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!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Before I Fly Off.......

Sometimes passengers are so obnoxious (or crazy) that it is noteworthy. How could so-called "normal" folks be so abnormal or perhaps all male graduates from Eastern Washington University are like the following fools.  If they are, all E WA co-eds beware!  After the Husky vs Eagles football game this Saturday past afternoon, I picked up 4 alums going downtown who could not stop making various references to their all important penis.  For a full ten minutes I kept hearing about their conquests, how hard they are, etc.  The moron in the front seat liked to use the term "dicking" when referring to intercourse.  Somewhat comical was the native of India attempting to be "one of the boys!"  Hey, bub, that accent is not Country & Western no matter how hard you try!  I will call these guys the "orgasm brothers" and leave it at that.  They were in their 30s going on age thirteen.  Unfortunately, it appears the majority of our nations colleges produce these kind of goofballs.  So much for the vaunted benefits of a university education.  Would these schools please begin offering a few courses like Maturity 101 and How Not to be a Fool 202.  They should be required for graduation.  It appears to be necessary.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

This Past Weekend Not Tomorrow But Today

Okays folks, furry or otherwise, I am back to keeping all taxi matters more or less current.  That truly is the taxi way, more or less being the guiding principal, as if such notions as principals actually exist in this lopsided industry I both love and hate and every other emotion in between. Next week my posting will either originate in Chicago or Toledo, Ohio as I am skipping out of the next weekend to instead join the subject of my biography (Milton Wan) for his South Vietnam unit's reunion.  The reunion is in Chicago, then on Monday morning the 12th I am flying to Detroit and renting a car to drive the 60 miles south to Toledo.  Toledo is where all my family (I was born in Puyallup, WA) was born and where many cousins remain.  I will be visiting the grave sites of both my mother and her parents.

Taxi was typical of a holiday weekend, with enormous business swings, a veritable roller-coaster of taxi highs & lows, the worse happening early Saturday morning.  First we had the entire computer dispatch system go down between 3 & 4 AM.  Then I got shut out the second hour with the third also drawing a blank due to a no show.  Can you imagine that, the GREAT!? taxi guru himself going three consecutive hours without a fare?  I don't think that has ever happened before in all of my 24 years but hey! as I always say, no one is immune from getting their buttock kicked in the taxi business.  Why, you should expect it!  Anyway, it got better and I put in about 900 miles (about the distance to San Francisco) and had over 100 fares.  I kept it easy on Monday and barely worked ten serious hours.  The reverse of the lull was Saturday evening when Seattle's downtown area did a fair imitation of Manhattan when I had a least six consecutive sequences of dropping off and instantly picking up again, the departing passenger getting out as the new rider attempted to squeeze in.  Think that might also be some kind of record.  As I always say, with taxi you never know, and you don't!

Making my sleep deprivation even worse was having to be at the Seattle/King County taxi commission meeting yesterday at 10 AM.  Oh my poor 57 year old body!  Four people failed to show up but one did manage to listen in via conference telephone.  I was impressed with that!  There was some contentious conversation this meeting but I was just glad to hear important issues finally being addressed.  Next week I will report more fully on what went on.  By then I will also will be able to give you my taxi commission email address, allowing all my taxi  driver readers to directly tell me all their concerns.  Thank goodness I get to miss all those wonderful fares this upcoming weekend.  Friends, be my guest, you can have them!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Last Week This Week, This Week Tomorrow

Before I address the Labor Day Weekend festivities, first I have to catch up as I flew out of Seattle early Monday morning Aug 29th and she who will not be named picked me up at the 24th & Mission BART station in San Francisco and off we drove to the Sierra Nevada country near Grass Valley where we camped four nights and hiked to and swam in the south fork of the Yuba River.  How do like all that info packed into one sentence?  You can thank the now forgotten British writer J.B. Priestley, he of the long sentences, even longer novels and the some of the greatest (and shortest essays) ever to grace the English language. 

I could remember if forced to recount the many miles of that now distant weekend but I'd rather concentrate on why getting away from taxi is essential to the average driver's well-being.  Those who don't get away begin displaying a yellowish tinge, then an accelerated tendency to driving in concentric circles.  Before that occurs I recommend getting the hell out of the cab and do something, anything different.  I remember a driver who drove three years straight to buy an over-valued taxi outright.  He was skin and bones.

On a Monday and a Friday we visited Berkeley and twice ate at Saul's, a real New York deli way out on the Left Coast.  She who can't be named was raised just off Church Avenue, Brooklyn and knows authentic when she eats it.  She still pines for the Grand Street Dairy.  Such wonderful culinary memories of a bygone Lower East Side.  Saul's address is 1475 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley.  When there check out the Cheese Cooperative a half block away and their ginger shortbread.  You will be happy you did!

During our final night at our South Yuba campsite a black bear visited us, dining on organic bread and butter.  I interrupted the beast on its second foray, our furry friend impolitely growling, then snorting in my direction.  The night was dark so I might have been a mere ten feet or so from the midnight diner, the bear of course reminding me of various customers I have had.  Like so many other churlish creatures I have known, it failed to tip.  Maybe next time!