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. 


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