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!

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