Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sea-Tac Invasion---Uber & Lyft & Wingz Begin Operating At Seattle's Airport Thursday March 31st, 2016

While there have been previous TNC (Uber, Lyft, etc) inroads at Sea-Tac, with surrogates either picking up Uber passengers, or Uber drivers themselves, it seems, picking up on the ticket counter level minus official attention and intervention, a major change is the offing.   Last Tuesday, upon staff planning and recommendation, the Port of Seattle has adopted a one year "pilot" program allowing TNC operation upon the third floor, sharing space with taxis and other providers.  Sixty spaces will be provided, along with a nearby parking lot holding one hundred and sixty cars.

Though at first sounding like a reasonable compromise, a logical response to public demand, it isn't when you realize that Sea-Tac, as far I know, will be potentially open to over 14,000 TNC operators.  Currently, the Yellow taxis serving Sea-Tac are capped at 250, meaning the disparity is both illogical and unfair.  My cab is not eligible because it is only has a city plate.  Even if all Seattle and King County licensed taxis were allow to work the airport, we would still be only looking at just over 900 cars so the math in this case, is distorted, making little sense.

Again, I must remind everyone that TNC companies were initially capped at 250 cars per company until Mayor Murray's intervention.  As I have been saying all along, and will keep repeating, how  and why did this all come about?  An interesting question that, to my taxi mind, requires a real answer.  Is anybody else curious?

There are some conditions, primarily that the TNC cars must average 43 miles per gallon, and of course a per ride fee plus a lump sum fee of  $100,000 for permission to join the one-year pilot program.  If there are requirements to have on-site supervisors, like Yellow must have, I have not heard of any so far.  I would think this would be very important to ensure that only currently app-registered TNC operators are picking up Sea-Tac passengers.

 If you don't think this is important, think again, because earlier today, an old friend told me he used an Uber operator this past Saturday who DID NOT originate the ride through the app.  In fact this rogue Uber operator provided TWO trips minus the app, meaning, as I told my friend, "you were riding in an uninsured car."  Given Seattle Port Authority liability, these kinds of shenanigans should not be happening at Sea-Tac, because obviously, due to safely concerns, illegal operation creating unnecessary dangers for a trusting and unaware public.

Of equal interest, I am told that, on April 4th, Sea-Tac will announce the results of who won the RFP derby, telling us which combination of operators will be providing taxi or taxi-like service for the next five years. Given Sea-Tac's TNC pilot program, will it really matter?  One might rightfully ask if the Port Authority really cares what happens to both the taxi industry and the current loyal group of drivers serving Sea-Tac?  Like other questions concerning regulatory decisions, I will let you form your own conclusions.

Why Is Washington State Labor & Industry Prosecuting Tacoma Yellow Cab?

In last week posting, I attempted to tell everyone why certain decisions are made by describing the kind of people making them.  While agreeing or not to my premise, I find personal vindication in the Port TNC decision, and again, in the legal action WA St L&I has taken against Tacoma Yellow Taxi, this stemming from something allegedly occurring some time 2007, yes, nearly 10 years ago.

Back during those early dark days of what is now known as the "Great Recession," Tacoma Yellow was operating with about 18 insured cars out of a fleet of approximately fifty taxis.  A similar situation is happening now at Seattle Yellow, with many cars sitting on the new lot essentially "mothballed," currently licensed but not insured.

What L&I did in 2007 was count all 50 cars as completely operational even though Tacoma Yellow has the insurance records proving otherwise.  This occurred even after Tacoma Yellow had agreed in 2007 to a legal compromise with L&I, paying L&I  insurance on all operational vehicles.  L&I, all these years later, are accusing Yellow of lying despite of what appears to be indisputable evidence proving their innocence.

Is Tacoma Yellow being picked on?  Again, do the research and come to your own conclusion.  I encourage the folks at L&I to do the same.  Maybe L&I could instead put some time and energy into determining whether TNC drivers are actually employees, and not the independent operators Uber and Lyft say they are. But Uber alone has 61 billions dollars to hire the world's best legal team.  That dollar amount  might explain what is going on a regulatory and administrative level all over the State of Washington.  When I was passing through Las Vegas in late November 1977 someone told that in Vegas "Money talks and bullshit walks!" Very possibly true, might you agree?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Psychological Profile Of Those Making Decisions For The American Taxi Industry

If it couldn't have gotten worse for Seattle and area cabbies, it has, with the Port of Seattle considering a Port Staff proposal to open up Sea-Tac Airport to TNC (Uber and Lyft) operators as soon as next Thursday, March 31st, 2016; and this even before any decision is made regarding the new Sea-Tac passenger service contract.  It is very bad news if true, as it appears to be, saying much about the prevailing attitude of Port of Seattle administrators and commissioners.   And as I will be outlining, the bias shown is not new but something shared amongst other regulators and governmental administrators located not only  in Seattle and King County but throughout the entire nation, a kind of privileged clan operating a invisible yet palpable cabal.  They know who to trust---people who look and act like them, the kind of person they see staring back in the mirror.  Of course the Uber founders are good and wise and kind.  How could they be otherwise?  Perish the thought!

If what I will be writing wasn't true, I know that the American taxi industry collectively would not be facing what is essentially unregulated, renegade competition given free reign at the total expense of what has been, and is, a century-old governmental regulated industry.  Who these people are and why they feel they have unbridled permission to damage the United States taxi industry is the nature of this examination.  It is important to know "who they are" and why they do what they do.  Demystification is important.  There is no point in walking (or driving) around puzzled.  There is an explanation however dispiriting it may be.  If you think someone is out to get you, you are not suddenly paranoid.  You are correct, Uber and friends doing everything they can to destroy you.  It is not your imagination.  It is undeniable reality.

I have in the past written about social classes in America, and here I am, mentioning it again, because classism is at the core of what we in the taxi industry are dealing with.  I understood it immediately in my first few months back in 1987 when police would stop me in my cab and issue me not one but two unjustified tickets. Ha Ha Ha they would literally laugh at me.  Yes, I got the message they were delivering as licensed agents of the ruling class:  we don't like you, we don't respect you, and if we could, we would immediately dispose of you. Anyone driving taxi over a month understands this.  To quote from Bob Dylan's song, "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues": "The cops don't need you and man they expect the same."  This is the song all cabbies hum beneath their breath whether they know the tune or not.

During my three years in "therapist school"---1974-77---I learned much about diagramming human personality, Transactional Analysis breaking down the human id into three predisposed ego states: adult, parent and child, a generalization proving more or less correct.  From my experience, most human behavior is usually a combination of two ego states, three simultaneous states much too much for the brain to handle.  If and when a single ego state is operational, it would not be very nuanced, either a whimper or a roar.  If you think Donald Trump looks silly making inane (and insane) pronouncements, then you see the potential of what I am talking about.

TA also liked to describe some kinds of human behavior as "games people play," as in psychological dialogue leading to tangible and describable behavior.  TA also finds, in a kind of mental geometry, triangles helpful when explaining behavior, as in the "rescue triangle," with people trading, exchanging positions, the rescuer being victimized, etc.

While at times helpful, I found TA better as a compass than indisputable fact, pointing one toward the potential exit while navigating through a confounding maze.  All therapeutic modalities, like the practitioners themselves, are flawed, part truth, part guesswork, propelling you down the road, a junker car backfiring but getting you to your destination, or at least close to it.  I was in that "world" for over 20 years.  I know it too well.

But coming back to my original thesis, and what kind of person is sitting upon individual thrones making multiple important decisions concerning subjects they know little about, I present my own hybrid version of just how people become upper-middle class elitists, even if they  view themselves as anointed (and self-appointed) messiahs. That of course is the problem, a life of prolonged special treatment creating both overestimation and unrealistic expectations, this sociological category knowing, like a Marvel Comics super-hero they can fly through the air, break through walls and conquer all ills and cultural maladies.  Again, someone like Mr. Trump fits this category well, coddled in comfort from his first breath. That I don't share his silk lining I guess goes without saying.  How can you be "rough and tumble" without a few knocks upon the head?  It isn't possible. Unfortunately I am still counting the many dents.

The " I am the best at everything" psychological formula exists something like this, an equation adding up sums resulting into the stratified "perfect"  human being.  You should also consider this as a kind of personality hard wiring that, in developmental psychology, roughly starts at birth and continues until about age five.  There is recent evidence that the child's mental formation actually begins in the womb, meaning your outside environment and mother's habits and nutrition hold profound implications.  I grew up in a  green 1952 Buick Roadmaster  roaring down the bumpy American roads, which is all the information I suppose you need to know about me and why I am who I am.

The "he/she is a gift" mathematical equation is as follows:

Healthy and safe birth plus

Good nutrition plus

Excellent heath maintenance & doctor care plus

24 a day parental devotion & support plus

Early educational opportunities plus

Complete comfort eliminating all hardships plus

Complete financial security plus

24 hour reinforcement that your social position is the correct one

adding up to the ready child put in the best schools K-12, daily receiving positive reinforcement through
music and language training, excelling in sports and education, Mr or Ms 4.0 prepared for the university launching pad where, supported financially, never having to work, they graduate and post-graduate to BAs & MAs and PHDs,  now fully equipped to do everything but nothing at all, having lived 22-26 years without ever leaving the nest.

They then embark upon management, government, law, medicine, fully confident they KNOW minus any evidence other than academic achievement that they, beyond all and everyone, as I said, can rule the world and all its various sectors, taxi being one.  It is not that they are bad.  Usually it is quite the opposite, life-long privilege creating a fairly benign human being, like the current Roman Catholic pontiff, Pope Francis, blessing the world and offering divine advice to the unwashed or even the partially bathed.

There you have it, the benevolent adult saying, "Uber, made in God's likeness, go forth and prosper!" and so they have, and so they will, overrunning Sea-Tac  and kicking all those cabbies' butts!  Good show, good show! Rudyard Kipling would say!  IF only, IF only, yes, IF only!

Fred, Rest in Peace

Fred Griffin, longtime Yellow Cab dispatcher, succumbed to a heart attack a few days ago.  All of us will miss the hardworking Fred, finding him ever supportive if always a bit stressed.  Blessings Fred, blessings!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New York Estimates 59 Million Visitors For 2016

NYC, after welcoming over 58 million tourists in 2015, expects that number to increase by at least another million visitors, marking a new record of 59 million for 2016.  Impressive, wouldn't you agree, especially when adding that figure to an already extant metropolitan population of 20 million or more, totaling, from the taxi perspective, into a potential rider customer base of approximately 80 million ready to tool around Manhattan viewing and hearing the sights that is one very Big Apple.

When comparing Seattle and King County's competing statistics of 1.4 million total residents and 19.2 million visitors (according to a Seattle Times business article), its clear NYC wins by the proverbial tourist mile.  There are good and logical reasons why  NYC has 13,000 taxis.  The same logic can't be applied to Seattle's taxi and taxi-like transportation providers, given that our potential customer base clearly having more operators than we need and require.. The question of course is why is this true?

The answer is simple: municipal and county regulators and administrators wanting to believe that Seattle (and King County) is something that it isn't--- mythology equaling fantasy equaling governmental mis-estimation, and ultimately, operational malfeasance and delusion,whether intentional or not, morphing into distorted reality, equating the small large and the insignificant important and momentous. Obviously this type of approach isn't helpful when resolution is the goal, resulting only in confusion. Clarity, despite all objections, is always better than the alternative. But expecting clarity from politicians truly is a fantasy!

First I will start with the approximate Seattle provider number, the figures speaking for themselves.  Our market is saturated, and all the independent operators, regardless of affiliation, are drowning in the crowded sea. There is simply nowhere to swim!

Seattle & King County Service Provider Estimation:

14,000 Uber operators

3000? Lyft drivers

900 plus Seattle & KC taxis

250 City-Only Flat-rate For-hire cars

250? County-Only Flat-rate For-hire cars

1000 Town-cars

Unknown Number Shuttle Express vans and limousines (carrying half-million passengers 2015)

Unknown number pedicabs (carrying large number during and after NFL Seahawk games)

This all roughly equals an approximate 20,000 operators for a potential customer base less than one quarter the size of New York's.  Of course adding to NYC's 13,000 taxis are 14,000 Uber operators and 15,000 Green (livery) metered taxis, making for approximately 42,000 taxi and taxi-like providers but, as I said, given the population numbers (resident and visitor), these numbers are reasonable.  What we have currently in Seattle is not.  If we didn't have 200 plus cruise ships visiting here each season we would be sunk, and I am not joking!

And again, in addition to our over-crowded provider group, we must add buses and light-rail to the overall mix.  This week light-rail is opening stations in the University District and Capitol Hill, meaning you can travel all the way from the UW to Sea-Tac for $2.25.  Given that a taxi will cost you $50.00, what choice will the rational consumer take?  You can also take an express bus to Sea-Tac from 2nd & Yesler for $3.50.

All this means a further cutting into an important ridership, making it harder on a daily basis.  Even if we have a yearly 5 % or better annual visitor increase, the majority will never come close to entering a taxi, especially for the larger revenue fares.  We cabbies are getting screwed and our situation will only worsen.  That is the reality we are facing, along with again not having a viable taxi stand for SafeCo Field for the upcoming Mariner baseball season.  I know all of us cabbies look forward for being chased down 1st Ave South by the police!  Aren't those flashing lights pretty?

In my lost version concerning this topic, I outlined a very blunt personality analysis of the kind of person making all these wonderful decisions.  Obvious that they have never driven a taxi or worked (in any substantial way) a laboring or blue-collar job.  I will leave it for another time.  I will say I do know the type well, having once been married to a millionaire's daughter, 12 years with her thoroughly teaching me the morays of the privileged upper-middle class ruling elite.  If  there were any positives to our disunion, it was a wedding present of five weeks in Europe, my first foray off the North American continent. You have probably all heard songs (like Billy Joe Royal's "Down in the Boondocks) about love between the unequal classes.  What they don't sing about is, after they are married, how Miss Queen treats Mister Factory Worker.  It is a dissonant song, believe me!

Anyway, at least in the short term, given that both Spring and Summer are upon the taxi horizons, business will improve but unless we cut in half or better the number of independent operators vying for the same limited dollar, our collective pain will continue unabated.  Don't think so, well then, obtain a for-hire license and join the menagerie.  You too can become a taxi or Uber or whatever else you choose baboon!  Enjoy your time in the jungle because of course it is a real zoo!  Ain't that hilarious?!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What I Was Writing About---Instead A Taxi Snapshot

It hasn't happened in a long time but the blog I was composing, about 59 million tourists visiting NYC versus 19.3 million in Seattle, has disappeared, and now I don't have the time to write it over.  I have lost work before but is was a very long time ago. Since my day driver is going to Hawaii tomorrow, it will be a while before I have the spare and un-fatigued hours to rewrite what was lost.  I do remember the bulk of the text and should be able to more or less duplicate it but time is required. I will instead give you a quick story from the weekend, telling everyone again what driving taxi is all about.

Sunday night I get a blood package from the central blood bank to University Hospital.  Since it was after hours, I first had to check in with security.  Having a new system where a "paper" badge is required, I checked in with the guard.  Usually just providing your name is enough. In this case, it wasn't.

He asked for my name.  "Blondo," I said, giving my last name.  "No," he said,  "you are not in the system.". Given I had been there recently, I knew I was, having my picture taken previously, etc. As he was preparing to again take my photo, two women started walking by his station, and shouting, got them to stop. Amazingly, he started processing them while, there I was, standing in front of him with the blood waiting to be delivered. Wasn't I there first? When I started to protest, he called for backup, saying he had "an uncooperative person."

This of course was all insane.  During the daytime I would not have been stopped, and he knew  full well I was a cabbie making a "rush" delivery, and nothing beyond that commonplace occurrence.   Finally another security person appeared with some kind of sergeant patch on his shoulder, and he made what I feel is the the COMMENT of the new century, when, after again protesting, telling him I needed to get the blood delivered, he said, "It is only blood," entirely dismissive of any urgency that is usually called for.

I knew of course that often there is a patient waiting on the operating table for the blood, holding the possibility that this might be a true life and death situation, and no game whatsoever on any terms.  None of this made any sense but when you are "power-tripping" it somehow does.  I also knew that years ago a patient died when a cabbie failed to deliver the blood entrusted to him.  Once you get the blood the rule is to move your "taxi butt" and get it to where it is going minus hesitation.

Finally, the first guard, now finished with the women, started the process all over again.  "Oh, Blondo is not your first name?" he responded. Huh?! was my reaction, all of this nonsense avoidable if the fool had simply entered my full name.  He had also begun the process by trying to direct me to NW 220.  But I was heading to the blood bank.  That he didn't know what he was doing was too obvious.

I told the blood bank personnel what had happened and they said they would look into it, not pleased I had been left standing up at the guard station for 10 useless minutes.  When I have the time, I too will file a complaint.

As I came out of the stairwell, the troublemaker guard shouted out, "Have a good evening, Mister Blondo!" Obnoxious and unnecessary is no other way to both describe the incident and his cheeky goodbye.

And why did this all happen?  Because I was driving a taxi, that's why.  Amazing, isn't it? Welcome to taxi!  Welcome to being treated like a last-class citizen, saying everything about bias and discrimination.  It is stupid but that never stopped a bully, especially a bully like they both were, ersatz badges pinned to their chests!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Uber Sent The Seattle City Council A Letter

If anyone thinks that Uber is anything other than another corporation seeking high profits and political  influence, I would strongly reconsider that position.   I know they like to position themselves as some kind of self-styled humanitarian organization, steadfastly dedicated to assisting both the individual and planet by, one, offering work opportunities, and two, reducing carbon emissions by providing people transportation alternatives. In other words, they present themselves as a benign company out to save the world  while simultaneously giving all those bad cabbies the beating we deserve.  Clearly they have achieved the latter, and now they are focusing upon their own independent operators.  Is anyone surprised?  I for one, am not.

I guess it might be considered old fashioned but I believe communication, especially written communication, to be sacred.  Given that thought I begin this commentary concerning Uber's letter writing with a poem by Robert Graves (1895-1985), his "History of the Word."

 Uber  appears, at both first, second and third glance, to be little interested in either history or written propriety. Why care when you don't have to be, is seemingly their operational attitude.  And my response to that is simple, that caring is the one and only correct approach, something unfortunately lost upon the majority; and certainly, minus doubt, upon rapacious corporations solely concerned with equity and remuneration.  It is not a good situation, blind to life as it truly is, thinking money and money only the core sustenance for all individuals, ignoring any and all competing imperatives.

History of the Word

The Word that in the beginning was the Word
For two or three, but elsewhere spoke unheard,
Found words to interpret it, which for a season
Prevailed until ruled out by Law and Reason
Which, by a lax interpretation cursed,
In Laws and Reasons logically dispersed;
These, in their turn, found they could do no better
Then fall to Letters and each claim a letter.
In the beginning then, the Word alone,
But now the various tongue-tied Lexicon
In perfect impotence the day nearing
When every ear shall lose its sense of hearing
And every mind by knowledge be close-shuttered---
But two or three, that hear the Word uttered.

You might remember that the Seattle City Council voted 8-0 to allow for-hire drivers (Uber, Lyft, flat-rate, taxi) to form legal representational unions.  This was, or is, the first effort of this kind in the nation, given that these kinds of drivers are usually considered independent contractors, and thus exempt from union organization or other related labor activities.  To that end, both Uber and its highly influential and powerful surrogate, the United States Chamber of Commerce, have objected to Seattle's effort to balance the labor playing field.

Now it has been reported that the US Chamber of Commerce have just filed a suit against the City of Seattle in the United District Court for the Western District of Washington.  Their point of view upon unionization is clearly expressed in the opinion that the new ordinance "will burden innovation, increase prices, and reduce quality and services for consumers." That this statement can be construed as self-serving should be obvious.

The two following quotes are from Amanda Eversole, the US Chamber of Commerce President of their  "Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation.":

"This ordinance threatens the ability of not just of Seattle, but of every community across the country, to grow with and benefit from our evolving economy."

It is clear that the Chamber of Commerce fears, that if successful, union organization of Uber and Lyft drivers will, like a virus, infect similar workers across the country.

Another similar quote states:

"Technology companies are leading the charge when it comes to empowering people with the flexibility and choice that comes with being your own boss, and that is something to be championed, not stifled."

One problem with this expressed sentiment is that Uber drivers are not their own boss in any true sense, given that Uber at any time can sever drivers from Uber's operational umbilical cord minus warning or legal recourse.  If they were their "own boss," they certainly wouldn't be firing themselves.  Is Eversole perpetuating a fantasy?  I will let you and the courts decide that one.

Prior to the Chamber's actions, Seattle's Uber general manager, Brooke Steger, wrote a letter to Seattle's Director of Finance and Administrative Services, Fred Podesta, stating in part, "four core principles to ensure fairness in decisions that will impact the livelihood of thousands."  That this letter was truly directed toward Council-member Mike O'Brien and the other Seattle City Council members is transparently clear.

The "four principles" are as follows:

---Every affected driver should have the right to vote.

---Every affected driver should be fully informed before voting.

---Every vote should be fairly counted.

---FAS should look to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rules and case law.

Steger also says, representing Uber's official stance that

"We look forward to engaging in the upcoming rule making to ensure drivers can make a fully informed choice about representation."

What this statement doesn't address is why does contention amongst the drivers exist in the first place?  Is all this just some kind of plot to foil Uber's efforts to transform the labor world into something benefiting every worker?  Uber seems to be saying that, with that nasty Seattle City Council not understanding Uber's corporate goodness.  Why every new Uber driver receives a $100.00 bonus after their first ten trips. Isn't that just and fair and humane?

One might say of course that it was the City Council who created this whole mess by killing its initial ordinance governing Uber and other TNC companies.  And the individual perhaps most responsible for the situation we are now dealing with locally, Mayor Ed Murray, has, so far, refused to sign into law the City Council Union Bill, saying it would be "burdensome administrating the law.''  Any less than the financial burden all of us are now carrying since his Uber intervention?  I doubt that.

But there is someone who does know personally the implications demonstrated by Uber and the US Chamber of Commerce, and that is my "Uber insider," telling me Uber has been lobbying him for months to not support unionization. He says that full-timers like him serve 80 percent of Uber business, meaning that he, and others like him, should decide whether to organize or not, not the part-timers who have little to no true investment in their Uber future."  He did say that he has, now over five months later, finally received his for-hire driving license. It also allows him to drive a taxi. Lucky him!

One point concerning this Seattle effort to allow union organization is extremely clear.  Like many other labor efforts over the past 150 years of American worker history, management will not give in without a protracted fight, high-priced lawyers replacing thugs and "bought" police to enforce owner interests.  Anyone historically familiar with owner and management statements will recognize the sentiments expressed by Eversole and Steger, nothing new spoken beneath the "Labor Sun."

One would think their  rhetoric would change but clearly it hasn't, disinformation the same now as in 1915 as it was also in Catherine the Great's dialogue concerning Russia's serfs.  Beware, brothers and sisters, is all I can say.  At least Catherine left the world a great art museum.  Was the abuse and death of millions worth all that beautiful art residing in the Hermitage along the Neva River?  Certainly not!  Is Uber and Lyft convenience, and a few dollars saved, worth the pain and suffering of countless independent operators?  I don't think so. Do you?

I leave you with this quote taken from a New York Times article concerning oil prices, taken from the Tuesday, March 8th edition:

"In commodity circles, low prices cure low prices, just like high prices cure high prices," said Jason Schenker, founder of Prestige Economics, a market research firm.

What the hell does that mean?  Whatever it means, I know it applies to Uber and their operating philosophy. Run for the taxi hills is all I can say!

Please note:  The quotes and some of the information included in this posting was taken from articles written by Taylor Soper, Geekwire writer and columnist. See his website for many original articles concerning the transportation industry.  He had the initial scoop concerning the letter.  Good for him

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Old Home Week At First & University---4 Seasons Stand

Being at this "hack business" a long time I know all the "ins and outs" of what makes successful taxi.  As my first two years featured me as a dispatch-less independent cabbie gadabout, I learned everything "I never wanted to" concerning working the hotel stands---the good and bad and the completely insane.  So when my night driver Raymond (first behind the taxi wheel in 1973) told me that good things were happening at the Four Seasons Hotel I took note.

Understanding the taxi guide book page by page and knowing the percentages of "what does and doesn't work," I decided to try the stand early Saturday morning.  Raymond told me that their doormen told him they preferred Yellow Cab so I thought I had little to lose, hoping for the best.  The only real complicating factor when committing to a stand is whether to take a bell instead of just waiting the hotel out. Instantaneously getting first up bolstered my spirits, backing the thought I was making the right decision but of course when it comes to taxi, nothing will ever be simple or straightforward.  It just doesn't work that way, taxi is not, and never will be, a straight line.

After sitting a mere five minutes, that choice was provided to me by the taxi universe, offering me a call that was supposed to be just one block away, at the 1500 block of 1st Avenue, with me waiting at the end of the 1400 block.  Weighting the percentages I accepted the bell but finding the actual address provided, 1538 1st Avenue, questionable. Before leaving the stand I called the telephone number, confirming what I thought was true: it instead being a First Avenue SOUTH address, a strip club known as "Dream Girls," with the waiting dancer named someone who had two weeks previously tipped me 10 dollars.  Armed with that info, and after being told A__ was waiting, I took off, picked up and delivered her downtown, and yes, another 10 dollar tip, meaning I got twenty for 15 minutes total time.  Any cabbie would and will take that.

Rushing back I again found myself first up at the Four Seasons, arriving in time to observe a Yellow cab being loaded up with luggage.  Seeing it was a different driver from the one who had been sitting behind me, I guessed that the hotel had just dished out two consecutive Sea-Tac runs.  Well, that is just how it goes but hey, it was still early, and why not a third Sea-Tac coming out the door?  Well, why not was right, two hours later and "no nothing" coming from either hotel or dispatch I found myself stalled  in that too familiar "taxi-no-mans-land," slowly losing my mind.  But, I must tell you, that doesn't mean I wasn't entertained, as various cabbies drove by, nodding or saying hello, 1st and University located in the center of "taxi-land;" and I was sitting on a well known cabbie island. Unfortunately there were no coconut palms.

Because it was ME sitting there, many were curious if "something was happening" and whether they should join me.  Jim, a well known "Queen Anne Player," someone I once shouted at, was clearly surprised to see 478 sitting there, flashing a friendly grin and inquiry.  "No, not here," I told him, me and Jim patching up that conflict months ago, hard to remain angry with a fellow taxi "blood-brother."

Kaz, the High School math teacher, someone who had grumbled at me over 20 years ago, drove up in a new Kia Soul, saying he was still driving but "there is nothing, there is nothing."  I don't even remember why he got mad all those years ago but whatever it was it was put aside and we have been friends ever since.

Most surprising was Bill, the former Yellow superintendent who twice drove by servicing Uber fares. Somewhat embarrassed, he yelled out, "If you can't beat them, join them!" after I called out "Bill!"  Bill would have been my 478 day driver if Tom hadn't committed to the car first.  Bill is a longtime cabbie, someone with more years than me in the business. Just shows what is happening out here, no business taking its toll upon the best of us.

Finally two half-drunk friends walk up from the street and I got the "hell-out-of-there."  If the new call center hadn't screwed up the address, I would had gotten my Sea-Tac run.  Oh well, that is just how it goes.  The two guys went to two destinations, with me getting another twenty dollar bill for the effort.

Overall, the day went pretty well, later in the afternoon getting to back to back sixty dollar runs, one to Sea-Tac; and the other, a Hopelink run to Everett from the Northgate; just another taxi day when patience and persistence is required.  If you don't stick with it, you only lose, never gaining.  That has always been the case regardless of the business environment, meaning while much has changed, nothing has changed, the taxi roller-coaster being just that, you the cabbie holding on for "dear-life!"  Always, welcome to taxi!  Ha Ha Ha!

I wrote the following poem about sitting on stands nearly 27 years ago.  It is about the original (at least to me) Space Needle cab stand.  It was usually a real winner, considering that the Space Needle was, and remains, a tourist magnet.  The poem itself is twice published, something rare for me given my fear of submitting.  It was once found in a small Saint Croix, American Virgin Islands newspaper; and in my second poetry volume, "The Greyer Elements."  No title.  Sometimes with title-less poems the first line is the tile.  Call this anything you want but truly call it realistic, real taxi minus embellishments.

I'd rather be first up on nothing
than fifth-up or worse
on no chance whatsoever
on a dead Sunday
sitting in late Autumn sun
knowing eventually
getting a fare somewhere, short
or otherwise,
(contrary to rumor, no cabbie ever died
upon a stand)
so I'll enjoy myself reading, writing,
or plainly doing nothing,
something I do best,
watching tourists idle by,
letting this day take its due course,
minus my usual frantic insistence.

Reading this over I realize the poem requires an important footnote.  Taxi at that time was a bit of a lark because I had a very good paying "day" job.  As I have said, currently all my income comes from taxi. Sitting two hours on a stand, like I did this past Saturday, is no joke for me now.  I gotta make the money and I gotta make it now. It is something that separates me from all the (they have never driven a taxi) industry advisers who are currently assisting in various ways.  They know nothing about "bleeding to death" hours upon a stand.  It is a particular kind of torture, a suffering I do not recommend unless of course you want to understand fully and completely the taxi experience.  Hell with that!

Direct Deposits Safeguards

Talking to the individual in charge. I was assured that Puget Sound Dispatch had contacted the banks and set up relationships.  One thing that is truly important is to make sure ALL your information provided PSD is correct, including the routing number.  The routing number can be found on your check, not your pre-printed deposit slip.  I personally will be doing my next turn and the direct deposit experience next Sunday.  Monday I will then go to my bank to ensure the money is there.  I suggest you do the same. And use commonsense, saving all receipts.

Why Me, Taxi Lord, Why Me?

My only excuse for letting this woman in my cab Sunday night is that I was half-sick and coughing when her sister put her in the cab to do a commonplace "round-trip to the store" run.  I noticed she was tilting a bit side to side which should have warned me to her true state.  It is somewhat unusual when a passenger can't tell you clearly where they  want to go, but she was having trouble communicating, losing her temper.

Arriving, she went directly into the store, where, a couple of minutes later, I observed her standing at the counter where suddenly, losing her balance, falling into a display case, cutting her mouth.  Rushing to her assistance, she was "dead-weight" and fairly unresponsive.  Making it worse, no one would help and somehow it was all my fault.  This was all happening in White Center where a sizable demographic is afflicted by the lingering affects of poverty, meaning many have been driven nuts by their lack of opportunity and education.  Some shouted. Some wanted to fight me.  It was insane but finally a kid did help me get her off the floor and out the door but not to the car where she again collapsed to the most available surface.  Finally another local ruffian helped me get her to the cab door.  All this was occurring while I was talking to her sister on the telephone.  It was totally nuts!  If this was a medical emergency it was beyond local comprehension, everyone holding tainted perspectives.

Once getting her into the cab, I then had the problem of getting her out.  What made this both appalling and amazing was her personal volition, sometimes cooperating and then not, either falling limp or actively putting up a fight.  It all ended when, with the sister and neighbor pulling on her arms, and me, pushing with my legs from behind, extracted her from the cab.  Last time I saw her she was on the parking lot asphalt, the sister pleading with her to get up.  I tell you it might have been the hardest twenty dollar bill I have earned.  And what was the cause?  I sum it was to a combination of barbiturates, alcohol and a bad mixture of insanity dosed with immaturity. Another interesting dimension  was that she seemed to be doing all this in part to receive attention. What a goddamn mess!