Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Local Taxi Universe & The Mayor Makes An Announcement

While more than ready to leave taxi driving behind, I readily recognize that my two weekend taxi days is a whirling compact world unique in its connection to humanity at large.  In my experience there is nothing matching taxi's quick and condensed intimacy.  Though physically fatigued after the too many hours, a part of me always retains something of great value taken from talking and laughing and getting irritated with over a hundred fellow souls sharing the mystery that is our existence.  Today I am sharing a few snapshots from the human river streaming through my taxi this past weekend, locals and tourists and travelers entering my life, forming indelible and unforgettable memories upon my sometimes agitated brain.

----First fare of the weekend, picking up two guys at the northern end of Boeing Field working an early Saturday morning that just won't end for them.   A closed runway meant the jet they were servicing landed instead at Sea-Tac.  Taking them to a part of the airport I was unfamiliar with, Starling Road, I dropped them off at the Weyerhauser hanger.  The fare was $33.00 and since they were "on the job" I ran their card for the straight fare, costing me $5.00 dollars because Larry had intended to tip me, my sensibility a slight and unnecessary over reaction.  I hate pickpocketing myself!

----Next fare originated from the only remaining Denny's within Seattle, this really nice guy from Brooklyn, NY going to Columbia City.  We had a real "meeting" of the minds, talking about Seattle as it "really is," comparing our experiences as people who have met blatant prejudice.  Terrific ride!

----This made the second time I took the machinist to his early morning job at a South Park machine shop.  Originally from West Africa, the gentleman this time around was far more relaxed, now being on the job for a couple of months now, taking off the economic pressure he was under.  Saturday means double over time translating to now affording his once a week necessary taxi ride.  Given new weekend bus scheduling he was left with no alternative if he was going to be there at 7 AM.  For five years he had his own machine shop aboard an Alaska-based fish processing ship.  New owners and lower pay made him seek other opportunities.

----Picking her up at the VA hospital, she was flying back to Spokane while her husband endured a five hour ambulance ride back home.  Having part of his leg amputated meant he could not board an airplane.  She would beat him back and be waiting for his arrival.  She only had praises for the care he received from the VA system.

----I love Lynn!  Am I the only Seattle taxi driver who knows that she takes a cab each Saturday morning  from the NE 145 th & 15th NE QFC to her Seward Park home, a fat $50.00 dollar grocery run?  Arriving at her door, she was greeted as usual by her "wolf" dog who doesn't look like any "canis lupus" I have seen, the pooch shaking her favorite toy, a large stuffed animal.

----Afraid she will be late for her softball tournament, she goes from 39th South & South Kenny to a play field in Burien not far from the Highline Hospital.  I change my suggested routing, finally deciding 1-5 south-bound to west-bound State Route 518 was best.  Turning the meter off when we reached South 148th, we continued on to South 156th and 4th Avenue South,  the young woman paying me the full meter rate anyway, which was about $35.00.  No complaints about that!

----More than one driver has complained to me about the short fares coming out of Horizon House, folks usually going to either the symphony or the opera. Not this time as the couple went north all the way to Edmonds and the Nile golf course and country club.  The gentleman called me back later to pick him up but at that juncture I was about 20 miles south.  Hope he didn't have a long wait.

----Picking the mother and daughter up at Children's Hospital they complained that they had missed their flight home to Alaska because a rival cab company failed to pick them up despite being called three hours in advance.  Children's paid for their way back to the Nexus Hotel where they would try again on Sunday.  It appears ________'s drivers don't like this particular account, Alaska Medicaid paying for the taxi to Sea-Tac.  I told Yellow we should grab the account.  I for one would jump right on it, not caring how I get paid as long as I do.  So what if I'm nicked three percent for the charge.  I don't care!

----"They didn't do anything for me!" he complained when I picked him up at Harborview.  "You would think they would have someone there who could pull out a tooth!" the man furious that all they offered him was five pain pills.  He worried over how he would find a dentist on Sunday to pull out his swollen tooth.

----Bar break and the two guys take me to Kirkland, one very talkative while the other drunkenly comatose.  Between checking on his friend we talk about the worst employer I have ever had, Fairfax Psychiatric Hospital, that "not-so-fine" medical facility just down from where I am dropping them off.  A sixteen year-old neighbor has spent time there.  He has heard the horror stories.  Thankful for the last good fare of the night and pleased no one vomited I pull over to the side for a quick nap.  Two hours later I awaken, a slightly longer than expected catnap.

----First ride of the new day, now showered and more or less ready to go I pick up Roger at North 120th & Greenwood Avenue North at 10 AM, Roger having overslept his alarm.  Time he is supposed to be at  his cooking job across from SafeCo Field?  10:00 O'clock!  We make it at 10:15 AM.  Two weeks to go and he will have graduated from culinary school.  He is an optimistic soul!

----A few minutes after Roger I pick up a Sacramento, California dentist and wife heading to the airport.  The entire way he leans forward between the seats peppering me with questions and comments, the dentist a late Sunday morning comedian.  I tell him I like the Yuba River.  They have a place on the American River.  Between Roger and the California-bound couple I have a $84.00 hour.  Not bad when you are still trying to wake up!

----The family from Kentucky had been on the train from Louisville for two and one-half days.  First time in Seattle and the Pacific NW.  I rattled off a few suggestions for the first time visitor.  Staying for the entire week, Lou said he might call me next Saturday morning to take them to Sea-Tac.  I told them I will out there, willing, able and ready.  I wouldn't mind hearing about their adventures.

----Later in the afternoon I notice a fare in Zone 120 sitting on the BID screen.  I bid for the fare and suddenly I am flying north from DT picking up a Washington State Patrol call, an accident scene at about south-bound 1-5 & NE 70th Street.  Proceeding north to Northgate I swing around again to 1-5, pulling over to a short line of wrecked cars.  Swiftly I load the young woman's bag and off to Sea-Tac we go, the PHD candidate in Anthropology headed back to London and Oxford.  She hopes to get into some "literature" this summer and visit Hadrian's Wall.  Her mother was right about leaving early, no one expecting to be hit from behind.  I told her there was nothing more important than anthropology, understanding what makes societies and cultures tick!

----Another run from the train station, this time an older couple from Florida going to an University District bed & breakfast located on 22nd Avenue NE.  A tricky location on a dark and rainy night.  I was glad they didn't get a Sunday night-shift rookie.  It could have turned into a very painful and prolonged ride, the last thing these folks required.  Saying I would take their luggage up the steep staircase, by the time I finished the credit card transaction the husband had sprinted up and down with all of their bags.  Very nice people.  They were just great!

----I always hate gas station calls because more often than not they are gone by the time I arrive. This one, an adjacent Zone 498 call belled from the 505 gave me the AM/PM Arco station at South 154th Street and Pacific Highway South.  Turning around and racing back south first on Highway 509, then east onto Hwy 518 I finally arrive to find three young Ethiopian guys wanting to go to the Blue Nile Bar at about 12th Avenue & East Jefferson Street.  Making all of them sit in the back seat, I softened my stance by letting one of them smoke a cigarette, "Just sit by an open window is all I ask."  They were very animated and asked lots of questions.  They knew Abebe, my colleague at Yellow.  Getting close to the James Street exit, I turned off the meter and told them "thirty was okay!"  Exiting at the Blue Nile they gave me $40.00 dollars despite my protests.  I liked them a lot.  They were a pleasure to have in the cab.

----Much later, having had a good day, and now stuffed to the taxi gills with Chinese food, I head north to gas up 478 and hunt for one or two last fares.  Picking up J_______ at a north end hospital, a slightly crazed and developmentally impacted young man who couldn't stop laughing, I tell him I was glad he was in such a good mood. 

After him I get one final passenger going from the Holman Road QFC to North 135th & Linden Avenue North.  Trying to provide me with instructions he had never heard of 3rd Ave Northwest.  Like my previous customer all I could to was laugh, crazy taxi finally overwhelming me.  I was ready to STOP!

There you have it, 18 quick examples of another whirlwind weekend, mental photographs from a grueling two days.  Today I slept 12 hours.  You might say I sort of needed it, a warm bed a cabbie's best friend!

The Seattle Mayor & Uber: What Is Going On?

Yesterday Mayor Ed Murray held a press conference flanked by the negotiation participants.  When I know the full details I will tell you but one major point made by his own press release grabbed my attention.  Even after 12 days of negotiations over a span of 55 days they still haven't agreed to what kind of insurance requirements the ride-shares (TNCs) will be required and meeting.  What that unfortunately means is that the TNC insurance situation remains the same, leaving their customers at risk in case of an accident.  Why the mayor's office didn't immediately mandate a clear insurance requirement and guarantee mysteries me, the City of Seattle not appearing to understand they are continuing to endanger anyone unwise enough to utilize Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. 

Something else catching my attention was Murray's quote, "We have deregulated a highly regulated monopoly."   The implications of this statement are many.  It at least insinuates that we in the industry have conspired to dominate and control local transportation infrastructure. Nothing could be further from truth and reality.  Murray's statement simply ignores relevant history.  Everyone knows, or should know it was the City of Seattle itself who re-regulated the taxi industry in I believe 1985.  And it was the City of Seattle who forced all of the one-car independent companies to either form or join large taxi associations, thus creating----in the mayor's mind----the very so-called monopolies he criticized and disparaged yesterday afternoon.  If you are going to make pronouncements, at the very least they should hopefully contain some small parts accuracy and veracity. Misstatements like this only create further mistrust, making an already difficult situation even harder and more complex to unravel.

Where this negotiation ultimately takes us remains unclear.  July 3rd, 2014 is the first scheduled court date concerning the Uber referendum challenge.  Will Uber and their lawyers be there?  What Mayor Murray doesn't appear to understand is that the ride-share model is an illegal business model ignoring well established and verified business practices.  What Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are attempting to do is take us back over 100 years or more to a time when consumer protection was essentially nonexistent.  The question for Mayor Murray is a serious one. 

Why is this great so-called Liberal trying to take us back to a disreputable regulatory era dominated by true business monopolies?  Anybody remember Standard Oil of California?   The real monopoly appear to be represented by companies like Uber and their 17 billion dollar valuation.  I ask everyone to begin reading between and lines and start listening for what Seattle's mayor is really saying.  I personally think I might be hearing the jingling of coins.  Who the heck knows what is truly happening?  It is all very confusing.  I ask you, what are you hearing, what do you think is going on?  I am afraid of the answer.  Stay tuned is all I can say.


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