Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Textbook Standard Method For Dealing With The Inebriated Soul

Too often taxi presents a problem, like it did upon my very first fare Saturday morning, that is not easily resolved---it becoming abundantly clear that drunk in the backseat (Why me! I thought to myself) was beyond expected coherency, and intervention of some kind was necessary.  Having seen this too many times in the past, I now have a mental check list of viable and potential options on how to address the unavoidable.

The first step is the obvious recognition that something is wrong, that a problem exists.

The second step is understanding whether the problem will just go away minus direct intervention.  When it becomes clear that what the drunk is telling me to do is to continue driving forward into Lake Washington and our subsequent drowning; it is then readily apparent the passenger is beyond normal  kinds of communication, and that a kind of taxi "shock therapy" is now called for.

Step three is the warning, at least the attempt to tell the inebriated soul lounging the in the back that his/her drunken intransigence will no longer be tolerated.

Step four is deciding what is the best remaining option, deciding this time that police were required and taking him to the South Precinct station was the easiest solution.  On the way, I did try to get a passing patrol car's attention but they didn't see me.

Step Five will always  be to remain both calm and resolute, knowing I tried to make this easy but when the individual neither will tell me where he is going and refuses to provide "up-front" money to continue a senseless meandering, I know something else has to quickly occur.

Pulling up to the police station fortunately brought quick relief as three SPD officers came to my assistance, finally (it was a verbal struggle) getting his address out of him---30_ _ South Austin Street and the now $25.00 displayed on the meter to the cabbie.  Asked whether I would now take it home I cheerfully replied, "Sure. No problem." and got him there within three minutes, the now contrite gentleman mumbling what seemed like a sincere apology.

No, he wasn't a bad guy or criminal, just drunk beyond reason which is as commonplace as the wind blowing leaves down the street.  Taking his actions as a personal insult or physically yanking him out of the cab would have been a mistake.  That he victimized himself doesn't mean he needs to be further victimized by an angry cabbie, socking him in the nose not improving (or proving) anything.

Furthermore, dealing with the drunk and the insane and the foolish and the stupid is all part of the taxi terrain, like a hill you must either proceed up or go around.  If you are not ready and prepared to deal with every aspect of human nature then you cannot call yourself a cabbie.

Being not just a driving professional, you are also instant psychiatrist, social worker and best friend administering to the stressed soul sitting behind you.  Not only are there no other options, it is you only option---what you are, what you became when stepping into that cab and sitting beneath the top-light.

You are now taxi priest to the world as we know it, so bless all wayward travelers and they in turn will hopefully bless you either in words or money and simple expressed gratitude, all of us only humans sharing this great and grand and utterly mysterious, confounding experience called living upon plant earth. It is all we have.


In response to a perception that Uber was taking advantage of the New York City JFK Saturday 01/28/2017 cabbie strike in response to Trump's actions concerning immigration, a movement over Twitter, with the hashtag #DeleteUber has been raging the past few days. More and more it seems, for various reasons, more people have or are becoming disillusioned with Uber, which I call "the New Plantation," making the reference to pre-American Civil War Southern States Slave culture.

Another development is Uber's partnership with Toyota dealerships and the purchase/leasing of new Prius cars to new Uber drivers.  For instance, Burien Toyota has its own separate section devoted entirely to this end.  Only problem is that a mere two or three unsubstantiated negative comments will get the driver tossed off the Uber app while remaining legally liable for the car.

As I said, welcome to the "New Plantation" and the whips and shackles.  Fun, ain't it, when totally subjective opinion, minus any ability to appeal, can ruin your life, impacting you and your family for years to come. Fair? This has nothing to do with fairness, profit the sole motivator.

Next Week in NYC

Monday Feb 6th I will be flying into that same JFK airport to spend a few days looking at paintings, specifically the "Max Beckmann in NYC" show.  Given time and energy, next week's entry will probably be brief.

Postscript 02/01/2017---A Message From Seattle/King County

Yesterday I received my new for-hire driving license in the mail, and along with that came an enclosed slip of  paper with the following message, a message I am sure will interest all Seattle & KC area cabbies:

Attention For-Hire Drivers:

"Seattle Municipal Code 6.310.450 (C) and, King County Code 6.64.620 requires you to post a 5 1/2" in height and 81/2" in length reproduction of your for-hire driver's license in the taxicab and shall be contained under a sealed transparent cover, in such a manner that the contents cannot be altered or substituted, placed inside each taxicab in such a location that the license is clearly visible from the passenger compartment at all times that the licensee is operating, driving or using the vehicle"

There is a second paragraph telling you can go to a print shop and they will do all the work for you.  Perfect Copy & Print, located at 111 Broadway East, Seattle, is a great place to have it done, charging less than $3.00  to do the enlargement.  There is now a cab stand just across the street so it couldn't be any easier to get it done, giving you a free place to park your cab minus interference from SPD.

Anyway, the missive from Seattle/KC ends on an ominous note.  Beware and be aware!

"Failure to post your for-hire driver's license is a violation subject to civil or criminal sanctions."

Ain't that interesting, you the innocent cabbie suddenly the instant criminal for not displaying the license.  All I got to say is, just do what they ask and get on with your taxi life.  Good grief!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Persecution Complex? Yes, But Perhaps It's True---Pressing Issues Facing Seattle's Taxi Industry 2017

Over the past two weeks I focused upon hardships and maltreatment associated with cab driving, wanting, more than anything else, to communicate the reality of spending too many hours in the worse working conditions possible and its immediate consequences when forever dodging errant drivers and less-than-sane customers.  Am I seeing phantoms and ghosts in every shadowy corner?  Yes and no and yes, I might be letting all this madness get to me. Understandable, to be affected by a deranged environment but paranoia is better left to someone else as I simply don't have the time to remain delusional or unbalanced.

In Seattle Times' Monday 01/23/2017 edition, the picture puzzle feature Hocus-Focus (original artist and creator, Henry Boltinoff,---1914-2001) presented a woman taxi passenger in the back seat screaming at a much irritated cabby, a cartoon funny in the stark reality of how it can truly be---you the inanimate object berated by the righteous, indignant customer.  Having experienced exactly that, a female passenger screaming at the top-of-her-lungs during a torrential rain storm, I can attest that it is a real and true portrayal. That she finally muted herself was a blessing bestowed by the taxi angels.  God! what an absolute _____ she was!

And yesterday, the young doormen at the Stadium Silver Cloud Hotel actually requested my car keys when all I was doing was zipping into the lobby to find a passenger who had already grabbed the first cab driving by.  I told them that, one, I didn't trust them, and two, that I required psychiatric help but truly I was joking because their request wasn't at all humorous, the first time in 29 years I have heard such utter nonsense.

Over the years, hotel doorman have displayed a decorum translating into the recognition that we are all working together. All I got at that moment in time were some very dirty looks when my actions made it clear that, contrary to all previous preconceived notions, they really were not in charge.  But the truth is, if the hotel architects had designed a pull-off in front on 1st Avenue South, all this kind of  nonsense would not exist. See what happens when you go to college for 12 years to learn everything except commonsense and accommodation to reality?---wide spread misery and confusion for all concerned.  If you don't think that is true then you should go back to college for another one hundred years until you get it straight that architectural design is about human accommodation and function and little else.  Are buildings works of art? Only if they also serve the joint purpose of allowing people to work and function. If not, the structure is a failure and redesign is the order of the new day.  

But getting back to the subject at hand, last week's blog requires a clarification, given I misspoke concerning City and County Uber requirements.  John Megow, current manager at the City of Seattle for Regulatory Compliance and Consumer Protection, sent me an email spelling out the rules as they pertain to TNC operators.  John sent me item F, reproduced here, which spells out succinctly what is expected:

F. Requires that passengers be able to view a picture of the driver and vehicle license plate number on smart phone, tablet or other mobile device used to connect with the TNC dispatch application before the trip is initiated. (Class B)

This makes perfect sense, explaining why the Uber consumer can locate their particular operator in a sea of cars.  I always wondered how that was managed.

Mister Megow also said they were looking into the situation I encountered a few weeks ago in the Fremont, having observed an Uber car with a top-light attached atop of the driver's blue Toyota.  When approached, the young guy informed me that "He was a free man and could do anything he wanted to do!"  He then went into a rant about communists controlling societal rules.  Given that he was a true "loon" I kind of liked him, recognizing him as a fellow "taxi lunatic" though he is competitor  and out to take my potential fare.  I can say the same about my fellow Yellow-ites but knowing that we are in the same taxi-boat we clearly tolerate each other.  And of course we have taken our daily medications.

Given then what I now know, I suppose the City of Seattle had the right to issue tickets to those four Yellow cabbies after all but I do question why they were not initially warned instead.  If anyone truly needs to know a cabbie's identity all they need to do is write down the cab number and contact the City or County.  Unlike Uber and Lyft, we cabbies are the proverbial sore thumb, our neon Yellow cars broadcasting to all who we are.

What is the secret?  There is no secret.  And in some cites, cities of course that care about their cabbies, the cab number in printed in large numerals atop the car, making it viewable from the air. In short, everyone knows, and can know who we are, secret agent men ( or women) we ain't.

Important Issues 2017


Probably the most significant issue facing us in the taxi industry is how we are treated and regulated by regulatory authorities both locally and nationally.  For instance it isn't funny what is happening at Sea-Tac with the taxi operators since the transfer over to Eastside.  Again and again I hear reports of drivers not receiving one solitary dispatched call in over three months.  This and having their actual airport hours substantially reduced is solely the Port Commission's responsibility and no one else.

 If they truly care, as they repeat over and over, then the Port Commission will reopen their decision and thoroughly reexamine the situation minus any and all previous opinion.  But unfortunately this is just one example of an industry under siege from the very people responsible for protecting them.  Does this make any sense?  No, not if you are completely honest---it doesn't make any sense.

Cab Associations and Companies

If you can't depend upon the very associations and companies you are connected with, then an intimate trust has been broken, making it something that is very difficult, if not impossible, to mend.  That the American cab companies and associations have treated cabbies as their personal cash cows goes without question.  As questionable as this business arrangement and relationship has been, it worked when taxi was the dominant ride transportation provider.  Now with its ascendancy in wane, new questions to old problems arise. Will the great adjustment required happen before taxi itself disappears from the American transportation arena, taxi becoming a mere nostalgic memory?  One hopes, just as is necessary with governmental regulators, that commonsense will prevail and what was once a hierarchical arrangement transposes into a functional partnership.

To that end, the plan currently at Seattle Yellow is for me to develop a heretofore unseen comprehensive training program that will both revolutionize and modernize driving training,  assuring as much as humanly possible, that the newly minted Yellow cabbie will have some idea how to find a address and relate to the difficult passenger.  That Yellow has agreed to this is the kind of necessary acknowledgement I am referencing.  It is a beginning.  It is a start.

Driver Professionalism

Without good and efficient cabbies we are dead, hopelessly adrift in the transportation sea.  There has to be a recognition from the majority of cabbies nationally that we must be better than Uber and Lyft.  Now that shouldn't be very hard given that they are, across the board, clueless amateurs, and that we, especially the veterans amongst us, are capable of providing superior service.

It is simple.  We in the taxi industry must be the pinnacle of professionalism.  Anything short of that must be deemed unacceptable.  Be clear, guys and gals, we are in a fight for our very professional lives.  Take the challenge seriously or collectively we are doomed.  That is the way it is.  Any opinion to the opposite is erroneous.  It is wrong.

01/26/2017 Postscript----HopeLink News

Pushing myself to finish last night before the library closed, I forget to add what many will find very interesting:  Feb 1st, 2017 HopeLink  rates will go up from $2.15 per mile to $2.50 per mile.  That should bring a smile to everyone who works the HopeLink account.

Another piece of HopeLink news relates to what many of you already know, that once dispatch was transferred to the Las Vegas call center, available HopeLink hours were reduced by 96 hours from a normal 168 hour week.  What I didn't know was why it happened.  Yesterday I was told that the change came, not from Puget Sound Dispatch, but from HopeLink administrators who were uncomfortable with out-of-state call takers.  My only hope is that in the near future HopeLink can be convinced to change its policies concerning  this.  Personally, my largest fares ever have been generated by HopeLink over the weekends. What it means in real terms is that on Saturday and Sunday other service providers are taking Hopelink passengers over the Cascades to Yakima and other points East.  I know that all of us would like to have that $300-400.00 fare instead.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Biblical Pestilence?

                                                            What Have We Wrought?

                                                               Can it be true,

                                                               or can it be not,

                                                              what we have brought

                                                                 upon ourselves?

                                                              Could it be a divine

                                                                   old Testament 


                                                               reminding us sins are


                                                               and the numbers are in,


                                                                    smiting us like 

                                                                so many wayward


                                                                  in a blood-red  


                                                                  having done what,

                                                                    what have we


                                                                 to be punished so?

While of course an exaggeration, it does at times seem that we in taxi industry are cursed or under attack from less than benign spirits, given the numbers of obstacles placed in from of us, obstructing from making a simple dollar.  Last week four Yellow cabbies were given citations from the City of Seattle for the crime of not having their for-hire licenses copied, enlarged, then posted in the cab.

That the 10,000 plus Seattle Uber and Lyft drivers, under the same requirement having a current and valid for-hire license are neither stopped nor cited for similar violations says much about what is occurring.  The question is both why are we treated differently and just why does the City of Seattle and King County think we in the taxi industry will continue to accept the unacceptable?  Puzzling it is but certainly not indecipherable.

When actions like these are this contradictory, there must be an easily assessable key to unlock what isn't truly a mystery, Sherlock Holmes I am sure quickly solving the case because the perpetrators are well known, knowing who they are other than personal motives.  Just what are their motives, and if they are not working for us, who is their employer?  Yes, Mister Holmes, help us as we tire, growing weary from this unjust and inhumane persecution. Enough already, enough!

Laura Nyro's "Save the County"

For anyone depressed about current happenings in our country, I suggest you listen to Laura Nyro's (1947-1997) song from her 1969 album, "New York Tendaberry"----"Save The Country," something that might boost the spirits.

"Come on people
come on children
come on down to the glory river
gonna wash you up
and wash you down
gonna lay the devil"

(we're gonna lay that devil down!)


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Essay: The Psychological Toll Of Driving A Cab

                                          Why Driving A Taxi Is A Mental Heath Issue

Everybody knows cabbies are crazy.  Just visit Manhattan and manifested before your eyes will be thousands of Travis Bickles, Robert De Niro's famously deranged character in the 1976 film, "Taxi Driver."  But what is never discussed is why even I can become, even just for a minute, another Travis Bickle, a human being suddenly out-of-their-mind, recklessly accelerating their cab down the crowded roadway?

Inherently connected to cab driving is an unending, incessant battering of body and psyche guaranteed to debilitate anyone. From my personal experience I don't see how anyone alive could remain immune from the combined insult that is taxi, Darwinian evolution not adjusting fast enough to the untenable, when within a mere few minutes with the wrong passenger, all personal tranquility is utterly and instantly destroyed, breaking you down and transforming you into something you never, ever wanted to be: a thoroughly discouraged and miserable human being, with your worse instincts taking over, especially immaturity, miring you in a sticky morass not completely of your own making.

Again, what I have found is that this state of mind, or state of mental health, is unavoidable when driving a cab, the implications serious and personal.  Of course every occupation, even the highest and most prestigious, contain drawbacks and inherent negatives. The real danger and problem connected to the "crazed cabbie" syndrome is its potential permanency, similar to various types of schizophrenia, this very real psychosis incorporating into an individual's real and extant personality; and once entrenched, making it extremely difficult to remove.  How many cabbies are inclined to seek therapy, parking themselves upon the psychiatric couch or join the embracing circle of group therapy?  Not many is the quick answer.

As said, it is nearly impossible for me or any other cabbie to resist the unavoidable, the unrelenting physical and mental beating we all experience daily.  Imagine the interminable pounding of the sea upon the shoreline and you have a good idea of our average day.  My sole motivation for writing this examination is concern over my own behavior, worried that carryover is affecting what I am doing overall, which for me means my writing, my current book and what I am doing to ultimately be successful and live solely from my writing.

As mentioned multiple times, my previous professional background as counselor, case-manager and therapist puts me in a special position to comprehend what is happening around me.  And seeing I am unable to insulate myself from taxi's damaging impact, it scares the hell out of me, strongly suggesting that what I am doing might be suicidal, ultimately killing myself by a thousand cuts.  I have always viewed taxi as the means to a positive conclusion, not a dead-end leading to confusion and failure.

And given that, there has always been an assigned logic for my travelling to Mexico and other points across the globe as often as I do, travel acting as a necessary antidote to the poison that is taxi. Without travel I could not keep driving cab.  It is as simple as that but as is usually acknowledged, poison habitually ingested leads to inevitable death regardless of steps taken.

Friday I will be back in the cab for a least a half a shift, fully knowing it is a less than healthy choice.  As is well-known with the therapeutic process, awareness of a personal  issue or problem is just the beginning of the path forward toward resolution and well-being.  Can I and all my fellow cabbies do the work necessary to alter the unchangeable?

My honest response  is I don't know, feeling the odds are against us, the raging taxi sea the ultimate victor, old Neptune throwing his net and dragging us down to deepest fathoms of despair, our broken selves then tossed back upon the rocks, destined for the fishes or unmarked graves, collectively more than forgotten, our suffering never noticed nor seen, acknowledgment never to be our final benediction.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Worst New Year's Eve Ever? Instead Of A Big Bang, A Fizzle

                                                        Snow whispering down
                                                           all day long,
                                                           earth has vanished
                                                        leaving only sky.

                                                                     Joso   1662-1704                                                  

Historically there have been great expectations connected to the yearly January 31st celebrations, cabbies fighting to get a cab for the legendary night.  I left the first company I worked for, Classic Cab, over an argument over an invented fee created just for me---one hundred dollars to drive New Years Eve 1989, more or less beginning what was my second year in the business, my first New Years Eve 1988 as a cabbie spent not driving but instead eating Chinese take-out in London while recovering from a cold, not anywhere near the interior of a Seattle cab.  I was on my way to northern Wales and damn glad I went, a most memorable ten days lounging in a library reading ten books and drinking strong tea and scotch whiskey, a very good way to start a new year.

I remember one past celebratory night when I grossed  (or rolled) over $600.00 during a standard 12-hour shift; so as is said, those were the days and unfortunately, at least for one night, that kind of occurrence appears to be long gone. What it means for the future long-term, I can't tell you, perhaps a post-midnight snow storm or post-election fatigue factoring into 2017's low turnout. Simply why would you want to cheer and welcome in the new year when instead you just want to cry, snow and bad news chilling the very bone.

Though it isn't like there wasn't an initial burst after midnight because there was a quick frenzy lasting a mere 3 hours or so instead of the usual blast lasting deep into the morning, business once extending past seven, people going every which way north, south, east and west. Those were, even recently, the "great times" when everybody on a busy holiday were making money "hand over fist," averaging something like $50.-70.00 per hour, with some guys making in one shift what they might bring in over the course of a normal  week.  That's why everybody wanted to be out there but alas, no more, the taxi bell tolling but not for thee!

Bad News on the Sea-Tac Front

A year-end news followup from the Seattle Weekly confirmed what has been screamed out recently, that the taxi transition at the airport has been a near failure, with the now 405 taxi owners paying $155.00 a week for an nonexistent dispatch system.  It appears that the Port of Seattle needs to speed up its scheduled six-month review to the present day, asking both Eastside and themselves who is responsible for a completely unacceptable situation.  Sea-Tac E-Cab operators are freaking out because they are not making any money.

And how is this fair?  Not in any way, shape or form can any of this be considered fair. Again, what was  the Port of Seattle thinking?  I think the answer is clear. They were not thinking but instead, angered and flustered, assigning ultimate blame to the innocent.

Well, if this is what the Port  intended and wanted, they have certainly accomplished it, the drivers now truly suffering, having problems paying their bills.  It is as if the Port of Seattle were suddenly  the Roman Catholic Church, grading all actions as culpable sin.  As nearly 2000 years of liturgical history have shown, it isn't the most effective methodology.  Shall we instead tear down the confessional closet, and begin, since it is a new year, real and constructive conversation toward finding viable solutions?  Let us pray that this will be the course taken, or "heaven help us," as there might be "hell to pay" or other less than positive avenues raising their ugly heads in the very near future.  May peace reign and mouths fed, in whatever appropriate order.

Surge You!

If there is one positive, Uber now tells the consumer when it is about to screw you, a big improvement over the recent past when, surprise, surprise, your expected rate had somehow quadrupled and your cheap ride suddenly wasn't cost-effective any more.  Post-New Years midnight Uber again instituted its now infamous surge charges, asking a hell a lot of money for a basic ride home.  One example was the guy I took to Redmond, Washington after the guy refused to pay Uber $90.00 for the same ride costing him $30.00 to Beacon Hill earlier in the evening. My meter was just over $52.00.  He gave me $63.00, making it my best post-midnight fare.

After him I got two guys going from Capital Hill to Magnolia who gave me thirty for a twenty dollar fare which included a stop at a store.  Uber at that moment was requesting $50.00 for what is at most a $17:00 ride.

And what was the Uber quote for a ride from Sea-Tac to Ballard?  $180.00 for what would be a $50-65.00 taxi ride depending on the Ballard address.  As Bob Dylan sang, When will they ever learn?"  Good question, isn't it?

Thank You, Seahawks!

Since our local NFL team won their division it means that we cabbies will be working another home game come late Saturday afternoon.  Yea team and all that kind of stuff!

Poem:                                            A Quick Thought

                                                     There was Simple

                                                     who wasn't

                                                     and Complex who tried

                                                     to understand

                                                    when it wasn't difficult

                                                    unless you thought

                                                    it was easy;

                                                    and I dare say not

                                                    this instance,

                                                    moment or night,


                                                       basic is simple

                                                       translating into



This might or not apply to the situation at hand, it being something I wrote last October 2015 in Krakow, Poland. I will end this week's posting with a haiku by Issa 1763-1828, a poem relating to authority:

                                                    In my small village
                                                        even the flies
                                                        aren't afraid
                                                    to bite a big man.

Both haiku are taken from "Haiku Harvest---Japanese Haiku, Series IV"

Translation by Peter Beilenson & Harry Behn" and Published by The Peter Pauper Press, 1962

I suggest to everyone to remember the Issa poem when considering legal responses.  Don't let yourself be stepped upon by those in power.  It is a very bad idea.  Just because they have the power doesn't mean they are either just or correct.  Back on December 18th, 1944, the United Supreme Court upheld, in a 6-3 decision, the constitutionality of the internment of Japanese-Americans on the basis of military necessity. Even though new legal rulings have been made, that 1944 decision continues to stand as established law. Both amazing and scary to think we might have to address again what never should have happened in the first place.  Using FDR's 1942 rationale, he could have locked up my grandparents, their home countries making up part of the enemy AXIS alliance (Germany, Japan, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania).  And what purpose that would have served I would never know?  For that matter they could have interned my own parents.  Truly mind-boggling to think that such things could occur to one's own family, having Toledo, Ohio's Hungarian community rounded up and sent to concentration camps.  But as American history has shown, strange and stranger things have happened.  When a die-hard liberal like LBJ's vice-president  Hubert Humphrey could once support concentration camps, then anything might be possible.  Watch out!