Thursday, December 27, 2012

Too Many Moving Parts: Taxi & Time Management

I have concluded the obvious, that taxi as I know it remains chaotic and anarchic because too much is occurring at any one given moment hence the notion there are too many independent moving parts to keep everything in unison, taxi a disparate symphony minus conductor.  Yes as a musical composition taxi is both discordant and dissonant, sour half-notes the donkey's irritating bray.  At least with voice-generated dispatch the dispatcher acts as concert master eliminating much of the cacophony generated by amateurish players.  When you add taxi illiteracy to the mix, meaning individuals who have never driven a cab, having never put in the practice time you have the situation I will be presently illustrating.  Situations and events and mistakes are occurring that are never seen but for the momentary aggravation they cause, accelerating past the minute and hour never to be noted again.  What I am doing today is freezing a situation from last Sunday afternoon, a specimen  prepared for examination.  I want all the taxi scientists in the audience to place it beneath your microscope, searching for the unintended viruses that I know infect and cripple the industry.  Taxi is ill.  It has a contagious and persistent cough.  The remedy appears to be reason and logic and commonsense, ingredients somehow absence  from the usual taxi pharmacy and medicine cabinet.  It is time to refill the prescription.  It is time for mother's chicken soup.

Sunday afternoon the entire city was building momentum toward the 5:20 PM Seattle Seahawks versus San Francisco 49ers NFL football game.  The "Seahawk rush" was on as tens of thousands of fans converged either to the stadium or to their favorite alcoholic watering-hole to cheer on their gridiron warriors.  It is organized madness as all of the taxi companies are overwhelmed with calls and the local police gallantly attempt to direct streams of pedestrians and cars to their various seats and parking places, something that will be repeated this upcoming Sunday, the last regular season home game of the year. It was in this mix that I found myself at about 3:25 in the afternoon having just dropped off a fare south of the stadium.  Fares were waiting everywhere.  I had some choices to make and the one I made was wrong due to the  poor decision-making of others. Time to bring out the kerchief and wipe away your tears (almost a Bob Dylan quote).

Part of the key elements contained in this saga are both zone location and the time of day relating to both the game and the 4:00 shift change.  An experienced taxi mind would have understood what I will be relating.  Unfortunately the clueless are making decisions for the many thus screwing up the works.  If taxi is a machine it is time for an oil change.

As I said, I am now just south of the Seahawk stadium faced with various options.  I could jump on Highway 99 north-bound and work all the points north.  Or, as a good time manager, stay near to where I was and grab a fare nearby.  I saw that I could be first-up in Zone 270 (south of downtown, or as it is called by Farwest Taxi, the "Short Owl") so I took it.  Driving south down First Avenue South I noticed five fares waiting in the West Seattle zone 262 (the Alaska Junction).  Now that the ramp to the West Seattle freeway is back in place I headed in that direction calculating I could be at up there in about 2 minutes.  Just before I made the ramp I got a call in the 270. This is when all my trouble began.

There it was a time call for 3:45 PM meaning I had about 17 minutes to get to a bell located on the 4200 hundred block of 6th Avenue South, meaning I was  less than a mile and 3 minutes away from an empty parking lot.  I knew exactly what it meant, that someone was parking then continuing on to the game, which became true, me being the taxi psychic I am.  As I and everyone else have been telling dispatch, the time-calls recently are poorly formulated, making little sense, in this case fating me to a 5-6 dollar fare and the squandering of over a quarter of an hour.  But that was only part of the consequences, impacting far more than one innocent driver.  The two guys finally arrived, getting ten bucks for my efforts but in reality the time-call in this case was both unnecessary and wasteful, actually hurting efficiency and customer service, not enhancing it.  The repeated justification is that the time-call somehow improves customer service. We who  actually toil beneath the top-light know the truth, tiring of fairy tales.  Or perhaps taxi really is the creation of some new Hans Christian Anderson, the beckoning time-call a modern poisoned apple.  Watch out for that first bite!

Given the shift change, many drivers "book-in" into the 270, our address 74 South Hudson nearly the very center and heart of the zone. Categorizing this short-distance fare as a "call when you are ready"  trip as opposed to a time-call would not have had any negative effect upon the passengers I picked up.  I told them that.  They  would have immediately gotten their taxi..  It also stopped me from picking up one of the 262 fares which I would have served quickly.  The knowledgeable  taxi veteran would  not have scheduled a  time-up so close to the hour and lot, knowing it made little sense.  Decisions good and bad have rippling affects, especially when you are serving hundreds of customers during a crucial  time period. Commonsense and logic need to be in play, not ill-conceived routine and guesswork.

After dropping the pair off I saw that fares were still waiting in the 262.  Hitting the Atlantic Street ramp I was off and flying to West Seattle to a bell I recognized as a regular rider going to work.  Unfortunately it was a no-show as clearly she got tired of waiting, finding another way of getting there.  A lull in West Seattle prompted me to leave and take a fare in the 230.  Do the time computations and almost an hour later I had a mere $17.00 to show for all  my fussing around. And all of it unnecessary.  I can guarantee you that the person who made this time-call knows nothing of the considerations I have listed, and worst, never will.  This unknown individual will remain taxi illiterate while making important decisions impacting many, replicating their error hour after hour.  As I tell my passengers you are just lucky to have a taxi pulling up to your door, and even luckier that it is me, taxi service in Seattle akin to the lottery.  You never know what will happen but perhaps I do, heartbreak the most common cardiovascular taxi aliment.

Another Death in the Taxi Family

On Sunday we lost a long time driver to suicide, Daniel Abebe shooting himself.  That's all I know other than I remember him as a gentleman.  There is a box in the cashier window requesting donations.  Please give what you can.  Daniel, rest in peace.

Worst Kind of Christmas Nostalgia

On Christmas I had the (not very) bright idea to drive upon a holiday, last year's success a fond memory. Instead the morning was the slowest in a decade of taxi days, with the car I was driving reminding of the bad, old days when extra board cars were rolling death-traps. Soft brakes, a worn out computer finger pad and a recalcitrant trunk latch spoke of drivers not taking taxi maintenance seriously.  I muddled through and wrote the cab up, leaving it to Taki & company to provide resuscitation. The cab had a mere 173,000 miles on it.  The current 478 has over 240,000 miles and remains in great shape, roaring down the byway.  Including my 25 years, the three drivers sharing the car have a combined 65 plus years of experience.  We make sure that 478 is maintained.  I appreciate sharing the road with veterans who have their priorities straight, knowing a safe cab guarantees a safe ride.  That is all that we want plus of course a ride to Vancouver, BC Canada.  That would be nice! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Front Row Seat

I believe I might be repeating myself, stating the obvious that I and every other taxi driver on this planet (and any other possible world) have a free (except for the stress and anguish) ticket to everything that is human behaviorally based.  I may not want to see or experience any of it but there it is, either in the technicolor light of day or the black and white "film noir" of post-sunset evening, humanity in all of its sometimes demented glory flailing away at life's canvas, splattering the surface like the American painter Jackson Pollock did in the 1950s, existence an instantaneous abstraction. I say this as proper introduction to a HopeLink fare I had just past midnight Monday morning, a ride minutely illustrating what I am referring to, life as it really is shoved right in my face.  Again, who wants to know it?  I don't but unfortunately I do.

The fare, originating at the Harborview (Harbor Zoo) Hospital ER was only going to pay me a paltry $5.50 which is why some drivers instantly throw these kinds of fares away knowing full well the pain involved.  The (as it turns out) non-existent address indicated that the passenger was going to some kind of local downtown shelter.  Stepping up to the always cooperative admissions desk I was told that that passenger was in the process of being discharged. Not liking the sound of that I walked back to 478 to wait a few minutes.  With the passenger failing to appear after a reasonable interval I again ask where is he?  The nice woman responded that she didn't know which prompted me to drive around to the west side of the hospital knowing that sometimes the passenger is impatiently waiting over there wondering where the taxi is.  Finding no one I drove back to the ER entrance to try one last time.  By this juncture 10 minutes had withered away which meant I could now receive my automatic computer generated no-show but stuck with it for one simple reason: the vast majority of patients being discharged directly to shelters are in deep crisis, variously deeply wounded by life's circumstances.  I stuck with it because I did not want to abandon this heretofore unknown victim.. My intuition paid off even if I was barely paid for my time and trouble.

Reentering the lobby hallway I was suddenly engulfed by a large posse of police, hospital security and other related personnel herding this frail, diminutive black man out of the emergency room.  He couldn't have been more than five feet tall and one hundred pounds if that.  The expression of a huge highway patrolman is forever burned into my psyche, a bad combination of arrogance and gloating.  Such an asshole!  Clearly K_____ my passenger had been making a ruckus and the collective troops had been called in to quell the disturbance   I quickly gathered him and his various bags up and got him out of harm's way into the taxi.  By this time I had devoted nearly 20 minutes to the fare.  Two nurses came out into the rain-driven morning and gave me a sheet of paper that was his entry into the shelter plus also giving me yet another erroneous address.  On the sheet was the blaring diagnosis, schizophrenia which somehow made the patient into a human hurricane.  I instead found a bewildered human being who was caught in a vortex not of his own making.  He was in total misery.

It took me a few minutes to figure out that I was taking him to the south delivery entrance of the King County Administrative Building. Pushing a button began the loud, rattling motion of the automated garage door revealing a somewhat skeptical shelter employee and thankfully a smiling security guard.  Mister Shelter looked askance at all the stuff my passenger was bringing along but hey, it appears his home is where he is at the moment so what can you do but accept his dismal reality.  Quickly maneuvering 478 around I proceeded out beneath the clattering door thankful to be off and away and down to Chinatown for sumptuous  seafood chow foon at the Honey Court, thirty minutes well? expended.

Other News

Regular readers might remember the shooting death of a taxi driver occurring a few months back.  I can now report some good news concerning Labor & Industry benefits impacting the driver's widow.  L&I recognized that the driver was indeed in the midst of  a covered occupation, solely in the act of providing  legitimate  taxi services thus awarding a two thousand dollar monthly pension to his survivor.  There had been some contention that he was acting solely as a friend. That confusion was thankfully resolved. Something to keep in mind is that she would have been eligible for perhaps twice that amount but her husband, like the good cabbie he was, used various tricks to show a yearly gross somewhat lower than reality.  This should be incentive for many to annually and properly file their tax returns.  This incident also shows that we are getting something for the money we are now paying out for L&I coverage. I personally also have a life insurance policy that would benefit she-who-can't-named.  As we all know you never know when it comes to taxi.

Can't keep our tips?  That is the complaint that was forwarded to me recently, alleging that associations and their related dispatch and cashier services are somehow for some unexplained reason putting a self-created cap on what a passenger customer can tip the cabbie on a credit card.  How this is possible is beyond my understanding.  When was it illegal or improper for a customer of any kind of business to be a big tipper?  I have never heard of such a limitation.  Many might remember the story of the California taxi driver a few years back who took someone to Portland, Oregon  and received a twenty-thousand dollar tip on top of the three-thousand dollar fare?  You mean he should have politely declined?   Again, there are two primary reasons why associations have no authority in this area.

The first is that all Seattle and King County drivers and single owners are independent contractors, meaning they are independent business operators.  I personally just sent my check in two days ago to renew by Seattle Business License.  What we are all doing are leasing dispatch services to reach our customer base and near as I can tell little else.  That cashier services connected to that is very convenient but I suppose each group of drivers and single owners connected to an association could contract their own processing services thus eliminating part of the integrated operations.

The other reason is that none of us are in the position to tell the customer whether they should tip or not or the given amount one way or the other.  If the intent toward any tip limitation is to avoid criminal mischief the simple requirement of putting ID info and telephone numbers upon the charge slip would eliminate any such suspicion.  But again associations appear to have no legal grounds for imposing any kind of tipping mandate upon the taxi customer.  As they cannot require a minimum they cannot impose a maximum.  What also makes this silly is that associations have no input whatsoever concerning the cash-based tip.  Not once in my over twenty five taxi years have associations asked how much my cash tips have been.  So why would they be interested if instead the tip is put upon a card?  Does this somehow put the cash fare in a different category?  If so, what is that category?  I would like someone to tell me.

What this tells me is the same old taxi story where everyone concerned, and I mean everyone associated with the industry has some odd permission to do anything they wish, more of that wild, wild, wild West mentality and tradition whether you are in Seattle or Chicago or Malta.  In 1991 while I was visiting the Maltese capital of Valletta taxi drivers would actually get out of their cabs and chase me down the street.  From my reaction I would not call it the most effective approach. What this local Seattle and King County taxi industry really requires is a legal vetting of all of its operations, which means every facet of the business.  Until that is done chaos will reign and everyone will continue to do whatever they want whether it makes any sense or not, legal or otherwise.

PS   During a quick conversation this morning I was told that objections to large tips could come from the credit card (the banks) issuers, wanting to protect both the customer and themselves which is a reasonable point.  But that still shouldn't take money directly out of a driver's pocket.  Some kind of mechanism should be in place to confirm a customer's wishes and intent.  Proper procedure has never been the taxi industry's strong suit.  And that is a muted understatement.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Proving Yourself Anew Every Day (Kinda Gets To A Fellow)

As I will keep repeating to my final breath, there is nothing like taxi ( the taxi experience) and those who have shared the top-light know exactly what I mean.  But the hardest part might well be always having to prove yourself daily, finding that elusive fare sitting out there somewhere.  Because if you don't you go home broke, and if you are like me working just two days a week it is imperative you find the money. The pressure then is both daunting and intense.  A professional basketball player can have an off game or two, shooting an air-ball or clunking a free-throw but the overall concerns are small because you are still getting paid.  In that sense nobody pays the cabbie except him or herself, by the effort put forward.  Your game must always be one-hundred percent, with you doing your own refereeing.  Yesterday after nearly three hours all I had gained was thirty-three dollars for my 180 minutes of pain and suffering, of self-inflicted torture.  But finally, using every positioning trick learned from my over 25 years in the business paid off in a $63.00 (including an eleven dollar tip) airport fare which jump-started me to a very profitable day.  Yesterday then was like everyday for each and every taxi driver world wide: you have to prove it and if you don't you end up going home crying.  Which is why I said more than once out loud this weekend: God! I hate taxi!  And damn well I do and damn well I am tired.  Tomorrow is my 59th birthday and tonight I feel every mile I drove this past Saturday and Sunday.   Thankfully I only drove the equivalent of Seattle to Ashland, Oregon.  I really didn't want to drive over the Siskyous and coast down that mountainside  to Redding, California.  As a kid hitch-hiking I have seen enough of that town.  Though  a few miles south of there lies the parched town of  Corning and many varieties of olives to sample and enjoy at the "Olive Pit."  I do admit an actual ride there would lift my spirits.  And give me something to talk about for the next few weeks other than my usual taxi snarl.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Greeting From Kansas City & (Lucky?) Maggie & (I've had a bad night!) Mike

I don't know if Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller actually ever made it to Kansas City, Missouri but I can say without a doubt that I have though I am not planning on writing a song about my experience but perhaps all that will change.  Yes I am here to visit that well known (at least to some) Kansas City art Museum, the Nelson-Atkins.  I say that some folks know and others clearly don't as represented by the nice lady at my hotel's front desk.  She had never heard of it and the guy at the Kansas City YMCA said that he had his picture taken in front but has yet to enter the establishment.  This after being in the city for nine years.  A gentleman walking out the door said it was a great museum.  It is good to know that at least one local citizen has been curious.  But I'll bet you that the entire greater Kansas City metropolitan area knows Wilbert Harrison's 1959 # 1 chart-busting version of the song about their city.  Even Little Willie Littlefield, who recorded it first in 1952, put out a 1959 version but it was Harrison who had everyone snapping their fingers and chugging down bottles of Kansas City wine.  It was possibly the first Leiber and Stoller song, both age nineteen at the time, to reach the recording studio, they of course of  "Hound Dog" fame and all those terrific songs by the Coasters.  Sadly one of the original Coaster members died sometime this past month.

More currently I can report that the current Kansas City taxi rate is a $2.50 drop and $2.10 per mile.  A driver I spoke to on a stand said that he usually makes $700.00 a week when he hustles and about $500.00 when he doesn't in his three hundred per week (his total lease)  non-dispatched independent taxi, and like us Seattle cabbies, an independent contractor.  He said the Yellow driver that had just left the queue pays $475.00 for his cab.  If that is for an entire 24 hour, seven day week I am ready to move to Kansas City! and see if I too can find, just like Wilbert Harrison, one of those "crazy little women!"  The cabbie said he liked driving Friday and Saturday nights because his inebriated female passengers start to "put their hands on him!"  It seems that these days the locals are drinking something more potent than wine.  Maybe if they would just dilute themselves with a few good paintings they might all sober up and have a nice turkey barbecue sandwich at Gates like I did.  The cab driver mentioned that he liked the Nelson-Atkins.  See, just another well-rounded cabbie with a variety of interests.  Who can deny that we are a cultured bunch!?

Maggie & Mike

Last Friday morning a number of taxi folks convened at the Yellow lot to discuss relevant topics such as time calls and other related dispatch issues. Gathered around that table was nearly a combined 100 or slightly more years of taxi experience.  What did all that taxi wisdom bring us?  An agreement to meet again in January 2013.  I can only imagine what the peace talks must be like between Israel and the Palestinians.  Negotiations can be tough.  At least no one is building settlements near the garage.  I doubt if either Taki or Randy would approve.  But what is clear is that our
conversation did nothing to improve Maggie's experience upon a taxi Saturday afternoon. There is much work left to do.

Maggie is an older woman, a regular caller who lives in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood.  In her quest to reach the Home Depot at 118th & Aurora Avenue North she took a bus up to the Crowne Hill Safeway located at the corner of 15th NW and NW 85th.  She was trying to save some money and only use the taxi for the last leg of her journey north. She made her first request for a taxi at 3:15 PM.  Her fourth and final request came just before 4:30 PM when fortunately for her it was me who answered the call and was there in my most usual instantaneous fashion.  Unlike some others out there in the taxi universe I don't discriminate between calls, treating a grocery store same as an airport run.  In fact I have gone to Sea-Tac from Safeway and other large stores.  Many eons ago I went to the small town of Milton, Washington from the old Roger's Thriftway located at East Union & Martin Luther King Way.  Every driver's daily credo and motto should be " to serve the call and see where they go."  Sounds simple, doesn't it?

It would have certainly helped that if dispatch had sent the first taxi to the "correct" store, dispatching Maggie's initial call to the Safeway on the top of Queen Anne hill, that is 2100 Queen Anne Avenue North.  This is not an unusual occurrence.  Earlier a woman from the southern African country of Botswana called for a taxi at the University Village Starbucks coffee shop.  Instead it was belled to one located on University Way.  Different zones and different locations but that didn't seem to matter.  She told me this happens all of the time.

I rescued Maggie, telling her to call me back personally and see if I was still anywhere close to the Home Depot.  If I was, I told her, I would take her back to Queen Anne and just pay what you could afford, that the money wasn't important.  The poor woman was just picking up some Christmas lights for her balcony.  She didn't deserve the bad service she had just received.

My next call was to a motel just north of the Home Depot, finding a young man who was going to the big "cage" fight at the Key Arena located in Lower Queen Anne. He was just checking in, so I said go ahead and I'll wait a few minutes.  Sitting there I was hoping that Maggie would call back and then I would ask the guy if he would share a bit of holiday inspired mercy. 

He was a bit slow but ten minutes later we were heading south toward the Queen Anne.  It was then, just as Home Depot came into view that my telephone rang.  It was Maggie and she was ready to go.  I said "let me pick up this lady and I'll cut $5.00 off your fare."  He agreed and the rest is history, getting both of them to where they needed to go, which is what taxi is all about.  Maggie was very appreciative of this small near-Christmas miracle.  I just told her next time don't call from a grocery store. Walk down the street and pick an address which is becoming my general advice.  It is best to fool the reluctant cabbie, and perhaps say a few prayers too directed at your local taxi Gods.

Mike Oh Mike!

Mike was one of those fares that have to be completed even though I wanted to toss him out on his heels but given his circumstances I felt compelled to stick with him.  I found him on the Opera House-side of the Seattle Center, not far from the Key Arena. I was dropping off a couple going to the Nutcracker ballet and there he was, drunk and slightly handicapped and very distraught.  At first he said he was going to Woodinville, then changing his mind and said I live in Monroe.  Both of these destinations cost a little bit and given his current state, asked for a deposit.  He showed me a wallet full of money which was okay but he didn't like my estimate to Monroe which was about 100 bucks.  I even called dispatch and Jeff told me about $104.00 to the Monroe city hall. After various rounds of disoriented discussion and repeated threats of taking him to the police or getting tossed out he relented.  Mike had gotten separated from his wife at the "cage" fight and he was simply out of his mind with grief.  After handing me a C note he repeatedly said "you really aren't going to charge me 100 dollars, are you?"  I told him more than once that he would just be paying the meter, getting any change back.  He kept saying that he was having a bad night. Multiple hands shakes reassured the poor fellow.  Once upon arriving at his home outside of Monroe he he again asked the same question which prompted another "if you don't get out I'll have to take you to the Monroe police" and gave him his two dollars change and also reminded him not to forget his false teeth which were on the back seat.  Again he said he was sorry and thanked me for getting him home.  And I was glad I had put  up with all of his nonsense.  He needed to get get home and simply I did what was necessary to get him there.  Real taxi as it is and always shall be.  Ready to sign up?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Third Occupation & Cabbie Reading Corner: One "Otiose" Too Many!

Reading through various taxi commission documents shouts out to me that this is a full time job, taxi politics that is, and I don't have the minutes and hours required to adequately fulfill the required obligations.  Knowing that many are depending upon my ability to interpret and navigate the maze gives me pause, adding to my conviction that anything partially or poorly done cannot be worth doing.  Not that anyone would truly notice as taxi is a world composed of loose ends, of perpetually unfinished business, of non-conjoined half-circles. Maybe that is the real reason it seems nearly impossible to get anything done, or why nothing is ever truly resolved.  Or perhaps that is the reason each individual problem presenting itself takes years to reach conclusion.  "She-who-cannot-be-named" says I should resign immediately.  Given that my father yearly sneaked out of whatever town we resided in tells me running away  is not a proper nor honorable response.  Being more organized would certainly help, itemizing and prioritizing all that is facing me.  This upcoming Friday myself and others will begin discussing internal issues plaguing my favorite taxi association.  My current weekend forays certainly on some level justifies the effort, the past two working days illustrating again what I have mentioned more than once so why repeat myself?  I did have eight airport runs on Saturday, including a start of five in a row so I suppose I should celebrate the small victories.  Sunday I had one solitary excursion to Sea-Tac but especially enjoyed tutoring the departing student upon sentence structure and basic grammatical rules for the fledgling speaker of American English.  Write, read, then speak the sentence was my advice.  I was duly unimpressed with the instruction the young Taiwanese gentleman had received from the University of Washington downtown center, to them obviously just another faceless, trusting Chinese student paying full tuition.  There are many reasons why I dislike Middle-Class America, exploitation of the innocent just one glaring example. Bob Dylan sang that after all that schooling you are put on "the day shift" but it also leads to privileged punks thinking they know more than they do, caring little about the attentive students seeking knowledge and advancement.  I met many of this ilk back in 1984-87.  That I wish I hadn't is my final comment upon the subject this evening. "A bouche ouverte!"

Post-Script: December Taxi Commission Meeting

Any green card holder in the United States should take notice of the information that the taxi advisory commission received yesterday.  For the past year I have personally wondered if a driver's (taxi, limo, for-hire) immigration status could be jeopardized, even for a simple misdemeanor conviction.  This became a issue as the City of Seattle is in the planning stages on increasing the penalties for picking up passengers illegally upon the city streets.  I have mentioned this to various drivers I have talked to, only to have them scream and call me names.  Yesterday we had a presentation form the City Attorney's Office.  The subject: Issue and Change: SMC 4.18.015 Inquiries Into Immigration Status.  As it turns out I was correct to alert everyone to potential deportation.

This is how the Federal law works.  Even if an individual is now naturalized, meaning  now officially a US citizen,  he/she can still be deported for an offense occurring before naturalization, and yes, even for a simple misdemeanor.  Currently in the news is the pending deportation of President Obama's uncle after being cited for drunk driving.  If they are going after the brother of the president's father, what do you think will happen to the average taxi or limo or for-hire driver?  As I have more information I will pass it on.  Obviously then I advise two courses of action.  First and foremost, do everything you can to finalize your citizenship applications.  And while you are doing that, don't even think about breaking any laws.  I found out about all of this listening to a news report about someone brought to the USA from El Salvador as an infant.  Breaking local drug laws got him a one-way ticket back to that Central American country.  And making it worst, he couldn't speak Spanish.  Your children born in the USA are citizens.  That is not the problem. But the most important question is, are you?  The Federal agencies involved in immigration issues are not playing games.  They will lock you up and send you away.  If have any questions regarding your status, please immediately consult an immigration lawyer.  Protect yourself and your family!

Cabbie Reading Corner (the last edition?): One "Otiose" Too Many!

Unless you out there request otherwise, this will be last self-indulgent entry into my very personal book club.  Clearly I want to write about something else but I know that all of you are logging in to enjoy or not the thrills and spills and chills of a typical taxi weekend, not the musings of a disgruntled soul.  I do think that the our collective nation needs (even if it doesn't know it) a weekly literary column upon all subjects reading and writing.  At least one that doesn't emanate from Ivory (or  Ivy) Towers.  As NPR daily displays there are no shortage of educated talking heads more than willing to gravely expound upon their field of "amateurish" expertise.  "Book-learning" can just be that when it doesn't include real and actual, flesh and blood experience.  "Baptisms of Fire", that is if you survive, is always the best teacher, the religiosity of sweat and tears.

Since my last entry I have finished (finally) that book I started this summer about Obama's use of political power, "Confront and Conceal" by David Sanger.  I also finished those 349 pages of that poetry anthology published in 1904.  While trying to find out more about the editor, Mary E. Burt I came across the same book published free and on-line under the title "Poems (or poetry) That Every Child Should Know."  Especially for those readers unfamiliar with 18th and 19th British and American poetry you will find this to be a delightful volume. Very intriguing to me were her at least four or five references to John Burroughs, including one of his poems.  Burroughs in 1904 was an incredibly influential writer.  I have just begun his "Literary Values."

 Another book I  finished reading is by that author famous for that very good novel, "Hotel Du Lac", Anita Brookner, this time her book from 1998 "Falling Slowly" a tale of upper-middle class malaise.  I recommend this mostly for Brookner's effort toward deconstructing her character's thought processes.  It isn't something easily done, a task illustrated by Poe and Doetoyevsky or on  a more minor scale (in terms of psychic examination) by that great favorite of mine, Sinclair Lewis (though it is hard to beat "The Man Who Knew Coolidge" as the perfect character study).  I think women readers could really relate to Anita Brookner's books, sharing a similar aim with Virgina Wolff.   Another recent writer British writer I can recommend is Barbara Pym and her novel "Some Tame Gazelles."   If you want to read a similar American writer, go back in the literary time-machine a hundred years and read that pride of New England, Edith Wharton. You will be glad you took the journey.  And before I forget, my only real compliant with Brookner was her use of the word "otiose" three times, which for me was twice more than required. The best definition (especially relating to her usage) is located in the "Random House Dictionary of the English Language" variously meaning  "leisured; idle; indolent" or "ineffective or futile" or superfluous or useless."  One of my unwritten rules is never to use an unusual or uncommon word more than once, even if the book contains a thousand pages.  Once is definitely enough.  To me Brookners' repetition is a kind of self-plagiarism, if such a thing exists.  Though I do agree it is sometimes useful to send your reader to the dictionary, word usage should and must be purposeful.  The late Christoper Hitchens could have been rightfully accused of flaunting his voluminous vocabulary.  My few days acquaintance gave me the impression of a very smart but insecure man.  Nothing like an ocean voyage however short to provide quick and intense introductions to soul and psyche. 

Another American writer I am currently reading is William Saroyan.  His little essay "Why I Write" is a jewel.  One of his gifts  is that he didn't take himself too seriously, reminding of perhaps that greatest American writer of a generation, Willie Smith from Yazoo City, Mississippi.  That guy could write, having little time for bragging. 

Thus ending this literary detour, I bid you adieu with a poem generated from Brookner's novel.  Take it for what I intended, a serious effort toward a meaningful poem.  Told you I was being indulgent.

                                                        Brookner's Miriam

                     Similar to (Barbara) Pym,
                                                              (Anita) Brookner's characters
                     languish comfortably upon
                                                               post-Empire sofas
                     financially secure and educated   
                                                                      and fed

                     yet remaining discontent, Miriam
                                                                        (the star of "Falling Slowly")

                    daily translating novels from the French
                                                                                 into English but cannot transpose
                    herself beyond I truly have nothing
                                                                          to live for when of course ambitions
                    reached (plus flats in both London
                                                                         and Paris)

                    isn't enough making her completely modern British sharing an arrogance
                    with those dentally-burdened birds pushing prams past jars of Lemon

                    Curd and canned Yorkshire pudding in Preistley's Bradford, complaining
                    about the dole and their Pakistani neighbors and just why won't they return

                    home because who invited them? they and Mariam not noticing the blood-
                    stained footprints tracing back to Africa and Asia and the hurricane-swept

                    Caribbean asking Queen Victoria for a fair and just recompense.

J. B. Priestley, one of my favorite writers, is from Bradford, England. As you can see, I at times have more than taxi on my mind.  Not only am I tired of driving taxi, I am tired of writing and talking about it.  Oh poor me!