Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The 2016 Election Edition But Not Quite---Local Taxi Issues Too

As done previously, I was planning on making electoral recommendations but given that,  for the most part, the upcoming 2016 election is more statewide and national than municipal, I will confine most of my commentary toward politics in general, only peripherally focusing upon local candidates and issues. Finally I will end by expounding on more pertinent current taxi issues like the new taxi medallion lottery and Monday  night's mindless and unnecessary intervention by SPD's traffic enforcement, underlining once again the City of Seattle's inherent bias against its local tax industry.

Did you know that in 1948, there were not just two major presidential candidates but four: the sitting president Harry Truman, his Republican rival Thomas Dewey, States' Right Party Strom Thurmond, and Henry Wallace, the former vice-president running on the Progressive ticket?  Personally, I have always felt that one of FDR's greatest errors was removing Wallace as his fourth term VP and choosing Truman as his replacement.  Just as Gore would not have replicated Bush's errors, so would Wallace avoided Truman's amateurish decision making and policies.

While in part reminding of today's Libertarian Party and its outlook, the Progressive party platform in 1948 attempted to accelerate commonsense by proposing " an understanding with the Soviet Union and the United States;" removing power from "the war-producing elite;" repudiating the Marshall Plan, and amazingly, asking for the destruction of all atomic bombs, the immediate ending of segregation, and insisting upon better housing and lower food prices for everyone.  Other than eliminating the Marshall Aid Plan, something that quickly helped rebuild post-WWII Europe, the Progressive proposals, by modern standards, appear to be good ones.

These and other thoughts and quotes are taken from the book edited by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and Fred Israel and David Frent, "The Election of 1948 and the Administration of Harry S. Truman," and published by Mason Crest, 2003. Two quotes from the Schlesinger intro are especially apt today.  The first quote, written in 1888, comes from  James Bryce (1st Viscount), later the British ambassador (1907-1913) to the United States; and the second from that figure featured on the American ten dollar bill, Alexander Hamilton.

"America suffers from a sort of intermittent fever---what one may call a quintan ague.  Every fourth year there comes terrible shakings, passing into the hot fit of the presidential election; then follows what physicians call the "interval; then again the fit."---James Bryce

"Beset as they are (the American people) the snares of the ambitious, the avaricious, the desperate, by the artifices of men who pocess their confidence more than they deserve it, and of those who seek to pocess rather than to deserve it."---Alxander Hamilton

I find the second quote especially applicable to the current GOP presidential candidate.  One of course can argue the merits of the various candidates but one thing is certainly true in my personal experience, and that despite being groped and hit at least twenty times over my many years of taxi driving, not once have I reported the attacks to the police, even ignoring the stalker who,on his last attempted contact, texted me photographs (none of which I opened).  That victims chose initially to ignore Trump's alleged attacks, to me, isn't surprising, probably not wanting to further involve themselves into something they never requested, but like me, remembering every unsavory detail. I always see the idiot kissing the windshield instead of attempting to get any closer.  Wise choice, don't you think?

Another amazing electoral fact I discovered recently was pointed out in the October 24th, 2016 Seattle Times edition of Jerry Large's column when he mentioned the exclusion of granted American citizenship to most Native Americans until the passage of the "Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, something also known as the Snyder Act as it was sponsored by a New York GOP Congressman, Homer Snyder.  But as Large also points out, it was not until the 1965 Voting Rights Act did Native Americans, as a collective group, fully gain their voting rights. Canada also had similar provisions concerning First Nation rights, Caucasians in both countries practicing  a similar discrimination unjust in its application and outlook.

Getting back to our election scene, my only definitive endorsement concerns the District 7 US Representative race, preferring Brady Walkinshaw over Pramila Jayapal, Walkinshaw seemingly more potentially proactive, especially in terms of addressing climate change.  Jayapal has been quoted that important climate change legislation can wait another two years, this after yesterday's report that the melting of the Antarctic Ice Shelf is accelerating.  I personally disagree, feeling we as a human species might already be on a suicidal course, and more delay only hastens our imminent demise but according to Jayapal, we have plenty of time.  Maybe the true source of her delay is that she doesn't like penguins.  I don't see why but its possible, maybe something to do with their black and white color scheme.  I can understand her annoyance.

Taxi News

In case you have missed it, the City of Seattle will be conducting a 2017 Taxicab Medallion Lottery where a total of 55 medallions will be passed out to the winners. The important difference from previous license lotteries is that the pool of drivers is limited to For-Hire Licence holders with a license number of 16586 or lower, meaning more veteran drivers will be getting the medallions.  Did they finally listen to me and others who have repeatedly said it only makes sense to include drivers who might have some clue concerning what they are doing?  Whether they heard us or not, that is what is going to happen. For better or worse, I have put my name in, if only for symbolic reasons and no other.  My other commentary, and one shared by many other drivers, is why issue medallions during a time when they are not needed.  It is a good question, one I am sure will remain unanswered.

As stated, the rules are clear and plain.  If you qualify you have until Friday, 5:00 PM, November 4th, 2016 to apply.  You can apply either online or get yourself down to the licensing offices now located on the 42nd floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower, Suite 4200, 700 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA.  If you don't know, that is the corner of 5th & Cherry.  But I suggest avoiding the parking hassles and apply over the internet.

As said, it makes far more sense to, like I did, to apply online.  Just go to the following address and the instructions are clear:

If you remain confused, you can contact Inspector Marrison at 206-386-0079 or email her at

Good luck!

Other news

Working the train Monday night I was not pleased to see all of us visited by a Parking Enforcement officer who decided that it was a good idea to make some of the drivers move on because they were not parked properly.  As I tired to tell her, the situation was caused not by the drivers but by the City of Seattle's allowance of new building construction that halved our available parking.  Why she even bothered remains, at least to me, a complete mystery because the taxis were not blocking anything, her enforcement achieving nothing other than sending a message we learned a long time ago: the City of Seattle hates us.

Adding insult to that injury was what was happening just a quarter mile away at the WaMu Theatre down on Occidental South, where multiple cars were allowed to park illegally on both sides of the street, creating such a narrow passage that even I had trouble getting through.  And who was sitting at the end of this automobile gauntlet?  Why none other than a bunch of Parking Enforcement officers evidently waiting for the "Chance the Rapper" concert to end, the officers exhibiting a tolerance clearly not shown to those evil Yellow cabs down at the Amtrak Station.  Again, why blame the cabbies because we didn't issue all those building  permits.  Why is it all our fault?

Post Script Oct 27th

I suppose it is some kind of positive when you are agreed with, in my case the Seattle Time today endorsing Brady Walkinshaw, calling him the most qualified candidate while terming Jayapal an opportunist who does not even reside in the 7th Congressional District.  Jayapal reminds me of my 20 days in Poland last year during their election cycle.  Though unable to read Polish, viewing the various candidate's posters provided me with a distinct impression of who they were and the political views represented, their smiles, as opposed to being reassuring, were often frightening.  And after the election, the newly voted in right-wing (and Roman Catholic) government began slamming down on individual rights.  It wasn't surprising, given their faces, their faces truly broadcasting who they were and are.  I'm not talking about pretty or ugly, I am referring to the massage conveyed, a message louder than words.  My suggestion then is take the time to consider a given candidate's face and develop an opinion much like your favorite pooch.  Are you wagging your tail, or snarling?  Bow wow wow!


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Spanning From "I Hate This!" To "I Am Too Tired!"

With taxi driving there is always an extreme cost ranging from simple fatigue to overt agitation and of course everything in between.  Starting off early Saturday morning (1:30 AM) after negotiating a heavy rainfall from Tacoma to Seattle (over five recorded inches during a four-day span), my first thought is "I hate this!" which was further underlined by getting a flat tire as the noon train pulled in, costing me almost three hours; and then much later in the evening a tow truck entered my intersection nearly 3-4 seconds into the red light, again missing certain death by "how I avoided the fool!" I will never know but glad I had new brakes installed two weeks ago.

It never ends and it doesn't and won't unless I just walk away from this perpetual madness---a passenger last night refusing to understand, though repeatedly told, that the Motel Six located at South 160th & Pacific Highway South was not in the city of Seattle, thankfully his companion acting as some kind of impromptu interpreter.  Was the guy stoned or drunk or stupid or just plainly belligerent past reason and commonsense, his permanent scowl seemingly providing the answer.

I did enjoy the little girl (about 6-8 years old) who repeatedly posited the question concerning me, "Why is a woman talking like a man?" but hey, she might have a legitimate point.  The deranged pinnacle for my three wonderful days occurred while gassing up 478 one final time at 1:45 AM this morning then finding out I couldn't get my change because the 4th Avenue South Arco had locked its doors.  A group of irritated customers, most wanting to buy beer before the 2 AM deadline, were gathered at the entry, waiting impatiently to get in.  We could all see one individual ignoring us while mopping the floor. When the door was finally opened at two by another gentleman who had been concealed somewhere in the back, a near riot broke out upon his refusal to sell people their final post-midnight beer.  All I wanted was my change and to drive back to Tacoma before it got any later, finally getting to bed at 4:20 AM.

 Yes I was and continue to be "too tired" for anything but pushing through this day.  I am just happy that "she-who-can't-named" can leave for Mexico Thursday minus interruptions instead of visiting me either in the hospital or the morgue.  She will have a much better time soaking for hours at "La Gruta" just outside of San Miguel de Allende.  If I survive the next 3 weeks I too will be joining her November 7th, enjoying the healing hot water. Via Mexico!  Adios.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Refugees From The Sea-Tac Wars

Like any war, there are causalities.  The bruising fight for economic survival exemplified by the recent battle for Sea-Tac's outbound services have ripped a palpable bloody seam through the local transportation providers, a razor sharp knife severing head from metaphorical heart, irreparable wounds soaking red the airport tarmac, further damaging and weakening everyone.

What happened is not funny, as Bernard's Seattle Weekly article points out, Sea-Tac outbound service award to Eastside-for-Hire doubling Uber's advantage by expanding their customer base with the additional of 180 plus new service providers.  Yes, it is unfortunately true that all the former Yellow Taxi operators will be forced to provide service to the same company that is threatening their very existence, this due to Eastside's business and financial arrangements with Uber.

And adding  grave insult to the injury, they will pay Eastside a weekly $155.00 dispatch fee for the privilege. Of course this is not funny but nothing recently forced onto the Sea-Tac taxi fleet over the past year has been humorous, collectively backed into an operational corner by the Port of Seattle who keeps telling them everything is okay, just take your Uber aspirin and you will feel better in the morning.  Having met two Sea-Tac refugees over the weekend, clearly this is not true.

The two owner operators I talked to are part of a growing minority not interested in taking Sea-Tac's bad deal, instead returning to the taxi business operational world I share, one more traditional than the glorified shuttle service that is Sea-Tac's taxi service.  Both  drivers are experiencing problems acclimating to new taxi business realities, easy pickings off ripe taxi boughs long gone, hunt-and search the new  (and grim) business model.

One driver, lamenting the departure of all those "medical" HopeLink and other "fat & easy" account fares, fell back to yet another rumor, saying Eastside's connection with another Somali at HopeLink is the plausible explanation.  The other driver, a Punjabi operator, remembering me from the Seattle & King County Taxi Advisory Commission, said all of it---the loss of business and the Sea-Tac contract---was all my fault. While having difficulty understanding everything he was saying, it appears that, according to him, I am the one to blame.  I suppose this comes with being some version of "public figure" but if I truly had that kind of influence, everything today would be the reverse of what it is now, kissing Uber's unwashed foot.

What both of them are expressing is pain, the confusion and pain associated with ongoing conflicts ousting them from their preferred home, not unlike the millions of refugees fleeing war and devastation in Africa and the Middle East.  While not facing physical harm, they are dealing with economic death, their livelihood either taken away or altered to the point they were compelled elsewhere, certainly not liking what they see.

I know in the next few weeks and months I will be meeting more Sea-Tac refugees, hearing their anguish and despair.  What, for them, the loss of the Sea-Tac ultimately means for their future I cannot say.  Taxi, even in the best of times, is a struggle. Returning to the present tight business climate will not be easy, not in any way an easy transition but this is our shared reality, the situation facing us all.

Winter, I guarantee, will be harder this year, perhaps forcing many out of the business altogether.  But as usual, the administrators responsible will continue collecting their substantial salaries, giving little thought to the long hours all of us cab drivers will be facing, waiting 1-3 hours for the next fare.  I know I will not be enjoying myself, instead going slowly and progressively more insane, this prediction not only true for me but for all  my colleagues working beneath the Seattle top-light, no fun staring at the rain-splattered windshield, wishing that customers were in our cab instead passing us by in Uber cars, more than happy to be receiving a transportation bargain, oblivious to our suffering upon the roadside.  .  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My Best Personal & Hooker And Pimp & Urination & Another Sara Bernard "Seattle Weekly" Taxi Article

Everyone in the taxi world loves their "personals," meaning passengers who call cabbies back for another ride.  Some drivers I know "live on personals," their regular customers filling in the gaps during slow dispatch and business moments.  Despite my 29 plus years on the taxi road, these kinds of customers are a rarity for two primary reasons.

One, which is fairly obvious, is that by normally driving just two days a week means I am not there when they need me. And another, while respecting my taxi skills, most customers don't find me especially likable, as least not in the usual sense, too much opinionation and irritation for most folks to deal with. And I don't blame them, knowing who I am and accepting I can be "too much to swallow," all very understandable.

Given this reality, it is all very surprising that I met a customer Friday afternoon who called me back repeatedly over the weekend, taking her to and from Seattle and Kirkland, the fares averaging seventy dollars one way when including generous tips.  Of course that is a big chunk of taxi change, quickly altering a slow day into something quite special. And who can I give thanks for these terrific fares?  None other than Yellow taxi and yet another screwed up ride.

Working Friday due to the upcoming University of Washington versus Stanford football game, I vowed not to take an account fare but stupidly did so anyway upon my very first fare offering.  What it all turned out to be was a messed up HopeLink call that was reversed in order, meaning instead of picking up at Swedish Cherry Hill, the passenger instead was waiting to be taken there.  No fun of course when you are trying to make a living dependent upon accurate call-taking.

Figuring out all this nonsense wasted valuable minutes but having seen other people waiting I called out "Does anyone need a cab?" and indeed someone did, and even better, needing to go all the way to Kirkland.  Call it luck or taxi divine intervention but whatever it was, good fortune coming my way.

Elaine, currently dealing with some profound issues concerning her husband, was now ready for for a little professionalism, this after two disappointing Eastside rides, and after finding me both safe and reliable, asked if I could pick her up in the morning?  Yes I could and did, and six rides later I can say I have never met a more kind or thoughtful customer.  Even better is Elaine utilizing both Tom and Ray, translating into mutual benefits all around, my initial misfortune turning into the best of possible outcomes.

Hooker and Pimp

Always my first goal is to present taxi reality as I see it firsthand, as it's thrust directly in my face, and these next two examples are certainly that, situations never asked for but there they are, unavoidable and extant.Yes, real Seattle taxi, unblemished, and for the most part, uncensored.

Did you know, due the vice crackdown on Aurora North, that the prostitutes have moved their trade west down 85th and other westward arterial streets?  Well I can verify that its true, and instead of an ordinary Fed Meyers shopper, a genuine hooker stepped in.  While somewhat surprised, who cares anyway? but it was when she borrowed my telephone that I became interested.

Talking to someone who was clearly her pimp, I suddenly was privy to the most brutal conversation. After a few minutes of this absurdity I angrily told her to break it off, unable to keep listening to insulting nonsense.

Given that the pimp was paying, upon arriving at our destination, we walked up a long, darkened driveway for the money.  Talking into a closed door, a disembodied hand thrust out with a twenty.  The woman, she was fine but the pimp is obviously a monster, a real monster.  Welcome to taxi! as I don't want to know it.


This sometimes happens but this time being far more extreme which I is why I am mentioning it. Again, taxi reality as I hate it, bodily functions screaming at the physical door.

It's about 5:00 PM Monday and I have to urinate, though at this point the urgency mild, not pressing, First one, then another coffee shop I stop at are closed.  Heading toward the Fremont neighborhood and looking for a friendly bush or concealed alleyway I get a call over in the Montlake on 24th East for a hair salon. Routing over the University Bridge I get there fairly quickly, thinking this is just "another local" but instead the young woman from Stika, Alaska is meeting her sister near the airport at the Southcenter Mall, meaning a fight through rush hour traffic and further personal delay.

Now nearly 1 1/2 hours later I head to the little park located just above the mall.  Painful yes but I survived. Nearby is a memorial plaque to a deceased employee and a newly planted tree, reminding life continues forward no matter how imperfectly, available toilet or not.

Great Taxi Article in Sept 28th-Oct 4th 2016 Seattle Weekly Issue

Sara Bernard's recent very well researched article "Uber Alles---The taxi industry is being taken apart by rideshares.  Could the airport contract be its last stand?" is truly worthwhile reading, providing an insightful look at a slow moving disaster.  The article details, in clear language, that despite protestations and denials to the contrary, the Port of Seattle has abandoned the taxi drivers.  If you don't believe me, read the article and see for yourself.  And why, why is the Port of  Seattle doing this?

From my point of view, it is clear and simple.  Other than one Port commission member in particular, who does understand, the rest are, just like recent versions of Seattle's City Council--- upper-middle class caste-ridden people who support and believe in supporting Big Business and Conservative Social Norms.  They say otherwise but don't believe them.  It is what they are and what they remain.  Uber, for them, represents what is best about corporate innovation, while taxi representing the very disposable past.  Bernard, for better or not, quotes me toward the end. Go to to read the story.

Yesterday I was distressed to find what I was warning about in last week's blog was now coming to pass, with both Eastside and Yellow double-dipping the Sea-Tac operators.  Not only do they now have to pay Eastside $155.00 for an essentially nonexistent dispatch system but Yellow is still demanding their weekly $180.00 because the operators failed to give a two week notice of departure.  Did these guys ever read their contract's fine print?  Clearly not, meaning these guys are "paying through the nose" for what, for what are they getting forking over all this money for?  Plainly they are paying for their own punishment, like they were some kind of criminals for just wanting to make a living. Nice, isn't it, but fair, no, it is not fair.

Yesterday, talking to a longtime Sea-Tac operator advocate, he gave me what I feel is one of the best compliments ever received, saying I was principled.  Thank you for that, man! because it is one compliment I can accept.  I attempt to be consistent, pleasing that someone noticed.  Thanks!