Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Discordant Bells: Not Quite The Way To Ring In The New Year

The title relates to my working New Year's Eve 2015 but here it is Monday, January 5th, giving me three full taxi days to report and reflect upon.  Maybe the most comical part of the any new year is how it isn't new at all, only a thematic continuation of the well known.  Yes a change in calenders but not in everyday human behavior.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if after all the fireworks have expired everything was suddenly new and different, ongoing wars and conflicts ceasing, with commonsense instead replacing the usual belligerence beleaguering our shared world.  Now that would indeed be something to celebrate.

My last day of the year unhappily began with a fender-bender, a very disruptive passenger distracting me to the point that my foot slipped off the brake pedal when sitting at a light.  The physical damage to the pickup truck I hit was minimal, a telephone call today informing me  $110.00 taking care of the missing paint, but the real problem for any taxi driver is when insurance companies get involved.  This Wednesday I am scheduled for a dreaded "Safety Committee" meeting but hopefully the final consequences will be small.  My accident is a classic example of a "taxi maelstrom" when instantaneously the cab's interior becomes an insane asylum.  Having experienced this more times than I can remember I still unfortunately can be affected by unreasonably manipulative behavior, suddenly delegated to rookie status.

I like to think I am mentally prepared for anything but clearly in this instance I wasn't, losing my concentration as the individual kept repeating he was getting out of the cab then no, I am not etc, a deranged recital somehow effectively disorientating this normally placid cabbie.  Sometimes I have to admire a person like this, who after essentially causing the collision, kept asking me for money.  Coincidentally, Bill, the owner of the offended Toyota truck, told me this passenger was well known around University Hospital, reputedly calling cabs under false names, then subsequently exiting minus payment.

Adding insult to injury was taxi 354's recalcitrant front driver-side window.  Refusing to close on an evening posting temperatures in the low 20 degrees Fahrenheit I drove for nearly six hours with the cold air streaming in.  Thankfully passengers were so desperate for a cab that no one complained, a strong heater helping alleviate the chill.  My first passengers dealing with the situation tipped me 15 dollars.  Thank goodness for good, old fashioned human empathy. Despite everything I made money but having an accident albeit minor is depressing, not something anyone wants, crowding your mind with despair, taxi being hard enough without adding yet another burden to the heavy weight.

And this past weekend was yet another "holiday afflicted" two days with business centered at the airport and train station but nearly no where else.  A $95.00 including tip airport run occurring at 4:40 Sunday morning truly rescued my taxi butt.  On the way back I got a $23.00 bone marrow package from the VA Hospital to University Medical Center.

Sunday itself was extremely slow, the only real action confined to Sea-Tac.  Finally requesting all cabs, including city-plated taxis like my 478 I got my first legal airport pickup in at least 20 years, a nice fellow coming back from a Hawaiian vacation, taking him home to the Renton Highlands.  But wouldn't you know it, there just had to be a blemish, the credit card authorization system telling me that it was saving the transaction info only to authorize the card later.  Thankfully I did receive the $29.50 payment minus any other delays.  The bonus to all of this was getting a fare just down State Highway 167 at Valley General Hospital, taking Dave all the way south to deep Covington, WA, getting $58.00 for that effort. Bypassing fares in the deep South End I scooted to Chinatown for a bowl of soup and glad I did.  Nothing like a steaming bowl of soup relieving the taxi body and mind, and dare I say it, soul.

Taxi Hate Crime Update

Jesse Fleming, the prime suspect in the recent assault upon the Somali taxi driver, has a scheduled "case setting hearing" on Monday January 26th, 2015 at 1:00 PM, Room 1201, King County Courthouse.  I will continue to provide updates as the case progresses through the legal system.

Eighty Dollars to Ballard?

Another bad example of ongoing local transportation theft and the City of Seattle's lack of substantive enforcement was the reporting to me of an $80.00 town car ride from Capitol Hill to the Ballard neighborhood.  Usually it is about a $25.00 cab ride but late New Year's Eve, a passenger and his friends were charged over triple the cost.  This wasn't the famous Uber price surging but just another example of an individual ripping off local customers.  How many times does this have to occur to get the mayor and the city council's attention?  My guess is only when it personally happens to them and not before.  It is the usual "why care when you don't have to," all evidence pointing to that basic reality.  This upcoming Saturday and the Seahawk playoff game scheduled for 5:30 PM, the City of Seattle will yet have another opportunity to protect its local citizens and out-of-town fans.  I think I already know what is going to happen.  Don't you?

Uber Drivers Beginning to Sell Off Their Cars

Is this the beginning of the end of the local Uber gold rush?  Yesterday,while standing in the cashier line waiting to do "my turn," I heard numerous reports of disillusioned drivers getting out of the Uber carousel, backing up my longstanding contention that the local transportation market will not sustain an unlimited number of cars.  Again, while Seattle's mayor and the city council toasted in the New Year, thousands of  taxi, limo, flat-rate for-hire and TNC (Uber, Lyft, Sidecar) drivers hunted for those too elusive fares.  My taxi buddy T. told me he cleared $143.00 for the evening.  Anyone in the know understands that this is a pittance on what some consider the busiest taxi day of the year.  I for one think it is time for the city council to once again reverse itself and impose a limit on the number of TNC cars.  Believe me, it would be an act of mercy, saving all those ersatz taxi drivers from themselves.  As the song goes, "when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?" At this rate perhaps in the year 2525, or is that just another bad 1960s pop song?

"President of the Drivers?"

During a confounding "two cab" call at Southcenter Mall, where me and another driver had a hell of a time locating the 7 "frozen" young Vietnamese women,  that cabbie said, " I know you.  My friend told me that you are the "president of the drivers."  I responded that, yes, that was true, sort of, but now I am not sure what I am.  It is nice to know some folks still remember my past efforts however futile they might have been.  But yes I still love the "taxi nation" and guess I always will, forever a "cabbie patriot."  I'd salute the flag if we only had one, a proud banner with a glorious beaming top-light!


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