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?


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