Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Instant Taxi Kama Taking Me To The Renton Highlands

At times I fully understand why my fellow human citizens believe in all powerful local and universal gods plus other assorted benign and evil deities, believing unequivocally that divine intervention, more than just existent, is operational and commonplace, beyond all doubt occurring on a daily basis, providing an on-call, on-demand assistance to a puzzled and needy humanity, viewing it as a kind of AAA metaphysical road service readily accessed by shouted epitaphs and prayers in the darkest night.  Last Sunday night, after picking up at White Center's favorite "over serving" waterhole, the "Locker Room," and after repeatedly warning my near-delirious drunken passengers that their behavior must stop, regardless of the ten dollars "glowing" on the meter, I promptly turned around and took them back, saying "No charge, guys, just get out!"  While hating to inconvenience anyone, not to mention losing the money, three stern warnings should be enough.  When it isn't, everything stops and I do something else.

The issue was routing, which normally isn't a problem as I am always more than willing to discuss that sometimes contentious topic.  But when the drunk sitting on the backseat is screaming "Go that way, go that way!" while completely unaware of the fool jaywalking in front of us, I become instantly uninterested in negotiating with madness.  Besides, a left turn onto SW Roxbury, then a right on 35th SW taking us quickly to SW Juneau, which would then put us right on line for the requested intersection of California SW and SW Juneau.  Why would I want to take a slower route with "trouble" shouting at me from the back seat?  Not me, I can tell you that!

But no, that wasn't good enough, prompting various threats which will never can be or will be acceptable, alcohol often releasing an incoherent torrent, requiring one response, and one response only.  Is there any justification to put up with this kind of nonsense?  For many they will do anything for the money.  Clearly that is not my position.  The "Locker Room" should be glad I am tolerant, because a complaint to the State Liquor Board is warranted but serving customers past all reason and commonsense is a time-honored tradition, the "Locker Room" not doing anything unusual, so why single out any one establishment?  But hey, if you want to really get drunk, head up of the 9600 hundred block of 16th SW and you will be quickly accommodated.  Just watch out for potential bar fights and other such silliness.  And just why are all those people congregating next to the entrance?  What are they doing?

Anyway, I wasn't happy after wasting 20 minutes but as it so often goes driving taxi, another fare is offered, giving little time  but to attend to the matter at hand, this time a noisy dance club at 29___ 1st Avenue South.  Not getting an answer to my telephone calls I sit there wondering what to do next when a guy walks up and asks if I am available?  Yes I say and off me go to the deep Renton Highlands and $56.00 including tip, which is why I suggest benevolent taxi gods and instant karma  right after my earlier maltreatment, instantly relieving the pain and insult.  

In addition to being a good fare, the Russian software engineer knew a lot about Saint Petersburg, Russia and its famous art museum, the Hermitage, founded in 1764, and open the to public since 1852.  Since I have a free airline round-trip (accumulated air miles) ticket to anywhere in the world I wish to visit, I am leaning toward a trip to Russia and nearby countries like Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, Romania and the Ukraine, ending with a more-than-likely rendezvous in Paris to eat pastry with she-who-can't-be-named. 

He knew a lot about the museum and Saint Petersburg in general.  To say that he was more pleasant than my previous two passengers goes without saying.  If only folks could just get themselves under control, even for a few seconds, their whole experience might be altered for the good.  While always joking that I am not friendly, the truth is I am generally good natured, taking much to push me over the edge. Who wants trouble?  When it comes to taxi all I am interested in is  making $$$ and providing an efficient and hopefully pleasant ride, being there to work and nothing else.

Memorial For Slain Anacortes Taxi Driver

Memorial for Lisa Marie Eason will be held this upcoming Friday, May 1st, 2015, at 1:00 PM at Christ the King Community Church in Mount Vernon, Washington.  The address is 2111 Riverside Drive. Telephone number is 360-848-5116 for additional information.  Mert's Taxi telephone number is 360-293-0201.

First Cruise Ship Arriving this Saturday

I know that all you long suffering Seattle cabbies will be cheered to hear that the first of many Alaska cruise ships will be docking this upcoming Saturday, May 2nd, 2015 at the usual time of  about 7:30 AM.  What will further lighten your mood is, due to larger capacity ships, this year we will be seeing approximately 18,000 folks for the combined three day period of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, meaning an increase of almost 4,000.  Business has improved the past three weeks and this will only make it better.

Instantaneous Abuse of Police Power & Authority

Anyone paying attention in the USA these past months have heard news regarding questionable police practices.  Usually they involve very serious incidents but this past weekend I witnessed two situations, while minor in relation to the larger story, illustrate there is an underlying problem that should be addressed. 

The first, the milder of the two, occurred Saturday night while I was picking up on the south side of SafeCo Stadium after a Mariner's game.  An SPD officer who was directing traffic incorrectly sensed I was attempting to creep forward after he had stopped traffic flow.  His response was to keep me from going forward even when pedestrian foot traffic had temporarily slowed down. While punishing me and sending me a message, he also created a three or four block long backup, punishing all those drivers who had nothing to do with the original incident.  My passengers commented that his behavior demonstrated what happens when someone has the power to do whatever he wanted, in this case overreacting to nothing whatsoever.  To any City of Seattle official reading this, the incident occurred around 10:00 PM more or less, and the cop involved was the first officer stationed on S. Martinez Way, southeast corner of SafeCo, making him easily identifiable.

The second was far more egregious, when a Port of Seattle police officer attempted to improperly involve herself with Yellow Cab's contractual agreement to pickup the Victoria Clipper's passengers at Pier 69.  Called in to deal with something unrelated to the cabs, she noticed that they were all parked in the opposite direction of the one-way sign, something mandated for us to do by the Port of Seattle. Suddenly ordering all the drivers to leave the pier, the superintendent on duty, Jeff, ran up shouting, "No, no, no!" explaining the situation to the officer.  Why she thought this was something new is anyone's guess.  I told her "it has been done this way for decades." which is completely true.  That she did this without first seeking additional information says everything about her operational sense.  It also points to a total lack of imagination.  What was this officer thinking?  Oh, and a few minutes earlier, her way was blocked by a parked taxi.  I wonder if that had anything to do with her impromptu command and unwarranted irritation? 

Eritrean Crisis

This past week, many of the victims drowned in the Mediterranean Sea were from the country of Eritrea, one of three countries where many of our local Seattle cabbies originate.  Why are so many young man and women fleeing their country.?  Eritrea has a policy of forced conscription.  A 2014 Human Rights Watch report says many young people are conscripted for most of their working lives, forced to work on civilian projects funded by foreign companies, including a gold mine operated by a Canadian company.  Children as young as 15 years old are being drafted into the army.  If you ever wondered why there are so many East Africans driving taxi in the USA, this is part of the explanation, the region being highly unstable.

A more thorough examination of the region's history will reveal how it was a setting for the "Cold War" between the USA and the USSR.  As what is happening currently in Afghanistan, which for many years suffered through a "proxy war" initiated by the USSR and the USA, a similar situation is now in part shared by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia--- never ending war and cultural and societal upheaval caused when the two super powers meddled into their internal affairs for nearly three decades.  One might even want to go back as far as 1937 and include fascist Italy's bombing and invasion of Ethiopia.  Obviously the situation is not simple and of course made worse by authoritarian governments now in charge of Eritrea and Ethiopia.  Always it seems innocent citizens starve while their leaders attend lavish state dinners. Not only does it display the failure of outside involvement but also of revolutions failing to remember why they took over in the first place, George Orwell once again vindicated.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Taxi Secondary To Walking In The Desert

As usual, many things occurred this past taxi weekend but first I want to talk about what allows me to keep driving crazy taxi every weekend, meaning prioritizing anything that isn't taxi, as exemplified by my recent travels to Mexico, or, as I did toward the end of last week, driving over the Cascades and walking in the Spring-scented high desert.  If I didn't practice this kind of life-giving oriented self-therapy, I wouldn't last another day yet a month laboring beneath the top-light.  Even if I am not leaving the area, daily I take long walks in local parks, and another priority, reading good writing, anything to keep me connected to a life totally separate from that alienating profession known as driving a big Yellow car in and around Seattle's clogged paved arteries.  In 2003 I tried a schedule of driving ten single shifts in a row.  I am not exaggerating when I say it almost killed me.  It was not fun in any way, shape or taxi form.

The Quincy Game Range, also know as the Quincy Lakes, is a high desert wonderland containing seven large lakes and a variety of smaller lakes and ponds and steams and seasonal wetlands, plus especially this time of year, waterfalls dropping from the basalt cliffs. Arriving there in the early evening Thursday I found the majority of the better campsites already taken by a small invasion of horseback riders, their horse trailers and campers taking up much of the available space.  Knowing the area well, I found a somewhat secluded camp near a canyon's edge, snugly situated between rocky basalt outcroppings that were clearly home to a clan of desert marmots.  Reluctantly giving way to this human intruder, I awakened Friday morning to a marmot's impatient scrutiny fifty feet away, wondering when the hell is this troublemaker going to leave. 

Taking my customary walk down to Dusty Lake I weaved through acres of desert flowers---yellow, blue, violet, purple and pinkish white blooms bordering the paths.  Arriving waves of redwing blackbirds were preparing nests while high up in the sky large Canada geese convoys flew overhead.  Eating breakfast while overlooking the canyons I watched hawks swooping over the lush cattails and mischievous swifts soaring in gigantic circles, drifting closer and closer to my perch, displaying brilliantly white bellies. 

It was hard to leave this paradisaical setting, taking solace by choosing State Route 410 back west, sneaking up upon Mount Rainier from snowy Chinook Pass.  Tired but content I threw myself into bed, prying myself out of bed a mere five hours later, memories of Eastern Washington fueling me down the taxi road.

The weekend itself was the usual continuation of the commonplace taxi theme, too many drunks intertwined with some very decent rides which included a ride from Sunday's Marnier's game all the way to Lakewood, Washington, the $118.00 fare paid by the baseball team, my passenger two-thirds drunk and injured from a fall.  As comparison, I had five airport trips versus the sixteen from last weekend, showing how unusual that was.  I did go to Edmonds,Washington from the train station, which was good to have, $52.00 to the ferry dock.  The airport is great but in the context of the taxi universe, there are many great places to go.

Reading the Instruction Manuel Before Turning on the Key

The new dispatch system at Yellow still appears capable of a few surprises.  Whether it was a good idea to begin with, management decided to try to a feature that penalized drivers for rejecting a fare.  While personally understanding the long-term frustration of dealing with contrary drivers, the experiment turned into something altogether unexpected when suddenly 250 drivers were simultaneously suspended from the "bell," the system retroactively punishing anyone who had hit the reject button anytime during the past six months.  While unintentionally comical, it kept the calls from being served while I am sure bewildering everyone concerned.  I was told today that this particular feature has been permanently shelved. Let's hope so.  It is back to the laboratory once again trying to figure out how tame the feral cabbie.  Good luck with that!

Uber Stupor or Something like that

My last fare Saturday bar-break was a passenger from a Ballard 7-11 who had been abandoned by her Uber driver. Unfortunately for the slightly drunk young woman the driver drove away, taking her purse and wallet with him.  Why he did this no one knows.  Maybe he was offended she was buying beer.  Who knows but the 911 dispatcher I spoke to had no ability of contact Uber.  How she eventually retrieved her valuables, I don't know.  My only advice is never to leave anything in an Uber car.  Unlike the taxi associations Uber doesn't appear to have a truly viable lost and found.  Sometimes I think Uber is just going to self-destruct, one day Uber being little more than a bad memory.  Uber, Lyft and Sidecar as an effective business model, one designed to answer America's transportation needs, at least from my biased point of view, remains in question.  I do know that many passengers will no longer ride with Uber, with Yellow appearing as a better option. Amazing, I know!

Still In Session

Last week, I reported to you that the new Uber bill had passed the Washington State legislature, and was sitting on the governor's desk. Well sorry, I was wrong, the local NPR station issuing a false report. The house and senate versions are currently in committee awaiting language changes which means the Labor and Industry coverage question remain unanswered.   It also means you might want to investigate what kind of insurance that Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have before you jump in and experience a kind of ride you never wanted to occur. What will ultimately happen is any one's guess.  Once the full details are known I will let you know.  Having insurance coverage is something that shouldn't be quickly dismissed.  It's an important issue even if it remains unspoken.  Stay tuned.

Communication? There's No Communication

A taxi buddy was complaining this weekend that no one told him that physicals were no longer part of the for-hire license renewal process, saying he spent $50.00 for nothing whatsoever.  Where does the failure lie, you might ask?  Did anyone notice, like I did, that once the Mayor's Uber ordinance became law, no official notification was sent out detailing changes that personally affected for-hire license holders?  Trying to read the law on-line was nearly impossible, making it very difficult to clearly comprehend what the new rules were or not.  A simple letter highlighting the new rules and changes would have been extremely useful which is of course why they didn't do it, efficiency somehow counter-productive when addressing the taxi industry.  And if this isn't true, why did S_____ go down to that dubious Chinatown clinic to visit the doctor well known to pass anyone who walks through his door.  Deaf! Blind! Rapid heart-beat!---never a problem that couldn't be instantly cured, comedic relief posing as valid medical examination.

Not All Bad Category

Another taxi buddy, D______ told me that two weeks ago he picked up two drunk fish processor workers down at Lake Union and took them, first, to Fife, Washington, and then from there to the airport.  The fare was $220.00 but both insisted paying him individually, meaning my friend received a $220.00 tip.  While talking about "our best tips" he related how a passenger, pleased by his singing Christmas  songs for her, wrote him a check for $500.00 for a $15.00 fare.  The check was good, the teller handing him five $100.00 bills.  See what happens when you are friendly?  I should try that sometime!

Go Mariners!

As my SafeCo Field fare to Lakewood attests, the more sporting event attendance the better.  Saturday's game had over 43,000 fans, with Sunday's game drawing over 31,000.  A winning team, be it the Seahawks, the Sounders, the UW Huskies, all translates into money directly into the cabbie's wallet.  Despite a slow start, the Mariners are odds on favorites to finally reach the World Series.  What a windfall that would be for the city in general and the cabbies in particular.

One negative remaining from past seasons is the dysfunctional taxi stand, both pointing in the wrong direction and on the wrong side of the street. At least the Mariner's staff understand this, which is why I found my Lakewood fare on the "illegal" side of the street.  All I can hope for is a newly tolerant SPD, allowing cabbies to pick up where the passengers are, not where they are not.

South Meed to Earl Northwest

One huge public service the cabbie serves is keeping drunks like the one I took from 51__ S. Meed to 65__ Earl NW.  Halfway there he was on the telephone complaining to his friends that I was "jacking" him around, his inebriated state not allowing him to understand that I, one, knew where these somewhat obscure streets were, and two, the perfect route.  Be glad he wasn't behind the wheel, instead safely insulting the cab driver.  What an idiot he was!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

She Can't Read It (Or Take It) Anymore

"She-who-can't-be-named," taking one glance at the posting mentioning five Uber pick-ups in five minutes, instantly gave up, unable to continue reading the bad news that's become our local taxi reality.  Her reaction is a good indicator of the consequences associated with what to many folks is just another non-captioned bureaucratic decision, something barely registering upon a greater list of important priorities. No one died or was imprisoned or even mildly censored in regards to the decision for totally disrupting Seattle's local taxi industry. No, nothing overtly dramatic occurred at all other than the upsetting of individual lives and their families. 

Instead all we have had is a thousand or more silent deaths, tiny incidents like sitting over two hours waiting for a fare, or the more sanguine worry of how will this month's rent or mortgage will get paid.  Any loud protests will come instead from worried spouses aimed at exhausted husbands, blaming them for not doing enough when 12 hours in the cab once sufficiently fulfilled requirements to pay all the bills, even leaving something left over for the annual visit home back to Ethiopia or Somalia.

No, you won't find any mention of any this anywhere save perhaps here in my postings, because obviously I too have been relying upon taxi for my bread and butter and short-term sustenance.  I also know what it means when the wife yells at you because "You aren't earning enough!"---blame tumbling upon your head and shoulders.  So when "she-who-can't-be-named" expresses outrage or woe about a situation artificially created, I not only know, I can guarantee that not one Seattle municipal official gives a damn about her anguish. Why would they have reason to care?  As I always say in these situations,the answer too obvious to say anything but that.  What else can be said?

Finally A Good Weekend

A stretch of nearly eight bad weekends ended this past weekend with a remarkable flourish.  As I told one interested fare, my income was down by about $1600.00 during both February and March but this second weekend in April was one for my personal record books, at least in terms of airport runs, that all important taxi barometer.  Combining Saturday and Sunday's totals, I had 16 runs to either the airport itself or a Sea-Tac area hotel.  My very last was a "hooker" run where the fare was paid by the waiting "john."  Like I keep saying, I am a cabbie, not a social worker.  Despite the too many hours and not enough sleep, it was great to see some kind of normalcy return.  Tomorrow I am rewarding myself with camping two nights in the Eastern Washington high desert.  Due to the moist Spring the desert flowers should be abundantly colorful.  And how many airport trips will I have next weekend?  Only the taxi gods know!

Why I Am Not Beating Up Yellow

More than once recently I have received comments asking why am I not more critical of Yellow taxi, either implying or actually accusing me of favoritism.  This is not the first nor I am sure the last time that I am seen as the "teacher's pet."  If I'm not, the saying goes, why aren't I barking and biting the evil association owners?   My response is twofold.

One, anyone truly interested in reading a "no-holds-barred" examination of the taxi industry will have to wait when I finally write my taxi novel project entitled "Zammit."  When you see that on the racks, buy it and you will see what you have wanted to hear or know or see all along.  Of course since it is a work of fiction I won't be naming actual individuals but those in the know will understand everything I will be writing about.  Is taxi crazy?  Of course it is.  I know it and so do you.

And two, all one needs to do is read my last posting and the list of taxi evils I might theoretically talk about at the Amsterdam conference to clearly comprehend the unspoken.  What the heck do people think I saying when I say "innate taxi inferiority? "  Of course that kind of attitude leads to the industry to depend on "taxi clueless" people like Don Stark who only advocates for a particular issue because he is being paid.  His next task might be what kind of cat food you should feed your hungry domestic felines.  And will the folks hiring him consider it necessary for him to have at least one Turkish Van Cat or Domestic Short hair at home?  Let's hope so.

And what  I implying about minor taxi criminality?  And what about "association mismanagement?"

My question to everyone out there in Seattle taxi-land is, are you paying attention?  Again, what do you think I am saying?  A taxi buddy sent me a paranoid text this morning.  When will it ever end?  Maybe, just maybe when we finally get enough sleep.

In short, I have been critical though perhaps not in the way desired.  But I can assure you that the majority of the "power structure" know my opinion of their operations because I have told them, more than once about  what I see needs to be done.  That they haven't responded tells me they like doing things their way, no matter how inefficient that may be.  Yes, much that occurs at Yellow appears to be nonsensical.  Is that really some startling revelation?  I don't think so.  I know everyone can agree to that, everyone already understanding the full and unwritten story.

Uber Insurance Bill Passed Yesterday 4/14/2015

HB 2231 was passed yesterday, doing two things.

One, it made the statement that ride-share providers like Uber, Lyft Sidecar must carry the minimum insurance required of all types of for-hire vehicles.

Two, relating to us in the cab world, that L&I insurance will be optional.  More on all this when I have the details.

The bill now awaits the governor's signature.

An Editorial Note 4/15/2015 4:42 PM

If you notice errors of any kind, I can assure you that they will be remedied sooner than later.  This particular posting had more mistakes than usual.  The simple explanation is that the coffee shop I was working at closed before I could thoroughly go over my text.  I regret any confusion caused.  Like "What the hell is that guy saying?"  God knows, maybe, or perhaps not, writing and taxi driving remaining profound metaphysical mysteries. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Doesn't Look Like I Will Be Going To Amsterdam

Allow we a little "taxi" comedy when I tell you that on Thursday and Friday, April 23-24, 2015, there will be something held in Amsterdam, Holland called the "Taxi Intelligence Conference" led it appears by none other than James Cooper, partner of  Professor Ray Mundy who jointly caused all kinds of trouble for Seattle cabbies by telling those stalwart intellectuals known as the Seattle City Council that demand for taxi-type services were on the upswing.  That the dynamic duo received $100,00 for their erroneous study says everything about the City of Seattle's approach to the local taxi industry.  Believe anyone and everyone other than the industry itself who yelled that what Cooper and Mundy were saying just wasn't true.  Now some may say, "Hey Joe, calm down! That was over a year ago." but as I have been repeating these past weeks all of us here working beneath the top-light suffer through the Cooper/Mundy generated reality. I have tomorrow not to look forward to.  And as I have been describing, it ain't a pretty picture.

Now toward the end of  this month we again have James Cooper, a perfectly nice and pleasant human being, masquerading as a taxi industry expert.  He, along with something called the "Taxi Research Network" will examine the industry's immediate future as if they knew anything of its past.  Yesterday I half-jokingly emailed James Cooper, saying that if I was made a keynote speaker I would join him in Amsterdam, a city I have spent some combined weeks in.  I like it there and I am sure it is clear to anyone familiar with this blog that I would certainly add something to the late April proceedings. 

One topic amongst many I might expound upon would be, "Just How Did We Get To This Miserable Taxi Juncture?"

In order I would talk about,

1) Innate Taxi Inferiority

2) The Industry's Latent Criminal Mentality

3) The Regulatory Riddle:  The Confusing Contradiction of Lax & Heavy-handed Governmental Administration

4) Association Mismanagement

I am sure everyone would find it all very entertaining.  Unfortunately I have yet to hear from Mister Cooper, though I am not surprised.  Why present reality when you instead can theoretically drone on forever. 

Or perhaps, since I am known as slightly feral, the fear is that I might be impolite but I assure you there should be no worry.  Pay my airfare and lodging and modest speaking fee and I will become quite domesticated.  A muzzle wouldn't be required.  Not even a short leash.  Instead of barking I would politely wag my taxi tail.  What more could they ask for?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Is Doing Nothing Our Only Choice? I Don't Think It Is.

Usually an event like this past weekend's "Hopscotch" in the Fremont neighborhood generates a steady flow of pleasantly inebriated passengers, and it did though unfortunately most all of them were stepping into Uber vehicles instead of my taxi.  I am not exaggerating when I say that in a five minute span I observed five Ubers pull up and take away what in the recent past would have been my customers.  Since Yellow now has the same app, that isn't the sole factor determining a potential rider's choice.  Instead, it is now mostly price oriented, Uber's per mile rate of $1.09 undercutting the taxi's regulated per mile by a whopping $1.61.  For most folks cheaper is clearly better even when it means uncertain insurance coverage which obviously could cost you much more in the long run if you are unlucky enough to have your Uber car hit by an uninsured driver.  That is when the bargain  disappears, instantly transforming into a modern nightmare. Life-long paralysis, anyone, and all the costs coming out of your own pocket.  Of course you would sue Uber but good luck with a company that calls three billion American dollars "pocket-change!"

I neglected last week  to mention, that during the subcommittee hearing in Olympia a bereaved father, sitting two seats away to my left, testified how his daughter was killed in an TNC accident occurring last year in the state of North Carolina.  He pleaded for mandatory drug testing, something that we don't have, and to my knowledge, to this point a subject never seriously discussed.  To say that his story was moving is the proverbial understatement.   As the cliche goes, after he spoke, the "silence was deafening."  Nothing like stark reality to frame an argument.

His story is typical of what I have learned while observing local "democracy in action" these past eight or so years, lawmakers making their decisions regardless of knowledge and fact, leaving the consequences behind to be faced by the innocent and victimized.  Not a pretty story though one repeated daily in Olympia, Seattle, Raleigh, North Carolina, Washington DC and elsewhere.  Pick any country and its capitol city and I am going to guess it is the same.  All evidence coming from cities like Caracas and Moscow and Riyadh appears to verify that impression.  What is true in Saudi Arabia and and a county like Belarus is also true in your local state capitol and county seat, the "human condition" biting all of us in the butt,  freedom and the choice to think and do what you want is too often theoretical at best. George Orwell, Christopher Hitchens and the American reporter Leslie Cockburn, whose wonderful and informative book, "Looking for Trouble---One Woman, Six Wars, and a Revolution," I am currently reading, all knew and know this is true.  By the way, next time anyone is in Olympia, you should check out that great local and non-corporate bookstore, Browers, located at 107 Capitol Way North.  You won't be disappointed.   Find them at browersolympia.com.  

Watching all those Uber fares, including last night's obvious "Sea-Tac" fare step into an Uber while I was first-up at the DECA hotel, has gotten me to thinking that it is past time for an coordinated response to the City of Seattle's decision to allow Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to operate unfettered while we in the taxi industry remain locked in regulation.  It is completely unfair, and the more I think about it, totally nonsensical and illegal.  I have again concluded that we somehow must respond before the situation worsens beyond repair.  The only good part of our past failures to properly respond is that I think I now know why we failed.  Even a numskull like me can learn a needed lesson when knocked upon the noggin enough times.

It is in that spirit that I will (at least I think I will) once again make an attempt to organize a cohesive effort to, one, create a functional and viable taxi driver political organization; and two, coordinating within this united framework a winnable legal effort aimed at the City of Seattle and King County.  Having just today made the decision to do this, I do not as yet have any defined timetable but when I do I will certainly let everyone know. 

One approach I am seriously considering is the formation of not one but multiple organizing committees working jointly and collectively thus removing all possibility of intentional or unintentional sabotage.  If we as a local industry make the decision to do this,  it must be successful minus all obstacles.  Given our futures, and those of our friends and families, are at stake, I suggest that this time we  DO NOT allow anything, stupidity, hubris, etc  to trip us up.  If starving upon a taxi stand isn't motivation and justification enough to stand up and fight, then I don't know what it will take.  Talking to taxi colleagues in the cashier line has convinced me that finally my fellow cabbies are ready to "duke it out" with our governmental opponents.  One thing I can assure all of you is that I will make every effort to simplify both the process and the language involved.  I think it will be best to keep our lawyers local and those with a personal stake in the game.  Again, as I make my contacts during the upcoming weeks I will keep everyone updated.  And of course I encourage everyone to contact me and express your thoughts and concerns and ideas. 

That Full Moon Has a Sense of Humor (sort of)

This past weekend was filled with crazy incidents and situations.  Saturday bar break had two brothers fighting in the backseat as we headed up to Northgate.  Getting them to calm down I gave the brothers and their companion chocolate truffles, saying it was time for all of us to take communication together.  Since it was then Easter Sunday morning I could not think of anything more appropriate.  Last I saw of them the younger brother Caleb was lying on their apartment building's driveway in a drunken clump, the friend telling him to get up.

Soon thereafter I parked in a discreet location near the Northgate Transit Center for a necessary "urination stop" when amazingly a stranded gentleman walked up to me and negotiated an early morning flat-rate to the Sea-Tac area.  Not wanting to wait another two hours for a bus, he was ready to go.  Having first argued with his girlfriend's father, then the girlfriend, he was now it appeared to be heading for some questionable moonlight  rendezvous.  Again, I am only a cabbie, not a marriage counsellor.

My very last fare early Monday morning was this "rough & tough" early twenties big African-American guy who was gruff, to say the least, directing me to his house, then surprising with the request that he needed my assistance to help him unlock his sliding door with my car key.  "Reading" him properly, good natured as I am, said "Okay!" literally chuckling as I got out of 478, understanding how outlandish his request was, following him down the path to the rear of the house and the aforementioned door.  Immediately seeing it had been left open for him I bid a quick goodnight, saying, "You know, I bet I am the only taxi driver in Seattle who would have followed you to this door!"  And I know that is true.  No one else is that nuts but hey! taxi is all about risks and taking chances.  Besides his smile as he entered his home was worth everything.  He might be a thug but he too appreciating a friendly gesture.  All I can say, don't try this "at home" especially with $600.00 dollars plus in your back pocket!

Mount Vernon Murder Update

The suspect has been charged with 2nd degree murder and first degree robbery.  Those charges usually result in at least a 30 year minimum prison sentence and possibly a lot more.  Mert's Taxi has yet to call me.  When they do I will relate our conversation. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Update On Murdered Cabbie: gofundme.com

It is unfortunate but true that most victimized cabbies are rookies, and in this case, the  46 year old driver murdered in Mount Vernon, Washington, Lisa Marie Eason, had only been driving for Anacortes, Washington-based Mert's Taxi , a small three car company, for just a few weeks.  Why licensing authorities continue to think that anyone can drive a taxi minus any and all serious preparation remains a mystery because indisputable evidence screams otherwise.  In NYC in the mid-1980s the annual taxi driver murder rate averaged over fifty cabbies shot down and stabbed. One of our last murdered Seattle taxi driver had been working for just over a year, leaving behind a wife and two children.   We now can add Ms. Eason to the list of victimized cabbies, victimized by both the murderer and the unthinking and nonsensical licensing system itself.  I have said it before and I repeat it again.  It is unjust  and immoral to insert untrained drivers into what is an inherently dangerous work environment.  Again, City and County and State officials need to be more responsible, it is as simple as that.  Do I think this new tragedy will suddenly make them more aware and responsive?  No!

The man who allegedly shot Eason in the head with a 45 caliber revolver, Solomona Fatu Luteru, appears not be particularly bright nor devious.  Security cameras at the Swinoish Casino shows Luteru entering Eason's taxi.  After killing Eason, Luteru forcibly pushed a female driver out of her Toyota Camry and drove south to Lakewood, Washington.  Thankfully he failed to notice that there were more than one "live" cellular telephones in the car, allowing police to track him to near to where they ultimately found him, still wearing a white blood-splattered T-shirt and processing the actual gun used in the two crimes.  He is being held under a one-million dollar bail.

Surviving family members are currently seeking funeral costs through "gofundme.com."  Donate please what you can.   We are one taxi family.  On my various travels, the driver "lights up" when I identify myself as a fellow cabbie, clearly acknowledging our shared reality, that being the "deranged" occupation we all share.  Always "know" who gets in your cab.  Don't allow yourself to be surprised by what should be obvious.  One way or the other, "trouble" always communicates their hidden agendas.  "Read" that face, your very survival dependent upon reading all situations properly. "Taxi illiteracy" can be fatal.

Editorial note:  Most of the information contained in this posting was taken from local and  national news services.  I have spoken to a Mert's dispatcher.  I am awaiting a call from the company owner.