course the easy solution would have been to buy one but no, they are only available on the weekdays.  It is against all taxi laws to need one on a Saturday or a Sunday when the "taxi store" is closed.

Having not received a call from Ali I optimistically interpreted that Ali had possibly decided to not drive on Sunday.  Definitely wishful thinking. Saturday was so incredibly busy  I conveniently forgot to call him myself.  So busy in fact I didn't even make it to Ocean City for my usual life-saving bowl of noodle soup. After 52 fares I had had enough but wait, feeling beyond death I parked in the University District. knowing I required a nap and immediately fell asleep.  Who knows how long I would have slept beside "The Wide World of Wine" but for Ali calling and asking if I had his credit card machine.  Now refreshed I zoomed over to the Queen Anne and thanked Ali for his inadvertent loan.  Leaving Ali I was immediately flagged for my 53rd fare of the day and took yet another gay couple home to the same intersection of 27th & East Pine.  That was unusual in itself, all occurring within an hour's span.  Strange to have three separate parties heading to the exact same mundane intersection and street, especially at 2:30 in the bloody morning!  Taxi is bizzare, driving round & round in that Yellow car!

Later that Sunday, in the early afternoon, I returned to the lot determined to find my machine.  Daylight plus a renewed concentration rewarded me.  Relieved I thanked the Gods! and went on to my best weekend so far in October.  I have never said that I don't believe in deities.  I am just selective to whom I give my allegiance, that's all!

Other news:

I now have an email address for official taxi commission business:

Use it when you want me to address something before the taxi commission.

and How_____? can you get Category:

The bozo (taxi clown) who kidnapped the DSHS passenger to Vancouver actually ranted and raved about not getting paid for his illegal side trip.  It appears to confirm my suspicions that he was actually being opportunistic when he assented to go in the wrong direction.  That he is still driving at Yellow is extremely questionable.  Did anyone point out that somebody had to take the passenger back to the correct destination?  And the cost to the state of Washington?   Double Wow!!!!

Tomorrow, all of us concerned taxi folks are converging upon Renton, Washington for the third of five statewide L&I hearings that the Labor & Industries Dept. are holding.  I will be there, in a suit. Scary! 

I will provide you an update later tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Just A Slight Deviation Southward & A Genteman's Card Is Declined

This weekend, primarily on Saturday, I kept going east across Lake Washington more times than I call recall in recent memory.  It was like a magnet pulling 478 eastward.  The first journey was a failed tryst at the Husky vs Colorado Golden Buffaloes football game, the almost fair damsel  met upon an airplane deciding she had had enough of the pending affair and off to Bellevue the gallant knight and lady in waiting went, he valiantly dropping her off at the Hyatt, she of the most discreet nature avoiding the scorn of her workmates who thought she was ill and confined to a sickroom.  "Failure!" the disappointed lover groaned as he slumped, sinking deeper into the rear seat, instantly a painful lump of discarded flesh. Saying he wanted to reach downtown Seattle as quickly as possible I headed directly to I-405 where he then started yelling that I was heading in the wrong direction.  Understanding that he was traumatized I reassured that my routing made complete sense, which it did, and upon reaching Seattle he gave me a $15.00 tip on top of the $55.00 fare, totalling a well-deserved $70.00, guilty that he falsely charged his momentary chauffeur with the worse of taxi crimes.  Yes, we serving the top light see it all , whether we want to or not.  Ah yes, love is such a fleeting emotion!

My allusion to deviating south is to something that happened Saturday, a Yellow driver taking a passenger nearly 100 miles in the wrong direction.  Something like this happens because the driver (and so many other) are ill-prepared for the ________that is taxi.  This is also what happens when you treat taxi like you would washing dishes in your local greasy spoon.  When professionalism is not a consideration then amateurism reigns.  It is unavoidable.

The situation was as commonplace as it is something all of us do nearly everyday.   Pick up a pre-arranged contract customer and take them to an already verified address. This happens all of the time.  The address is always clearly written upon the computer screen.  If there is any confusion, say the customer says that is not the correct address, the protocol is clearly spelled out, and all of us know what to do.  You first contact dispatch and then the dispatch supervisor will, in this case DSHS/HopeLink, contact the appropriate agency or person and a determination will be made. It is that simple and straight-forward.  In the case of transporting discharged patients, in this particular instance, someone suffering from a possible inoperable brain tumor, you do not deviate from expected procedure.  The driver in this particular example used very poor judgement.  Perhaps it could be said he exhibited no judgement of any kind.  He is extremely lucky that the patient did not have a fatal outcome.

The story is as follows. The stalwart Yellow driver was dispatched to Harborview Hospital this past Saturday to take a DSHS (Department of Social & Health Services) to Grays Harbor, Washington, which is located on the west coast of the state.  Like I said, the driver clearly saw the address and knew where to take the passenger. Think of DSHS as the airline and the driver the pilot following a flight plan.  It is a very well understood format.  The client, probably due to his medical state, told the driver that he instead wanted to go to Vancouver, Washington, which, instead of being directly west of Seattle, is directly 175  miles south.  That the driver went along with this request is beyond comprehension.  Everyone knows that the DSHS passenger can not on his/her own change the destination.  Another thing that is clear is that you receive the flat rate that is shown on your fare information.  Even if the DSHS passenger requests that you go to Chicago, you will still only be paid the given amount that has been pre-negotiated.  So what this particular driver was thinking no one truly knows. Maybe the incoherency was catching, a new type of virus.  We might all believe this because not only was the passenger taken to Vancouver, he was dropped off on a downtown corner, where he proceeded to wander aimlessly for hours until discovered by the local police. Like I said, there was no judgement used.  It is difficult how anyone could be this _______!   I don't believe any true harm occurred to the client.  Again, lucky for the driver who would have surely faced charges.  What is the sentence for being an ______?  Now someone might say that the driver should have been told the patients condition but my guess is that privacy concerns would preempt that.  Again, I will always say that you the driver must be able to read your passenger properly.  If you can't you truly are not a taxi driver and should be doing something that does not require this high level of responsibility.

My sixth fare of the just past weekend was a gentleman who kept repeating that he didn't want to offend me because to he was a homosexual.  In reality I didn't care if he was a polar bear or wombat, all that is required is to pay at the fare's conclusion, little else.  His continued self-descriptions were met with complete disinterest.  This sorry situation ended in his fare of $13.00 being declined, the debit card having at that moment insufficient funds of cover the cost.  He was already out of the cab but I was able to catch up with him, parking on the corner awaiting his arrival.  Instead he decided to run away.  My payment, since the monetary one was voided, was knowing that the pathetic fool was scared out-of-his wits, thinking I was planning on pounding him into the pavement.  Maybe he has had previous experience.  He was cracked, just one of too many.  Just think, you too could have the pleasure of having him, or others similar, just within reach of your fingers.  Now don't tell me you wouldn't be tempted to strangle the fool.  But now, now, we certainly don't want to harm all of our very vulnerable and deranged customers. One must have empathy, don't you know!  And that my friends, is taxi as it truly is.  So much fun I am ready to run away making this last weekend my final day.  If only!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Labor & Industry Insurance Update

For the uninitiated, or for those new to taxi-land, the biggest issue these days is just how much the large taxi associations and single-owner/operators will be paying to provide L&I coverage for all of us contractual (lease) drivers.  Becuase of something called Title 51, govenment interperts the service provided by the lease-drivers to be on the behalf of the associations and single-owners instead of the people who are actually paying us, that being of course the taxi passenger sitting in the back seat carping about something or the other.  Earlier this year something called ESHB 1367 was passed in the Washington State Legistature which allowed for this to happen, this after years of not always friendly discussion between the folks at L&I and the various state-wide taxi associations and taxi owners.  By agreeing to what the associations and single-owners thought was a benevolent and affable compromise, they suddenly found themselves immersed in an  instant nightmare, with L&I first proposing an amount of nearly $800. per car per month, surprising  an industry who thought they had a "gentleman's aggreement" of no more than $150. per month.  Currently, the discussed amount is now down to about $380. per month, still a figure that is much higher than most find acceptable. What these monies represent is the potential pool of dollars that will cover all future potential claims.  Currently it is a guessing game on what would be the most appropiate amount.  Unfortunately, war clouds are now darkening the once placid taxi horizons, with grumbling about law suits and other legal actions marring the atmosphere. It was with this background that I contacted L&I with the hope of lending some assistance and fending off any and all protracted legal proceedings.  This afternoon at about 4:00 PM I had a teleconference with three L & I officials.  And here is a quick synopsis to that nealy fifty minute conversation. 

Les, Bill and Al were all very attentive and respectful, asking many questions simply about how the taxi industry works.  I gave as much detail I could about leases and money earned, information that is common currency amongst the drivers but new to those peering in from the outside.  Their concern appears to be having a large enough pool of money to cover expected claims. I told them that I would expect that overall claims would be small simply because, more than ever, the drivers are being safer because current insurance requirements have translated into even the most veteran of drivers being tossed out of the business.  If you have an "at-fault" accident these days, expect you to be barred from driving at the major associations.  They were surprised to hear that most injuries come, at least from my experience, from our sometimes not-so-wonderful passengers.  It is the rare driver that hasn't been slugged at least once.  Stabbing occur far more than they should.  And most of the accidents are minor, causing more damage to metal than to fragile human flesh.  I encouraged them to consider the smaller amount initially agreed upon, given that if excessive claims did occur, then of course adjustments could then be made.

I also laid the blame for the many auto accidents the local industry have experienced squarely upon the Seattle & King County Licensing  folks who continue to issue "taxi for hires" to people not at at prepared to be doing the job.  I used my favorite anology in explaining the driver situation to my usual complaining passsengers: When lying on the operating table, you have confidence that the surgeon  knows the antonomy of the body.  Your taxi driver should have a similar knowledge of the antonomy of the city of Seattle.  Unfortunately, most times they don't.

What ultimately was acheived by the teleconference I can not say for sure.  I hope they feel more informed about the overall situation, that some of what had been discussed will help in their decision making.  That is the best I can wish for.  I will continue to remain involved, however marginally that might be.  Hopefully the outcome will be something agreeable to everyone, minus any and all legal shouting.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'd Rather Be In Southeastern Utah

Last week it was a knife, this weekend it was some young fool hijacking an intersection.  Coming back from the amazing terrain and geology that is the more-or less corner of SE Utah to silly, drunken Capitol Hill is not something I want to continue doing.  My first fare is a couple stepping into the taxi at the corner of 10th & East Pike while patiently waiting for all the pedestrians to pass.  Once the door is shut, a young drunken (call him anything you wish) decides to stop directly in front of my car (and the line of cars behind me) declaring that he is not moving and we will all have to back up.  It appeared that his actions were in tandem with his tag team partner, another kid who threw himself against 478 while broadly smiling, evidently mimicking a pedestrian/car collision.  After refusing to leave I did something I haven't done in decades.  I pushed him out of the way.  His response was to swing wildly at me while yelling don't put your hands on me.  Some more sensible representatives of the human species finally pulled him to the side. Even then he attempted to regain his position in the street but again was pulled away.  Its this kind of madness and total early full moon nonsense that makes taxi driving less than reasonable. The silence of the wind-swept canyons and carved red sandstone is far more interesting.  Dealing with self-absorbed idiots who think taxis are their personal foil is something that shouldn't be part of the job description.  Unfortunately taxis (and their drivers) are considered public entities that can be accessed at a moments notice without any potential and meaningful consequence. As I wrote recently concerning the mass grave of Iraqi taxi drivers, this is our shared reality: everyone has a cultural permission to do anything they wish to all of us ciphers beneath the top light.  Why respect dalits?  Let them instead eternally swim societal sewers, fouled fishes in a polluted, inferior sea.  Think this is an exaggeration?  Get your "for hire" and talk to me in a month.  You will then understand.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Greetings From Price, Utah: A Knife is Pulled & I Like "Old Time" Cabbies

I am writing from Price, Utah, a small coal mining community about two hours southeast of Salt Lake City, now home to my friend Terry.  Earlier we visited the Mormon hot spots in Salt Lake City.  Young Mormon women kept approaching us, seeking verbal engagement upon their favorite metaphysical subject.  I was not encouraging, the Mormon Temple a comic book representation of life and religion.  Tomorrow we go to the famous desert national parks located near Moab to seek our own version of earthly clarity.

Yesterday I had a knife "presented" to me yesterday by a drug-crazed individual who was attempting for no real purpose to intimidate the taxi driver.  He had three companions with him and given that it was a sunny afternoon and perhaps a mile-long ride, clearly I understood I was in no real danger.  He was in the front seat.  No, I did not appreciate him locking the blade.  Lucky for him the conditions were obviously benign or my response would have been entirely of another nature.  These four individuals were remarkably rough and disjointed, barely clinging to affable society.  My only response was to have their telephone number placed on what is termed the "no service list."  Though mostly a symbolic gesture, I can only hope it sends the intended message.  That kind of nonsense can and will get, from a driver legally carrying a gun, a potentially fatal response.  My advise to all petty hoods and malcontents:  behave yourself or simply expect trouble.  That can be the only expectation.

Early Saturday morning I picked up two guys at the Penske  Truck Center, First South & South Spokane heading for the train station.  Currently they are transporting trucks from Los Angeles to Seattle for the wage of 23 cents per mile.  They immediately identified themselves as past and current (one drives part-time in Phoenix) taxi drivers.  The guy originally from Chicago showed the scar on his lip, placed there by a well-dressed passenger attempting to rob him.  Somehow he got hold of the guy's tie and literally pulled him along for three blocks to a police station, his out-stretched hand holding fast as he made the criminal trot along his taxi.  Ah yes, nothing like the joys of taxi driving, knives and split lips!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Again, What Driving Taxi Is Really Like & First Draft of Taxi Union/Association Manifesto

Always so much fun to be taxi-exhausted. Sure, I made some real money but the cost, the energy expended is not reasonable.  The following then are a couple examples from yesterday, Sunday afternoon proving again you have to be a fool to drive taxi.  Yes, I am that kind of fool.

Both times I was booked into Zone 285 (Beacon Hill) and on the first occasion accepted an adjacent-area fare in the 280 (Short Rainier Valley).  It was located at the very southern end of the zone, 6300 thousand block of Rainier Ave South.  If I had only known the fare location ( the computer doesn't tell you until you accept) I would have gone right onto I-5 south-bound off the West Seattle Bridge instead of going north then swinging East on I-90 taking the Rainier Ave exit, in other words, to the end of the zone as opposed to the beginning.  That fateful decision added at least 8 minutes of intensive driving to a DSHS call that wasn't there.  Having no telephone number I had to enter the building and knock on the door.  My total time lost was about 15 minutes in additional to an unwarranted withdrawal from my energy bank.  To make the big taxi money you must have an almost unlimited amount of physical energy.  As your human battery drains so does your ability to make money.  The decline is corespondent.  It will not and can not be avoided.

The other situation occurred during the Seahawk rush when it was so busy that a system that is chaotic at best breaks down and all hell breaks loose.  Drivers throw away calls and others are lost or simply forgotten.  Saturday night I was routinely picking up folks who had waited a full hour.  What happened at the 4000 block of 14th South is connected to the constant nonsense that never ends.  It only continues on and on and on.

I called the fare I was heading for because I was out of position, meaning it would take me slightly longer than usual.  I got to his corner and at first was slightly puzzled because the address was ill-defined, meaning it could have been either on 14th or Dakota.  Driving down 14th S. a few feet attracted the attention of someone it appeared who wanted  a taxi. Given this was a residential neighborhood it meant that she could easily be my passenger though she was coming from the incorrect direction.  Many, many times  in the past passengers have called from their cellular telephone while walking from a location different from the given address.  To complicate it even further, the person I had called was now not answering his telephone.  The young woman walked up to 478 saying she had called a cab. Clearly she was not my call but she moaned that she was late and had to get to work.  I was then presented with a quick dilemma requiring resolution.  Did dispatch screw up her call?  Or did a driver dump her and she would never make it to work.  While I was trying to figure this all out the original customer finally decided to answer again ( out of state cellular number) and say he was coming out.  I told the young lady to get in and that I would attempt to accommodate everyone.  It still took the original customer an additional 3-5 minutes to step out of their house.   It was then frustration took over.  Clearly I would be able to take both parties to where they were going but I took offense at his attitude.  I am sure more explanation would have helped but I finally had had enough, losing my temper.  Just as I did that there was the young woman's taxi flying down the street obviously lost.  I told the original passenger to take that taxi which I hope he did.  I took the distressed young lady to Seattle University telling her next time it would be better if she just waited at her address for the taxi, as her leaving just added to the confusion.  My reward for all this madness was having my computer terminal deauthorized by my friend I. in the Supt's office who was shouting that I was being greedy  He finally believed that all I had been doing was trying however unsuccessfully to make sense of the nonsensical.  And if the original fare had come out promptly all of this crap would have been avoided.

All of this was written to show you the stress involved.  Sounds fun, doesn't it?  Ready to sign up?

And though I am now out of time once again, a very quick treatise off the top of my top light head!

Potential Provisions of a Taxi Union/Association

---Complete & equal membership for all concerned, regardless of experience or industry equity
---A complete open & transparent & democratic organization
---A industry Constitution to be composed embracing all elements familiar to the industry
---Clearly defined purposes and rules
---Clearly defined & attainable timetables and goals

You get the idea.  Now perhaps the manifesto on Friday.

Friday, September 23, 2011

7:43 & Just Before I Shut my Eyes

If anyone has been paying attention I have again failed to compose the taxi union piece I have been promising.  I plan on doing just that on Monday the 26th.  Tuesday I then go for my last visit of the year to Eastern Washington to camp and hike and swim.  Week after that I am in Utah for five days.  March I hope to spend three weeks in Suriname.  But first another taxi weekend.  I have been working on my memoir outline all week and hope by this time next year my only participation in the industry will be in an advisory capacity.  Here's hoping!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Justification for a Seattle/King County Taxi Union/Association

Since I have a few spare moments, I thought it might be useful to explain why I feel a union, in whatever legal fashion, of drivers and owners is so necessary to the future viability of our industry.  Sometime this week I will be getting to the composing of what I am calling "the Taxi Manifesto", a more or less detailed statement of what I think should be happening.  Clearly to me the industry needs some kind of insulation and active protection from governmental regulatory bodies.  I don't think there is one experienced driver and owner who disagrees with that sentiment.  As a united body we will be better able to fend off outside interference and of course, govern ourselves better.  This will take some effort but I strongly believe that the payoff will be gratifying in the long run.  Justification for the many hours that this will take will be the satisfaction observing the industry acting as a cohesive organism collectively for the common good.  I know there are many who think this is a pipe dream but I could not disagree more.  It can and will work.  Our internal disagreements will evolve in to a constructive dialogue that will be sustaining and lasting, something that will outlive my active participation. Plant the seeds today and harvest the future garden.  Eventually all of us will have "yellow thumbs!"

How Not to Drive Taxi & The Other Side of it: A Quick Taxi Manual

Something of the utmost importance when attempting to make money driving a taxi: patience.  This brief description clearly illustrating why it literally does not pay to freak out. 

I pull myself out of bed Sunday morning and find myself with a short fare ($15.00 with tip) just going to a bar in Ballard.  Being now just across the Ballard Bridge from the cruise ship action down on Pier 91 I direct 478 over there and immediately get a fare heading downtown.  Pulling into 1800 Yale I notice three woman frantically waving me down.  I unload the the very pleasant couple from San Clemente, California ( another $15.00 with tip) and toss the three and all their luggage into the cab and off we go to the airport.

What happened to them was one driver's loss and an other's gain.  The previous taxi had the best fare possible, picking up in one location downtown, then taking the folks to their local hotel and once the luggage is loaded, off you go to Sea-Tac.  The driver appeared to make three crucial errors.

Once at the hotel he put the meter on hold.  You don't do that because the ride is a continuation fare, so keep the meter running because things happen, like the three pleasant ladies having difficultly retrieving their luggage.

His second error was to freak out once they got back to the taxi.  Having grown frustrated, he then refused to take them to airport, essentially kicking them out of the taxi when a cooler (and wiser) head would have just continued on and put that $50-60.00 in his pocket.

The third error was not reading his customers properly.  As I told them it was obvious to me that they would have compensated the driver for the unwarranted delay.  Of course was their response.

As for this driver I from the beginning just  kept driving from the moment I first got back into 478, taking the short fares, remaining positive and, lo & behold, I pick up the previous driver's mess and end up with $40.00 with tip from them and a $70.00 total hour.  My best hour of the shift came later when  I totaled $71.00.

As I inferred, patience in this crazy business pays off.  Lose your mind and there goes the money down the taxi tube!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Greeting From Toledo, Ohio (actually Rossford) & Mass Grave of Taxi Drivers in Iraq

Left Chicago on Monday, arriving Detroit almost 9 PM because flying standby is only for the patient.  Spending ten hours at any airport, be it O'Hare or any other is something I will attempt to avoid in the future.  Once in Detroit it was a 45 minute drive more or less down to Toledo.  Toledo, my parents and siblings (& cousins & everyone else) birthplace is located on Lake Erie and where my father first drove taxi.  His second stint was in Denver, Colorado.  I am writing this from the Rossford, Ohio public library, a wonderful and friendly place.

I did not take a taxi in Chicago, finding the "L" the best way to get around, though of course I did watch my brethren operate.  Driving taxi in a "real" city is of course entirely a whole other kind of taxi story.  In Chicago the drivers appear of be mostly Africian, and not necessarily from the Horn of Africa like is true in Seattle.  What a life for these folks, driving the mean and down & dirty streets of very ubran Chicago.

A most distrubing piece of news is to be found in the Monday (9/12/11) edition of the New York Times.  A mass grave containing the bodies of 40 Iraqi taxi drivers were found in a rural area.  Another city has 35 missing cabbies.  The story behind the 40 murdered drivers is that members of a large criminal gang took taxis as passengers out to the countryside only to have the driver ambushed and killed, the goal being the shiny new taxi.  I will investigate further and let everyone know the details of this awful story.  Like I always say, taxi drivers are considered public property, meaning anything can and will be done concerning them.  What a reality!