Tuesday, June 2, 2015

My First Offical Seattle Taxi Complaint

Through the years I have gotten more "off-of-the-wall" complaints than I can possibly remember.  Sometimes weekly I am relayed an allegation about my "driving behavior" or some other violation of civilized and cultured society.  Complaints have, and will continue to be part of the usual taxi landscape. For many the color yellow is red to the bull, an excuse to say anything about a subject  "deserving some important dialogue."  Whether valid or not is certainly not the point, more important to "inform the world" of a mutant under-class. I am guessing all the callers expect themselves to be believed given the prevalent mythology, cabbie and social deviant one and the same.

One memorable complainant was the drunk woman who jumped out of my cab while it was still moving, saying I beat her up, this after she weaved through traffic before darting off the street directly into a brick wall.  Another unforgettable situation was my first interaction years ago with the then new Yellow GM, the late Frank Dogwilla, Frank closing the door to his office and slyly asking why I had stolen the passenger's down jacket?  "You mean that hooker I had dropped off........?" I exclaimed.  Suffice to say there was no jacket, only another deranged passenger making yet another false statement, for some distorted reason attempting to have me punished for what real crime I never knew.  

Unfortunately this kind of dishonesty is too often commonplace, the taxi industry a convenient punching bag for everyone, not just mayors and city council members.  This is especially true since there are no personal consequences or dire repercussions for the commenter.  Say anything you want and keep saying it, it somehow not mattering whether these behavior patterns make sense or carry real justifications.  Somehow it seems there is an underlying sentiment that cabbies, being inherently criminal, deserve such treatment, the commentators viewing themselves as helpful vigilantes protecting society at large.  This most recent Saturday morning I was greeted with this kind of complaint, casting a pall over an already unpleasant task called driving a stupid cab.  Thanks for painting me as the usual congenital miscreant.  I certainly appreciate it!

The complaint stated, made by a "disabled veteran" minus any information concerning time or place, that I had honked at him while he waited for pedestrians in a crosswalk.  After that I followed him for a 1/2 mile in the cab before recklessly cutting him off.  The only problem with this scenario is that I have no memory of if occurring whatsoever.  Honking at various folks stopped at green lights I have done but chasing down and endangering both of us I haven't.  In my BYG incident report I wrote I had no memory of any incident of this kind, stating it appeared to simply be a lie.  My only plausible guess as to why someone would do this is because I or some other driver irritated the person and decided to exact revenge.  If the incident did actually occur, it was with someone else, not me. 

In an email yesterday to Craig Leisy, head of the Consumer Division of the Financial Affairs Office, I more or less said the same, wondering "out loud" why these kinds of unsubstantiated allegations are ever passed on.  As Mr. Leisy has repeatedly said when queried about lack of enforcement on the streets, requirements concerning burdens of proof necessitated undercover contacts, of course explaining why only a mere handful of violations have been issued---which is why I told him it is contradictory to forward the kind of allegation I am now dealing with.  Why make sense when you don't have to is my comment upon all this. 

An irony attached to this was Leisy's email announcing a date change for TAG (Taxi Advisory Group) which I have of course been a part of for years.  If I do attend the June 30th meeting, what should I say to him and everyone else about this complaint process?  That I find it fair and equable and just?   My opinion at the present is one of victimization and little else.  Having done nothing I still must stand trial in whatever fashion.  Franz Kafka, Grorge Orwell, Aruther Koseler, Miroslav Krleza, Aldous Huxley and Ray Bradbury would certainly have all understood.  All one needs to do is examine the 2-inch long printed meter receipts for verification, tiny print on each and everyone giving out the official taxi complaint hot-line number. What I ask is plain. What does the complaint number have to do with providing customers with a record of their cash or credit card transaction?  What is the City of Seattle and King County implying; what are they saying to the taxi passenger?   Are they inferring that innate distrust is part and parcel of your just completed taxi ride?  If it isn't that, then what is it they are telling you and me and everyone else?  That there can't be anything good about  all of this should be obvious.

Another bad part of all this is that the Uber, Lyft and Sidecar vehicles have no apparent external identification telling the public who they are despite, at least in Seattle and King County, the drivers hold the same for-hire driver license that cabbie's do.  So while all the taxi drivers can be subjected to any and all idle or not commentary, the TNC drivers are completely immune and essentially invisible to the public eye.  As I told Leisy, how can this be fair? 

I do think it is a reasonable question asking whether anyone governing the Seattle and King County taxi industry truly have our best interests in mind.  If someone as responsible as me can be treated like this, then maybe a thorough examination of the entire system is called for.  Or maybe one can say that one solitary official complaint over a 28 year span is nothing but clearly I don't feel that way.  Percentage wise, yes, that is true but still, isn't there a better way to do things?  There has to be, as how can it be much worse?  I hate to contemplate.

A post-script is to why am I so sensitive about false accusations.  It goes way back to 1959 and the Ravine Park Village housing projects in Toledo, Ohio when, upon entering our yard, my father picks me up and starts hitting, shouting that the police were there saying I had broken a plate glass window. Shouting back in protest I yelled I hadn't done anything, which was completely true.  I describe this in detail in my new youthful  memoir I am shopping, "To Age 13," where I go on to say that I hunted down the kid who in truth was responsible and had lied to the police.  My resentment around this then goes back a very long time. 

Given the current situation, if you asked me the time and location of the incident and the driver's gender I couldn't tell you because I know nothing about it.  Funny how little life can change over a span of 56 years, what happens to you at age 5 and 61 one and the same.  Amazing!


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