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!

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