Monday, July 30, 2012

How Driver's REALLY Feel About Taxi

This posting is just a brief hello with a more sustained entry coming during my train ride north this upcoming Friday, a comment from my taxi buddy John last night at Hing Loon catching my attention.  He said that the long-time cabbie sharing his taxi is trying to make this his last year in the business.  After this past Saturday night's Seafair parade and torchlight run, he made comment that he just can't take these ________ passengers any longer.  Enough! is his attitude.  John and I just nodded our heads while talking about his friend.  We all know the reality.  My first fare Sunday morning just couldn't stop himself even after I pulled over and said, enough!  He laughed and roared and I just gave up. He wasn't such a bad guy.  Just a fool, that's all.  He gave me a good tip even though I didn't have to jump start his vintage Corvette.  Yes, this is how we feel and I am doubtful that it will be changing anytime soon, humanity just peeking out of the cave, blinking and rubbing their eyes in the twenty-first century sunshine.  Remember that 60s pop song "In the Year 2525" by Zager & Evans?  Kind of sums up the taxi reality that we all share and know and despise!

Friday, July 27, 2012


You may find it unfathomable but last Monday my priority was getting over to eastern Washington and the Quincy Lakes instead of my usual post-taxi posting.  She who can't be named came up instead of me going down so here I am later than sooner.  Returning only to do my taxi weekend we will then be heading south to a hot springs southeast of Mount Hood.  Much occurred this past week including the city council's five to three vote  approving the newest rate increase.  Council member Sally Bagwell was quoted as saying that all this taxi regulation business was confusing and that she really needed time to figure it all out.  Never a truer statement was uttered.  I will be contacting her once I am back from my second leg of vacationing.  Now we await the vote from the King County council.  Too many cooks stirring the taxi broth?  That answer is obvious.

The question concerning when does it become inappropriate using taxis as inferior  ambulances appeared to be answered last weekend.  My previous worse was a pregnant woman experiencing contractions as I fought heavy traffic.  This episode topped that when I picked up a DSHS/HopeLink client in the 8100 thousand of Rainier Avenue South and took her approximately twelve miles north to University Hospital.  Bent over as she entered the taxi the passenger, experiencing both severe pain and acute nausea from pregnancy complications proceeded to roll and groan in the backseat while simultaneously retching in a container she thankfully had brought with her.  As I later asked Fred the dispatcher, how was this at all reasonable?  His response was that she had called for the taxi herself through the HopeLink office.  Maybe they should be a little more circumspect. The poor woman could have expired while I was stuck on I-5 north-bound.  I was truly sweating it as I understood too well the risks. The only positive was that I have the possible skills to intervene but what about the taxi rookie who has only been driving six months?  Such is the madness of taxi.  I for one am certainly ready to soak both body and head.  Maybe I will forget the way back to Seattle but unfortunately the train I will taking back north from Salem, Oregon probably knows the way. Engine, engine number nine, please be fickle, please be kind!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Twelve Hours of Sleep Later: A Continuation from Yesterday

Rereading my last "objective" paragraph from yesterday's posting reminds me of my initial statement in the opening paragraph, that rant is almost natural when taxi shenanigans is the subject line.  Though what I said is totally true, my aim was thorough analysis not the repeating that all cabbies are ersatz criminals because simply that isn't the case.  What I wanted to explain is how the pressures of this infernal business can and will warp the mind of the most wonderful and consistent human being.  To describe it another way, the human species wasn't designed to drive taxi, not leastwise as we know it now in the modern era.  What is occurring inside that taxi is the buffeting of the human heart and mind and body and soul by a merciless wind composed of too many hours and erroneous opinion and heartless traffic and the insane pressure to monetarily maximize every minute and hour you are out there.  Read that sentence a few times over so it transfixes in your brain the typical and everyday taxi reality.  This daily beating distorts the senses, creating an unfortunate incoherency which was exemplified by the bone marrow incident. Nothing about that story makes sense other than the poor judgement was motivated by something almost beyond individual control.  In the taxi world there is no such judgement as not guilty by reason of temporary insanity though perhaps there should be. All three incidents described yesterday held elements of that kind of temporal imbalance.  While the first two were inexcusable given the possible worse consequences involved, their actions are understandable when you add the relentless pressure I have described.  That influence is what besides the gasoline is powering the airport taxis down the highway zigzagging in heavy traffic at 80-90 mph back to Sea-Tac.  Their actions have literally flown past commonsense but they have their explanation.  Taxi has distorted their reason and they are now insane.  Comforting, isn't it?  And if it isn't, expect more chilling taxi realities in future posting causing pause and hesitation upon entering your next taxi ride home.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The True Concern is How We Arrived: Industry Incidents, Problems & Complaints

It is extremely easy, almost instinctual in fact for me to want to rant and rave about taxi madness, its extremes and inconsistencies so I think some discussion about how the industry collectively arrived at this point would be helpful to assist in gaining a more thorough and comprehensive knowledge of confounding issues that at first glance appear to make little or no sense whatsoever.  So the task I have presented to myself is to make sense of the nonsensical, which will probably take longer than one posting will allow, at least in the shape I am in this evening.  I got up early today to install a small exhibit of painting and art taken from my own collection.  For the next month or so you can amble over to Teahouse Kuan Yin located at 1911 North 45th Street in Seattle and see what is up on the walls.  It was something fun to do despite having many other pressing items upon the agenda.  On to taxi.

I will relate three true and factual and recent taxi stories, tales emblematic of realities that have become a distortion or non-reality that are now manifest in individual drivers and their decisions.  Taxi can make you crazy.  Let there be no doubt of that.

Sometime last week a driver was dispatched to pick up a "stat" or priority package, in this case bone marrow that was destined for a waiting surgical team.  These kinds of deliveries are always ASAP and everyone knows that there is no time to waste because occasionally a life depends on it.  What the driver did instead was drive around picking up passengers for three hours before finally dropping off the bone marrow.  The consequences was that the potential life saving operation was cancelled and rescheduled all because the cabbie didn't simply do what he and all others are supposed to do: make a taxi beeline to your destination.  There is an explanation but there is no excuse.

The second example of taxi malfeasance was the interruption of a school run taken late in a shift.  Since a few taxi fools were grossly inappropriate with some student passengers, the Seattle School District has tightened up the rules, requiring anyone wishing to transport students to first attend a mandatory class.  Accepting a fare late holds inherent risks since traffic and other obstacles can prevent you from getting the taxi back to the waiting driver.  The best option when you get a bell that you can't adequately serve is to call or contact dispatch and tell them to re bell the call.  It won't make them happy but it is a far better option than being completely stupid.  In this case the driver made the poor and idiotic decision to take his three passengers back to the cab lot and transport them in his personal car.  The legal reasons are myriad why this was and is a bad idea.  What is quite amazing is that he thought no one would notice.   Now that is dumb!

The last example was a grave mistake made by a very veteran driver, a woman driver of thirty to thirty-five years of experience.  Her mistake was one of trying to do too much when her taxi broke down while transporting a DSHS/HopeLink passenger north up to Everett.  Instead of immediately calling dispatch and arranging for another taxi to pick up the customer, she instead calls a friend who arrives in a pickup truck and finishes the ill-fated ride.  What all three of these fares have in common is they were contractually-based, paid by either voucher or account or a very specific one-time authorization.  In short you don't fool around or you will be in instant trouble. And what is important more than the individual incidents is how all three occurred.  They have a shared genesis which is almost biblical in a taxi theological sense.

Irresponsibility has always been a core taxi value.  It was true when I started and it remains, on varying levels, true today.  Taxi is a free form, unfettered world that breeds and creates poorly justified  permissions which at  times mimics minor criminality which again occasionally blossoms into the behavior described in the first two related incidents.  We got to this point because an unfortunate majority simply stopped caring about anything save profit and the making of money.  It is a very ugly side of the business, a very unfortunate inheritance, the cabbies connected to a thorny family tree.  If and when the industry takes training seriously then we will start seeing the beginning of the end to this sorry legacy.  Another way of putting it is that taxi is an industry composed of frayed and loose ends bundled and packaged as a finished product.  Well, folks, sorry to say this is no way to conduct business.  If you are interested in stumbling along or condoning your own endemic variety of dysfunction then you would have the audacity to call your actions productive. This may not sound conclusive but in abbreviation it is.  Why care when you don't have to, or similarly, don't care because you just know no one is looking. Welcome to taxi, and please, dispense with morals and other such niceties. Taxi is coherency thrown out the door.  And on that note it is time to close the door tonight as the lights are dimmed and the tables are wiped clean.  More upon this theme after a prolonged night of nothing but sleeping!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Continuation of a Taxi Cautionary Tale: Government Failure & the Death of Tigable Tekeba

The legacy of King County's Green Cab initiative still breaths though one primary figure, Tigable Tekeba died recently after lapsing into a coma over four years ago. This is a bad story, one of poor decision making on the part of King County, its council and its then executive director Ron Sims, which is now being played out in a jury trail with Ethiopian vs Ethiopian for the rights of what once were fifty King County taxi licenses.  The story is long and somewhat convoluted and truly deserving of an entire book rather than the few lines I am devoting to it tonight.  For a very quick history I suggest that you access the archives of The Seattle Weekly newspaper and read the terrific article upon the subject by Nina Shapiro in the March 26th, 2008 issue. The long and short of it is that some bleeding hearts thought they had a good idea to serve the taxi and East African community only to have it blow up into something completely unexpected because they never thought that anyone in the local industry would notice that what they were attempting to do wasn't completely legal.

Fast forward to the present date and we have a situation where the late Tekeba's brother is attempting to regain control over some or all of the licenses.  The tragic story concerning Tekeba is that early on in this fiasco he had some type of seizure from which he never regained consciousness. The sad or laughable part of the legal argument from the guys currently operating the licenses is that from day one they have not been operating the taxis in accordance with the conditions contained in the RFP (Request For Proposal) which authorized all this nonsense.  That King County has watched this comedy for four years without intervening is just another chapter in the saga.  What is occurring is chimerical because in reality, at least in accordance to the conditions mandated by King County, the two parties are fighting for something that doesn't actually exist though somehow they do.  Alice would need to consume a bushel of mushrooms to believe or imagine this story.  I would not be surprised if I am sometime summoned to testify.  During the 8th grade I played both the March Hare & the Mad Hatter. I will have to wear the proper attire to the courtroom.  Maybe they will have me enter through a mirror.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Two Broken Jaws: Poverty & Motel Subculture

The deranged hijinks's of the usual full moon, missing earlier in the week came roaring to the forefront beginning late Saturday.  If not the full moon, it was a superb imitation.  Regardless bad driving and minor tragedy smiled a sardonic grin, suggesting that even if not an active participant you might as well enjoy the performance, admission free to all.

Early Sunday morning I got a DSHS/HopeLink ride Harborview to Valley Medical Center, the passenger literally having had her teeth pushed back into the interior of her mouth by a smashing punch.  She praised HMC staff for repairing the damage.  She made mention of some kind of stalker or other variety of unsavory acquaintance.  Her prevailing fear had me drive her directly into the hospital's parking garage where her battered steed waited.  After that I had to take a nap before making it back to Seattle, exhaustion overtaking the weakened mind.

Much later early Sunday evening I took yet another victim, again courtesy of DSHS up to her State Route Highway 99 motel in Edmonds, Washington.  Unfortunately she was in far worse shape than my early morning fare, emitting low groans throughout the ride northward.

Pulling into the motel I was pleasantly surprised to see that she was greeted by a small legion of concerned folks ranging from teenagers to  senior citizens.  Too often I have dropped off the maligned and injured to uncertain destinations.  Thank goodness this occasion was different.

 Unless you are a taxi driver or a cop you might be totally unaware of an impoverished underclass dwelling in our nation's motels.  I first encountered these denizens of America's social underground way back in 1963 when my father moved us to Todd's Trailer Court located beside East Colfax in unincorporated Adams County just east of both Denver and Aurora, Colorado.   Along with the dilapidated mobile home parks were equally sad motels dating from the 1930s and 40s, all of us in a welfare-generated trance pretending that we were just like everyone else, a myth dispelled by Cragmont sodas and uneatable government supplied commodities.  I remember exploring an abandoned motor court, as they were sometimes called, fascinated by faded postcards advertising a reality literally crumbling before my nine-year old eyes, my father accidentally introducing me to marginal worlds better avoided by the childish and developing brain.  Perhaps it created empathy.  Lord knows these two particular passengers are deserving of lighted candles and fervent prayers.  May domestic violence and the battering of women soon become a distant memory along with the millions of other ills afflicting our daily and confused existence.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

3rd & 4th & 5th of July: Odds & Ends & Instant Gratification Minus Sanity

I long for a hagiolatry for drivers' past as we the living endure insult and affront.  Could we burn incense, lowering our eyes for all those crucified upon the wheel, whispering incantations to the holy?  An average shift can be a descent to perdition, Charon waiting paddle in hand.  And now we have Teamsters and minor government officials elected or not deciding and guiding our fate while holding little clue concerning our real and non-conceptual reality.  There are hells and then there is a particular parental version obsequious in its searing radiance asking why aren't you grateful you little prigs?  If I have a prayer may everyone be Jainist cautiously assessing each step sparing ants and cabbies alike.  Such are my sentiments after two additional taxi days.  No thank you please. And even if the deranged passenger offers not once but twice to provide minus strings a blow job you may again briefly close your eyes wishing for a better world for all concerned.  Sorrow takes many forms, taxi providing more examples than I might choose to sample, the traveling salesman sticking his dusty shoe in the door.  Whatever is being sold, I am not interested be it today or tomorrow or that nearly full moon yesterday.  The product is shoddy.  The warranty complete bunk.  All guarantees bogus.  Nothing worth repeating as it spirals toward a molten center.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Talkin' Taxi: Originations & Strategies

Today Ladies & can I say Gentleman we will examine for a few trifle moments some informal taxi science which greatly affects all drivers even if they are totally unaware of analytical checks and balances influencing their money making abilities.  Reality is like that even if completely unaware.  Where you place yourself in a given zone or neighborhood can either enhance or detract from your effectiveness.  In other terms, where the fare originates is part of that science.  Hotel stands are clearly an equation many drivers understand though not always adding or subtracting the total benefit.  Another way of putting it is where you sit is where or how you go in terms of distance and monetary success.  Cabbies are firm believers in the Golden Goose which for many means downtown (Pet Clark's endorsement) or the airport.  Most don't realize that geese are poor mathematicians. As aviators they are unsurpassed, flying north to south for thousands of miles, though many cabbies missing that geese for the most part avoid runways and city centers thus making most drivers silly instead of golden. One should attempt to be orginal in their choice of originations contary to following the flock.  Feathers may tickle the nose but the wise cabbie remains discerning and fickle, weighting the odds, eyeing the prize moment by minute disecting deception's disguise!  Easy to be fooled but due consideration can lead to birds of a better feather even though their song dissonant yet melodious.  Finding money ain't easy and I will never say that it is.  A 7-11 store can provide a fare to Blaine, Washington on the Canadian border which the Lake City store did a few years back or just 'round the block to the local bar which is more usual.  Or again if you get lucky like I did this just past early Saturday morning a State Patrol officer will pull up to  to the Northgate 7-11 and want to know if you needed a fare to Everett?  Some locations are beacons and others are not.  Placement can be everything.  Who would guess that the corner of NE 41th and 15th NE is a prime location but multiuple fares to the eastside confirms that sitting near an important bus stop early in the morning is fruitful.

Taxi strategies are many so briefly I will comment upon my most recent Sunday morning start which was influenced by the summer cruise ship season opening areas normally clogged with sitting taxis, allowing me to freely work where I am.  This Sunday I started with a fare from 104th and Greenwood taking me about five blocks to Patty's Eggnest and $7.00.  Next I drove over to NW 65th & 22 NW and dropped off near the Tin Hat and $8.00.  83rd & 10th NW took me to 97th & Greenwood and ten bucks.  NE 80th & 1st NE brought me twenty dollars down to Pike Place Market.  Three quick additional area fares brought me $28.00 and over to the train station and off to Sea-Tac netting $35.00 after I informed them of the flat rate.  All this "pin-balling" as I call it, allowing one fare taking me swiftly to another brought me a total of $108.00 in just about two hours, $54.00 per hour perfectly acceptable.  That's talkin' taxi as it is and more later in the coming weeks upon the subject of making and missing the not always easy money.  Taxi is all about the moola and nothing else. The cultural experience, as one might call it, is not completely sustaining, passengers too often plainly tedious and beyond kind definations. Taxi is a thin gruel for the hungry fool.  Unfortunately I rarely have time for breakfast.  Just ask Goldilocks about cold porridge, her spoon rigid in the amorphous mass.  And with only one Denny's within the city limits, what is a famished cabbie to do?