Friday, August 26, 2011

Quick PS to Yesterday's Posting

She who wishes to remain nameless called last night to say that "it was too much, too much", too many repetitions upon the same tired old subject.  Well perhaps but after rereading the posting I don't think so, instead illustrating how quickly the taxi weather changes.  One moment you are a complete monster, then the very next fare you are transformed into superhero.  The truth is is that taxi for the most part is complete nonsense, taking the majority to places they probably should not be going.  And the sorry reality is is that every taxi driver in this whole, wide world has a nice big target on his or her back.  You are the public punching bag and that is the way it is.  Get behind the wheel and you will know instantly what I am talking about.  Simutaneously you are a beast, a sex symbol, a bum, a molester, an a__hole, a bitch faggot (my favorite designation) and everything and anything else the passenger and general culture can dream up.  As I say, and will always say, the best thing about taxi is the moola (cold cash!) at the end.  Oh yes, I so enjoy seeing humanity at its rawest.  Yeah right!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Continued from Last Week: Schizophrenics in the Taxi & This Week: Thirty-two Dollar Tip & I Made a Mistake

Schizophrenia in the taxi, meaning extremely mentally ill passengers are, from my experience , the most unpredictable passengers.  The rookie driver will create demons from the most ordinary of folks, basing their judgement upon discriminatory generalizations or cultural mythologies, while completely ignoring the "concealed personality" perfectly capable of literally stabbing you in the back  The extremely mentally ill individual begins with intangental justifications frightening in their internal (and confused) structure and foundation. Call it a contorted rhetoric that for them represents reality, a twisted dialogue relaying incredibly outlandish and (at times) very dangerous permissions.  I met one such person last week and was just glad to get her to her destination.  I had her as a passenger a few months back and didn't quite make it to where she was going, having jumped out of the taxi because she felt that she lacked the kind of unquestioned control that she demands.  This particular individual doesn't take a taxi, instead commandeering the cab.  Her attitude is unique because it is like being kidnapped, you the driver having no real say whatsoever in the route or in the operation of the car.  You have been hijacked and don't you dare deviate from anything I might order.  Why, if you disobey me, I might have to kill you.  To say that this kind of message is disconcerting is a gross understatement, making it difficult to concentrate upon the roadway.

The situation I am referencing couldn't be more commonplace, picking up a shopper at a local grocery store.  Realizing that I had an instant loon in the taxi I ignored her implicit instructions as they made no sense and besides the signal was green and I wanted this fare to be over before it began.  One very annoying attribute of the severely disturbed passenger is the requirement to be totally in control.  Schizophrenia ( and other such similar illnesses) appear in part to be based on an extreme and exaggerated fear, a terror that is all consuming.  The trick in such an intimate setting as the interior of a taxicab is not to let that fear overwhelm the situation, prompting some melodramatic response resulting in a physical attack upon the driver.  The prime imperative should always be to get the passenger, no matter how crazy, from point A to B in a safe and efficient manner.

After I turned left on to 14th I made every attempt to keep the atmosphere reasonable and get this person home.  Nearing the intersection of Boren & Jefferson I turned off the meter, saying to call it five dollars.  It is always best to make it simple, facilitating the passenger rapidly out of the taxi.

Opening the rear passenger door she turned to me and said something to the affect that being a woman, it was important that a man respect what he is being told.  While speaking this her mouth was so physically twisted and contorted that this could have been something out of an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  Of course Hitchcock would have armed her with a hideous-looking knife. I responded that she would not be saying this to an airline pilot.  She responded that this was different.  Different all right in that the pilot is protected behind a locked door and the taxi driver has to negotiate with lunacy, the cabbie exposed and vulnerable.  This just past weekend a Yellow driver was attacked in West Seattle by a young man armed with a stun gun.  Yes, it is more than imperative that the driver holds the ability to make instantaneous assessments.  Your life depends on it.

This lady makes only the third individual I have had in 24 years fitting the just described category.  Earlier this winter I had a well-dressed young gentleman, possibly from China, who kept requesting receipts delivered in a particular manner, turning the simple into something ritualistic. After I hit the automatic door lock switch, essentially ending the deranged ceremony, he began screaming out loud and kicking the cab.  Thankfully 478 got me quickly out of harms way as the gentleman in question attempted to mimic a  gazelle.  He was an airline pilot, then he was this, then he was that.  Initially I thought it was just alcohol.  Unfortunately for him it was something far more serious.

Now for the Past Weekend

I can honestly say that if it hadn't been for an irritated Seattle police officer I would not have gotten this  particular $32.00 tip, coming on top of a $28.00 fare, all adding up to a $60.00 hour.  They also wanted me to take them to the airport in the morning but I declined, knowing that I would be asleep.

I was heading north-bound down First Avenue South near South Atlantic as scores of folks were heading to the Seahawks exhibition game with the Minnesota Vikings.  One older gentleman decided he wanted a taxi and stupidly stepped directly in the path of an oncoming car as I was stopped one lane over.  This did not impress the officer directing traffic and told the fool to get back upon the sidewalk.  He still wanted a taxi and all I had to do was turn right and he could have safely entered the taxi.  But no, the cop was mad (which I don't truly blame him) and I proceeded forward and saw to my left and forward some young ladies jumping up and down to get my attention, which they accomplished.

Turned out these four young Mid-Westerners had just completed some kind of benefit marathon and had numerous large articles like giant boxes and suitcases to be taken to the Federal Express office up on Capital Hill.  I loaded 478 while they flagged another taxi and all of us went up to the office.  I helped unload the various heavy items and sat with the meter running while they finished their business.  I then took the friendly quartet downtown and hence the big tip.  Thanks Officer Not So Friendly!

My last example shows that I can make a mistake.  I honestly attempt to do my best with every passenger but sometimes I goof up.  This was one of those occasions.

I was called in to Volunteer Park and the Asian Art Museum to pick up a passenger.  She didn't appear to be there but  another woman walked up wanting to go somewhere in the Eastlake neighborhood, which is just west of the park.  It all started badly because she was new to Seattle and didn't know precisely where she was going.  I said fine, don't worry, I know where everything is.  She then said she was going somewhere near Fairview Park which in my tired state could have been one of two in that general area.  When I said I wasn't sure which park she was referring to she made the mistake of laughing at me, saying hadn't I just said that I knew where everything was.  Given that my response wasn't completely friendly in return to her unnecessary taunting I told her that if she wished  she could exit the cab.  She then said something to the affect that she didn't deserve this kind of "battery."  I realized later if I had just turned right and left out of the park on to 15th East I would have had the damsel to her destination in about 6-8 minutes.  Instead I now had a sullen, angry passenger making  every inch forward a misery.

I attempted to lighten the situation but she wasn't having any of that.  This is when I told her that she had to leave and I would again attempt to find the passenger I was originally called in for, which I did attempt to do.  Thankfully I had a legitimate excuse.  She called me some version of moron and got out.

I parked 478 and went inside the museum just as it was closing.  Still no person answering to the name of Sandy though luckily someone else wanted to go back to the Olympic Hotel.  As I drove the person downtown I understood that a moment of fatigue prevented me from making the best tactical decisions.  I felt upset.  I didn't blame the passenger.  It was and always be my responsibility to know exactly what I am doing at all times.  In the taxi, failure to do so often results in the entire situation instantly falling apart.  I know this and truly don't need to be reminded.  I will never say taxi is a simple emdeavor.  It isn't and never will be.  Not much else I can say.

Monday, August 15, 2011

More From Last Weekend: Passenger Extortion & Free Food Plus This Weekend: The Full Moon Howls

Last week moved too quickly or perhaps not fast enough as I slept consecutively 12 & 13 & 9 hours Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday.  Passengers always ask me what I do during my usual five days off and when I answer, sleep! they don't believe me.  Last week was a bit of an exception but not without precedent.  If there is anything more tiring for the 57 year old body than taxi then I don't want to participate!  My previous blank mind has cleared sufficiently to remember more details from that last weekend.  As the person who must remain nameless said, keep your blog entertaining and certainly these two tales hold some interest, especially if you enjoy deranged hookers and post-wedding grub!

Just a little extortion for a Saturday morning

Both of these rides originated in West Seattle, one early and one late.  They could have occurred I suppose in any Seattle neighborhood.  To paraphrase Karl Malden, there are at least 580 thousand stories in this not quite naked city.  Here are two of them.

I pull up to this ordinary looking house on a commonplace street in the deep West Seattle (zone 265) not expecting anything but the usual fare going downtown or the airport.  Suddenly a guy runs out of the house wearing nothing but the kind of blue pants associated (at least in Seattle) with hospitals, worn by aides and nurses and physicians.  I am guessing this muscular young man (about age 30) was a doctor.  He had come out to prepay for someone he identified as "someone he was dating" and told him the fare was more or less $25.00 to where he said she was going.  As he gave me $30.00 the girlfriend came out, a more unlikely creature or match for the doctor I could not have imagined.  Instead of the expected upper-middle class, well educated nurse or fellow doctor was this somewhat wasted woman, possibly part-Native American who looked not so healthy nor well.  The charade continued with him giving her a peck and saying I will call you later.  Why this poor performance for the taxi driver I can't imagine.  Hell if I care!  I was just glad to have the fare in hand and was ready to take off.

We had hardly gotten around the corner before my passenger says she is only going a few blocks and began demanding the majority of what he had given me.  She got instantly rough and said she would call the police if I did not give her what she described as "her money."  Seeing the money I received perhaps she felt she needed a tip in addition to whatever her usual fee is.  I protested a moment, then said I had no idea what was going on but if she wished I would take her back and she could talk it over with her "boyfriend."  A quick u-turn was enough to change her tune, dissuading her from any further deviation.  I laughed, said something jovially stupid and took her to her pay-by-the-month residence.  She made no further references to the just departed gentleman and she was well-behaved for the duration of the journey.  She truly seemed reasonable given her life situation which appeared to be less than pleasant and tenable.  And what the good doctor was doing with this desperate woman I have no idea.  Being alone and reading a good book has to be more entertaining! 

The other tale concerns a post-Irish wedding party and a partially drunk guy who gets a telephone call from a woman when we are already halfway downtown. He initially told me that he had lost his wallet. Encouraged by her call he tells me to turn around.  The only option was to head up to Beacon Hill and turn around so we could again gain entry to the West Seattle Bridge heading west-bound.

Reaching the hall the gentleman told me to wait while again entering the raucous din that was the dance floor. As I stood outside of 478 enjoying the night air another gentleman came up to me inquiring if I would like the remainder of the reception feast, describing fancy cupcakes and other delicacies. Never one to refuse food I said sure and we loaded up the cab with a huge box of cupcakes and assorted salads and salmon and marinated steak and Irish potatoes.  It was truly an instant feast! 

And once I had delivered the now twice-disappointed passenger downtown I sped to the cab lot and deposited the booty to the delight of the late night shift of call-takers.  I was later sent a message thanking me.  I was glad to provide the midnight snack and besides I got $60.00 for the crazy fare.  I also ate two cupcakes, being the greedy soul that I am!

Okay, This just past weekend:

I had 102 fares.  I guess that is why I am currently exhausted though I slept 8 hours this morning.  The Saturday full moon was well-behaved but its Sunday sister was a bit wild, people trying to run me over with their errant automobiles. 

And all I will say is that those 911 emergency operators need better training.  Nearing midnight and dropping off a DECA Hotel employee in the University district we came upon a man lying in the intersection of NE 45th & Brooklyn NE.  I heard someone loudly saying that he had been hit and left by a driver but nothing about anyone being contacted.  I instantly dialed 911 urging them to quickly send assistance.  There was a bit of fumbling and transferring and the asking of questions I couldn't answer.  As more folks gathered round the victim I headed off to the University Hospital for my next fare, the person still alive as he lifted his head slightly off from the street.  So far I have seen nothing in the local newspaper about it which probably means the person survived the incident.

Anything else of note this weekend?  A dancer from the Sands strip club took my taxi round-trip to the club and back home as she had to show the owners that indeed she was injured in a car accident, having fallen out of her boyfriend's car (along with her pet terrier) after he had pulled a "bitch" in the middle of a Ballard thoroughfare. She was not happy with the guy and was somewhat quickly "inviting" to the taxi driver.  She loved her "rat terrier" and said he had saved her life many times.  I liked her, yet another person overwhelmed by a mad and confounding existence.

I also had fun with a young Mormon gentleman who had just joined the corporate world and was on the way to the airport.  I told him I had recently purchased the soundtrack to the recent Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon.  To say the least he objected to some of my remarks and said I was confused.  I guess turnabout just isn't fair, knocking on his door asking if he would like to partake in a different reality.  Like so many of the young Mormons I have met, he too was an unformed, lopsided individual while insisting that he was perfection in (his) God's eyes.  He actually hated me but that was okay.  I understand that all he wanted was a ride to Sea-Tac.  He didn't want his beliefs examined.  I just hope he remembers that when he again enters a stranger's house and tells them that they are going to have a very bad fate if they don't accept Jesus (through Joseph Smith) as their savior.  I have always felt it is highly appropriate for such an American religion like Mormonism to have as its founder someone named Smith.  It could have also been Jones.  Yes, Joseph Smith, I endorse "plural marriage" and wish to be one of eight husbands to a single wife.  Such a wonderful life I know it would be.

And soon, possibly tomorrow, the "taxi union manifesto" will be presented for your pleasure and consideration.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Vagaries of Seattle Taxi, Yellow & Otherwise: So She Thinks I Am Drunk!

It is already Thursday and only about 30 hours away from my next weekend foray, so I better write something or everything will begin merging, day becoming night, everything a blur which is what it really is like but some separation is required, don't you think?  Time permitting, I will write more tomorrow, possibly the potential manifesto for a Seattle & King County lease-driver & owner/operator union/association.  I met with a industry insider on Monday afternoon, discussing the subject over dim sum at the Honey Court, corner of Maynard Avenue S. & S. Weller.  Great place and particularly good that day.

Late Saturday night I picked up not one but three separate passengers at the Tukwila/Southcenter Amtrak station. I was called in by Amtrak to pick up a passenger to the airport but two other lost souls stumbled off the train requiring rides in that general direction.  Given that it is an almost impossible place to find even in bright sunshine I threw all of them in together, charging each $15.00 to their destination, the straight fare without accepting any tips.  In these situations I attempt to make it fair for all concerned and besides it gave me a $45.00 hour, which I will never voice complaint.

The last guy I dropped off was the most interesting, having driven taxi in Chicago in 1968 & 69 during the Democratic Convention riots.  He also was also a past member of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) so we hit it off admirably given that I am a Vietnam War conscientious objector from my draft board (1-0) and later took training in something called Radical Therapy.  He gave me his card and hopefully we will stay in contact.  Meeting him reminded me that I haven't changed a bit, I am still that idealistic eighteen year old telling the US government to throw me into that Arizona prison work camp, you are not going to draft me!

And sometimes I am in the mood to deal with foolish passengers but  find me tired and hungry I might not be so generous. I pick up this seemingly nice woman at the train station heading for 2nd & Cedar in Belltown, at most a mile straight down Fourth Avenue then turn left onto Cedar and you are there.  On a quiet Sunday evening you can be there in five minutes, more or less seven to eight dollars.  We barely got two blocks when she began questioning my routing, in other words calling me dishonest when heading north down Fourth is the only logical way unless you are dealing with post-game traffic.  I asked her then which way would you choose?  She hesitated then guessed Third Avenue.  I told her that made little sense and since she didn't seem to like twenty-four years of experience (and I was first in Seattle in 1973) I would take her free of charge to the nearest cab stand and she could find someone she liked better.  She said that I was an a__hole and was getting out, and if I hadn't warned her to stop, right into oncoming traffic.  Who knows why she was so volatile and suspicious?  She evidently felt that somehow driving parallel to Second Avenue was running up the meter.  Second, by the way, is one-way south-bound.  This was a case where she would have questioned any taxi driver.  It had nothing to do with me.

She later called dispatch and said I was drunk.  I was clearheaded enough to see she was about to kill herself.  I guess that wasn't good enough, preferring to be tossed into the air by an oncoming automobile.  I went back to the station and picked up, passing her again waiting on the corner when she could have been already safely home.  The silly part is that I would have taken her home regardless of her attitude.  Talk about creating your own reality.  Who had been drinking is the question here.  Maybe I could refer her to a taxi psychologist and find out what is troubling her.  But wait a minute, I guess that person is me! Anyway, welcome to taxi! that world of good tidings and a slap on the back and the kick in the ____!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Local Alert: Meter Rates Going Up in January: the Good & Bad of it

You will be pleased to know that this week I have thrown myself upon not one but two taxi sacrificial altars, attending both the taxi advisory commission meeting on Tuesday morning and on Wednesday afternoon the taxi advisory group (TAG).  Being my usual harried self I had totally forgotten about the TAG meeting given that it meets quarterly and unless I am given an advance warning I am always surprised that my presence is requested.  It did mean that I finally made it to the 19th Century American landscape exhibit currently at the Seattle Art Museum.  It is worth seeing and I particularly recommend the marsh (flooded fields) paintings by Martin Johnson Heade.  There are in general a large variety of new paintings on display on both floors of the museum.  Get out of that taxi and take in the local culture!

The news from the taxi commission is, that after two wasted meetings, we finally held something that resembled a functional assembly.  Unfortunately two members were absent due to illness and one of the appointed taxi drivers failed for a third time to make the meeting so it appears he will be replaced.  Anyone interested in being subjected to bureaucratic torture can contact me and I will forward your name to the county for consideration.  The commission is currently building up a working future agenda of member priorities and concerns.

My two points were, one, making all Seattle & King County taxis dual-plated, meaning they could pick up anywhere at any time (other than the airport, the train station, and Pier 91, which are Yellow concessions) in our giant of a county now named for Martin Luther King Junior. For all you local historians, two facts of interest.  It was once William Rufus King County, he a slave holder and Vice-President under Franklin Pierce. There is also the rumor that he was at one time an intimate companion of President James Buchanan. There is a large painting of his family (minus the VP) hanging in the DeYoung Art Museum in San Francisco. The other historical note is that King County is our nation's largest.  I once had a coyote hail me in Sammanish. If I am foggy on any of this local history, do correct me. 

And two, for my other pressing priority I have chosen the expansion of taxi stands, suggesting that industry input is essential concerning location and allocation at new stadiums (the Husky), grocery stores and the like.  Currently, at various locations, local drivers are given no option but to pick up illegally, blocking traffic, etc. That needs to promptly change.  I also feel it is time for the policy toward stand creation to be changed into something far more taxi driver friendly.  Currently, neighboring businesses can veto any  proposed stand or zone on their particular street or curbside.  I believe that decision should be between the city and the local taxi industry. Seattle has this very bad habit of soliciting everyone's opinion regardless of interest.  God forbid we discover alien life forms.  I can foresee Seattle contacting Mars or some yet undiscovered planet on just how to conduct life on Earth.  And allow them to regulate the taxis!

The most important development occurred at the TAG forum.  All of this has to do with a bill passed recently in Olympia concerning L&I (Labor & Industry) protection for all lease-drivers.  It appears that the cost per driver is about $135. per month.  Given this, a series of changes appear to be coming.  The meter rate for all Seattle/King County taxis will be increasing in January 2012 as far as I know.  The "drop" or initial meter charge will be increasing to $3.00.  There will also be a per-mile increase, of at least 10 cents but probably more.  In turn Seattle & King County will allow for an increase in the lease caps, meaning lease-drivers in the new year will have higher leases.  The meter rate increase in theory will offset higher lease rates.  The good part of all of this is that finally the lease-driver will receive some protection and compensation when involved in a serious accident.  Given that I was nearly killed (I just got lucky) in a brake failure accident occurring in November 1995 I can say that this L&I deal might be for the best. There are always trade offs, my friends, so try not to be too despondent.  Taxi rolls up and down, whether we smile or we frown!  Stay tuned because in November I will have much more to accurately inform all my fellow brother and sister taxi drivers.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


When I am like this, brain dead from too much taxi and too little sleep, life becomes blurry and and very little do I remember.  It is an interesting state of mind where I keep forgetting where I have put anything and everything and the smallest endeavor becomes an Easter egg hunt minus the pleasant surprises.  The past weekend might have never happened though I had an amazing 90 fares.  What is there to remember, to reprise?  Lillian the nine year old Boston terrier  in West Seattle was my last passenger.  Very polite and never said a word, I mean, bark.  I took a canary to the specialist vet at 40th & Aurora Avenue North, the 12 year old bird suffering a sore foot.  I also had a very sweet dachshund who was probably smarter than his owners who had this very bad habit of repeating each other's behavior, a kind of instant imitation. 

These fares drift onto my mind like the misty, foggy morning this past Sunday.  Saturday was nearly 80 F. then the change that lasted into the afternoon becoming a paler version of its weekend sibling.  Oh yes, now I recall the driver who wouldn't honk his car's horn when I was backing out into an alley.  He would rather we collide than violate the Very Seattle Mandate against honking.  Give me Athens. And I don't mean Georgia, as in the state.