Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Costs: Uber For-Hire License----Zero, Taxi For Hire---$180.00

After hearing the rumors, and not receiving a clear response from Seattle/King County, yesterday I went down to King County's "For-Hire" desk to receive the definitive and official answer.  While seeming stranger than fiction, it is true, anyone signing up to drive for a TNC company, ie Uber, does not have to pay a single dime for something  that costs me $180.00. Making the insult worse is that the "Uber" for-hire license allows the applicant to drive not only for them but also for flat-rate for-hire and taxi companies, meaning that the TNC for-hire version is both free and completely transferable while my for-hire license is limited to taxis and flat-rates.  And it certainly is not free.

The question then is twofold.  How is this possible; and how was the regulatory permission created?  Another  two VERY important questions requiring an answer is basic. Who then is paying the King County/Seattle fees due; or have the fees relating to TNC for-hire costs been completely waived?  If Uber is paying fees that normally are assigned to the independent contractor, then it would appear that a contractual line has been crossed, with Uber taking on the position of employer, negating their ongoing regulatory argument stating they are an app leasing company and nothing else.

But if King County/Seattle is handing out exemptions, I too want to be standing in that bread line.  If Uber's getting a free lunch, well, me and all my fellow cabbies too are hungry,sick and tired of growling stomachs and tightened belts.  Yes, I'll take ketchup and mustard on that for-hire!   And please, make my mine to go.

I suppose one possibility is that  Uber does require repayment by its associated independent contractors, the King County/Seattle arrangement one of convenience and nothing less, the mystery explainable, Sherlock Holmes or Father Brown's expert intervention made unnecessary.  But whatever is going on, I do believe transparency is required.  I want to know why that simply by registering my 2012 Chevrolet Sonic with Uber, I can forego charges I would normally be personally responsible for. Answers are required and I hope to have them for you in the next few weeks; or before January 25th when I leave to join "she-who-can't-be-named" in San Miguel del Allende, Mexico.

Ya Would Think They Would Have Learned........

Even I thought that Yellow had learned its lesson after its near fatal computer dispatch debut but no, they did it again, thankfully though in this instance the damage far less magnified.  Last Monday Mister George Anderson based down in San Francisco installed a system-wide software update that, at least initially, resulted in some temporary system failure, requiring either a re-booking or re-logging into the system.  As of today, December 29th, the problems continue unabated.

That they failed to warn anyone this software update was coming was the first mistake.  And that the only person in the local industry truly knowledgeable concerning taxi computers, Solomon, had a four-day holiday closure, only compounded the issue. So much for proper planning and making sure the customer is satisfied.

Why, why do they keep operating like this?  Yes I know, it is a very good and pertinent question.

And something I found out last week surprised me.  A colleague told me that the late PSD GM, Frank Dowilla, viewed me as enemy # 1, topping his list.  What I find so confounding is that I have only been interested in resolutions, not blame.  If my various interventions had been taken seriously, many of the system problems we have all experienced might have been avoided.  Enemy?  I just don't see it.  Personally, while finding Frank's managerial style unnecessarily abrasive, I did respect many of the decisions made during his tenure.  Much might have been achieved if instead he had reached out and talked to me,Yellow potentially today looking  far differently than a company sinking into the sunset, swallowed up by the transportation sea.  And the lot would not have been abandoned, as 74 South Hudson's permanent closure is mere days away.

Yellow Debit Card No More

Another ill-advised decision recently abandoned is the usage of Yellow's driver debit card, something both of questionable legality and widespread driver outrage.  One thinks they might have asked all of us whether we were interested in transitioning to a cashless payment system.  Not only did many drivers fail to authorize their card, many didn't even bother to open the envelope.  Funny, sort of!


Yesterday I had Seattle's last great mayor in the cab, none other than Charles Royer, picking him up in Pioneer Square.  A good guy, and I will be checking out his brother Bob's blog.  Thanks Charlie, for all those good years!

For All Those......

For all those less that enthusiastic about Christmas I leave you with this poem by the American writer Dorothy Parker.  Happy New Year.  And as everyone knows, I am doing all I can to make this my last taxi year.


Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Again, I wish everyone the best of success and happiness with the coming New Year 2016!  Good  taxi luck in the ensuing months!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What If Mary And Joseph Had Failed To Present A Valid Credit Card?

Can you imagine what would have happened when instead of a warm stable, Jesus was born outside on a cold winter night, and perhaps not surviving the experience, thus upsetting all future theological plans?  Not only would we not be celebrating Christmas, the Holy Roman Empire might too not have existed; and today during these modern times, instead of the Savior Jesus, all in the western world might be worshiping Jupiter, eyes uplifted toward the fifth planet. Imagine no Christmas tree farms or the month-long onslaught of "Silent Night" and "Grandma Was Run Over By A Reindeer."  Think how much poorer we would be!

Yes what would our culture look like if Joseph hadn't been able to pay cash for the manger with its hot and cold running sheep and donkeys and oxen?  Thankfully life was simpler 2000 years ago when money was king, translating into a snug birthplace for the future King of all Mankind.

In today's America,  not having the correct piece of plastic can prevent you from renting a hotel or motel room even though you might have a million dollars in your pockets, your money alone not good enough.  In any future sequel of the nativity story, I am sure the Heavenly Father will make sure the anointed couple  has an array of cards ranging from Mastercard to American Express, knowing they could be turned away, thus delaying the awaited miraculous birth.  As for going to a hospital, this new Mary and Joseph must be on their best behavior plus having proof of medical insurance or face a similar rejection into that cold December night..  Perhaps then and only then will the Republicans  finally thank GOD for Obama-care!  I could see that included in a newly updated New Testament.

Though not a member of the Holy Family, Dan, a perfectly nice guy walking up to my cab in Ballard early Saturday morning, required, like every other human animal, shelter from that day's early morning rain and chill.   All he wanted was a room for the night, and though trying our best for almost 90 minutes, driving all over the north end---again and again turned away due to not having a credit card.  Not wearing a suit probably didn't assist in the process. Don't you know you must look culturally respectable 24/7?

The lesson driven home here was that having the money to pay meant nothing to an intractable rule barring the less privileged from the simple dignity of having a safe and comfortable bed for the night. Not having any kind of identification card results in the same, not only stopping someone from voting but also from sleeping.

Finally, $61.00 meter dollars later, we found Dan a room for two nights at the Hillside. Given the non-stop insults, Dan was fairly philosophical about the situation, accepting his current position as an outcast, a societal leper not worthy of the most basic considerations.  I personally felt he was an honorable personage, his current circumstances not worthy of faulty judgement.

What has our modern American up-to-date world become?  We all know the answer to that.  Merry Christmas everyone.  Merry full-moon Christmas, that is !  May Heaven help us, and keep you and Dan and everyone safe upon the coming new year.  And watch out for the drivers these next few lunatic days.  Believe me, they are making every effort to kill you, leading not to presents but coffins beneath the colorful, twinkling Christmas tree, Santa Claus making a poor mortician.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

An Insistent Abigail At The Wheel

What will always be true concerning taxi is its natural creation and never ending availability of crazy and spontaneous situations occurring minus control and intention. Now while many things happen which I would rather avoid it is hard to protest when a mundane Ballard QFC grocery run blows up into a miniature carnival---a staggering drunk carrying a Christmas tree and along with a very insistent Staffordshire terrier/bulldog mix Abigail taking full advantage of the chaos by repeatedly moving to the taxi driver's seat. When this type of entertainment occurs I can only "throw up my hands" and appreciate the absolute madness of a derangement that is uniquely, and can only be, taxi.  Why worry if Abigail's muddy paws might soil the interior?   Instead of caring I should enjoy a recalcitrant pooch doing whatever it wants regardless of human concerns and commands.  Hurrah for Abigail for telling me and everyone else to go to canine hell, I'm driving this taxi to the nearest fire hydrant, and just try stopping me!  Grrr  Grrr Grrr!

David Plouffe: Barking Doggerel 

David Plouffe, Obama's gift to Uber,
last week came to town,

to announce that 14,000 thousand Uber cars
now dominate the Puget Sound,

Mister Plouffe crowing, after getting a a big raise,
having recently departed the presidential lounge;

But while he might be lacking personal ethics
you gotta say the former advisor knows how to get around,

And while he's no Donald Trump,
he's still another version of the

"I'll go anywhere if you pay me enough"

political clown

doing anyone's dirty business

minus a frown

smiling with the mayor,
making sure to remind Murray

that Uber hadn't forgotten Mister Ed's intervention

and big favor!

and Plouffes' here
just to remind there

just might be future opportunities ahead

to savor!

so remain brave and never waver,

Uber never forgetting

its favorite Seattle


Uber Union

Our friends at the Seattle City Council, maybe needing a last hurrah before fading into political obscurity, and somehow, some way feeling it necessary to bandage the open wound that was their freeing of Uber from regulatory bondage, voted yesterday to allow all local transportation independent contractors (like me) to be free to form and join in collective bargaining agreements.  Council hero Tom Rassmussen, he, as reported by a colleague, of an Uber X sign in his office when such operators were still operating illegally; spoke eloquently about labor rights and how we should respect the worker's toil and sweat and blood by giving them democracy and choice, demanding liberty and elemental  justice for all human kind.  Mayor Murray is not pleased and Uber has promised that the whole issue to headed to court.  But with a valuation of over 61 billion dollars, does anyone really think that Uber will lose out over this argument?  Maybe by the year 2051 the case will reach the United States Supreme Court and Justices Rassmussen and Murray will decide what is ultimately   right and wrong.  If you think this is a fairy tale then consult the Brothers Grimm and get back to me.  In this fairy tale the dragon, instead of being slayed, eats the good knight, and come midnight, snacks on local cabbies.

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water

but Jill drowned Jack

while simultaneously

stabbing him in the back

then drove back to San Francisco

in a new Cadillac

(or was it a Toyota?)

A Birthday Tradition

Friday is my birthday.  "She who can't be named" always sends me a hand-made card which includes a newly composed inscription.  I do the same for her in January but she is surely the superior poet.  This year's poem says it all and then some. Enjoy, like I have, the sweet sentiments.

"Joe is 62

Don't you know

that it's not all for show

the pain is real

but he's no heel

He weathers the Madness!

and smiles to boot

He's sure one crazy koot

and I wish to heaven

and I wish to tell

that he escapes the



Thanks, Hound!  How can I disagree?  Yes I am certainly ready to be


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Three Hours Listening To The Port Of Seattle Commission Meeting---A Seat At The Table Is Required

Yesterday, Tuesday December 8th, I sat through my first Port commission meeting.  Forsaking both sleep and writing time I battled a steady rain all the way from Tacoma to Seattle, just making the 2:00 PM start time.  Thankfully I arrived just in time to to make my public commentary, a colleague having signed me in, allowing for one solitary taxi driver voice to be heard.  Yes, amazingly I was the sole non-owner to stand up and speak, again advocating for an industry utterly devoid of self-interested parties, most cabbies concentrating upon their own navel.  It is a sorry situation, our nearly complete lack of viable representation, something requiring immediate repair, a two minute podium not enough time for addressing decades of association mismanagement and regulatory failure. Again, the entire Yellow taxi Sea-Tac contract might soon implode and, as usual, there I was, the driver's sole spokesman. To their credit, others did voice concern about major changes looming at the Port but these complainants either single owners or paid lobbyists; the taxi foot soldier, as I said, conspicuously absent.

What became clear beyond any doubt is our (the lease-drivers) need for an organization defending our goals and civil rights..  While the thought is simple, the solution is complex, creating a union or driver trade association out of thin air.  Still, once my book is publication ready, I will start the process.  Looking at my current progress, it probably won't be before mid-February at the earliest, once I am back from Mexico. This trip I guarantee I will have my book with me on a known laptop.  I will get the work done, and then, and only then will I begin the attempt to bring everyone together in a coherent and legal organization.  If having a bureaucratic gun to your head isn't enough to convince folks to join up, I will finally surrender to the non-negotiable reality that Seattle's taxi industry is beyond redemption.  It very well may be the case but you never know, don't miracles happen everyday?  Just ask the current Pope.  He'll tell you all about it!.  And all you Roman Catholics should start saying a few Hail Marys. Prayers are definitely called for. Light a candle or two while you are at it, never knowing what will grab the taxi God's attention.

Two ominous notes from yesterday's meeting concerned TNC concessions at Sea-Tac and Yellow's contractual future.  Uber obviously has been lobbying the Port, making potential inroads toward obtaining curb space with the taxis on the third floor.  The port employee making his report to the commission mentioned "very quickly" Yellow's billing issues.  His short sentence should scare the hell out of the  Sea-Tac taxi drivers.  Listen between the lines and you will be alarmed.  This could be the proverbial "tip of the regulatory iceberg" sinking good Ship Yellow Cab's continued presence at Sea-Tac.   The situation is dire.  Is anyone paying attention?


One potential mistake the good people at the Port of  Seattle might be making is thinking, erroneously, that providing taxi and taxi-like services, is easy, something anyone can do.  Opening up Sea-Tac to TNC "amateur hour" could be a huge mistake.  An example from Yellow this past weekend shows yet again that too many independent operators are not up to the taxi task.

To say that Seattle was rainy Friday, Saturday and Sunday is understating how much moisture fell from the skies.  Rivers are flooding and hillsides are sliding upon railway tracks and roads, our past summer-long drought a distant memory.  It was during these water-laden weather conditions that a rookie Yellow taxi driver stopped on the west side of Aurora Ave North (State Highway 99), telling his well-dressed passengers they were going to somehow have to cross over the highway to that famous eatery of Seattle's millionaire-class, Canlis, on their own, that he wasn't going to take them any further.

That these customers had no idea how to do the impossible is understandable.  Obviously this is a very bad story, with the ultimate consequences yet to be written but like the driver who last week took his passengers to the wrong Boeing Field, who truly  is to blame?  Who was it that licensed and certified these individuals taxi ready?  Of course none other than the City of Seattle and King County.  Will the bureaucrats there be held responsible?  No, of course not.  And will the driver be fired?  Unbelievably that also might not happen.  Amazing, isn't it?

And this should be fair warning to the Port of Seattle commissioners.  You might want to reconsider flooding the airport with transportation neophytes.  All hell could break loose and then who will be taking responsibility for the mess and accompanying scandal?  If anyone thinks Uber will, you are naive. Or worse!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Five Weeks Since I Have Returned

Because my day and night drivers requested some schedule adjustment last week, Tom especially wanting a taxi-free turkey zone, I ended up driving five consecutive days, something I haven't done in a long time. Business was certainly iffy, with "Seahawk Sunday" being the best out of the five, though Monday while barely working I still managed a 100 dollar gross over four hours.  The real test will be coming in the "taxi dog day" months of January through March.  That I am not looking forward to it is a complete taxi understatement but joining "she-who-can't-be-named" in Mexico during the last part of January will help alleviate the pain.

Unfortunately, soon after coming back Tom will going on his annual Hawaiian vacation so I am looking at potentially more driving than I have done in a long while.  But like this past weekend I know when and not to "push it," resting and sleeping instead of eking out a few pennies from no business whatsoever.

Understanding that the elongated Thanksgiving weekend had destroyed the Saturday night, early Sunday morning "bar-break," I was asleep by 1:00 AM, figuring that later in the day could potentially translate into beneficial business, a hunch paying off with a first-fare $57.00 Sea-Tac from Ballard, an initial burst blasting me to my best overall take of the weekend.  Especially when business is essentially nonexistent, a good personal strategy can win the taxi day despite the bleakest predictions.  Friday morning, when I scored a $75.00 Sea-Tac run, another veteran driver told me he had one solitary seven dollar run during a similar five-hour time period.  Clearly his report made my up-to-that-point overall gross of $175.00 look so much better.  As any long-term driver knows, taxi can, and will be unforgiving, kicking your butt all over the street at a moment's notice.

As to being back at it for now over five weeks, I have been sick twice and in a general struggle to get anything done other than placating the taxi gods.  No fun, I am not having any fun.  My one and only compensation is eating Chinese food, a small pleasure amidst the madness.  Beef brisket noodle soup, anyone?!  My 62nd birthday arrives this upcoming December 18th.  I have two writing projects I have to finish before that defining date.  I'll let you know if I make it.

Easier Time at the Husky

While only a partial report, only having time for one "Apple Cup" half-time fare, the police presence was the lightest I have seen it in years.  Maybe, just maybe my plea to everyone concerned with game traffic control was heard.  With my night driver Raymond expecting the cab at 3:00 PM, the unusual Friday afternoon game time made me miss the post-game frolics, meaning I do not know what happened when traffic was snarled.  Hoping to not be driving by this time next year, I hope I can never tell you the answer.  Having had enough of all this, I have had enough to last this and any other potential future lifetimes. Taxi in my future?  I hope not.

Beware of the Rabid Upper-Middle Class Woman

While sounding like a the title from a Grade-B horror flick, it was my reality when, after dropping off my brother last night, my call to a local grocery store transformed into this stupid woman physically charging at me because Yellow had failed to send her neighbor a timely taxi.  Pulling up to the store I saw an elderly woman looking somewhat confused.  What had happened is that she had called her next door neighbor to pick her up after waiting too long for her Yellow cab.  Upon innocently pulling up to this situation, the neighbor decided that I should be punished.  Thankfully she pulled up short of striking me because I would have had her arrested.  Who was truly to blame?  None other than a lingering full moon laughing at its earthly victims. In addition to the avenging neighbor, I was twice nearly struck by cars speeding through red lights and two incidents with oncoming wrong-way drivers.  Nuts is all I can say!

Single Owner Seeking Day-shift Driver January 1st-March 5th 2016

If interested call Alci at 253-245-8839.  It is YC 670.  Car is a Crown Vic with only 140,000 miles.

Wrong Boeing!

Saturday, from the Museum of Flight,  I picked up 4 Canadians from Calgary, Alberta in for Sunday's football game.  Everything was normal until they told me that the Yellow cab they had flagged in Pioneer Square had taken them to the wrong Boeing Field.  For those of you unfamiliar with the greater Seattle area, there are three Boeing sites containing airfields, south Seattle, Renton and Everett's Payne Field.  Instead of Boeing Field (King County International Airport), their intended destination was Everett and a tour of its Boeing facilities, a long time favorite with tourists.  Given its popularity, everyone is required to make pre-paid reservations, in the Canadians' case being $250.00.  Not understanding that the dumbbell cabbie had taken them south, not north, they got out at the incorrect location.  Why the Canadians, once understanding the error, didn't go up to Everett I can't tell you.  But the idiot cabbie cost both himself and the Canadians money, the fare up to Payne Field about $75.00. And usually you can arrange to take your passengers back to Seattle.

Making matters worse was the Canadians mistake by not remembering the cab number thus preventing Yellow from figuring out who the culprit was. That the passengers held some blame is obvious but how do you take someone, anyone in the complete opposite direction from where they need to be?  When you have no idea what you are doing is the the simple answer.  And who is ultimately responsible?  The City of Seattle and King County of course.  Do they care?  Why don't you ask them and see what kind of answer you receive. Ha Ha Ha!