Thursday, December 28, 2017


Cliff Mass, our local Puget Sound weather guru, assured all his devotees last Friday that Seattle definitely would not experience a white Christmas but, as we all found out Sunday afternoon, his forecast erred, in fact missing that Seattle experienced its first back to back snowy Christmas Eve and Christmas days, both delighting wide-eyed children and thoroughly alarming the average driver  suddenly braving icy roads.  And how did I feel about this modest one-inch snowfall, having learned to drive a car at ages 12 and 13 in New Mexico and northern Alberta, Canada?

At first I felt fine, thinking I knew all about it but that quickly changed when, coming back from a long ride to Issaquah along Issaquah-Hobart Road, 1092 suddenly took off sideways, propelled by black ice and instantaneously putting me in the direct path of oncoming traffic.  Looking like I was about to die I fortunately remained calm, allowing my over 52 years of driving a car to "click in," thus spinning 1092 to the right which somehow facilitated a snowy soft landing into an adjacent ditch.  That it was the closest of calls is the proverbial understatement, causing me to repeatedly question myself "just what the hell did I think I was doing?"  Rocking 1092 back and forth, I roared out of the ditch, and then, very carefully, made it back to westbound I-90.

In retrospect it seems two things occurred.  One, I must have been going "too fast for conditions" though I wasn't in any way speeding; and two, it appears a sudden drop in temperature altered road conditions in a few minutes span.  That I almost killed myself made me very unhappy.

But cab driving being cab driving, I just kept on going, that night making great money despite nearly entering the closest morgue and causing "she-who-can't-be-named" unbearable grief.  As I later told her, if she had been watching a live video stream she would have screamed out loud. And I am not kidding!

Have I ever mentioned at least once or twice that taxi driving is crazy, crazy, crazy!?  No doubt friends, it is crazy!  And when it comes to cab driving, it is impossible to be careful enough, it just beyond human ability, and that night, at that moment in time, I felt incredibly human, the homo- sapien made of very vulnerable flesh and blood and muscle and of course, breakable bone.

And as one very minute part of the universal mystery, extremely alone!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Present Reality Of Taxi Ownership In Seattle & King County

I write this as warning to all those interested in owning a cab: don't do it is all I can say.  Why, you say, why not embrace the freedom of running your own small business?  Simply because it isn't freedom.  Instead it a kind of debtor's prison, where you remain shackled to a never ending series of expenses.

When Yellow was good, all I had to do as a lease driver was show up and work, making my money minus any of the inherent expenses that come with cab ownership like insurance and car maintenance.  Now I have Yellow's weekly $180.00 dispatch fee to deal with along with everything else.

And if you have drivers sharing the cab like, until last week like I did, you have the constant friction of communicating with the American Cabbie (americus hypocriti), a species I have decided I'd rather avoid.  Last night when parking my cab two rather large coyotes ran by me, nervous I was up to no good.  But I'd rather have "canis latrans" driving my cab.  Least I would know what to expect, when instead feral cabbies are and remain unpredictable.  And disrespectful, these guys ultimately not very nice, wanting everything while giving little back in return.

I mention all this because the City of Seattle is planning on issuing 55 more City-Only medallions in an upcoming lottery.  Today I wrote the folks guiding this questionable venture, telling them that the last thing we need are more cabs upon Seattle's streets, that business is bad and it is plainly irresponsible to be adding to the ongoing misery.  Do I think my warning will be heeded?  No, I highly doubt it, little stopping the bureaucratic machine once it's gained momentum, and in this case, plowing headlong into a wall, smashing everyone involved.

Why then is the City of Seattle adding cabs to an already saturated market?  Sadism must be the solitary answer, somehow enjoying the suffering of innocents because it will be a struggle for every new owner to survive a business climate that is suffocating the life and breath out of all of us.  It is not funny and certainly no joke to raise the expectations of the desperate who once thought taxi ownership to be a direct path to "the promised land."  Well, as I personally know all too well, this promised land is another version of hell and little else.

So in that sense I beseech the City & County: don't do it, don't release those medallions.  Lord have mercy! Don't do it!  Let people scream that you are being unfair.  You will be doing the right thing by waiting until business improves but in what upcoming century I couldn't tell you.  But it won't be in the years 2018, 2019 or 2020.  The wait will be long, and it will be hard.  Cabbies will be crying if not actually physically dying.

Again, Lord Have Mercy!  Don't do it!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Taxi Blues

As much as driving down the road, taxi is listening to the radio, often finding myself searching for something decent to hear while my choices remain confined to AM and FM bands, YC 1092 only having an old fashioned audio system which oft translates into tuning solely into the sound of my tires and nothing else.  Often the choice is 98.1 King FM, the local classical station transmitting "real music" when little else at the moment meets that definition, "junk music" and "junk conversation" dominating the musical and radio sphere.

If you ever wonder why people vote for total fools, quit wondering once you have listened to what is popular amongst the listening public, folks clearly choosing the worst over the best except perhaps what happened yesterday in the state of Alabama when voters, by a mere 20,000 vote margin, choose Doug Jones over Roy Moore for the US Senate.  I guess you never know but it appears not-so-idle-rumors about wandering around shopping malls bit him in the electoral butt though I am sure Moore isn't too disheartened given that he knows it was "God's will" that he lost the election, his God in someway having other plans for the pious Moore.

But getting back to taxi and radio, two local Seattle blues shows often save my day, especially Johnny Horn's "Preachin' The Blues" program broadcast over KEXP 90.3 FM each Sunday morning 9:00 AM to Noon; and secondarily, Saturday and Sunday nights, on KNKX (old KPLU) 88.5 FM, at  6:00 PM to Midnight, there is John Kessler's "All Blues" and his 8:00 PM feature, The Blue's Time Machine, spotlighting blues standards over the course of musical time.  I favor one over the other due to Horn's emphasis on more foundational artists while Kessler often spins more contemporary songs but thankfully he is a big Muddy Waters fan so we get to hear a lot of Muddy's Mississippi-transferred-to- Chicago electric blues.  What Horn does is play forgotten songs that should instead be forever remembered and played everyday upon every radio station on our planet, his song selections  that good, every Sunday "just blowing me away!"  again and again.

My true introduction to the blues began in the summer of 1970 when I was sixteen and living on a commune in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.  My friends there, all older, had a bunch of great records including Mississippi Fred McDowell's "I Do Not Play No Rock "n" Roll."  I can't recommend that higher, with Fred McDowell, in about a ten minute long monologue, telling you "all about it!"   I also was introduced to Muddy Waters through his "Electric Mud," a record remaining a long favorite, marveling at the both the playing and musical direction, simultaneously embracing psychedelia and the blues.

If you like blues-oriented rock and roll, then the late 1960s, early 1970s was the time to be listening to the radio, when bands like Savoy Brown, Aum, Canned Heat, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, Paul  Butterfield, Johnny Winter, Cactus, Chicken Shack, Animals and the first version of Fleetwood Mac featuring Peter Green filled both the AM and FM airwaves; and who can forget---because I can't--- Jeff Beck's cover of Howlin' Wolf's "I Ain't Superstitious" on Beck's "Truth" album, a record featuring Rod Stewart on vocals.  Those were the days, as Cream rang out, those were the days to be listening to the radio!

Amazing music, and to my listening ear, never surpassed by any other era in rock, the closest I think we will ever get to Mozart and Beethoven in the popular genre though bands like Curved Air, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and The New York Rock & Roll Ensemble certainly made a real effort toward combining classical and rock. No, ELO doesn't make the cut!  Sorry.

Someone you might enjoy listening to is New Orleans cabbie and blues guitarist Mem Shannon, his 1995 release "A Cab Driver's Blues" and the cut, "Taxicab Driver," telling you clearly why he and I and all our taxi brothers and sisters have the taxicab blues.  It's real, people, it's real!  Listen to the music! and swing down the beckoning roadway, be it Highway 61, Interstate 5 or  "you are just getting your kicks"  on Route 66!"  Turn on that ignition, and go!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Passenger Profile: Maria

I knew the address, 1012 South Myrtle Street, was strange, saying to myself "what the hell could that be?'" And what it turned out to be was the new, improved version of the homeless camp dubbed "Nickelsville," named not so affectionately after a recent mayor, he being the same individual who gave away the local NBA franchise, and as popular myth has it, plowed his West Seattle street while leaving the rest of Seattle to struggle through a rare heavy snow fall.   Approaching the place, I saw someone who had to be my passenger, and "Isn't that someone I know?" and indeed it was, being none other but Maria, a customer I ran across over 20 years ago, and here she was exiting a homeless camp.

I first encountered Maria when she worked at a local Circle K convenience store while attempting to finish her schooling at the University of Washington.  What always made her stand out, in addition to perhaps being 125 pounds overweight, was her clear persona of a recovered (or recovering) mentally ill person who had somehow overcome enough of her disability to more-or-less function normally.  That she supported herself and went to school seemed to me a major, not minor miracle, an accomplishment beyond all normal expectations.

Perpetually cheerful, Maria is like an adult child, someone, in the terms of the therapeutic modality, Transactional Analysis, permanently residing in her "Child" ego state, rarely leaving what is clearly  a comfortable and settling mental environment.  I see people like Maria as similar to cars operating with a malfunctioning transmission, immutably stuck in a particular gear allowing movement at one prescribed speed and no faster.  That she cruises along as she does, avoiding serious collisions is something remarkable, and rare, an achievement unusual amongst a particular afflicted group or category, Maria boldly defying accepted categorization.

So while pleased to see Maria again, and this time accompanied by a new a companion, a spaniel mix named Raffles, I was distressed to see her homeless as previously I have always dropped her off at various rooming houses in Seattle's University District.  But what Maria has found, like so many others, that Seattle's economic boom left her behind, shoving her out of permanent housing and onto the street minus real options other than a tent or an organized encampment like "Nickelsville."  The positive for Maria and other folks like her is that this camp is organized into individual tiny houses where she has "her own television," a medium somehow keeping her linked to a society and culture that is simultaneously throwing her away.

I gave her my card and hopes she calls me again, always glad to meet an amazing survivor of what has been many wrong turns down our human highway.  "I should have studied harder when my father was paying my tuition," she responded when asked whether she had finished her degree, "because back then it was $165.00 a quarter." Yes, all of us can say that to some degree, if only, if only but too often, decisions made are decisions later regretted.  That I once rejected a fully paid scholarship to Maria's same U of Washington is something I oft think about.  Should I have accepted it when offered 44 years ago?

I think the verdict is still pending but I do doubt I would have ever driven a cab, an occupation I usually despise, having told myself it is only temporary, a means to a better end.  But in the meanwhile I continue on down the road, meeting Maria and others like her, adding to mind and soul, adding to an ongoing narrative you both read and hopefully enjoy, somehow making all my crazy taxi miles just a little bit more satisfactory than just putting dollars into the pocket.  If it wasn't for folks like Maria I truly would be nuts, making the taxi moments just a little better, and dare I say, saner.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Like So Many Others, I Am Losing My Noodle

As oft repeated here, no one is immune from the negative affects inherent to taxi driving, and of course including myself in this occupational equation subtracting from good sense which too often resulting in regrettable behavior.  All the UK tourist said last night was "Do you know the way to the Space Needle Travel Lodge?" prompting my "Are you new to travel?" meaning I wasn't impressed with the "nature and tone" of her inquiry.

And her response was to become withdrawn and feel insulted which is natural enough when one thinks they are asking a simple question which instead draws a less than expected answer.  While my purpose was basic enough, wanting her to understand that there is a better way to direct the driver, I feel stupid because the last thing I need to do is address every minor passenger indiscretion as something much bigger than it is, colloquially known as "making a mountain out of a molehill."  Yes, I too can play the fool.

And why did I lower myself, becoming petty and dumb and less than polite, revealing the worst, not the best of my numerous mental states?  Because I was tired, business was slow and and lately I have had too much of cab driving, just like Robert Frost in his poem "After Apple Picking," lamenting he has picked too many apples and is no longer having any fun, even dreaming about all those apples hanging upon laden boughs.  Thankfully my taxi dreams remain few, the living awakened nightmare bad enough, making taxi "as I know it" my handy excuse for being less than civil and acting idiotic and dumb.

But the bottom line for me is that I don't to hurt anyone at anytime for any reason whatsoever, my immaturity a poor justification for being unkind.  It is said in developmental psychology that abuse begets abuse but truly I have no excuse because I understand too many passengers hold an inherent bias when interacting with cabbies.  It isn't going to change any minute, hour or day soon.  There is only one person I can and wish to control, being me and only me which is how it should be.  Amen!

Oh Uber!

Uber's latest mistake, failing to report that 57 million passenger and drivers had their personal information compromised by hackers, has resulted in the Washington State Attorney General suing Uber due to there being a legal obligation for notifying the State of any breach within 45 days.  That everyone only found out over a year later means that Uber will be facing legal action both here and elsewhere, the fines potentially in the millions of dollars.

Can I ever forgive the Seattle City Council for opening the doors to Uber?  No, I never will, causing amazing hardship for me and all my fellow cabbies, resulting in many unforeseen consequences which, as I just noted, includes my "bitter" tongue.

Do I think the City Council will either ever truly care about the damage caused or reverse themselves?  No, I know they won't do anything but feel important and self-congratulatory, continuing to do what they always have minus real understanding, their decisions not empirical but instead never extending beyond the haphazard and theoretical, having sunk the ship by steering into hidden reefs.

Not a wise or helpful way to pilot a city over and through regulatory seas but as I repeat myself, when you don't care, you don't care and that is simply the way it is, the next upcoming Uber surprise changing nothing now or in the future.  Traditional naysayers  and wild-eyed prophets will shout "We are doomed!" and you know, they couldn't be more correct upon the subject, all of us cabbies sinking beneath the surface of the bureaucratic waters, non-schooled fish our only aquatic friends.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The State Of Taxi Today In Seattle, Washington Late November 2017---Yellow Version

As  2017 ends, I feel compelled to once again assay where we are both locally as an industry, and specifically, Yellow Cab Seattle as an association, where signs of revolution are popping up, with drivers and owners popping off.  In terms of the overall taxi industry I can say little, knowing next to nothing what is truly happening with my American taxi brethren though I can guess they are not having a particular good nor happy time.

But in Seattle and King County I know more than I want, wishing and hoping things were better but fantasy is better confined to fairy tales and religion where visions of sugar plums and messiahs vie for attention.  Yes, I could say a prayer but to whom I have no idea unless it is to new Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, requesting a new commonsense administrative approach to engulf the city east, west, north and south and City Hall too.  Yes, that would be nice.

My brief report will be broken down into four categories as follows: Regulatory, Association, Owner & Driver, and Passenger/Customer.  Brevity will be my goal due to these topics having many been addressed and mentioned in previous postings so why repeat what has been said other than to pound the obvious into reluctant minds?

Yes, knowing full well that many aren't interested in either listening or responding despite obvious reality, I will still officially recount for the current record what shouldn't be avoided but has been sidestepped for years regardless of necessity and urgency.  Why move forward when instead it is so comfortable remaining mired in dysfunction?

For most individuals connected directly and peripherally with taxi, doing nothing, saying nothing the operative stance, taking us to where we find ourselves: nowhere whatsoever.  But are we in Seattle's taxi industry solely to blame for our issues and problems? 

I say not, especially with the announcement that Uber concealed the hacking of over 57 million driver and passenger accounts, failing to notify either government regulators or the individuals whose privacy were violated. Uber even paid the hackers $100,00, and making it worse, even identified who they were, making them sign nondisclosure agreements, all this making wonder just who are the real criminals in this amazing transaction.

And just who, I ask you, embraced Uber, welcoming it into Seattle's business community like a long lost family member?  Why of course the very same administrators charged with protecting the taxi industry.  As I keep asking, why did they do this, and more, why do they continue to allow Uber and Lyft to regulate themselves, given the many proven violations screaming upon media bylines and front pages?

Seattle Regulators: Bureaucratic Hubris

All the various Seattle and King County entities regulating the area taxi industry appear to hold two simultaneous stances: to have complete control yet do nothing to actively assist the industry.  While quick to demand fees, they respond, when asked to address poor cab maintenance and questionable independent operator treatment, by saying they have no jurisdiction concerning day-to-day operations.

And what are the results to this approach, heavy hand of government is used to only collect the money?  Driver and owner grievances are left unanswered, with dysfunctional and dangerous cabs allowed to put out upon rainy streets regardless of consequence.  That what happened in 1989 is still occurring in 2017 says everything about administrative mismanagement.  And it isn't that the City of Seattle and King County haven't been told, because they have yet still the same issues remain from day to week to month to year, nothing changing because no one truly appears to care.

And if  City and County government care, and if asked, they will say they do, then why are Uber and Lyft drivers allowed to operate one minute minus required for-hire licenses and commercial car insurance?  We in the taxi industry are not allowed this kind of leeway in any manner, shape or form.  Then what can be going on, allowing Uber and Lyft to blatantly break the law, especially when now it is clear that Uber cannot be trusted to respect usual conventions?

The verdict: Arrogance and dysfunction

Seattle Taxi & Flat-Rate Associations: Milking the Taxi Cow

Yellow, I can attest, is in near disarray. Drivers are screaming that they are not making money despite paying the weekly required $180.00 dispatch fee.  The dispatch company based in Las Vegas continues to make unforced rookie errors, like listing  Seahawk Stadium's address as 8000 Occidental South, when it is actually 800 Occidental South.  Petitions are now being distributed to remove the general manager and his dispatch manager.  The shop is closed on Sunday so flats remain un-repaired, and often, it is reported, there are no replacement tires available anytime during the week. 

So what is the primary issue  plaguing Yellow and other local associations?  The refusal to re-monetize and reinvest into their own business, taking money out that instead should, at least short-term, be used to replace aging vehicles plus ensuring fleet drivers have all necessary replacement parts and speedy car repairs available.  That this should be the bare minimum is obvious, and not something open to argument and debate. 

The verdict: Disinterest and avarice

Drivers & Owners: The Unyielding Conundrum

I have come to an avoidable conclusion concerning the many drivers and single owners operating both taxis, flat-rate for hire cars and TNC (Uber & Lyft) vehicles:  the large majority are simply awful, don't know what they are doing, and even worse, don't care if they get it right or not.  The reasons are many but the conclusion is clear:  the "adding water and mix" model of placing people beneath the top-light and into ride-share cars is a very bad idea. 

One thing I have seen, even amongst longtime veteran drivers, is the compounding of error, and though it should be obvious, intentionally avoiding potentially positive alternatives.  I witnessed a fellow Yellow cabbie driving 80 MPH very heavy northbound traffic upon a rainy Saturday morning.  A blowout would have sent him spinning into the surrounding cars. 

Is he and other taxi and Uber drivers considering the true consequences of what they are doing?  No, they are not, and when it is pointed out, refuse to either listen or alter dumbbell behavior.  Part of the issue is poor cultural assimilation. The other is pure obstinance, a stupid refusal to admit there could be a better way of operating.  So when they don't make money, it is never their fault but the truth is, often it is.

The verdict: We are in trouble

Passengers and Customers: They Deserve Better Service

Of course there are crazy and unpleasant passengers but from my experience, 95 % of them are just fine, a pleasure to have in the cab.  That too many passengers receive bad and indifferent service belies what I just said, that most taxi, Uber and flat-rate drivers either don't know what they are doing or don't care. 

And please remember, over the past 10 years I have been an industry and operator advocate, so when I say big changes are needed in terms of basic customer service, I know what I am referencing.  Taxi customers pay a real premium for that ride from A to B and back home again.  Respect is required unless the passenger makes it clear none is deserving.  Where would we be without them?  Nowhere is the answer. 

The verdict:  Passengers are our "bread & butter, something that can never be forgotten


Making it short, not sweet but clearly sour---taxi is no fun, no fun for all the reasons mentioned.  A real money maker, yes, but fun, no it isn't, and after 30 years, I can claim to know, which is how it is this waning November 2017.  What else is there to say?  Nothing, nothing whatsoever!


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rattlesnakes Rattling---A Real Taxi Tale

I believe I referenced this thought before but given what I faced late last night I'll mention it again, that when walking in the American desert, as I have many times, the telltale rattle of an angry rattlesnake stopping me instantly, suddenly keenly aware of my immediate surrounding.  The sound is unmistakable, just like menacing words from a passenger alerting me to potential danger.  The major different is that while the rattlesnake is just attempting to avoid conflict, the human snake is oddly soliciting it by using distorted logic benefiting only, in last night's case, himself.  And just as I come to a dead stop in the Quincy Lakes coulees, last night correspondingly slamming on the brakes, abruptly stopping, and jumping out of the cab and shouting, "Get out! You are trying to rip me off.  I don't want your money!"

And this is what happens when you try to convince a veteran cabbie that, one, it was my fault I took them to the requested White Center Casino closed due to last night's wind storm and subsequent power outage; and two, that I was somehow overcharging them by then taking them to the Tukwila Interurban casinos, again, something they also requested.  That I reacted so quickly confused these snakes, not immediately understanding what was happening. 

No, I didn't want to harm them, far more interested in allowing them instead to slither off down the sidewalk.  I ain't no Texas rattlesnake barbecue cook cutting off fangy heads and filleting flesh for the outdoor grill.  All I required was some honesty, just like real and naturally acting snakes but all you better expect from this human subspecies is poison.  I don't care if I have immunity.  It's no fun to be bitten. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Inappropriate Behavior: Welcome To The New, Old Normal

I truly believe it is a great development that sexual harassment and other such violations have  been taken up as an American cultural theme, these kinds of behavior requiring closer examination and remedy and stoppage.  That we live in a time where a man who freely admits to having permission to grope women's vagina's was elected president surely means it is past time we collectively in America address what should never happen once, let alone how many unknown times daily across our nation. 

Personally, as I have chronicled often, I too have been grabbed and touched in the cab by both sexes, including telephone stalked, both women and men somehow holding license to do what one should never do to another human upon any occasion.  But thinking about it, about inappropriate behavior in general, I am convinced the real problem facing humanity on the whole is a history of engaging in abhorrent behavior and practise, whatever the behavior and justification.  It's clear to me that our lives are daily impacted by deranged behaviors and decisions considered commonplace and routine, making it seem we reside in a massive insane asylum called human civilization.

The list is long and horrible yet accountability for these kinds of violations is rare, and too often, non-existent. How has humankind justified:

Land Mines

Poison Gas

Agent Orange

The promotion of cancer-causing Tobacco for personal profit and gain

Rape and sexual assault

The American Medical Community issuance of unnecessary opioid prescriptions


The Three-Fifths Compromise of 1787

Racial Discrimination

The murder of millions solely due to ethic and cultural background

The using of war to resolve political argument, and using WW II as a best/worse example, with between 50-70 million dying in the conflict, the Soviet Union alone losing 25 million lives

The forcing into marriage of woman in Pakistan and India and other countries to men they do not want to be with or love

In same countries, the forcing of underage girls into marriage

The forcible drafting of young men into military service who are then made to kill others against their will

The forced introduction of  unverifiable religious and cultural beliefs upon children, eliminating choice and freewill

Manifest Destiny

The Monroe Doctrine

Executive Order  9066---FDR's 1942 internment of Japanese-Americans

Common, everyday theft of another's processions and property

Denying harmful actions, like polluting local environment for one's personal profit

Intentionally promoting two-tiered educational systems, creating an educational apartheid


The annual waste of over 30 percent of American food production


Obviously I could go on and on but I believe the point is well made, that by condoning mundane injustice we jointly continue a never-ending cycle.  Simply by not training people how to properly drive cars we perpetuate worldwide 1.3 million deaths and 50 million injuries annually.  It's madness, and of course, welcome to the world as it is, stupid men grabbing woman and forcing their tongues into resistant mouths. 

I am sure many Americans remember that  photograph from 1945 capturing a US Navy sailor dramatically kissing a nurse on a NYC street upon the announcement of the WW II's end.  What most don't know is that the sailor didn't know the nurse, just randomly forcing himself upon her, a degree of rape forever immortalized. But it is certainly a great photograph but what is it really expressing to the world at large?  Perhaps an acceptance, and even celebration of inappropriate behavior.  Scary is all I can say, making me afraid to head out the door.  Ain't it funny that many are scared of snakes, spiders, bedbugs etc but the real culprits are our fellow homo-sapiens, destroying and poisoning our world.

Seattle's New Mayor

It is Wednesday morning, and with Jenny Durkan leading her rival, Cary Moon, 61 to 39 percent with 50 % of the votes counted, Durkan will be Seattle's next mayor.  I feel Moon made the mistake of running for the wrong office, her skillset more suited for the US Congress, where you are not immediately required to know what you are doing, your role more advisory and supportive to party agenda.  Seattle has some immediate issues that cannot be ignored, like traffic congestion and police conduct.  Durkan was, and is the right choice to begin addressing these and other pressing issues.

Uber Top Light

Today I received an email from Anthony Anderson, City of Seattle Licensing and Standards Inspector, telling me he had contacted the offending Uber driver and the illegal top-light would be removed.  All I can say is thank you for doing that.  It is appreciated.  That the Uber driver swore at me is to be expected.  I would have done the same, war is war, the battle lines drawn.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Unnatural Disasters

While some of the recent hurricanes ravaging the the Caribbean and United States, defoliating Puerto Rico and inundating Houston, may have been strengthened by human intervention into global climate patterns, generally damage is usually attributed to natural causes in a recognition of historical and well understood weather oriented trends.  When it rains, normally a hat is grabbed and an umbrella opened, and we deal with it, both blessing and cursing the moisture pelting earth and body.  But when  a problem or obstacle is clearly human-based, I then take umbrage with artificially caused issues, dubbing them unnatural disasters; or if the mood strikes me, in far more profane, less gentle characterizations marring the verbal landscape.

Disaster # 1

The theme for today's post stems from driving back to Tacoma from Seattle at about 1:30 AM Tuesday, which at that hour was pretty much traffic free, allowing me to easily navigate my way back home.  In stark contrast was the traffic I faced earlier taking a HopeLink fare back to Federal Way from a First Hill medical appointment, taking me 1 1/2 hours to travel the more or less 22 miles to her apartment complex just off S. 283rd & Pacific Highway South, essentially double the normal time.  The problem I faced was crawling southbound traffic from just south of Boeing Field to an accident site on I-5 at about S. 200th.  Getting off at S. 188th wasn't the solution as I joined everyone else who had the same idea, all of us combining for yet another southbound grind.  If only people took more care driving their cars down the roadway.  Yes, if only, if only I keep repeating!

Disaster # 2

All the young man was doing was trying to catch a cab at Pier 69 but the cabbie stepped on the gas as the door was being opened, potentially injuring the passenger.  The reason for this sudden maneuver?  The kid was, one, not completely clear upon where he was going, and two, it wasn't very far away.  Making it worse, every succeeding cabbie in line ignored the kid, collectively deciding he wasn't going to get a cab.  Finally, being told "No!" multiple times, he walked off before he got to me.  I would have taken him, knowing full well that taxi driving is kind of lottery, sometimes winning and oft times losing.  Instead, I went to the airport and the driver in front me, having refused to take him, didn't go anywhere as I got the last set of passengers coming out of the door.

Disaster # 3

One cause of the just mentioned incident is that Uber and Lyft are truly dominating the local transportation market, turning cabbies into Halloween monsters.  An unruly bunch in general, not making money is only upsetting an already fragile psyche.

Saturday bar break along Ballard Avenue I parked next to 50 or so people waiting for Uber, all of them ignoring the obvious available transportation.  Thank you, Seattle City Council, for rescinding your Uber cap while keeping us tied down by onerous regulation---all us cabbies having the greatest of times waiting, waiting and waiting some more for something that was once normal but now exceedingly more elusive and rare.

Today speaking to Tom, my day driver, he told me that since 4:00 AM he had a grand total of 4 fares, and this was at 11:30 AM, meaning he is averaging one ride nearly every 1.8 hours.  And does anyone wonder why cabbies are going nuts?  I don't, and if you think about it, neither will you remain mystified as to why cabbies sometimes do what they do, tearing the same house down that took years to build.

Disaster # 4

And referencing erratic and deranged behavior, yesterday's Halloween attacker in NYC who targeted random pedestrians has been identified as Sayfullo Saipov, an Uber driver who had provided over 1,400 rides.  Some might also remember last year's murders in February 2016 committed by Kalamazoo, Michigan Uber driver Jason Brian Dalton, randomly killing 6 people in between Uber rides.

This also reminds me of a NPR interview I heard in June with a rookie Uber driver from Muncie, Indiana, the driver clearly expressing confusion concerning his now occupation of driving paying passengers around the local area and town. That he didn't understand what he had signed up for was reasonable, someone more interested in getting his catering business going instead of being some kind of quasi-cab driver, his sole justification being he needed money and was willing, at he least he thought, to do anything to obtain it.

What's clear is that no one involved with Uber and Lyft, and all the municipal authorities sanctioning them, truly understands the stress involved with transporting "everyday" folks from point A to B.  As any longtime reader can attest, my personal experience can at times simply be described as hellish and nonsensical, daily encountering insult and the inexplicable.

So who knows what went through the Uzbeki immigrant Saipov's mind as he circumnavigated a very alien culture.  How many times was he personally offended when interacting with people as foreign to him as creatures from the planet Mars?  Did this have anything to do with his decision to destroy his life, impacting his wife and 3 children, along with killing 8 people who had done nothing to hurt him in any way?

Of course I will never know for sure but I for one, given my 30 years in this business, would think it unwise to continue thinking that cab and Uber driving is a simple occupation, just a matter of adding water and mixing, and poof! you instantly have a fully qualified individual completely prepared to enter the taxi and Uber asylum. 

All evidence points to the contrary, making it totally foolish to insert the unaware into America's cultural madness.  Not only is it stupid, it's both unkind and potentially dangerous, creating situations never imagined.

Caution, then, I think, should be the administrative approach, not the usual mindlessness accelerating ahead past all potential consequences and mayhem. Since everyone does have a brain, I suggest that those doing the licensing use theirs, thus hopefully not thrusting another unprepared Saipov or Dalton into the public sphere and suddenly, into the nation's headlines.  Why can't we stop when we know it's time to stop?  I'll let you the reader answer that rhetorical question, knowing that even when solutions are known, they are not taken nor embraced.

Disaster # 5

Given that the Seattle Police Department remains under United States Department of Justice sanction, I find it surprising that even one officer feels they have permission to do anything they want despite reason and commonsense.  Sunday, during the Seahawk football game, I was once again denied access to King Street Station (the train station) even though the officer was standing next to a sign stating: Access Only to King Street.  That I wanted to serve the incoming train didn't deter the officer from waving me away despite the moment before allowing an Uber driver to enter that same part of 2nd Avenue South.

I shouted that I would report him, and his response was, "Go Ahead!" along with yelling out his name, sending me the clear message he felt permission to do anything he wanted, and more, that it was condoned, not fearing any official rebuke.

Pretty amazing but say, has anything truly changed at the Seattle Police Department?   Again, I will let others with the actual administrative  power to answer that.   I can say that I did find a way in, immediately finding customers taking me to Green Lake and $30.00, ten of which was a tip.  Thanks, Mister Police Officer, I guess!?


I have called all of this unnatural because, to me, all of it could be avoided or sidestepped, reaching far different conclusions.  Rains may fall, winds may blow but will humanity ever wake up as a collective whole?  In which century, in which millennium, in which era and time will our species crease their ceaseless crimes?  As I keep repeating, good question, isn't it?

Postscript 11/02/2017

Reading a quick outline/biography of Saipov, it turns out he was college-educated and held high expectations upon gaining official entry to the United States.  Like so many other highly qualified immigrants I know from Seattle's taxi world, Saipov encountered unexpected obstacles  leading to anger and frustration and the unwanted occupation of truck driver.  Nine tickets later, he found himself driving for Uber.

It is a point I have poised before but I think it remains highly relevant.  Shouldn't Third-World professionals be given more assistance toward necessary licensing and accreditation, allowing them to participate in the same occupation from whence they came?  Who the hell wants to be a truck driver?  Or taxi driver, etc?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


                                                  On a withered branch
                                                     a crow has settled---
                                                        autumn nightfall.

                                                    Basho (1644-1694)

Autumn is here.  Rain falls for hours, soaking the streets and landscapes.  Drivers, never heeding the obvious, speed through the rain, and careless, suddenly stopping, having hit a car and now wait for the police and their frowning paper disapproval.  Night now encloses the day, saying "summer, you had your fun but now the season is mine."  Standing water splashes upon walkers bent against wind and moisture, umbrellas proving scant protection. Northwestern crows (corvus caurinus) caw, caw, speaking to me,  and you, asking for something better than bread: cheese, we like cheese, and chicken bones too.  Cab business, like the skies, darkens and brightens according to seasonal moods, embracing like afternoon sun breaks then collapsing upon our heads, stormy and contrary and wet, soaking us through garments to the skin, all held captive in the balky moment.  Footballs are kicked and fans roar, and breath is held---shall we win, can we win, and why is victory so important?  I cannot tell you why. And if I did know, I wouldn't tell you.  It not mattering, not mattering.

It is autumn.  It is the waning season.  We will cozy up and stay warm, sipping warm coffee and green tea.  It is autumn.  It is October.  Just ask the crows.  They will tell you.  All you have to do is listen.  They are talking to you.  Listen.

Basho translation from "An Introduction to Haiku" by Harold Henderson, 1958, Doubleday & Co.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Taxi Quiz: What Do You Think The Answer Is? & My Choice For Seattle Mayor

To me it is obvious, which it should be, when passengers have crossed over the line of both sanity and civility to the point where the ride must be terminated.  Of course why would I want to literally take the money out of my pocket, telling the offending passenger you have to go? 

The clear answer is I don't want to, instead wanting to continue taking them to their requested destination.  And it just isn't about the money either because, despite whatever crazy behavior displayed, I have no desire to  inconvenience them, grieving me each time this happens.  I do have a very high tolerance for misbehavior but clearly situations arise when there is no alternative to telling  the passenger that they need to find some other means of transportation.

I say all this because my oldest sister commented that I was "about to snap," that two recent posted ride profiles showed I was seconds away from emulating Travis Bickle, Robert DeNiro's deranged cabbie in the Martin Scorsese's movie, "Taxi Driver." She does know that in 30 years I have never carried a gun along with me in the cab.

She also made the ill-conceived  remark that the aforementioned passengers had done nothing to elicit any response but to take them to where they were going.  But in the second case I never truly knew where she wanted to go, and remain suspicious that she herself didn't know. As I said in my post, going home with me wasn't an option.  And one should ask, why did she think it was a possibility, having barely said ten words to her?

Responding to my sister's email, I said, "That's funny!" because it is, further commenting that her remark "treated me like I was some stranger, and not her brother"  It is also another example of someone thinking they know all about the taxi experience while not understanding it one iota.

I also said that the situation reminded me of our father, someone who failed to recognize anyone for anything but especially focusing his unseeing upon his wife and sons and daughters.  Did we even exist, seemingly a mystery marking him to the end of his days upon our planet?  Given that, I remain sensitive to being misunderstood, at least expecting people to make the smallest of efforts toward seeing who I might be.

So instead of remaining resentful, I think a quiz is in order, giving you the opportunity to decide just what state of mind the passengers were in when, in the first situation, the woman saying we were proceeding west while going east; and secondly, the second passenger denying she had routed me to the top of Queen Anne Hill, and as I said, inferred she wanted to sleep with me. Crazy and crazy and, of course, insane!

Quiz # 1

Was the woman who refused to to be reasoned with while we headed in the correct direction down East Aloha Street:

1) drunk

2) on drugs

3) experiencing a psychiatric break

4) or all of the above

I say the answer is number 3 because she was instantly agitated, making all attempts toward resolution impossible.  My "Hey, don't you see that the street numbers are ascending upward." being completely ignored, finding her fury misplaced and completely unnecessary, with it all adding up to that she appeared to be experiencing some kind of mental disorientation that very likely was psychologically-based. 

What was making her "so crazy?"  I don't know and as I said in my post, it wasn't my place to make that kind of determination, having left my DSM (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual) at home.  Maybe in the future I should keep one beside me, and when called for, flip to the correct page and read the pertinent diagnosis to the passenger.  I am sure they would be overjoyed with learning more about themselves, but upon second thought, perhaps not!  Why know about yourself when instead it is so much fun being nuts, the proverbial walking and talking fruitcake!

Quiz # 2

The passenger who directed me from Ballard to Queen Anne was clearly "impacted" upon entering the cab.  Was she under the influence of:

1)  alcohol

2)  drugs

3)  drug & alcohol combination

4) held emotional or psychological components to her behavior

My choice are clearly numbers 3 and 4 because she was definitely "blitzed" out-of-her-mind on what I don't know.  And after she denied she had taken me to 3rd West and West Galer, she tried to direct me back again along the very same route.  Did any of this make sense?

Not to me, and not that anyone, especially my sister, might have noticed that I was the one driving the car.   I just can't let anyone willy-nilly direct me anywhere they want to minus commonsense.  It makes no sense and besides, its dangerous because it I find it very distracting having some lunatic in the backseat telling me where to go.  Regular readers might remember when, a few months back, some drunk insisted I drive us into Lake Washington.  No, I am not going to do that, 1092 not the best of swimmers.

I hope you enjoyed the quizzes, and since you passed the test, just like I did in 1972 during my battery of pre-induction testing, you are now drafted into the taxi army.  Be sure to salute me when I walk by.  And I am not just blowing taxi smoke.  Soon after I successfully completed the Selective Service testing, the US Navy sent me a letter offering to make me an officer.  While always wanting to be in command of my own destroyer, I declined and now sail the cabbie seas in my big, Yellow motorboat skimming over the urban, asphalt waters, ever vigilant for pirates and police.

Without Question, the Best Choice for Mayor: Jenny Durkan---Please, No Bad "Moon" Rising!

"I see the bad moon rising
 I see trouble on the way
 I see earthquakes and lightin'
 I see bad times today"

from "Bad Moon Rising" (1969)  written by John Fogerty and performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Of course I am referring to that other current candidate for Seattle mayor 2017, Cary Moon, that most theoretical of electoral candidates, and if I can say it, a "liberal and progressive" version of Donald Trump.  I find the parallels between the two compelling due to having very similar lives---growing up wealthy, working for their parent's company, and never having to truly work for a living, with both of course sharing a propensity for thinking they have ideas that should be listened to and embraced.  The reference in the CCR song to earthquakes is important to any consideration of Cary Moon's candidacy, given that she was a proponent of keeping the damage prone Highway 99 (the Alaskan Way Viaduct) bridge standing.

While many might remember the February 28th, 2001 magnitude 6.8 Nisqually earthquake, with an epicenter 11miles northeast of the state capital, Olympia, many don't realize that if it had been shallower, the Alaskan Way Viaduct, along with much of downtown Seattle, would either have tumbled down or been rendered irreparable. As the saying goes, Seattle and area "dodged a bullet" but unfortunately the seismic gun is slowly reloading beneath the earth's crust, meaning that within the next 50 years, there is 87.56 percent probability of a 5.0 or greater earthquake occurring.

In Oakland, California, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed the similarly designed Cypress Street Viaduct with a loss of 42 lives.  Given that 110,000 cars cross the Alaskan Way Viaduct daily, one can see the potential for hundreds of lives loss if the "big one" hits Seattle today in the near future.  Also during that same earthquake, San Francisco's Embarcadero Freeway was severely damaged, resulting it being removed in 1991.  In other words, it was preordained that the Alaskan Way Viaduct was slated for some future catastrophe potentially killing how many motorists I hate to think about.  That is why it is being thrown down and taken away.

If you need further convincing that Cary Moon's advocacy to keep the Viaduct up and working was misguided, please note that since 1931, Seattle has experienced 1,113 earthquakes within a 30 mile radius.  And given that Moon is an Operations Engineer, what in the world was she doing saying it should remain as the monument to the 1950's era engineering it is, opening for traffic April 1953,  eight months before I was born in Puyallup, Washington.

This period of Northwest engineering certainly has a tainted history, exemplified by the opening in July 1940 of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge (the legendary Galloping Gertie), a construction promptly collapsing into the Puget Sound on November 7th of that very same year.  If the ancient Romans had built the bridge, it might still be standing but since it was built, like Moon, by American educated engineers, some question might be applied whether she, and others like her, know what-the-hell they are talking about.  Just ask her.  I know she will be quite reassuring about everything she doesn't know anything about. It comes with very familiar territory: hubris.

In reference to Moon's opponent, Jenny Durkan, while coming from a similarly coddled background, she did strike out on her own and teach school in the Alaskan wilderness, along with working as a baggage handler for Wien Air Alaska.  That she also served as the United States Attorney for Western Washington from 2009to 2014 suggests she understands politics and issues on a far more workable level than Cary Moon.

And another reason for Moon wanting to be mayor: having so much spare time she needs a hobby, and running Seattle would fit in perfectly into her assumed lifestyle. Some people collect stamps, others famous autographs, so why not run a big city?  Why, it might even be fun!

That is why, despite similar policy positions, I think Durkan is the correct choice to be Seattle's next mayor.  Moon also unfortunately reminds me of all those so-called policy expects featured on NPR radio.  If you have a degree in whatever subject and are currently teaching at whatever university, you are then completely qualified to render both opinion and solution upon subjects that have plagued humankind for millenniums.  Have anyone noticed how simple the issue or problem appears to be when they speak?  If only they were in charge, everything would be solved instantaneously.  Ain't that grand?

And according to Cary Moon, she has the answer to Seattle's most pressing problems.  And how she knows is a simple matter of privilege, her leisurely life having provided her plenty of time to lay around upon a couch and think about the world's problems, coming up with all the answers.  Just like Donald Trump, wouldn't you agree, two "green" peas in the same upper-middle class pod?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Julie Gave Me A Free Slice Of Pizza

As I have duly noted many times previously, I never ultimately know how passengers will react, or are responding to me.  That I am considered somewhat unconventional I suppose goes without saying, especially amongst you readers, my blog often exposing a more feral and undomesticated side of my normally civilized self.

In short, all I try to be is myself minus embellishment one way or the other; and that I am a hippie, a refugee from the1960s who just happens to be driving a cab I make no effort to conceal.  With all my other endeavors I remain the same but it is true that cab driving often makes me more irritable than usual, often resulting in a "bitter and biting" tongue though for the most part I make every effort to remain both responsive and congenial.  Peace, brothers and sisters, will always be my primary objective, peace both on earth and inside my taxi!  If only others were so benign, tranquility might reign across our world.

All this leads up to this past weekend and getting free slices of pizza both Saturday and Sunday courtesy of Julie, employee and pizza maker at the local Capitol Hill pizza establishment, Hot Mama's Pizza,  Julie being someone who, along with her record collecting boyfriend, rode in my taxi a few months back to their north end home.

Picking them up at Hot Mama's, they gave me a few slices for the road, and in general we had a pleasant ride to their home abode, all the while discussing records and such.  The ride ended with a great tip provided by these nice folks, the kind of interaction making up for the many other less-than-pleasant encounters.  As said, that was the last I thought of it, other than occasionally seeing the young woman making pizza when I stopped in for a slice, a pleasant interaction remembered and noted.

But this past Saturday night, coming in for a quick slice, the cashier smiled and said Julie had taken care of it, and there she was in her usual spot, making dough.  I was so shocked I forgot to leave a tip but did take a moment to thank her.

And yet again, Sunday night the same occurrence, Julie once more providing me with a complimentary slice.  This time I remembered to tip 2 bucks, again thanking her for the recognition because somehow I had done something right, as opposed to the many theoretic wrongs often flung my way.  Great thanks, Julie, as your kindness makes that pizza taste ever better, being more than food, clearly a Communion host containing the friendliness of emotions!

Not A Good Place To Put A Table!

Speeding (more or less 60 MPH) to Sea-Tac Sunday night southbound on State Route 509, suddenly in the dark I saw a small table directly in my path a mere 75-100 feet away.  Had it just fallen onto the roadway?  That is my guess.

Hitting the brakes and swerving to the left, the table bounced off to where I will never know, as my concentration was solely focused upon getting the suddenly fishtailing 1092 back under control.  For a quick moment I thought we were going to roll.  Thank goodness my driving instincts, dating way back to age 12 and the autumn of 1967, kicked in, saving the taxi day and perhaps our lives.  Once we got to his Sea-Tac area hotel, my grateful passenger shook my hand, thanking me for my "professional maneuver."

Is SR 509 inherently dangerous?  I pose that question because my near accident occurred within a mile of where my friend Jack received his fatal injury when YC 478 slipped off the roadway into a hillside.  Damn taxi! is all I can say.  Tables upon the roadway?  Amazing!

HopeLink's Tyranny!

Too often recently I have witnessed theoretic "good people" do incredible damage to everyone minus any thinking of real and actual consequences.  Whether it is the 'liberal" Seattle City Council uncapping Uber or the mayor installing bike lanes on already impassable streets, it is truly troubling that these "saviors of all human kind" forget that they are impacting the innocent, seemingly concerned only with their immediate priorities regardless of all associated consequences.  And you can believe there can be, and are, repercussions to arrogance and hubris.  Case and point is the helping agency HopeLink, like the animated Mister Magoo, leaving destruction and mayhem in its unseeing wake.

Monday afternoon I got a HopeLink $41.00 flat-rate fare from north Seattle to Bellevue, leaving me no option but to take the Evergreen Toll bridge, the toll at that moment $4.30.  Minus that from my fare, and minus a further $4.30 heading back, and you see I netted $32.40.

When I inquired if I could protest, I was told what I already knew: that imperious HopeLink makes us take all liabilities while handling their "civilization saving" missions.  Whether 20 % of their calls are no-shows or the majority of the flat-rates do not equate assigned costs means little to nothing to them.  They are the moral Royalty and we, the local cabbies, are their minions.  Any complaint is met with "stuff it!' and you know, they really do a great job jamming it down the cabbie's throat.  And you wonder why I am choking?

Ain't that nice?  No!

Did the SPD Hear?

Whether the UW and Seattle Police Departments heard my lament I will never know for sure but something concerning their collective approach to traffic management dramatically changed during Saturday's Husky football game because I found the lanes open throughout the course of the UW 38 to 7 victory over Cal.  I even got a fare to Mountlake Terrace.  Hurrah!  Go team!

And perhaps many thanks to Seattle City Council members Bruce Harrell and Mike O'Brien and the good SPD traffic division Sargent.  Like said previously, the ways of the Seattle traffic Gods are mysterious, beyond the reach of mere mortals like me.  I just say a prayer and hope for the best.  It is all I can do!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

While A Good Weekend It Was Also Very Strange!

I keep repeating "I don't want to do this any more" and after some of the rides I had both Saturday and Sunday I can definitely say, "I don't want to drive taxi again!  No more, no more, let me please exit the cabbie door!"

As it was strange in Seattle, it appears it was odd everywhere, exemplified to the extreme by the shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada and the killing of 59 and the wounding of over 500 concert goers.  If it is true that something mysterious and unexplainable took over the United States, affecting myriad and unconnected events, just what is it, what is this invisible phenomena wreaking havoc across the nation?  Damn if I know but it is as real as me sitting here typing in a Tacoma coffee shop.  I don't like it, not enjoying being manipulated by the unknown cosmos.

One major reason why these kinds of weird rides irritate me so much is that I feel victimized for no reason whatsoever other than I'm in a cab.  It is apparent that is quite enough justification for passengers treating you unjustly.  All I did Saturday night was answer a call at 14th East and East Aloha, and once the woman was in the cab, began losing her mind when I started taking her to the requested destination of 26th South and South Lane.  East Aloha at that point is a local arterial and the routing couldn't have been simpler, proceeding east then turning south on 23rd and following that all the way to South Lane Street, taking a left and three blocks later, 26th South.

But no, she immediately began telling me to "Turn around. You're going in the wrong direction!" Telling her that we were heading east and planing on taking 23rd southbound did nothing to dissuade her.  As she grew more agitated, I zipped a U-turn at 19th East, telling her I had had enough of her confusion.  "Oh," she suddenly exclaimed," I'm sorry.  You're right, we were heading in the right direction."

Knowing that, given immediate evidence, she could again come up with more nonsense, I stopped in front of her address and said, "Get out!"  Stepping out, she proceeded to lecture me upon my lack of customer service.  I guess she thought I was either a psychiatrist or a drug counselor but given I was at that moment only a frustrated cabbie she will have to seek those services elsewhere.

Even more bizarre was what turned out to be my last Saturday night (early Sunday morning) bar-break passenger, a woman wanting to go to the top of Queen Anne hill from Ballad.  Making the conclusion even odder is that she was very specific in her instructions, routing me to West Nickerson and then up 3rd Avenue West, finally taking us to 3rd West and West Galer.

Having grown quiet, I asked her where she needed to be, with her response slightly more than crazy.  "I want to go home. Is your home ready?" somehow implying that she wanted me to take her back to my place.

Responding that this was nuts, I again asked her where she wanted to go but this time I needed the money upfront.  She said she wanted to go to North 43rd and Wallingford North, where her house was located.  When I questioned her to just why she took us in the wrong direction she said " I never asked you to bring me here."

That is when I pulled over and "I don't want your money.  Just get out!" understanding that whatever was occurring with this woman, the results for me wouldn't be good,  ranging from not getting paid to having to summon the police.  Pissing me off further is that I ignored taking a dispatched call when I saw her waving.  Having cost me money and time I just gave up, and headed north to five hours of total sleep.  As said, I don't need this kind of treatment, doing absolute nothing for me, a total wash on every conceivable level.

Fast forwarding to Sunday night and halftime at the Seahawk game, an older upper-middle class couple got in and asked if I knew how to get to 28_ _ Elliott, a destination about 12 blocks away in an almost straight line, I responded that it was about 3/4 of a mile away, meaning "just get in because we are almost there."

But no, not trusting any cabbie, lumping me into whatever "servant"category they felt I fell in to, did not like my response, finally getting out one block later, saying I had run a red light.  In these kinds of situations I usually just say "you don't have to pay" but given they had wasted my valuable time I requested the $3.00 on the meter.  If they had just been normal and simply said "Take me to _____, please!" like 99 % of the human population I would have had them there in 2-5 minutes.

About 1 1/2 hours later I took a group of ladies from Pier 69 to the Bellevue Hyatt, and the woman sitting next to me, having exchanged little more than 30 words with her, gave me a one hundred dollar bill for the $32.00 fare and said "Keep it!"  All she had done was give me the name of the hotel minus any questioning.  And guess what, I got her there, and not even charging her for the 520 Bridge toll.

Was I somehow a different cabbie, magically changed in a mere short period of time?  No is the answer. No.

All of this reminding me of an old business card where I stated "Depending on your attitude, The Best! the Worst!" which pretty much sums up the taxi experience, madness and stupidity lurkng "round the next corner!  Again, I don't need this crap in my life.  I really don't!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Who Speaks For Us?---Taxi Lobbyists and Other Industry Advocates & Update Concerning Changes at Sea-Tac Airport

From my experience, beginning with my childhood years, it is problematic when represented by someone other than yourself.  Of course when I was five my sole representatives were my parents, people I had already found to be, even at that precocious age, dysfunctional and less than reliable in almost all areas of adult endeavor.  So, commencing from that startling revelation in 1959, I quickly understood that it was pretty much up to me to communicate to all concerned who I was and what I wanted and needed. If I needed a lobbyist, it was clear I was hiring myself for the position, obviously picking the best qualified candidate.

 Fast-forwarding up to the present year, 2017,  I find what I knew to be true remains accurate all these years later, that when it comes to explaining my reality to others, it is best left to no one else but me.  I decided long ago, if ever serving in an elected office, it will be me and me alone writing my speeches.  How could it be any other way?  I would find it akin to having someone else lift the spoon to my mouth.  Why would I want that?  I don't, and never will allow someone to do something that I am perfectly capable of doing, much preferring death than artifice mimicking life. 

Which brings to the specific subject of taxi lobbyists, what they do and don't do for our industry.  Amongst these lobbyists are those not specifically designated as lobbyists but who circumstantially serve a similar role, for instance Teamsters 117 and their ilk, who like the professional lobbyist espouse policy minus any true working knowledge of the cabbie experience.  In other words, they have never driven a taxi, and never will, having decided it unnecessary to obtain their for-hire and sweat for a few weeks beneath the top-light, thus gaining what they currently do not have: a nose bloodied by taxi reality.    

And why do they think they understand what they don't know?  From my observation, it sources from being upper-middle class and attending college and being told countless times that more than special, they are seraphic; and since they are, they, like Superman or Superwoman, can leap great lengths in a single bound, coming to understanding and comprehension beyond ordinary less celestial individuals, especially those categorized as the great unwashed: misbegotten children lost in a much bigger adult world, clad in dirty diapers. 

If this isn't true, then what is certainly true, speaking from my own personal experience, it taking years to master a particular field of study, talent being only one small part of the larger equation.  In 1974, at age 20 I obtained my first professional counseling position, finding myself groping forward into the psychiatric darkness.  After bumping my head countless times against unpadded walls, I found it taking many hours and years before I had even a rough idea of what was truly going on inside the schizophrenic mind.

Recently I found my first poem written when I was 9, while also finding my first "adult" poetry published at age  25.  While the young and older poems displayed promise, it was not until I was nearly 30 did I write anything that just might withstand the literary test of time.  A NOSE IS A FLESHY ROSE THAT I BLOWS!  See what I mean!

Taxi was also the same for me, initially displaying talent but little beyond that, my money-making abilities masking my true ignorance of the industry, taking me a minimum of five years to transition from novice to any kind of real competency.  Am I still a Seattle taxi "green pea?"  Probably.

So when a lobbyist says, as one recently did, that riding around with a cabbie a few times makes her totally prepared to speak for us, my quick response is: that isn't possible.  And clearly that reality remaining the same if she were representing plumbers or horse jockeys or graphic artists. How could she know, not knowing the territory but instead speaking solely from her imagination. While she might, in that sense, write a novel it wouldn't be a very good one, guesswork the worse literary foundation, destined for the paper recycling bin.

So why has the industry allowed the uninformed to speak so long for them, to set policy, to literally frame their existence?  I'll respond to that another time but I will quickly say that when you have been stepped upon for years, you begin to think less of yourself, volunteering to be roadkill.   That is the simple answer to something deserving more time than I can currently give it.  As history isn't created in moment, neither is my answer, not wanting to explain 30 years of study in 60 compacted minutes.  What is the hurry anyway?  Is anything going to change?  No.

Good News from the Port of Seattle

I am pleased to pass on that those representatives of Sea-Tac International Airport, the Board of Port of Seattle Commissioners, have decided to give the cabbies and flat-rate for hire drivers a break, reducing their gate fee by one dollar per trip to the now required $6.00 per outbound fare.  This also means there will be no annual fee increases, as was previously scheduled.  And after reports of shabby conditions, four million dollars has been earmarked for refurbishing the building at the taxi holding lot. 

Why now is the commission responsive and empathetic?  I am guessing that a change in Port of Seattle leadership along with a year's reflection have resulted in a more compassionate response.  Was everyone mad at Yellow Cab for under reporting earning?  Yes, they were, and unfortunately it appears the cabbies took it on the chin for transgressions not of their making.  Why they are even looking into solving the short-haul problem, which would be great news for those just driving across International Boulevard to the Red Lion or the Double Tree. 

And it appears the good work isn't completed, with the commission looking further into how they can assist the long suffering Sea-Tac cabbies. Hurrah!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More SPD & UW Police Overstepping At UW Husky Football Game & Not One, But Two New Seattle Mayors

Saturday night the Seattle police and their University of Washington counterparts were up to their old tricks, denying taxi access to the frenzied hordes exiting the UW versus Fresno State game, complicating everything by closing off streets just mere minutes into the second half.  And adding yet another new dimension to the usual confusion and traffic mayhem, they stopped all access immediately after the game, meaning thousands of fans were left puzzled and stranded waiting for taxis and Ubers that never arrived.  Why the authorities did this I don't know but I will attempt to get an official reply but from my experience I might as well be trying to contact Vladimir Putin, meaning they don't make it easy to communicate with them.  I wonder if this is intentional?  What do you think about bureaucratic distance, the hiding behind grey, opaque walls?  Is it true or perhaps I am just not trying hard enough?

When I did make it in toward game's end, it resulted in two Kirkland trips and one final "searching for my friend Mike" who had evidently taken a drunken plunge into the Montlake Canal, only to have been rescued by a passing boater.  Maybe it was best we didn't find Mike because my passenger kept saying "I am going to punch him in the nose!"  Doesn't that make sense, taking all this time and effort to find someone for the sole purpose of beating him up?  All I can say is welcome to post-Husky delirium, something I have seen too many times over my 30 years working the games.  Go team! rah rah rah!

Mayor Murray Resigns 

The past two weeks two weeks have seen the resignation of Mayor Ed Murray and the installing of not one but two new Seattle mayors.  This all came about when Murray's second cousin came out, 40 years late, to say that he too had been sexually abused by the now former mayor.  One can ask why it took him so long when he could have stopped Murray in his sexual tracks years ago?

There are so many important questions concerning all this, including if Murray has committed what is said, why in the political world did he think he could get away with something that was in plain view?  Could it be that since he never had done anything wrong in the first place, how could he think he would be  held accountable for crimes that never happened? 

Another question is, has anyone been paid?  I say this because the entire situation started with an infamous muckraking lawyer dredging up alleged victims from the far past, some of whom are convicted male prostitutes.  Has any of those intrepid Seattle Times reporters checked out bank accounts and sudden changes in life styles?  If they have, it hasn't been noted.

The outraged rhetoric has at times been appalling, epitomized by former mayoral candidate, Nikkita Oliver shouting just how outrageous Murray has been,  expressing"she just will never understand" how this horrible person got away this long with years of repeated sexual misdeeds?  Yes, it is mysterious on many levels.

I guess she and others have all forgotten how Trump, who was not only accused but actually bragged about his sexual improprieties, has not only avoided prosecution but now holds an elected office? That I am not impressed goes, as the saying goes, "goes without saying" but I had to say it anyway.

At least Seattle Council Member Bruce Harrell gave up his week-long mayoral tenure to Council Member Tim Burgess, who remains the Mayor of Seattle for 71 days.  Harrell brief tenure led to a series of emails between me and a known taxi industry lobbyist.  A focus upon that is something you might look forward to in next week's posting.  She did say that a few hours riding along in a taxi makes her extremely knowledgeable concerning industry issues. Hey, that reminds of Sarah Palin's famous "I understand Russia because I can see it off the coast of Alaska?"  She did?  Maybe she was wearing a special set of eye glasses.  I suppose anything is possible.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Panic In The Taxi Streets & Shirley Jackson Was Correct About Human Nature

Monday night I attended a special dinner commemorating both Merkel Cell cancer research and Merkel Cell survivors with my longtime friend Marty C. (fellow writer & Vietnam-era 1-0), Marty having, a few years back, successfully beaten what unfortunately has proved to be a quick death sentence for many who develop the disease.  The dinner was held at the sparkling new University of Washington Lake Union Research Center located at 750 Republican Street.  The food was quite good, along with unlimited glasses of decent wine.

As usual, having little time to spare, I took in the dinner, and not the accompanying lectures and presentations, wanting to support Marty in his continuing support and advocacy of his fellow cancer survivors.  Like Marty, who is currently residing in Tennessee, everyone sitting at our table were from out-of-state, one couple from Alabama, along with two friends from Albany, Oregon.  The sole reason I have for mentioning this event is that their stories about taking Seattle Yellow cabs were both disheartening and alarming.  Not that I wanted to be but instantly I was appointed lead interpreter for a troubled industry, translating the unintelligible to the novice speaker. 

How do you explain when a Seattle cabbie, one, asks someone from Alabama about how to find a Seattle address; and two, doesn't even know how to provide change for a ten dollar bill?  Another disturbing story concerned being fought over at the train station, only to be insulted by the winner when it turns out she isn't going far despite having luggage, it being her bags sparking the cabbie conflict. Another time, she couldn't get a cab at all, having to call a friend to pick her up.  These and other tales of taxi woe led me to provide explanation for what was for them inexpiable, telling them that inexperience and panic was the more-or-less answer to what they experienced, fully displaying our current sorry taxi state-of-affairs.

I told them that the very nature of taxi makes people crazy, and because it is getting harder and harder to find a fare, cabbie's are panicking, acting in ways they normally wouldn't, impacting both themselves and their customers.  A story featured yesterday on the New York Times front page, "As Uber Ascends, Debt Demolishes Taxi Drivers," reported by Winne Hu, examines what is happening in New York City and in tandem reflected in Seattle and other American cities: cabbies are simply having difficulty making a living.

Early Saturday morning, something very unusual happened, meaning that for the very first time in 30 years I failed to get at least one fare during "bar-break," no flags or dispatch calls, no nothing, being shutout for 2 entire hours.  Amazed more than anything else, I didn't panic and soon thereafter business picked up, leading to a reasonable successful weekend.  As is obvious, if "Mister Pro" is experiencing this kind of stuff, what is happening to the rookies?  They are going completely nuts is what is occurring, their behavior instant psychosis at the drop of the taxi hat.

And relating back to what I mentioned last week, about money-making troubles at Sea-Tac, I talked to someone over at Eastside/E-Cab and was told that they do indeed have a working dispatch system, and more, often can't get those E-Cab drivers to answer the calls, this in direct contradiction to what the E-Cab owner told me last week, saying dispatch didn't exist.  So what is actually true or not?

Perhaps, as I have observed much recently, many of my fellow cabbies, despite living in the USA for a long time, have simply failed to fully transition to the new, sometimes very confusing reality around them.  If there is another explanation I would like to hear it but after much observation I believe I am right.  At least the guys at the train station, after my repeated annoyance, have begun to move forward in line, thus filling the gap and not allowing Uber drivers to pull in and drop off and pick up.  Talk about annoying, being lectured by arrogant Uber operators, trying to tell me about taxi driving.  God help us all!

Shirley Jackson Knew All About it

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965), at least in the 20th C, next to Earnest Hemingway, might have written some of most important short stories during that particular period of American writing history, her story "The Lottery" expressing quite accurately what human nature can be, and perhaps is all about, concerned only about their personal welfare and little else.

The reason I mention Jackson is due to having YC 1092 clipped by a driver Sunday in downtown Seattle.  An unthinking passenger from Florida opened the right rear door into traffic, she being damn lucky to be alive.  The driver of the car was a young woman I suspect was an Uber or Lyft driver who wasn't completely in control of her car.  I have asked the proper authorities to check out just exactly  what she was doing at that moment. If she is Uber, she didn't provide me me verification of commercial insurance.

Where "The Lottery" comes into play is when I told the _______ tourist, that in the State of Washington, she was liable for opening the door into an oncoming car.  Remember, all I had done was pull up to the hotel and park, something I have done thousands of times over 30 years.

But since I told her and her friends something new to them, and potentially consequential, the good ladies, just like the good citizens in Jackson's story, began throwing stones, wanting to kill me while emotionally embracing the young woman who had nearly killed one of their party, thus ruining their Northwest vacation.

It was an amazing performance, made even more amazing because they were following a natural script, instinctively knowing their lines and parts.  AsI keep saying, taxi driving provides a front row seat to all varieties of human behavior, in this case spontaneous theater composed and directed by anger and hatred.  But if you think my ticket was free, think again, my cost of admission more than I could ever or want to afford, the cabbie paying, paying and paying some more to the end of known time!

Postscript 09/14/2017: More Pattern

In last week's posting, I inferred how the downtrodden are stepped upon by those in power, by those who have lots of money, or by people simply marginalizing others for no other reason than they can, their victims defenseless, unable to protect either themselves or their interests. Two good/bad examples of these kinds of behavior came to light last week, one featured in the New York Times; the other in reports about Houston, Texas and Hurricane Harvey's aftermath. Another comes from the most recent economic report concerning American income.

The NY Times article compared corporate eras, featuring a former Kodak (Rochester, NewYork) janitor, who through company care and assistance rose to to become an executive in various companies over the years; and a current janitor working in Cupertino, CA cleaning Apple offices.  One was given opportunity while the other seems fated to work herself to death, making $16.00 per hour and paying over $2000.00 a month for rent.  I know Cupertino because it was the home of my ex-in-laws, eventually moving their business from Saratoga to Cupertino.  I have to laugh at the fact that the great American folk singer, Joan Baez, that battler for human rights, and once married to a jailed Vietnam War-era conscientious objector,  David Harris, was for a period of time, the lover of Apple founder Steve Jobs.  Remember, you read it here first!

And the big hearted Houston-based companies, enjoying a combined 7 billion dollar tax break from the city, announced that they would be donating 65 million for post-Harvey cleanup.  Do the math and you will find 65 million divided into 7 billion 107 times, meaning the percentage of aid is low, and I am not even talking about annual combined corporate profits. 

And one other piece of news is that combined American annual household income is at its highest level ever, $59.000.  While at first glance seemingly a great pronouncement for all things American Capitalism, divide that number by 2 working people comprising that household and you come up with $29,500 each, showing you just how much money people are truly making.  Dividing 2,080 working hours (based on 52 40 hour weeks) into $29,500, and you see that folks are working for just over $14.00 per hour.  Last week I showed how the Federal minimum wage increased by just about 88 cents per decade.  Taking the figure of $14.00 per hour, that shows an increase of $1.76 per decade since 1938.  Real impressive, wouldn't you say, the richer getting richer, and the poor and working class fools, why they are just quietly buried six feet under, that's all. 

It is clear that this pattern of financial inequality is entrenched, and as is the case currently throughout the USA, stridently defended by the worker drones, ever so happy swilling beer and watching football players delivering brain disease causing blows to each other's heads.  Ain't life fun in America?  Sure it is, and I am just a complete asshole for implying otherwise.  Go 'Hawks! pound those hated 49er's into the turf!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

There Appears To Be A Pattern.... & 30 Year Anniversary & Sea-Tac Cabbie Trauma In The News

Two events last week, the bombing and killing of unarmed civilians in Yemen by the Saudi Arabian air force; and the capsizing of boats filled with Rohingya refugees fleeing ethic violence in Myanmar (Burma), drowning at least 46 mostly women and children, got me to thinking about the disenfranchised, the poor, the disadvantaged and simply, the more forgotten residents of this planet.  A New York Times photograph displayed bodies lined along a river shore in Bangladesh, the country where the drowning victims were seeking sanctuary.  And the New York Times photographs originating from Yemen were taken by a reporter who snuck into the country because neither Saudi Arabia nor its prime supporter, the United States, wants anyone to see the destruction first hand.  While this is awful, unfortunately, it is nothing new, not in this century, the 20th century or any other period in recorded history.

What is theoretically different now from say atrocities from the past, like the Belgium killings in West Africa during the late 19th Century of 2-15 million Congolese, or the Ottoman (Turkey) Empire massacre of over 1 million Armenians, is the now popular and  modern (and collective) pretense of caring, where diplomats appointed to the United Nations sit and argue while murder and famine persists in plain view.  As during the murder and maybe in Rwanda during their 1994 genocide, everyone, including the Clinton Administration, just sat there upon their hands and stared at the ongoing carnage.

I am guessing that many readers, while potentially aware of the killing of 8000 man and boys in July 1995 in Srebrencia during the Bosnian War, probably don't know that they were handed over to the Serbs by United Nation Dutch peacekeepers.  Such is how it was then and in the past, remaining to this day and moment.  If you are on the cultural sidelines, like the Pequot Indians in New England in 1636,  or the European Jews in 1933 or the Bosnian Muslims in 1995, good luck because you are going to need it, hatred equalling genocide guaranteeing your fate.

How this pattern of disregard relates to cabbies and the taxi industry is readily apparent to anyone driving beneath the top-light: we are subjected to "last class" treatment; and what is currently happening at Sea-Tac amidst recent labor strife underlines that no one, especially those in power, like  for example the governing members of the Port of Seattle commission, care little to nothing about the well-being of current taxi independent operators.  Not only have they been unaware of the trouble they have caused, I will take a Loyd's of London wager they will do nothing to change the situation. 

More upon that later but even those of us operating in the City of Seattle and King County know full well just how much we are beneath the uncaring (and spiteful?) bureaucratic thumb, the most telling example being the unleashing of over 15 thousand Uber and Lyft drivers, saturating the market and strangling the local taxi industry.  Too obvious, then, that you don't do something like this to a business community you care about and support, the City Council's message to us abundantly clear: you are not important, and even more, we want you to know and understand, minus any doubt, exactly how we feel---you are completely expendable!  Go away!

But as I said in the beginning, this is how the poor, or more politely, how the misconceived have been treated, in this country and around the world.  If you think I am mistaken, consider the history of the Federal Minimum Wage in the USA and get back to me.  And if you hadn't heard, the legislators in Missouri (The Show-Me State) forced the City of Saint Louis to rescind it's minimum wage law offering Saint Louis residents $10.00 per hour, making the city adhere to the Missouri state minimum of $7.70 per hour.  While pathetic, that is more than the current Federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.  Do you think you can live on that hourly wage?  I know I can't, no doubt about it.

In 1938, the FDR administration mandated, for the first time, a Federal Minimum Wage of 25 cents per hour.  If that doesn't sound like much, understand that the cost of living was much lower during the Great Depression.  A loaf of bread cost you 9 cents, with a pound of ground beef only 13 cents.  Average rent across the country was $27.00 monthly, with the cost of a new house averaging between 2-4 thousand dollars.  The sticker price for your new Ford or Chevy or Dodge would be about $765.00.  And how much was the gasoline in 1938 to power that car down the road?  A mere 10 cents per gallon.   Compare those prices with today's and you can see how, nearly 80 years later, a Federal minimum wage of $7.25 is not only wholly inadequate, it's immoral.

If you still are not convinced, thinking that $7.25 is okay, then let us do the math together, rounding out the figures and dividing $7.00 into 80 years, which comes out to a wage increase of about 88 cents per decade, meaning that every ten years the average American worker will not be meeting the usual rate of inflation in terms of their yearly income.

In Seattle, average rent now ranges between $1500-3000.00.  If you want to buy a house, you will have to fork out between $500,000 and $1,000,000.  You think you can do this upon $7.25 per hour? Even with Seattle's mandated $15.00 per hour (at a current $13.00 per hour),  you will still have a difficult time affording much of anything.  Instead, like me, you will have moved to Tacoma but Tacoma too is now beginning to match Seattle, day to day rents and food getting more expensive by the inflationary hour.

One last point about patterns concerning the "thrown away" sectors of a given culture, society and country, is an article in yesterday's New York Times featuring the French city of Marseille and how children from the Arab-majority neighborhoods fail to learn how to swim, something, along with reading and writing the French government back in the 1970s mandated as a human right.  One young man's story is featured, detailing his struggle to become a competitive swimmer as his area pools are shut down and never reopened.

Again, to this day, obstacles, monetary and others, are constructed to keep those on the outside looking in, assuring that those who fall into what can only be called undesirable categories remain there.  Another prime example is how the Roma (Gypsies) are still treated in Europe, Europe of course the perceived bastion of Everything Great that is Western Culture.  It was, and remains a bad story, the Roma too included amongst Hitler's Holocaust victims.

My 30th Taxi Year Anniversary

This September makes it thirty off-and on years for me in this crazy taxi business.  I had quit in the Spring of 1991, thinking I was done, never to return but prolonged illness and other life circumstances forced my return.  While appreciative of the good living taxi has provided, as said before, I am ready to say goodbye to the insanity I know too well called driving a cab.

Trouble at Sea-Tac

An article by Heidi Groover in the  Stranger's August 30th edition entitled "Screwed at Sea-Tac" continued an examination of Port of Seattle policy begun by the Seattle Weekly's Sara Bernard.  This time the focus is upon Eastside Flat-rate For Hire (ESFH), the group that won the current Sea-Tac outbound service contract and how it impacts their single-owner taxi partners, collectively known as E-Cab.  The E-Cab lament is that they are barely making a living while operating under the current conditions; and taking information from available anecdotal evidence, it appears to be more-or-less true.

Sunday evening, an E-Cab owner told me he was facing financial difficulties due to ESFH scheduling protocols, providing him alternating weeks of 4 days and 5 Sea-Tac days on, leaving working gaps of 2 to 3 days where he is banned from working the airport.  He said if he could just work a full 7 day week he would be fine but since ESFH demands that everyone pays the required $495.00 regardless of allowed Sea-Tac days or functional dispatch, he is facing a real dilemma trying to maintain a living.

Given I know everyone at ESFH, I believe I know how they could operate better or more fairly but despite Teamsters Local 117's insistence that Eastside is solely responsible, I instead point to the Port of Seattle and its questionable reliance upon independent taxi and flat-rate operators to fund Sea-Tac operations, requiring that each ride originating from the airport cost the drivers $7.00 for the privilege.  As I have stated in a past posting, my per-ride cost is about one dollar, far less than what Sea-Tac asks.  To me, Sea-Tac is totally unjustified in demanding such an enormous fee.  You also might notice that it nears the Federal minimum hourly wage.  That is to me a pretty amazing comparison. How could anyone think this is reasonable?

And the solution to all this turmoil and angst?   It is clear that circumstances necessitate that the Port of Seattle's Board of Commissioner's revisit their rate structure and recalibrate what they are making drivers pay.  Currently, the fee is scheduled to go up, not down.  Any increase, along with the current fee rate, is not sustainable.  Nor in my opinion is it moral.  As a fellow cabbie, I know how hard everyone is working.  And need I say that Sea-Tac's decision to accommodate Uber and Lyft operations only deepens the issue, making it even harder upon the cabbies.  Give everyone a break, won't ya?  Wouldn't that be nice!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Is It Time To Form A Taxi Union? & Transporting A Secret Agent To Tacoma

Last week the courts ruled that Seattle efforts to allow taxi and flat-rate and Uber drivers to unionize can now go forward, recent attempts to halt the process by both the United States Chamber of Commerce and a small group of Uber drivers having been turned down.  While this is a potential victory for local independent driver operators, I am suggesting that we in the taxi industry begin our organizing efforts sooner than later because I expect more upcoming legal efforts to stymie this kind of unionization. Why does corporate America want to stop a handful of drivers trying to control their personal destiny?

Because, if successful, it clearly holds national implications which scare Uber, Lyft and any other ersatz taxi-like service.  That they want to hold their drivers beneath their corporate thumbs should not be doubted.  If organized, it will cost Uber money, something they truly do not want to share with their drivers.  Again, Uber has reported a quarterly operational loss of over 600 million dollars, making them more suspect with their investors.  As someone at Wall Street might say, this is no way to keep a corporate romance alive, that first kiss suddenly stale.

And I should emphasize that this same attitude can be applied to our local taxi associations.  Do you ever feel powerless to change anything at Yellow, Orange or Farwest,--- money, the making of money for their personal profit seemingly their primary priority?  While this kind of indentured servitude does hold some advantages, the fact that we have little option but to accept what is dished out daily is something that should change, regardless of any kind or variety of unionization.

And yesterday a driver told me something, that while unverified, is very interesting about Puget Sound Dispatch (PSD) finances.  He told me that he and others figured out that PSD (Seattle Yellow Cab), after taking in account salaries and other operating expenses, is earning $200,000 monthly in after-expense profits, adding up to two million & four hundred thousand dollars.

To where and to whom these potential profits are going is something that should be known, especially since we at Yellow are experiencing the worst summer business-wise in 20 years. As all of us know, we all pay $10.00 per week for advertising, something I have personally yet to see anywhere.  If anyone driving at Yellow believes they are getting their money's worth, both through dispatch and media advertising, please hold up your hand.  But please, not with an extended middle finger.

My last comment about unionizing is that any new union should be run and controlled by the cabbies themselves.  Being babysat by Teamsters Local 117 is not the answer.  While officials there are good people and well meaning,  they do not and can not understand our shared reality.  And what will be my role in any effort toward unionization?  Given personal time restraints, like selling my place and moving and focusing on getting my newest book published, I am still willing to assist in working toward some functional structure and framework.  Again, I know this needs to happen.  Do you agree?

Working with Putin?

He was walking shirtless down East Marginal Way South near the Areo Motel looking for a taxi. Waving his hand, I stopped and the gentleman indicated he wanted to go south to Tacoma.  "Great, I responded, "Money up front and off we go."  As I turned 1092 around, he told me to make sure we weren't being followed, saying he would pay for any necessary detours.

Putting his shirt back on, he proceeded to tell he was on a mission and some nefarious parties were attempting to stop him, in additional to warning me not to answer my cell phone because he might have to kill me.  He also told me me that just 4 days previous, Vladimir Putin himself  had the secret agent's new wife flown to Seattle, the agent finding this all very exciting.

Responding back "That this was all fine." the secret agent slid down in the back, curled up and thankfully fell asleep.  Nearing his requested destination, Tacoma Community College, I woke him up, and rubbing his eyes awake , announced we had just shared an important historical moment. "Glad to hear it," was my thought.

Putting his socks and boots back on, he departed 1092 but not before leaving me with additional words of spy wisdom.  Most importantly for me, he left me a new $100.00 bill, the agent carrying a roll of one-hundred dollar bills tucked in a sock.

Having ignored her calls twice, I called "she-who-can't-be-named" back, quickly describing what had just occurred.  "Are you making this up?" she exclaimed, but no, I swear, this account is completely non-fiction, written and composed by disturbance translated into madness and now delivered to you through the world-wide web.  How exciting, wouldn't you agree, spy work just for you hot off the taxi presses!

Postscript August 30th, 2017

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit entered a temporary stay yesterday against the City of Seattle ordinance permitting unionization by taxi and other for-hire drivers.   A more permanent decision might occur as early as next week.  I also have two new pieces of information that I find somewhat disturbing.

Eastside-for Hire has joined with Uber to form something called "Drive Forward," which appears to be some kind of advocacy group promoting the current status quo, meaning independent operators would remain under corporate control minus any real option or legal recourse and appeal.  Especially in the labor situation with Uber, drivers remain quasi employees minus the rights and benefits of actual employees.  Does Uber, Lyft and other such companies want people's labor on the cheap, interested only in corporate profit and not the actual well-being of their independent operators?  I'll let you answer that.

More troubling information that's new to me is currently, the way the law was initially written, all official organizing efforts must begin with one labor body, that being Teamsters Local 117.  While it appears that Local 117 might be open to some alternatives, I am displeased that the Seattle City Council wrote  this kind of limitation into the ordinance in the first place.  What were they thinking, or were they thinking at all?

Stay tuned.