Tuesday, December 30, 2014

$185.50 For-Hire Renewal Fee: A Slap In The Face? & Alphonse Bertillon's Biometics

Operating from the understanding that I needed to renew my for-hire license a full month before expiration, I rushed down to the King County office Monday afternoon only to discover it was unnecessary, and regardless, I was late, 3:00 PM the cutoff for renewals.  A new fingerprinting policy requiring an annual fingerprinting of all ten digits explains the limited time frame.  Commenting that making everyone go through the demeaning process yearly was nonsensical I was told that fingerprints change as the body ages.  News to me and probably you too.  My understanding is that fingerprints have been used for determining identity due to their permanence, without question saying you are you but there was a time when an altogether different kind of system was in place, one commonly used by police forces in the late 19th Century.

A system of anthropomentry, or the physical measuring of the head and face created by the French police inspector, Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914), was the first system unitized to positively identify a previously arrested suspect.  Bertillon would carefully measure the nose and ears and the dimensions of the head in the belief they were infallible, determining who you are minus any and all changes, this before the practice of modern plastic surgery evolved allowing criminals to deceive the less than perceptive human eye.  Bertillon's theory eventually gave way to the certainty of fingerprints which brings me back to my original question of why do I and everyone else have to be subjected to something making no sense whatsoever.  Does anyone in City and County  government truly believe that someone would go to the expense and effort to have their finger tips surgically altered so they could drive a taxi?  When can we stop laughing?

Ignoring all bureaucratic rationalizations, the real reason, given my long experience in the business, is that the City of Seattle's administrators basically despise us, and this insult, along with an astronomical renewal fee of $185.50, telling me they will do everything within their legal power to harass an industry they would prefer to disappear, replacing us with Uber minions subservient to arrogant billionaires.  While the mayor's new ordinance requires all taxi, flat-rate and TNC drivers to hold for-hire driving licenses, I see it as a democratic ploy disguising the obvious, subsuming criticism, mimicking the old "Jim Crow" equal but separate policies of apartheid-era South Africa and the American southern states in the 1940s and 50s.  I guess we should we thankful we can all use the same restrooms. 

The storyline could not be simpler. The City of Seattle doesn't like the cabbies and that's the way it is and it will be staying that way for the conceivable future.  You see, we make them uncomfortable, and one very clear defining feature of the upper-middle class is comfort, a life philosophy replacing their parent's Christian religiosity, requiring an sanitary and easily explained sensibility quite opposite that messy and chaotic and anarchistic world called taxi driving..  An inspector visited the train station this weekend, telling drivers to wash their cabs.  And this after ignoring Uber's and the flat-rate industry's illegal operations over a three-year span, endangering the passenger public by allowing carriers with little to no insurance.  That was okay but for the bad cabbies, you must  wash those dirty cabs or else!  Yes the City of Seattle definitely has its priorities in order.  And we, the hardest working transportation sector in the Seattle, clearly aren't one of them.

She-Who-Can't-Be-Named Laughs!

Any regular reader of this blog is by now familiar with that very important woman in my life, "she-who-can't-be-named" who knows almost as much about crazy taxi as I do, having been a close observer since 1989.  Her response, "That's ridiculous!" was telling when I sent her the link to the Seattle Times' December 25th, 2014 Alexa Vaughn article, "Seattle Yellow Cab on the Comeback Path."  I emailed Alexa, thanking her for writing a reasonably accurate article but "she-who-can't be-named" is having no part of that.  She loves me and hates taxi.  I can't disagree with that.  I respect Alexa Vaughn much for her prose style, unusually literate and coherent for a local rag but I am still simmering that she made me pay for my own bagel!  Seattle Times must be on a tight budget or something like that, Alexa I am sure barely paid above minimum wage.  Maybe one of those too highly paid Seahawks will provide her a stipend.  That would be nice, taxi and reporter heroes making about one percent of what NFL players do, everyone ignoring our related touchdowns.  Yah, Yah team!

Very Local News: Tina Now at the Airport

Due to some internal restructuring, Jerry D. has returned to the Yellow Cab lot, while Tina takes over his position supervising all those incorrigible Sea-Tac drivers.  While perhaps a somewhat startling choice, Tina, who has been in the business longer than I have, should do fine whipping those rowdy fellows into taxi shape.  Her great sense of humor will greatly assist.  And there will be no fooling Tina, I can tell you that!

Jerry's new role will be to manage driver behavior, setting them on the taxi straight and narrow.  Good luck Jerry, because as the saying goes, he's gonna need it, us cabbies a feral bunch chewing on raw bones, or at least I think that is the general consensus of all those folks sitting up there in City Hall.  Maybe they will begin sending us a weekly ketchup ration, meaning we might finally get something of value in return for our hard earned (cash only!) S185.50, the City not taking a cabbie's check.  We would appreciate it!  And oh, some napkins too, please!

Editorial Note:

Monsieur Bertillon is somebody I have been aware of since 1964, having read about him in my World Book "Child Craft" series, perhaps the most influential set of books of my entire life, if not my childhood.  That early 60s edition is wonderful but unfortunately hard to find.  I still have my original set.  I was ten at the time and can still visualize the illustrations of measured heads and faces.  Anybody wish to measure my nose?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Washington State Patrol Call At Northeast 92nd & North-Bound I-5

One bane of long-time taxi driving is the tedium.  If variety is the spice, repetition is the bland and mundane, plying the same streets to well known destinations I could reach blindfolded or nearly so, pinning the tail upon the address donkey.  I hate, and will always despise that the money takes precedent over personal interactions but for me I can't deny that business, above all else, reigns paramount to all other possible considerations.  I  can't say that I don't like the majority of my passengers, because I do, sometimes treasuring the ephemeral intimacy that is the five to twenty minute cab ride.  Perhaps if I viewed taxi as a career, I would embrace it more passionately and comprehensively but having always seen it as at best temporary, I remain uncommitted to the experience.  It is only when the unusual occurs do I suddenly awaken and appreciate the  myriad opportunities taxi offers.  And picking up at the aftermath of a large, multi-vehicle accident is indeed very different and compelling, gaining my full attention, holding elements usually not present.  Pulling up to flashing lights and a wreckage strewn roadway contains a high drama and dynamic evoking tragedy and consequence and the most dire human circumstances, communicating above anything else the fragility of blood and our beating hearts, knowing that in a sharp terrifying moment life instantly, and forever, vanishing into the metaphysical mist. 

A general request had been put out over the tablet requesting a cab at the accident site.  Understanding it wasn't possible piercing a two-mile long stoppage, I drove north along the parallel "express lanes" until I arrived at the carnage, broken glass and twisted metal spread across the roadway.  A WSP officer approached telling me my five passengers would be with me soon.  Rain fell as other officers took measurements and photographs, recording the finer details. Clearly something major had happened but only later did I discover that an impromptu car race initiated what I had found, a WSP car chasing two racers having spun out of control, striking the medium barrier.  Another responding officer stopped to assist, only to have his car struck by a drunk driver whose own errant vehicle ricocheted into yet other drivers creating the mess everyone was now attempting to clean up and get past on the shortest and darkest day of the year.

After about ten minutes a Chinese family jammed into 478 and I drove them to a Lynnwood motel.  The young woman sitting in the front seat clearly was traumatized and now barely able to speak, having been behind the wheel of her family's now demolished car.  The two young men were giddy, somehow compensating for an obvious tension and sorrow. An older woman, maybe the mother, paid me with a warm thanks, with another daughter wishing me a Merry Christmas. 

I sat afterwards assessing my own emotions, I too somehow stunned by what I saw., life, and accompanying death, or in this case, near death fully communicating our transitory state.  Yes I might be bored but I remain intact and breathing, which is something to be thankful for.  Today I finally received "she-who-can't-be-named" tardy hand-created birthday card, reminding that at least one person still appreciates my continued presence.  Last Thursday was my 61st birthday.  Hopefully I will see my next.  The greatest present  I could receive would be to be permanently out of the cab and reading and writing to a larger audience.  My body and mind tells me it is past time to awaken to a book and hot pot of tea and talk and think about anything but taxi, that too reliable depression taking me down and away.  It will be a wonderful morning not stepping in a cab and wondering where  my next fare might be hiding.  I have done my time. There is nothing else to say about it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Breaking A Sacred Covenant

For those not familiar, the word or term "covenant" means an agreement, or more formally, a solemn compact between persons or parties.  It can even be taken to be contractual, an agreed upon course of action taking both respondents to a mutually acknowledged destination or end.  Covenants take various forms, be they signed and notarized or simply mutually understood.  A marriage vow is a good example, bonding two souls in holy matrimony.  Two important examples taken from Webster's Collegiate Dictionary's 1941 Fifth Edition, one validating Scottish Presbyterianism in 1643, called the "National Covenant" which opposed English or Royal episcopacy (King Henry VIII's argument with Pope Clement VII and the establishment of the Anglican Church);  and another, from 1919, the post-WWI "Covenant of the League of Nations," (President Woodward Wilson's grand scheme), richly illustrate how important the concept is taken and accepted.  And equally, when an agreed or assumed covenant is broken or maligned, all hell breaks loose, releasing untold dire consequences.  Bad things happen, and too often chaos and anarchy reigns, grinding foundational expectations into dust.

Clearly, in regards to the taxi industry, locally this has occurred, Seattle having seen the breaking and destroying of a fundamental covenant between the City of Seattle and its regulatory relationship with the major taxi associations and the thousands of single owners and lease-drivers dependent upon official and implied guidance. A further erosion of trust has simultaneously occurred on the association level between company and drivers. These betrayals shout out a gross injustice that will not and can not be quickly mended.  The fabric is torn, a cold wind chilling us to the bone, freezing wallets and expected incomes. Both covenants are intertwined,the municipal and the taxi association, each mirroring the other, but as recent events have shown, expected certitudes can vanish, leaving one reaching for something that isn't there.

Without going into history already mentioned in previous posts, the City of Seattle's administrative betrayal for the past four years left the taxi industry vulnerable to both the Uber wolves, and that creation of the Office of Consumer Affairs, the flat-rate for-hire industry.  Communicating that we in the taxi industry don't matter, the City of Seattle has put every conceivable obstacle in our path while saying this medicine is both what we deserve and should have expected given our historically, according to them, bad and irresponsible behavior. That the local taxi associations should have sued the City of Seattle, in my mind, is without question.  Mayor Murray's "negotiating committee" was bogus from the onset, requesting that we "slice our own throats."  Why would anyone participate in their own demise? 

Last week, looking at a history of the Jewish people of the 20th Century, I saw photographs of a Nazi mandated "Jewish Police Force" enforcing German ordered rules for the Polish "Warsaw Ghetto."  Maybe an extreme example but somehow appropriate given the outcome both then and now, unlimited Uber, Lyft and Sidecar drivers allowed to operate in our work place along with unfettered street access for the flat-rate for-hire industry.  This in no way can be called a victory, which explains why I wasn't invited to the mayor's table.  My response would have been an adamant "no way are we going along with this," thus rallying the taxi industry toward an opposite and positive outcome.  The book on Jewish history also showed Jewish Underground member holding machine guns while assisting the D-Day invasion.  That was a far better response given the existing conditions.

This brings me to what has been happening the past two months at PSD/BYG (Yellow Cab).  As previously described, the ongoing debut of George Anderson's dispatch remains troubled though signs of improvement continue to grow. Reports of a friend's unknown three hour-long system de-authorization, even though his computer confirmed was operational, is disturbing. The breach here has been the loss of what appears to be a large percentage of our customer base.  Saturday I was furious when, after six hours in the cab, I had grossed only $83.00 dollars.  And Sunday, what used to be a guaranteed pre-Seahawk rush to the game never materialized. 

What this means, especially for the lease-drivers, is that while operating costs remain high, expected income has dramatically decreased.  Our, the single owners and lease-drivers agreement or covenant with Yellow, is simple.  We pay for dispatch services and expect in exchange a reasonable monetary return.  Until recently, despite the City of Seattle's intentional sabotage, we having been doing okay.  But now, due to the new system's less than impressive performance, we are all suffering. 

I can say though what differentiates Yellow from the City of Seattle is their recognition that something is wrong and are attempting to remedy the situation.  What last Wednesday's TAG meeting made clear is that on the municipal level NOTHING will be changing.  They have screwed us and the screwing will continue unabated.  There is only one word suited to describe that wasted 1 1/2 hours: farcical.  Why the meeting could have been authored by Moliere  (1622-1673) himself if we had all instead been somehow transported back to 17th Century France.

"Que l'on parle bien quand on parle dans le desert."  quot Andre Gide (1869-1951).  The rough translation is thinking we are smart while talking in a parched and heated environment.  All I can say watch out for the sand in your eyes.  In 1997 "she-who-can't-be-named" and I encountered a sand storm in Death Valley.  Something to be avoided!



Friday, December 12, 2014

Deluding Myself

I really thought that Wednesday's TAG meeting would be flooded with angry cabbies. Well, I couldn't have been more incorrect. What this translates to is that I am more than tired "carrying the taxi torch" for an industry incapable of caring for itself.  Now I better than anyone understand the "taxi mind" but it comes to a point when I feel, in my current capacity as a lone cabbie shouting at the bureaucratic sky, it is time to take a different tact. I have thought often that I, and the local industry would be better served if I became an official taxi lobbyist, and that is what I am going to investigate becoming.  Washington State Senator Cyrus Habib is in the process of writing a bill that would completely redefine the definition of a TNC (meaning Uber) company, freeing Uber from L&I and other obligations.  In other words, the company with nearly 3 billion in cash on hand is seeking a free ride.  That is why an experienced taxi voice is required to fight something that will leave us at an operational disadvantage.  I can guarantee you that the majority of the elected and non-elected officials in the Washington State Capitol of Olympia know little to nothing concerning taxi realities. When I was working on the L&I issue, staff members were very appreciative of what I provided them, wishing they had spoken to me sooner.  I know I can be influential for an industry that is screaming out for some badly needed recognition.  The reason I quit the taxi commission because it was a waste of my time.  The same can be said of the TAG, making it highly doubtful I will be returning. 

Everyone might find it useful to read Ordinance # 124524.  Copies of the ordinance (law) are available on-line:

Enter Ord. No. "124524"

Copies of Rules issued to implement the Ordinance are available on-line:

Click on "Browse"

Update On Assaulted Cabbie Adam Gaal  

Jesse Alexander Fleming, the sailor alleged to have attacked Yellow taxi driver Adam Gaal, is scheduled to be arraigned on Malicious Harassment & 2nd Degree Assault charges on the morning of December 24th, at 8:30 AM in court room 1201, King County Courthouse, 516 3rd Avenue, Seattle, WA.  Fleming's bail was increased to $100,000

Check out the good article and interview by KUOW reporter Liz Jones on the KUOW website.  The article is entitled, "Muslim Group Wants FBI to Investigate Attack On Seattle Cabbie."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Taxi Cockroach? Sure, I Can Accept That!

Now many would find being compared to a lowly insect known best for crawling upon nocturnal kitchen floors an insult, but when "she-who-can't-be-named" called me a cockroach, she meant it as a compliment, recognizing that I, as a kind of local taxi version, a cabbie "periplaneta americana" (American cockroach species), can and will survive anything, including our industry's current difficulties. You ever notice how seemingly impossible it is to rid your abode of the little pests, no matter how hard you try, their "blattedoa" (order or insect classification) eon-generated external carapace resisting the thickest sole.  With over 4,600 thousand separate species, our friend Mister, Miss, Ms and Mrs. cockroach will probably be with us until the sun fizzles out in 2 1/2 billion years.  I can only hope that cabbies too have a similar shelf-life. 

This past weekend was better, with the dispatch system more or less functioning as intended.  Yesterday I met with one of the majority license holders, where I provided a quick but detailed analysis of what as I see as systemic failures at Yellow Cab.  Somehow he had the impression that the majority of drivers were happy with George Anderson's system. How anyone at this point could think that is a mystery. I did suggest that a return to a traditional queuing within the scope of the new system would be very popular and would more than likely silence dissension.

Repeatedly he told me he didn't have any hand in the decision making.  My only suggestion is that should change.  I know I would personally want to safeguard my investments.  We left our meeting agreeing he would ride with me some time Saturday morning and see for himself first hand how the system operates.  Being once a long-time veteran driver, I have hopes his involvement will achieve potentially positive results.    

Tomorrow I will be attending the already mentioned TAG meeting.  Hopefully progress will be made toward containing illegal pick ups.  Some good news appears to be coming out of the City of Seattle's Criminal Prosecutor's office.  More updates upon will be forthcoming as soon as I have more confirmation. 

Seattle Cabbie Attacked Early Sunday Morning

As noted many times, watch out for those full moon weekends!  Saturday's bar-break brought an unwarranted attack upon a local Somali driver whose crime it appears was a slow processing credit card transaction.  Upset over the proceedings, a young US navy man punched the driver, accusing the driver of being a terrorist, etc.  During the altercation, the cabbie's foot slipped off the brake pedal resulting in the taxi careening down a hill into parked cars, finally coming to rest in a stairwell.  After that the sailor and two male companions continued to physically punish the driver.  The sailor's bail has been set at $50,000 dollars, proving once again that alcohol and that devilish full moon are a dangerous combination.  During that same time period I took this nice woman back home to Rainier Valley while we shared cooking secrets concerning that noble fowl, the baked chicken.

The City of Portland, Oregon is Unhappy with Uber Tactics

After being warned that they were not welcome, Uber ignored municipal warnings and entered Portand, Oregon's transportation market minus official permission.  Unlike the City of Seattle's response, Portand has decided to protect its local taxi industry.  The following quote is taken from the December 8th, 2014 New York Times on-line edition "Bits" column written that day by Connor Dougherty.  The quote is telling:

"Taxi  cab companies follow rules on public safety," (Portand, Oregon) Mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement. "So do hotels and restaurants and construction companies and scores of other service providers.  Because everyone agrees: Good regulations make for a safer community.  Uber disagrees, so we are seeking a court injunction." 

It makes me wonder if it is indeed too late for the City of Seattle to follow the leads of Portland, and just recently, Las Vegas, Nevada's tough stance toward Uber.  If, and this is a big if, if we can only find out what Uber said to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, everything might quickly change.  I just can't be the only one who thinks that the City Council's abrupt turnabout concerning its own legislation is suspicious.  I having suspected all along that we don't know the entire story.  I can only hope that media outlets like the Seattle Times will some day soon begin asking long and hard questions of the mayor and folks like City Council member Sally Bagwell and Jean Godden. I believe they might be able to tell us what we need to know, the how and whys of a complete governmental capitulation. Isn't anyone curious? 

Friday, December 5, 2014

If You Can, Be There: Taxi Advisory Group (TAG) Meeting, Wednesday 12/10/14 At 12:30-2:00 PM

I am encouraging all local taxi sleepwalkers to wake up and attend Craig Leisy's next TAG meeting scheduled for next Wednesday, December 10th, 2014, beginning at 12:30 PM, and located at the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Ave, Room 4080.  Mister Leisy will be talking about the implementation of the new taxi, flat-rate for-hire and TNC ordinance signed into law by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.  We must demand that all "mincing of words and effort" halt immediately and let effective enforcement begin.  What has been utterly amazing these past four years is the City of Seattle's near complete avoidance of active enforcement pertaining to flat-rate for-hire cars, limo & town cars and the TNC (Uber, Lyft, Sidecar) industry.  While I personally get ticketed by the SPD for simply attempting to pick up at the local train station, town car and Uber drivers blatantly pick up on Capitol Hill and after Seahawk games minus any meaningful enforcement.  I suggested in an email to Mister Leisy that the City of Seattle is risking being held in contempt for ignoring its own rules and statues and laws, that is if anyone has the  monetary wherewithal to file a legal complaint.  In response I was told of some undercover enforcement but obviously charging a handful of violators does little to stem a tsunami.  New strategies are required and necessary. Please join me Wednesday and lobby for your industry before it is too late.  Uber now has a Wall Street evaluation of over $40 billion dollars, with nearly $3 billion dollars of operational capital on hand. Brothers and sisters, we are, simply and bluntly put, getting are butts kicked all around the town and globe.  It is time to stand up and defend your industry while we have one to defend.  If you don't think attending next Wednesday is important then I suggest you drive around on Sunday, December 14th, 2014 and see how many limos and town cars are lined up along 2nd Avenue South waiting to illegally pick up exiting Seahawk fans.  If the City of Seattle hears our united voices loud and strong on Wednesday perhaps those vultures will be scared away come December 14th.  All it takes is for the City of Seattle to call and say that their presence will not be tolerated. On Wednesday please tell Craig Leisy to make that telephone call.  Tell him it would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Discontent: End Of A Taxi Era?

Unfortunately my prediction concerning business volume, and the overall fate of the local taxi industry, might already be coming true as negative evidence builds, reinforcing the obvious.  This past weekend I made almost $150.00 less than what I view as my minimum weekend profit after lease and gasoline. This is not personally sustainable. Early Saturday morning I took a taxi buddy home who is not close to having his December rent, T__ just thankful that he has his back taxi lease paid up, meaning he has been in arrears for nearly two or three weeks.  Another friend, who I saw sitting at Amtrak Sunday afternoon, borrowed 20 bucks so he could pay his storage bill by 5:00 PM, thus avoiding what would otherwise be an eighty dollar late fee.  Both of these guys are veteran drivers and, business-wise, are getting their taxi butts kicked. Obviously this is not a good story, one being written by many drivers reaching for non-existent fares.  

The reason behind these sad chronicles are three-fold.  One, as usual, with summer now past, seasonally, passenger volume is down.  Two, decisions made by City and County regulators and administrators have adversely affected our work environment.  And three, for those of us working at Yellow, the continued dysfunctional dispatch system has been costly, with calls down and frustration mounting.  One, two, THREE rhymes with misery!

As I repeated at the city council hearings and previously many times upon these pages, Seattle and the surrounding metropolitan area cannot, and more than likely, for years to come, will not sustain the numbers of drivers of all types offering taxi-style ride services, the passenger customer base totally insufficient to simultaneously provide adequate business levels to two thousand-plus independent operators competing at any given hour.  Where, I ask Seattle's mayor and the nine current city council members, where were these legions of customers on a miserably dead post-Thanksgiving weekend?  Where are all these mythological customers mentioned in the Cooper/Mundy report coming from?  Need I remind that Seattle is not New York City?  And will it ever become an equivalent entity, filled with millions of inhabitants?  Harbor Island will never be mistaken for Manhattan.

The answer to my questions garners an easy response.  The customers simply do not exist.  Let me repeat.  The imagined, and I mean imaginary customers do not exist in Seattle, Washington on a daily and seasonal basis.  That is the truth.  And wishing it was otherwise, like in  some contemporary fairytale authored by a modern Han Christian Andersen won't alter the situation or reconfigure the tale.  Even though Seattle is a gateway to Alaska and Asia, it remains what it is, a small, regional center.  As is said, putting lipstick upon the lips of a farm animal doesn't change the porcine or bovine into a suitable partner.  A steer is a castrated bull and the gelding an unhappy horse. Any and all other definitions not applicable to the subject at hand.

This, as I have oft repeated, is what happens, mis-definitions and misdirection, when local experts like me and many others are not listened to or taken seriously.  Not only were our warning and misgivings unheeded, they were completely ignored, and why, why did this occur? 

Simply due to a lack of respect, an attitude personally emanating from the mayor and the city council members implying clearly that those of an inferior class cannot possibly understand what is happening around them. Unfortunately, it is no surprise to me that class and caste-based attitude is rampant at Seattle's City Hall, having long understood that the occupants view themselves as morally superior and educated and knowledgeable, their judgements unequivocal and final and beyond reproach.  And I wouldn't take any denials on their part seriously, actions speaking far louder than flowery words, their sentences wilting upon parched tongues, rulers forever invoking metaphysical approval and guidance.  Historically it is a popular stance, living Gods beyond questioning or rebuke. I suggest that the time for term limits have arrived.  Two terms for both the mayor and the city council.  That, and that alone might remove literally some of the current complacency, or more succinctly, the dead weight compressing the city management.

And yes, at times there is some business but not enough to make a positive impact upon all concerned. Sunday night, the airport and the train stations were busy with returning Thanksgiving celebrants but what about the previous 40 hours beginning at 12:01 AM Saturday morning?  You can bet Mayor Ed Murray and council members like Sally Bagwell, Sally Clark, Tom Rasmussen, Jean Godden and that ersatz champion of the abused masses, Kshama Sawant, will never for a second suffer through sitting in a cab not knowing where that next fare will come from.  How can you expect objectivity from someone receiving a guaranteed paycheck?  My rhetorical reply is you can't, or at least the percentages are extremely low.

I  have mentioned this before, and again the truth remains unchanged, the mayor and the nine city council members, save perhaps Mike O'Brien, do not understand one iota the consequences of their decisions upon thousands of taxi, flat-rate for-hire, and ride-share (TNC) drivers and their families. Adding the now serious mistakes currently plaguing PSD/BYG (Yellow Taxi), our reality (the drivers and owners) can be appropriately summed up in one word, DISASTER, and how this horrible situation concludes is anyone's guess.

On that topic, mismanagement on the taxi association level, Mister George Anderson, author of his now infamous dispatching system, made yet another appearance Monday to answer questions from a group of extremely angry multiple taxi license owners.  Yellow's extra board is now daily filled with un-leased cabs.  Cuts are being made at the garage and the superintendent's and cashier's and dispatch office.  One month later and still the studded snow tires haven't been mounted.  And the annual Yellow Thanksgiving Dinner was cancelled.  Shrilly the alarm bells are ringing, with no rescuers in sight while rebellion permeates the air because people are unable to pay for their most basic needs.  Does this mean we have to cancel Christmas too?

This, my taxi friends and brothers and sisters, is not funny.  I repeat, there is no humor to be found in this situation, no, none whatsoever. And the grim months of winter have yet to arrive.  God! I hate  to see what is going to happen.  It is not going to be a pretty taxi picture, and you can quote me upon that.  Heaven (and whoever resides there), help us!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Post -Vacation Taxi Notes---Reentering The Uncertainty Of A Conflicted Industry

It is becoming harder to come back, to immerse myself in a task less guaranteed than ever before, and that is definitely what taxi driving in Seattle has become, an hourly crap shoot mystifying and confounding the expectant taxi mind.  Taxi is unpleasant even when the going is easy, the money ripe fruit upon the passenger tree but upon adding unbridled competition and a sometimes barely functional computer dispatch system, you have prime ingredients for a never ending frustration and sorrow.

Thankfully I was, and remained in a good mood throughout the weekend, better able to take the punches and insults and prolonged uncertainty.  An angry and depressed cabbie is a defeated cabbie. Sustained resiliency is the key to sanity when working beneath the top light.  Without it, you are, at least I am, instantaneously nuts, and the crazier I become the worse the situation is, suddenly my taxi a spinning vortex, with everything out of control, cows and mail boxes and double lattes colliding in my very personal tornado. How can you make money like this?  The answer is simple. You don't.


New App Marketer

This month PSD/BYG hired a marketing specialist, Bob Cassirelli, to broadcast to the taxi public the expediency and efficiency of Yellow's new dispatching app.  Lost in all of the current shouting is that this app was the primary motivation for changing from the old to the new.  While it is completely understandable why folks are screaming to have the old DDS system reinstalled, it is also clear that the app must be given the opportunity to succeed.  If it works properly, potentially, and I repeat, potentially, all the turmoil these past six weeks will have been a bad dream.  Of course, the taxi jury remains out.  Over the next few weeks the verdict will be obvious.  Patience, as I have said before, is required.  And yes, patience fails when the bills come due.  I understand that.

Taxi Meeting This Past Saturday At Teamsters 117

Last Saturday at 3:00 PM owners and lease-drivers met with a union representative to discuss how to get Yellow back on the old DDS (or a newer DDS version) computer dispatch system.  The biggest complaint was the doing away of the queueing system that has been operational at taxi companies across the country the past 100 years or so.  The new system that Puget Sound Dispatch (Yellow Cab) is now using operates upon a "positional" basis, meaning that theoretically the closest cab get the fare. The problem drivers and owners have with it is a perceived lack of fairness because it seems you could be sitting somewhere patiently waiting for a fare, say an hour or more, and still not get the first available call, because, seconds before, a newly arrived taxi is three blocks closer, and they, not you are dispatched to the address.  And because business is down due to customer dissatisfaction, there have been less available fares.  As I have said, sitting for hours doing nothing drives out you totally out-of-your-mind. The anxiety is killing!

One obvious question that could be asked is why were the PSD/BYG owners and lease-drivers , meaning Yellow's customers, not asked whether they wanted or accepted this kind of major change in dispatching philosophy?  One continual confusion is not understanding who is Yellow's customer.  Still to this moment it appears that PSD/BYG thinks the taxi riders are their customers when in fact it is the owners and drivers who are their actual and real customers.  PSD/BYG is a leasing service.  The riders in the cab are the customers of the owners and lease-drivers.  Until that obvious business fundamental is recognized, conflicts between associations and operators will continue unabated.  Accepting the operational reality will go a long way toward eliminating any and all future argument.

Six Hours in the Cab and Not One Fare

At about 8:30 Saturday morning I came across an almost 17 year taxi veteran sitting on the Deca Hotel stand.  It was his first day back after a long hiatus of attending college and working elsewhere, Saturday is now intended to be his one and only taxi day.  Driving a airport taxi provides him with a huge advantage but there he was, in the cab since 1:45 AM and yet to have a fare. And this is someone who knows the business. Unfortunately he was mystified by the new system, and making it worse, the old MDT  in the taxi wasn't operational.  I gave him some quick tips but essentially I told him he needed to head to Sea-Tac and get in line.  A few minutes later he pulled off the stand.  Good choice!

"Good To Go" Not So Good

I was presented with a bill at Yellow for $33.60 for failing to pay the 520 Bridge tolls but the problem is, once I went down to the State of Washington "Good To Go" pass office, they told me that my pass was operational and my account was active and the tolls had been deducted.  I am still unraveling this saga but, as any cabbie will tell you, the troubles never end.  You do everything correctly and you are still bitten in the ass.  To call it frustrating is a gross understatement.

A Surprising E-Mail from the SPD

While soaking in wonderful Aguascalienties, I received an email from a Sergeant O'Neill who is in charge of the Traffic Division  for the Seattle Police Department.  In his very thoughtful letter, sent in response to my letter  addressed to Police Chief O'Toole, Sergeant O'Neill confirmed that SPD knows that Yellow is contracted to pick up at the Amtrak (King Street) station and that the stopping officer should not have ticketed me.  Further, O'Neill suggested I make a copy of the letter and present it at my legal proceeding, which I will do.  I later talked to him once I arrived back from Mexico.  He is a very reasonable individual. 

One outcome it seems is that, at least at Seahawk half-time this Sunday (the Seahawks defeating the Arizona Cardinals 19 to 3), there was no police presence at all.  What happened at the game's closure I can't tell you, my first fare, about 6 blocks away from the madness, taking me off to Mercer Island.  What is clear is that SPD responded in a positive manner to my letter, clarifying policy and enforcement.  At least at SPD there appears to be a new and more responsive operational attitude.  I can only hope that the Mayor's office and the City Council take notes.  Responsible resolution will be, and always has been, the best course.  Thank you, Sergeant O'Neill.

Incentive for Good Behavior

One of the messages coming over the dispatch tablet this weekend was the announcement of dispatch fee reductions for the best monthly performing taxi drivers.  There will be first, second and third place prizes.  What criteria this will be based upon I have no idea.  I could be cynical but that wouldn't be fair.  Maybe it will improve overall performance, wonders never ceasing to amaze!

New TAG (Taxi Advisory Group) Meeting Now Scheduled for Dec 10th

Craig Leisy's TAG meeting, originally scheduled for November, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, December 10th, 2014, running from 12:30 to 2:00 PM.  The location is the Seattle Municipal Tower, Room 4080.  Please note the room change.  The agenda that day is the "Implementation of Major Provisions in Ordinance 124524 during 2014-2015."   In an email response to my email sent today, Craig said undercover teams were operating post-Seahawk game.  It was incredible to see how blatant the town-car drivers were, lining up near the stadium clearly minus any fear they would be ticketed.  All I can say is "Bust "em, Dano!"

Something Good!

Early Sunday morning I was belled into the new Greyhound Station now located at 5th Avenue South & South Royal Brougham Way.  There I found a very agitated Gavin who had to get to Tacoma.  Loading all his stuff, including a table, off we went.  Later he told me about how he, "a 230 pound, 6" 2"" black man" has trouble getting cabs, complimenting me for "not batting an eye" and approaching him with respect.  I told him it comes with 26 years on the taxi road.  The positive for me, in addition to ending the night with a good fare, was being able to sleep in my own bed, providing my neighbors their first look at a parked Seattle Yellow taxi.  Gavin was great!

And Finally, A "Bad" Cab Driver

Coming back from Mexico, I intentionally scheduled a long layover in Los Angeles, California.  Arriving at 9:00 AM, my return flight to Seattle was scheduled for 5:00 PM, providing me a window of opportunity to visit the LA County Museum of Art and take in the traveling exhibit, "Marsden Hartley: The German Paintings, 1913-1915."  Taking the bus, I knew I had to rush despite having about 4-5 hours to do the round-trip.  The show was great, Hartley a long time favorite. 

Waiting for a return bus, I decided to take a cab to the corner of Hollywood and Argyle where, at 2:15 PM, an express bus would fly me to the airport.  The only problem was that this particular cabbie had never learned the "taxi imperative" that sometimes you have to move quickly to get your passenger to where he/she is going.  It didn't help that he asked me if he had to turn right onto Fairfax.  Though once married to a woman from LA, that was a long time ago and to expect me to know the streets was insane. 

With the driver seemingly in a trance, I demanded he let me out.  Unfortunately the fool intentionally locked me in, which of course was a huge mistake.  "Let me out of this cab!" I demanded, and tossing him a five, I luckily saw my bus, #370 rolling up, and zooming across a busy street, I jumped in and made it to my bus and then the airport.  What the idiot taxi driver didn't know was that I had planned to take him all the way to LAX if I had missed my connection. 

And this after all my great taxi rides in  Aguascalientes and Mexico City.  Twice in Mexico City I got the same woman cabbie taking me both times to the airport.  And what is so amazing about that is she is the first woman I've ever personally seen piloting a Mexico City taxi.  I over paid her each time, just happy to be to my flights on time.  There is good coffee at the Mexico City airport.  Try it sometime!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Last Night In Aguascalientes---Writing

This is not my usual kind of post, given my emphasis is elsewhere, namely writing for writing's sake minus diversions and digressions taking me to other subjects, normally that topic being taxi in all its tattered clothing.  Sincerely then this is when I suggest you take a break if taxi is your sole interest, because, after next weekend's taxi travails, I will be back to taxi tried and true.

But if you are interested in knowing the real me, the self that doesn't care a lick about taxi driving, then stick with me and read poems not only by me but also John Clare (1793-1864), George Meredith (1828-1909), and Christina Rossetti (1830-1894).  Time permitting I will also include the last stanza taken from Thomas Hardy's (1840-1928) "The Oxen" and a poem, though it was never intended as this, WH Auden's (1907-1973) "Petition" which I see as an appropriate prayer or wish for all my brethren cabbies.  Writing and associated endeavors is my breath while washing dishes, bus driving, psychology, driving taxi have all been dumb labor, something to pay the bills.  There was, for an extended time period, when I read and performed in varied setting, included having my writing accompanied by interpretive dance.  I was in my early and mid-20s and didn't understand the opportunities that were given.

One of my last featured poetry readings, in 2003, occurred in that northern California town recently devastated by fire, Weed.  While divorce and illness have provided major setbacks,  I have not forgotten who and what I truly am.  I am now shopping my new book in a way never attempted, finding salesmanship onerous and distasteful but whatever is necessary is what I will be doing.  The payoff is great, and the alternative unmentionable.  Like finding a difficult address, I am sick of the wrong turns.

Back in February of 2000, I spent a month in northern Wales at my favorite literary haunt, once Saint Deiniol's, now (William) Gladstone's Residential Library.  During that time a gentleman with a newly minted PHD in Thomas Hardy, James Whitehead, was selling copies of favorite poems at the dining room entry way for 20 pence.  He loved good writing, something he lived for, and was at that juncture searching for a University teaching position.

Included in that series during my stay were the before mentioned Rossetti, Meredith and Clare, plus a contemporary British writer whose name I don't remember but somewhere residing in a box is what was then a recent volume.  His picture displayed a rather plump, upper-middle class Englishman in a white leisure suit, looking like the local parson out for a personal call, thus his omission is solely due to a faulty memory.

Then, perhaps as a going away present, there were copies of my poem, "To & Fro" next to the dining room door.  The reception was favorable from a very literate and knowledgeable group.  One old priest was once personally acquainted with C. Day Lewis (1904-1972).  It is an understatement to say that everyone was well read.  And today I am providing a very rough reenactment of that fabulous month minus my being nearly run over by a herd of rampaging sheep.  I'll let the good sheep roam freely the castle grounds while I remain confined to the blank page.

John Clare was a English farmer having a brief moment of writing glory then subsequently tossed back by the British Royalty to the rural rubbish heap.  His most well known poems were, like this one, composed in an insane asylum.

                                                             I Am

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
  My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
   They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am, and with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noice,
    Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
    But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
And e'en the dearest---that I loved the best---
Are strange---nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for for scenes where man has never trod;
   A place where woman never smiled or wept;
There to abide with my Creator God,
     And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untoubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below---above the vaulted sky.

                           John Clare                              

What a statement of sorrow that is!  Perhaps, like Van Gogh's keepers in southern France, they considered artistic activity to be therapeutic.  I suppose in a manner of speaking it is though still not preventing Clare's hallucinations.

Next on the poetic agenda is George Meredith, a writer much favored by one of my writing mentors, JB Priestley (1894-1984).  Meredith is yet another important writer assigned to literary oblivion unless of course you are rubbing elbows in Oxford.

                                                          Kinship with the Stars

Cold as a mountain in its star-pitched tent,
Stood high Philosophy, less friend than foe:
Whom self-caged Passion, from its prison-bars,
Is always watching with a wondering hate.
Not till the fire is dying in the grate,
Look we for any kinship with the stars.

                                      George Meredith

Christina Rossetti, along with her brother Dante Rossetti (1828-1882) was a great romantic caught up in the cultural nets that was Victorian English.  You might know this oft quoted poem.

                                           When I Am Dead, My Dearest

When I am dead, my dearest,
   Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
   Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
     With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
    And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
    I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
    Sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
    That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
     And haply may forget.

                         Christina Rossetti

What a plaintive song, she another great individual whose life was cut short by illness and disease.  Try, try as we might, still we human souls are overwhelmed by sadness, or so it would seem.

And now a poem from Joseph (Joe) Blondo (1953 & counting).   Instead of "To & Fro" I present another metaphysical but one with a decidedly different tone.  Given I am on the road I left much of my library back in Tacoma.  I chose this poem because it is short.

                           God is

God is nice, thoroughly considerate,
allowing brief strolls in leafy gardens
alluring and confusing in both tendency
and practice, which of course is how it
should be when, undeserving of a single
breath, life opens swallowing you in one
momentous gesture of affection and
eternal good will.

                               J. Blondo

Hardy's poem "The Oxen" is my favorite Christmas poem even though I don't believe in Christmas nor Christ's modern attendant, Santa Claus. The word "barton" means farm yard.
The last stanza from "The Oxen":

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb,
  Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
    Hoping it might be so.

       Thomas Hardy

Ah yes, sugar plums and dreams of Christmas, where under a tree sat gleaming a miniature Yellow taxi!  No, Hardy did not write that and thank God for something.

I'll conclude with Auden.  Considered one of the best of an era I personally think at times he was too formal, his literary tongue dislodged by a silver spoon.  He was close friends with one of my very favorite poets, Louis MacNeice (1892-1963).  Check out his short poem "Bagpipe Music" and his long masterpiece, "Autumn Journal."  If you like poetry, you will be glad.


Sir, no man's enemy, forgiving all
But will his negative inversion be prodigal;
Send to us power and light, a sovereign touch
Curing the intolerable neural itch,
The exhaustion of weaning, the liar's quinsy,
And the distortions of ingown virginity.
Prohibit sharply the rehearsed response
And gradually correct the coward's stance;
Cover in time with beams each those in retreat
That, spotted, they turn though the reverse were great;
Publish healer that in city lives
Or county house at the end of drives;
Harrow the house of the dead; look shining at
New styles of architecture, a change of heart.

                                     Wysten Hugh Auden

As I said in the beginning, dedicated to all taxi drivers.  And if you gotten this far, congratulations, you now have a small introduction into my mind and psyche.  Scary? I hope not.



Saturday, November 15, 2014

Greetings From Aguascalientes, Mexico: 11 Taxi Rides And Counting

Hola, taxi amigos, I am writing to you on a rare Saturday night when I AM NOT in a damned taxi, at least not as a driver because, since my arrival in Aguascalienties I have taken ten  taxi rides, and I am far from done, with 8-10 more in my near future.  My first Mexican taxi ride this particular journey was an early morning (5:00 AM) ride from my now one and only favorite Mexico City hotel, El Panorama to the airport.  I finally got to ride in one of the legendary local Mexico City taxis which are now gold and red Nissans, the  Nissans having replaced the now infamous green and VW Bugs (model 1300) which were at one time everywhere.  As late as last year a few were still in operation but so far this visit nary a one has come into view.

Something also new is a large 12 by 12 inch blowup of the taxi driver's cabbie license pasted to a side window, this done I believe to relieve the fears of non-native passengers.  In other words, they have made a brave attempt to professionalize a taxi fleet that I am guessing is twice the size of New York City's. If you don't know the history, I will assign it to the bad, old past, when criminal behavior associated with some of the local cabbies did unfortunately exist.

Here in Aguasclienties the vast majority of taxis are solid red Nissans driven by some of the best cabbies I have encountered anywhere.  The major reason for their sterling professionalism?  An incredibly busy taxi business core, the drivers run ragged with more business than available cabs.  Believe me, whining stops when the money is flowing.  The place I'm staying at, Hotel Gomez ($100.00 for five nights), is adjacent to the "Terminal Central de Autobuses" and cabs are just flying in and out of there at all hours.  Why I  myself am ready to finally learn Spanish and buy myself a red Nissan. There are worse fates for a veteran cabbie!

The reason I chose to visit this city an hour by air from Mexico City is its famous water.  I have been told more than once to go "soak my head" so I am doing it one better and immersing my entire body.  Happily, my hot springs of choice, "Ojocaliente Banos Termales," is a quick 30 peso (roughly $3.00) taxi ride straight up to the mineral water baths.

This spa is wonderful, a tiled beauty of a place built during a far distant era when aesthetics met something.  The individual rooms are singular masterpieces.  Today's Room 21 was tiled with a sunflower motif.  And the tubs are big!  Room 21's tub is 8 feet long and about 4 feet wide.  I had it filled with three feet of water.  I don't know the cubic measurements but it is a hell of a lot of hot water.  Yesterday's room, #25's tub was 6X6 feet.  I've had three visits, with three more awaiting me.  Tuesday evening I fly back to Mexico City via a Mexican airlines, "Interjet Airways."

The cost for the tubs are about $9.00 (100 pesos) for 1 1/2 hours.  After that I am indeed a limp taxi noodle.  It is a terrific experience.  Check out their website at:
www.ojocaliente.com.mx, and dream your taxi aches and pains away.

And you will be glad you did.  And you will love Aguascalientes.  It is not, despite the well-known healing water, a usual tourist destination.  People here are friendly, treating me like some rare artifact.  The food is cheap and delicious.  What more can you ask for?  How about weather in the mid-70s F.

Adios!   Buenas Noches.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Taxi Pot Boiling Over

Yes it was a full moon weekend but still it's clear that the taxi tensions simmering beneath usual constraint have overheated, emotions and frustrations bubbling to the surface.  Last night, at the late train from Portland, I watched a Yellow cab fly by me and others to pick up a passengers.  That kind of breach in protocol never happens but it did yesterday.  Oddly it worked out for me because instead of getting the woman climbing into his taxi I instead got the literate young man going to his parents in deep Redmond, $65.00 dollars with tip and my best and last fare of the weekend.  We talked writing all of the way.  Great fun for me, I will tell you that.  I appreciate anyone who knows the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and Anne Sexton.  It is exceedingly rare.

Earlier, on the Madison Hotel stand, a Yellow taxi dropped off two drunk post-Seahawk fans who left some garbage in the cab, the driver angrily tossing it out onto the street which resulted in some passersby directing it back at him. The cabbie leaped out ready to fight but thankfully I was close enough to jump between the shouting parties which quickly ended the nonsense, subduing the inflamed beasts.  The offended cabbie was clearly ready for blood.  He, like so many others, have had enough of slow business and no response from the City or anyone else.  It is no surprise that we are all going nuts.

Saturday morning I waited over 2 1/2 hours for my first fare.  A good personal coming out at 7 AM is the only thing saving my sanity.  What is happening is unfortunately too clear.  The huge increase in competition and the six-plus weeks of Yellow dispatch dysfunction has come to roost at the taxi chicken coop.  I see the signs and, taxi brothers and sisters, they are scary.  It is going to be a long, cold winter business-wise.  It will not be humorous, and you can quote me on that.

Tonight at 7 PM I leave for Mexico for two weeks, meaning my next missive will originate from sunnier climes.  Adios, amigos!.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Post-midterm election reality greeted me this morning, telling how one established party won over the other well entrenched political  party.  Two years ago, I awakened at my friend Jake's apartment in San Francisco and listened to the results of Obama's victory and the Republicans many sorrows and regrets.  Now this election season the GOP are singing and its the Democrats turn to cry, a cycle of one party this year, the other party winning next year with little variation in between.   If this is democracy at its finest I can somewhat understand why only one third of the total eligible voters cast a ballot this year.  Does anything really change?  Yes and no is the answer, the usual one step forward and two steps back.  Having personally involved myself with local taxi issues, and after meeting many of the important political players, I can only despair at our future here in Seattle, having discovering so-called "liberalism" isn't any more expansive than stagnant conservatism.  If anything, "liberal" arrogance equals a  "New Royalist" attitude while Republican intransigence compares to a wounded dinosaur roaring at lifes' indignities somewhere in the misty prehistoric past.  How can this confounding combination of sadly comical characters achieve anything reasonable?   Not easily is the answer.

Saturday night a town car driver told the four kids that he would drive them to Pioneer Square for $15.00.  Jumping instead into my taxi the meter was rate was $5.00.  This type of theft is unfortunately commonplace.   Where is the the outrage and municipal intervention?   There isn't any, only empty rhetoric and legislation that is never followed.  Vote it is touted, let your voice be heard.  But the truth is currently your voice is lost somewhere in a cultural vacuum, a political "black hole" consuming the elective process.  I think back to a young woman my then wife and I met in "Iron Curtain" Hungary back in September of 1984.  Whispering to us in a  Budapest art museum, she recounted scary stories of governmental oppression, clearly afraid of being overheard and arrested.  What she longed for was freedom, simple freedom to talk and go where she wanted minus limitations.

We in this state, city, county and country are free to shout out our dissent.  Appear before the Seattle City council and speak your two minutes, telling everyone what and how you feel.   And what happens to your concerns?  They are ignored, the decisions already made.  Call the Seattle Mayor today and ask him to implement many of the rules he signed into law a few months back.  You will not hear laughter.  You will not hear explanation.  What you will hear is nothing whatsoever as you are left staring at your telephone.  Welcome to our current Democracy!


Monday, November 3, 2014

The Seahawks Win And Is Everyone Now Happy?

Yesterday afternoon the mighty Seahawks eked out a victory over the NFL's sorriest team, the once-feared Oakland Raiders, making for a contented post-game crowd, suddenly transforming me into an east side-bound shuttle, twice taking fans over to Kirkland, and later, a very drunk professional back to downtown Bellevue.  While fans celebrated, cabbies were just pleased finally encountering some easy business, the Yellow version of the local industry more than weary dealing with a still cantankerous and often unpredictable computer dispatch system.  If the man standing at the cashier window this morning was correct, the Sea-Tac cabbies associated with Teamsters Local 117 have not been paying their dispatch fees.  While that might keep them smiling, what about the rest of us who are still obediently forking out our hard earned cash?

Across from me this morning at the Honey Court Restaurant in Seattle's Chinatown/International district, a half-sick Yellow driver was quitting early, saying he had made only $100.00 for himself but he had had enough.  Commenting though he did have two airports runs, his discontent was palpable, no one these days having much fun.  Having mild influenza only magnifies an unsatisfactory situation, not remedied by swallowing an aspirin every four hours.

Just before I found Mister Bellevue standing at the corner of Roosevelt NE and NE 70th, I first accepted a fare offering over the tablet, only to have it suddenly disappear.  Instantly offered another call, that address too disappearing from the screen. It was maddening.  It is impossible to respond to this kind of problem, the system simultaneously malfunctioning while you the operator are doing everything, at least in theory, correctly. 

No, they weren't cancellations, instead, more unfortunate dysfunction manifesting itself before my disbelieving eyes.  Making it worse, the fare information also vanishing from the dispatch superintendent's screen, though eventually Jeffery rediscovered the recalcitrant calls, resending them out to the waiting taxis.  I bring up the matter of fare cancellations because that is what occurs when the customer cancels, the address and other information vanishing from the screen.  Only this Sunday was I made aware of why this was happening, and only after my puzzled inquiry.  As I have said, driver training with the new system would have been extremely helpful, eliminating much of the confusion. 

That these kinds of occurrences aren't helpful is beyond comment, a holy covenant broken between company and driver and passenger.  These mishaps can't keep happening but despite Mister Anderson's intervention, they have, making our reality even more tenuous than it already is.  No fun.  I repeat. No fun.  Geroge Anderson, where are you, now that we need you?

Yesterday, risking stern rebuke, a friend conducted his own taxi private experiment.  Theoretically it has been stated that the closest cab to the call WILL always be sent.  Sitting next to a Safeway, he himself requested a cab.  Upon receiving the call, he could easily have done a "no show" without anyone the wiser.  What happened instead was another more distant taxi being directed to the call.  So much for theory was my friend's response.  While potentially reckless, it begs to answer the question about just what is happening?   He and others are past patience.  They have money to make and bills to pay.  Personally, overall I had a good weekend, with the system working properly for me about 95 percent of the time, putting it on par with the previous system.  But sometimes what it does can only be called nonsensical. I am looking forward to this current misery quickly passing into oblivion. One can only hope.

Mid-morning yesterday I was offered a fare originating from Zone 330, meaning somewhere 20 or more miles directly to the north of where I was parked at  N 96th & Stone Avenue N.  Taking such an unknown call is little more than suicidal, meaning no one can reasonably accept such a distant and mysterious fare.  What could be lurking behind that taxi curtain?  The answer is, who cares, because unless there is some introductory information presented before its offered, only a cab sitting way up there in Everett could rationally check it out. 

Wisely ignoring it like the suspected land mine it was, just one scant minute later I am heading to an airport run sitting a mere 3/4 of a mile away.  Now that made sense, along with the $10.00 tip I got on top of the $58.00 fare.  Thank you, taxi gods, for your divine mercy and understanding.  I am forever your fervent servant, money the quickest route to a cabbie's  irreligious heart, suddenly pious and devout, thankful utterances slipping from tongue and lips!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Taxi Cartoonville But Why Am I Not Laughing?

Down south in Arcata, California "she-who-can't-be-named" assists Dave who assigns all blame upon "the goons," they somehow responsible when he loses his wallet or having his car stolen after leaving it unlocked and the keys left unattended in the ignition.  The goons, the goons, it is always the goon's fault, and maybe it is but perhaps not, given how easy it is blaming metaphysical or other mysterious influences instead of taking personal responsibility for ones' own incompetence. 

Now I have never heard anyone in the local taxi industry mentioning "goons" but rare is the time anyone has said, "I take full responsibility!" for anything.  Contrarily moderate to mild bedlam reigns, with few attempting to transform chaos to operational tranquility. Why I can't tell you but I am beginning to suspect neurological or cognitive damage stemming from unrelenting stress and disorder.  While the 18th century colloquial term "mad-as-a-hatter" stems from using mercury when producing "felt" for hats derived from beaver and rabbit pelts, everyone knows that taxi drivers are insane, hence the usage, just another "crazy cabbie" which, as we in the business know too well, is sadly too often true. 

Some recent events unfortunately back this contention, all of us toxic from the many years breathing in gasoline, diesel and other related fumes and toxins.  On too many occasions passengers exclaim "that you don't look a day over forty!", prompting my joking response that what they are seeing is a kind "Botox" effect isolated to the taxi.  Now for some recent behavioral examples of taxi behavior better left to the comic pages.  Maybe one day they will come illustrated and the entire nation can join in on the screaming and shouting.

-----Monday, while on the way to the main Yellow taxi lot, the head of PSD/BYGs Sea-Tac operations had his van sideswiped by none other than a Sea-Tac Yellow taxi.  "Unbelievable!" was the response from a long-time taxi superintendent. 

-----As part of a new feature of PSD's new computer system, info announcing a fare's availability has been sent to the entire fleet, hoping someone would get close to the call.  What did happen was a small army of taxis converging upon, let's say, the 700 block of Broadway East, honking their horns and in general causing a ruckus.  There has now been a policy change in response.

-----Many readers know that Seattle and King County cabbies are independent contractors, or in other words, independent business owners.  This known fact makes it all the puzzling, when, beginning next week, PSD says it is planning, similar to Uber, to electronically rate driver performance and punish driver's with "system time-outs" if an offered call is rejected. 

The one major problem with this approach is that the driver and owner is "paying" for the dispatch services, which translated means they are being asked to finance their own punishment.  How is this in any manner conceivable?   I don't think it is something that can be done.  While understanding PSD/BYG frustration with certain behaviors, one would think their response should be within the limits of known legal parameters and beyond challenge.  This appears to be an approach that will be questioned.

While some of this might or could generate a chuckle, isn't the joke truly on us in the taxi industry?  We should be the last ones laughing because if you think any of this is funny then it is truly time to schedule your neurological/psychological testing.  I think it could be necessary.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sick Is Not How To Start A Taxi Weekend

Friday afternoon after eating a fairly benign lunch of rice and vegetables I suddenly fell ill to the point that the tips of my fingers were growing numb, with my body quickly succumbing to aches and chills.  What it  truly was I will never know.  Instant flu?  Food poisoning?  Regardless of the origin, it was clear that it would impact my upcoming working weekend.  Sleeping early probably helped but I still awakened at 1:10 AM with a throbbing head.  Dependent upon these weekends for my economic "bread and butter" meant, short of death, I was heading to the cab lot to again embrace yet another two wonderfully grueling days.  The sour cherry on top was being greeted by the news that I had  to pay $124.00 for running a camera-monitored intersection. 

Totally bewildered, I asked Bill the night superintendent, "When did this happen?" as I am very attentive to these "red light" cameras.  Nearly three weeks had passed and no one had told me about it, and making it worse, paying the damn thing meaning all options were taken from my control.  Lucky I didn't faint dead away but of course I survived, having a great Saturday and an insanely horrible Sunday, finally waking up today at noon miraculously cured.  Nothing like a fun taxi weekend to beat the hell out of whatever ails you.  And no, I don't think it is cheaper than going to a doctor, unless they charge $400.00 dollars plus just for sticking out your tongue.  Three separate 1/2 hour naps on Saturday certainly aided my recovery.  Did I have any choice?

One Blessing I Can Accept

Last night picked up a HopeLink connected passenger who had been waiting over 1 1/2 hours in the rain and cold.  Part of the wait had resulted from a driver having "dumped" the call.  Madder than anything because the gentleman, coming from a late night doctor's appointment, had been unnecessarily and cruelly inconvenienced, I made a couple calls making sure that the cabbie in question would be appropriately addressed.

Though granted my Vietnam War-era CO status upon religious and moral grounds, I instinctively cringe when causally given a god or "God's" benediction but this time the passenger's "God bless you!,"given in appreciation for my intervention, was pleasing.  "Thank you!" I replied and I meant it. 

Something Good from the Bad 

Unhappy that I had come down to the lot this afternoon to pay money owed only to find that Barbara in the financial office had already fled the royal confines,  I was fortunate to discover, while talking to Tom, the new dispatch manager, that George Anderson, our new computer system's guru, was there, and  there was time to talk.  Amazingly, I got five precious minutes to impress home the urgency of our situation.  He listened intently then got back to his reprogramming, understanding that the dysfunction must be quickly remedied.  My initial assessment is that he is far from ordinary, not something I usually say, far too accustomed to the usual and mundane.  There is hope  then for swift and effective resolution.  The faster the better is clearly the best answer.

Earlier in the morning drivers and owners met with the PSD GM and members of the PSD board.  Displeasure was expressed in addition to the real threat of not paying lease fees.  It appears a meeting with Mister Anderson will be arranged.  When providing him with my blog/business card I said I have been "holding my tongue" and believe me, I have, only interested in constructive negotiations.  Anybody can shout but  more importantly, can you achieve your just and honorable aims?  That is the question of the moment and the taxi hour.  One month of this is enough.  There is nothing left to comment about.  The system has to work properly 24 hours a day minus flaws and errors.  There is no other answer.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Young Man Adrift Upon A Rainy Seattle Night

Something I now refuse to do is serve, in any manner speaking, as silent accomplice to a hospital discharging a homeless patient onto Seattle's streets, suddenly subject to wind and rain and uncertain fate.  This morning at about 2:30 AM Ballard Swedish, via a HopeLink charge, put me on the taxi errand of taking an ill young man, minus warm clothing and hat, to a homeless shelter theoretically located in downtown Seattle.  Once on our way it became apparent that one, I had an incorrect address, and two, my passenger was given no information on how to contact or connect with the shelter. 

What had occurred was simple enough.  The Swedish on-staff social worker had flushed the guy out the door before making standard arrangements for this kind of precarious "middle-of-the-night" transfer from one agency to the next.  The young man, new to all of this, was clueless.  The early morning was stormy, not fit for man nor beast and especially not for someone penniless, bewildered and forlorn. 

Once downtown, I understood the shelter we were seeking was not the King County Administration Building at 500 Fourth Avenue but the City Hall located one block over at 600 Fourth Avenue.  Having no telephone number I advised dispatch of the situation.  Saying I would try to find a place for the kid I tried both the Union Gospel Mission and DESC but no luck due to the rain, all usual and available beds taken. DESC did provide a reference list which at least allowing me to call the shelter in question, of course receiving no reply.  After giving 45 minutes to this sorry misadventure I called dispatch again and got a return HopeLink authorization to return to the hospital.  Escorting him back into the ER lobby I quickly told the story, telling them I did what I could, saluted and flew out of there thus avoiding any and all bureaucratic gibberish. 

Having seen this scenario before, as I said, I will never participate again in these kinds of shenanigans.  Evidently immortally is easy for some.  Thank goodness I don't share the same errant predilection and convenient memory loss.  Did they really think they could buy my acquiescence for $21.00?  Shows what they think about cab drivers generally is all I can say.  Money rules the world?  For many clearly the answer is affirmative, even if it means tossing someone out onto the streets, a dollar saved the sweeter the financial bottom line.

The Real and Accurate Concern

While too many at Yellow are concerned about their own buttock, the real issue with the new computer dispatch system is mechanical failure and how it is affecting the system's ability to process incoming calls and dispatching them quickly and effectively to waiting cabs.  While the majority complain and wail about system nuances, the real question is just when will the system operate as designed.  Most cabbies I know are dinosaurs moaning in the bog, not understanding extinction dawns unless drastic action is taken. 

Beyond question PSD/BYG (Yellow) as per usual did not do what was necessary to properly and effectively launch the new system.  There can be no argument on that point.  The real question is how all of us involved collectively will respond.  Hopefully Mr. Anderson's arrival next Monday will save the taxi day.  Beyond anything it is clear system dysfunction can't continue much longer, soon taking away all incentive to call Yellow.  Let the new efficient era begin, and then hold your ears while the dinosaurs cheer!   What kind of prehistoric animal are you?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dedicated To Don "Sterno" of Gold Bar, Washington: A Message From The Poet Robert Service

Last week while taking Route 2 to Eastern Washington, I picked up a hitchhiker in Sultan who was on his way home in Gold Bar.  One thing led to the other with Don, nickname "Sterno" telling me about his three days being held captive in 1969 during the Vietnam War.  Given that my friend Kaus was a prisoner in Laos for nearly seven months roughly during the same time period I was very interested.  That my last book was a Vietnam War related biography provided Don with a ready and knowledgeable audience.  I had already noticed his "POW in 1969" tattoo on his wrist.  Briefly this is his story.

While out on patrol on an illegal incursion across the near Laos border, they were ambushed, with many of his platoon members either killed or wounded, or as in his situation, captured, instantly staring up at a bayonet wielding soldier.  Taken to a camp near the Mekong River, Don found himself in a partially submersed bamboo cage with two other Americans, a helicopter pilot and jet bomber pilot unfortunate to have had their aircraft blown out of the sky.  On the third night, Don decided to escape, understanding that the cage was bound by thin twine.  With each of them taking turns, they lowered their heads and literally began chewing away on the twine.  After a while they were successful, with all three escaping their prison.  The plan was to grab hold of one of the giant lilly pads floating in the river, break it off at its base and drift back across the river border and into South Vietnam.  Don and the jet pilot made it to the same part of the river, not knowing what happened to the other prisoner.  Don began his watery journey only to lose contact with his comrade.  He never saw either man again.  After a few hours his troubles ended when he came upon a camp with bright shining lights beaming into the Mekong.  Hearing American voices he was then rescued, shouting out in the dark who he was.

Just this month Time/Life issued a new magazine/book examining the Vietnam War.  I bought it last Wednesday in a Coulee Dam-area Safeway when shopping for organic orange juice.  It is well worth the 12 dollars, especially for those new to the subject, serving as a good introductory primer.  While some know, most don't that I am a Vietnam-era 1-0, official Conscientious Objector from my draft board located in Brighton, Colorado November, 1972.  I came to Seattle to do what is called "alternative service" but President  Nixon ended the draft in February 1973, meaning I just missed being included in the final call-up of the war.  I say this as explanation to my continued and abiding interest in that most horrible of subjects, war.

Another reading recommendation I have is a new book just recently published concerning WWI, "The Burning of the World, A Memoir of 1914" by Bela Zombory-Moldovan, an Hungarian painter who died in 1967.  The book is a translation by his grandson, Peter Zombory-Moldovan.  It is a valuable read.

I end this digression from "all subjects taxi" with a poem taken from Canadian poet Robert Service's book, "Rhymes Of A Red Cross Man" which he dedicated to the memory of his brother, Lieutenant Albert Service who was "Killed in Action, France, August, 1916."   I really like this poem, an excellent example of its kind.  For further reading, check out the paperback edition of the "Penguin Book of WWI Poetry."  I bought my copy while on a weekend vacation in Calistoga, California in 1980.  That book was, and remains a major influence.  Check out the poems of Wilfred Owen.  You will never be the same, I assure you.

                                                              The Call

                                                 (France, August first, 1914)

                                            Far and near, high and clear,
                                            Hark to the call of War!
                                      Over the gorse and the golden dells,
                                      Ringing and swinging of clamorous bells,
                                      Praying and saying of wild farewells:
                                             War! War! War!

                                            High and low, all must go:
                                            Hark to the shout of War!
                                     Leave to the woman the harvest yield;
                                     Grid ye, men, for the sinister field:
                                     A sabre instead of a scythe to wield:
                                             War! Red War!

                                           Rich and poor, lord and boor,
                                           Hark to the blast of War!
                                     Tinker and tailor and millionaire,
                                     Actor in triumph and priest in prayer,
                                     Comrades now in the hell out there,
                                             Sweep to the fire of War!

                                          Prince and page, sot and sage,
                                          Hark to the roar of War!
                                     Poet, professor and circus clown,
                                     Chimney-sweeper and fop o' of the town,
                                     Into the pot and be melted down:
                                             Into the pot of War!

                                         Women all, hear the call,
                                         The pitiless call of War!
                                   Look your last on your dearest ones,
                                   Brothers and husbands, fathers, sons:
                                   Swift they go to the ravenous guns,
                                          The gluttonous guns of War.
                                        Everywhere thrill the air
                                        The maniac bells of War.
                                  There will be little sleeping to-night;
                                  There will be wailing and weeping to-night;
                                  Death's red sickle is reaping to-night:
                                          War! War! War!

                                 Robert Service

There you have, War! in all its glory!  May it end, but when, but when, but when!

Post Script added October 23rd, 2014

Another book recommendation:

"The Long Shadow, The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century" by David Reynolds,
published 2014 by Norton.

Well researched and the photo pages are incredible, looking at those alone, separate from the text, will provide you with important and long lasting insight.  As is obvious, wars' impact lasts far into the future, peace treaties little better than a band aide covering a festering wound.  There are no heroes, only the dead and maimed.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Who Is George Anderson And Why Is He Coming To Seattle October 27th, 2014?

Last night I had an alarming conversation with a taxi buddy, my colleague distressed and panicked, expressing the opinion that PSD/BYG (Seattle Yellow Taxi) is set to implode and vanish from the known taxi earth.  Rumors of bankruptcy and other dire predictions left his lips.  I tired to reassure him that what we were experiencing was a temporary "rough patch" and the result of poor planning, something that was being addressed as quickly as possible.  I know he remained unconvinced, and who can blame him, one bad financial week leaving him battered and bruised. "How can I pay my rent?" he lamented, which of course is a good question that hopefully will be answered by an uptick in business the next few weeks.

It has been occasionally scary, Yellow's new dispatch system's initial problems troubling and puzzling, confusing to the point that sometimes me and others had no idea (or concept) of was going on one way or the other.  Though clarity has arrived, and PSDs new dispatch manager, Tom Holler, is working non-stop to resolve all the issues, that still doesn't repair the emotional damage done to our collective confidence and psyche.  In taxi terms, the remediate balm is money, cold hard cash in our pockets, money being the first and everything in this grim business, making money again taking care of all worries and complaints.  A suggested strike on the weekend of October 25th would only make a bad scenario worse, further irritating an already agitated customer base.  Why make more troubles for ourselves, especially when we the drivers and owners are not responsible for the crisis, trusting that the correct decisions were being made. You can be assured that local media would have "fun" reporting our work outage.

Tom and I had a good talk yesterday, going over various points and problems and issues I have witnessed over the past weeks.  It was pleasing to know he was well aware for the most part of what has occurred.  As all of us drivers and owners know all too well, that couldn't always be said of his predecessor.  He is planning on coming out with me soon and watching how the system operates in real time.  It is good to know he is interested in actual practice, not solely in textbook theory.

Tom did go to San Francisco and observed the same system we have in our cabs working efficiently. And how many times need it be repeated?  The failure we have witnessed has everything to do with how it was debuted.  I feel we must go forward toward solution, especially given there is no alternative because, love it or hate it, the new system is here to stay.  Patience is called for. 

Once the "bugs" are worked out, the drivers and owners who know how to make money will continue to do well.  Others, including some friends of mine with ten-plus years experience or more, will continue to stumble regardless of conditions.  Back in 2001 I regrettably got my friend Steve into the business.  Business was good but poor Steve remained a "fifty-dollar a day take home" cabbie despite everything I did to improve his skills.  Coaching session after coaching session held no effect, Steve, for whatever reason, remained a lousy taxi driver, at least in terms of making money. He was a nice guy but bad cabbie. 

And George Anderson, of Wireless Edge and GJ Anderson Group Inc will be in Seattle Monday October 27th, 2014 to do more "hands-on" fine tuning. George Anderson, if you didn't already know, is the creator of the system in your taxi.  He is already involved from his San Francisco location.  Again, be assured, PSD/BYG is going forward toward resolution.  To be frank, they have no choice. Normally must return soon.  That is clear.