Thursday, February 23, 2017

I Will Now Be Wearing Two Hats

"What you should do is start running as fast as you can in the opposite direction!"  Larry the Mechanic

I have an announcement to make which I have very mixed emotions about. While it has been clear for a long time I have remained interested, in my small way, in making needed changes concerning the local taxi industry, I never thought (not realistically at least) I would be asked to directly contribute by entering management, but this past Monday, that is exactly what happened when I accepted the task of managing the taxi side of Seattle Yellow Cab.

Yes, whatever my job title is, be it general manager or operating manager of Yellow Fleet (formally known as the BYG Co-op), I have entered a period when Yellow is going through a time of great transition, with the request made for me to shepard the taxi lambs to greener ( dollar green) pastures.  And most importantly, creating a permanent financial solvency by putting more drivers in the cabs and keeping them there for more than a few days.  In short, I have been asked to put the taxi jigsaw puzzle back together again.  At least it isn't Humpty-Dumpty I am trying to paste back together.

For those wondering why I was chosen, explanation one is that I have been planning, as mentioned in previous posts, to begin a comprehensive training program at Yellow, so in one sense a dialogue was already ongoing between me and Yellow Fleet. And finally, like the recent Swedish Hospital CEO change, replacing a non-physician with a very experienced doctor, Yellow decided it would be best to have a "long-in-the-tooth" cabbie in command. That fact, along with my proven track record as someone who once negotiated successfully with the State of Washington over L&I charges, is why I was asked to facilitate the repair. If everything is about money, then it was clear that I once saved everyone a bunch of money, of course endearing me to anyone paying attention to something that might have bankrupted the entire State of Washington taxi industry on the whole.

Do I think I can accomplish what at first glance seems formidable, if not impossible given both present and inherent obstacles and hurdles blocking easy and quick remedy?  Yes, my answer is in the affirmative, only because, no matter how wounded Yellow might be, we still retain a very significant customer base which can be, and must be, built upon.  But, as I am gaining quick understanding about Yellow Fleet's current situation, I now understand I will have to act quickly during March and April to stem the bleeding.

While the situation isn't particularly positive, it's not like it was in the past, when some mistakes and miscalculations seemed to be either intentional or systemic, more recent errors appearing due more to inexperience and a lack of coordination between Yellow Fleet and Puget Sound Dispatch than anything else.  It appears that some issues can easily be put to rest, with others taking a bit more tinkering.  Again, gaining ground quickly by the end of April is crucial, with the end of August telling everyone just how well, or not, we are doing collectively as a taxi association. If we are not doing well after six months, I am sure I will be chased out of town all the way down to Mexico.

And what will this effort require, making Yellow Fleet financially strong again?  Coordination and cooperation from all concerned, meaning all the drivers and owners and, most importantly, the dispatch side of Yellow operations, Puget Sound Dispatch, allowing us to do what we must most urgently need to do--- creating more 24 hour, around-the-clock business. Even getting close to the old normal will help immensely. Who wants to sit hour after hour staring at the dispatch computer?  No one, I can assure you of that!

It may sound obvious, and that's because it is, because at the bottom of all of Yellow's ills and problems is inconsistent business for all the cabbies out there sitting and driving around.  What made Yellow so successful was our once large business and customer base.  When the Blood Bank utilized Yellow as its sole courier, everyone was busy regardless of time of day and night. While it is true certain kinds of business will never return, assigned to the "Age of Taxi Dinosaurs," there are areas ripe for expansion, especially our Seattle to Sea-Tac business.  If we expand our "to Sea-Tac" customer base by at least 50% from where are now, we will be more than fine.  Cabbies will be smiling.  I can, with a second thought, guarantee you thatwill be true.

The same scenario, once having a large and successful customer base, and seeing it diminish, can be realled by looking back to the 1980s and early 1990s version of Farwest Taxi, which at that moment was the dominate Seattle taxi association.  And w hat killed Farwest?

Very poor management making bad and even worse business decisions, this occurring when a large group of arrogant owners (self-appointed know-it-alls) took over and destroyed the greatest account-based customer-base I have ever witnessed.  When you're dumb, you're dumb and these guys were the taxi  poster-child for unbridled idiocy.  On a given noon Monday through Friday there would be 50-60 bells alone sitting downtown crying out for cabs.  It was amazing.  Even more amazing is how it was all destroyed over an approximate 24 month period, fools plundering the taxi pantry, efficient in their inefficiency

And just what wounded Yellow, albeit not fatally?  Yes, management issues to some degree, especially in regard to not quickly adjusting to the competition provided by Uber and Lyft.  At various times day and night, Uber has taken 50 to 75 % (my own rough estimate) of what once was our off-the-street and bar-break business. While the situation remains dire, we still have a good percentage of brand loyalty left, something we can and must build upon and expand. While not completely writing off the "20-something, 30-something" customer demographic, I don't see it coming back anytime soon unless Uber's investors tire of annually losing billions of dollars.

But again, I believe innovative advertising and customer outreach plus greatly improved driver professionalism will begin to bring us back to even.  And I have given myself 12 months to do it, having given a year commitment and no longer.  I already have in mind a few able folks who might be interested in succeeding me.  Officially my duties begin March 13th, 2017.

In the meanwhile I will try to get myself oriented to the point where I won't be completely mystified come that pending second Monday in March. I also have to complete by that same March 13th my medallion change from 478 to my lottery acquired City medallion, number 1092. Yes, it is true, that unlike many folks making the transition from worker-drone to management, I will be both, making me somewhat singular in the everyday, workaday world, meaning  I will see for myself if indeed we are progressing forward or not.

So, as I began, I am, and will be seeking assistance from everyone connected to Mother-ship Yellow.  We are all in this together.  Unlike some examples from the past 20-30 years I promise to be completely transparent and, time permitting, always personally welcoming to everyone sharing their ideas and thoughts.

Yellow Cab, being more than one or two managers and supervisors, is a viable community of real living and breathing human beings.  I understand that.  I recognize that. And that will always be my administrative approach during this upcoming year.  If you ever think I have forgotten, please, please remind me and tell me what's what.  Again, if I fall asleep, be a friendly alarm clock and wake me up.  Though at times sleepy, when its time to be awake and alert, its time and that is just the way it is.

In other words, everyone, Good Morning, Seattle Yellow Taxi! drink that cup of coffee while turning on the cab. It is time to get going, having passengers to pick up and places to go.  And can I say, shall we have fun in this entire process here of operating a professional cab company?  I hope so, and shall we also make some money while picking up all our happy and satisfied customers?

Fantasy?  I don't think so. Instead, I believe success will be our ever present and growing reality. Spring is nearly here.  Pick a bunch of taxi blossoms and make a bouquet, presenting it to your passengers, pleasing them and you too, a taxi flower nodding ascent to the world.

Again, Good Morning cabbies! Good Morning! tossing out the old and welcoming the new! Good morning!

Seattle's Traffic Congestion 20th Worst On Planet Earth?

According to something called the INRIX Traffic Scorecard, Seattle's Metro-area traffic ranks 10th worst nationally and 20th overall worldwide.  Astounding if true, and after spending a little more time recently on the local taxi roads, I can literally see what they are referring to.  Two others ranking systems put Seattle's traffic nationally at 4th and 6th worst respectively.  What no one is talking about is why, why is this truly small metropolitan area so clogged with traffic?  One answer is geography, essentially locating a relatively large city amidst a mountain range.  Bad, bad idea.  The other is a lack of vision by city planners.  Yes, they are now attempting to catch up but guess what, they are, instead, falling behind.

This reminds of a local news item from Mayor Murray decrying about the homeless situation in Seattle, calling it a true emergency that must be urgently addressed.  Only problem with the mayor's concern is that he has done little to address outrageous rent increases.  In the Ballard neighborhood a friend's rent increased by $900.00. a month.  A recent passenger, now staying at an Aurora Avenue North motel, being in-between apartments, had his Ballard studio-apartment go from $500.00 monthly to $1200.00.  

Yes, locally, the sky is falling but whose fault is it?  Being dimwitted I think I know who is responsible.  Or maybe I just don't know anything, having dropped out of school so long ago I can't even write my own name.

USA 2016 Traffic Deaths Increasing Over Past Years

According to new data, the United States traffic deaths for the year 2016 were 40,200 give or take a few random bodies.  Yes, not only are the local Seattle and area streets more clogged, they are certainly more dangerous, driving around here becoming some deranged version of automobile dodge-ball.  As I tell anyone who is interested in listening, the only terrorists I meet are my fellow motorists who are making every effort to kill me and themselves and everyone around them.  Is this an exaggeration?  No, it is reality, as the recent national body count shows.

Just for example, how many American soldiers were killed over the three-year long Korean War?  23,000.

And what about the Vietnam War, stretching from 1959-1975?  58,000 Americans dying for what we will never know.  There have been individual years during the past three decades where up to 50,000 people have died upon America's vast roadways.  While one death is too many, 40 to 50 thousand killed is far beyond acceptability.

So while the Federal Government worries about a few errant individuals you can be sure one of your fellow red-blooded Americans will soon try to kill you.  But please, don't take it personally, they have places to go and things to do.  They gotta move and you are just in the way.  And if you are either injured or killed, that, brothers and sisters, is just how it is.

State HB 1917

Whether it will ever become law, who knows but down in Olympia, Washington's lawmakers are back at  work, and one bill of interest is trying to get the fees Sea-Tac cabbie's are paying down to a $2.00 gate from the current $7.00 gate.  Why this can be controlled by the State is beyond me but I for one endorse the idea because, as I have said in the past, they (the Sea-Tac cabbies) are, plain and simply, paying way too much.  I have also heard of infighting between Teamsters 117 and some who are advocating for the change. What's truly up and truly down I can't tell you but once again, as the old story goes, who ultimately pays the price is the cabbie and no one else.

WA State Bill SB 5620; Just what is Uber & Lyft trying to do?

Again, the Seattle & King County taxi industry owes a great thank you to The Seattle Weekly and staff writer Sara Bernard for keeping us informed upon all items Uber and Lyft.  In its Feb 15th. 2017 edition, Bernard writes about the combined Uber and Lyft effort to shift regulatory authority from the municipal and county to the State, making it even harder to get a grip upon the ever elusive Uber.  That SB 5620 waters down regulations should go without saying.  The taxi industry lobbyist Cindi Laws says "This is a giveaway on the magnitude of a Boeing tax giveaway."  And I would agree with that, meaning SB 5620, if becoming law, would further hurt the already wounded Seattle and area taxi industry.

What I find most interesting is not Uber's efforts toward self-preservation.  No, it is who is named as the primary sponsor, that being WA State Senator Curtis King, a Republican from the very rural, eastern Washington town of Yakima.  As I said in an email to King, why is someone from Yakima working to promote and expand the very urban Uber?   I for one think this is a very good question.

If you have any questions you would like answered, please email the good senator at  On his website he says he wants to hear from you.  So take him at his word and tell him what you think.  From what I can see, regulation of Uber and Lyft is currently abysmal.  Can it get any worse?  I believe it would if Uber and King have their way.

I should add that the same thing is also happening in the state of Iowa, with Republicans in control of both the State House and Senate.  The sitting governor is also a Republican.  Just like Senator King, his fellow Republicans in the "Hawkeye State" are attempting the same thing, writing legislation that ends municipal control.

Again, Sara, thanks for trying to keep all us sleepyhead cabbies awake.  It is appreciated.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Even The Unconscious Must Pay Their Cab Fare

It has been said that beneath human civility lies the primitive nature, a hidden animal ready to pounce and devour the unsuspecting.  And in the introduction from the 1930s radio series, "The Shadow," the narrator poses the question, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"  His reply is that the "Shadow" knows. And I can now add that perhaps I too know all about it.

Taking it even further, I give you the three following quotes from Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Eric Berne, Berne being the founder of the therapy modality I studied for three years back in 1974-77, Transactional Analysis. Here in Seattle, our TA studies, taught by my mentor Molly Johnson, were aligned with an  associated  psychological umbrella called Radical Therapy, Radical Therapy itself a TA offshoot founded by Dr. Claude Steiner in Berkley, California.

Back in 1976 I met the famous Steiner himself at a TA conference outside of Iowa City, Iowa.  At its height our Seattle-based therapy collective had nearly 200 members including a physician I remain convinced to this day was a government informant.  It was those kinds of days, Molly and her various friends and followers chased out of the state of Indiana.

Radical Therapy operational theory was that therapy is a political act, translating into that all human interaction holds a political basis or foundation.  Whether true or not, that is what we were all talking about way back then during those very different of times.  Ah yes, what mysteries, not to say confusion, lurks in the brains of both men and woman?  Do I really want to know the answer to that question?  No, I don't think so.

"The tendency of aggression is an innate independent instinctual disposition in constitutes the most powerful obstacle to culture."----Sigmund Freud

"Man's task is to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious."----Carl Jung

"Awareness requires living in the here and now, and not in the elsewhere, the past or the future."  Eric Berne

I mention all this due to a short ride from the Dock Tavern to an address a couple miles away near the intersection of North 45th & Sunnyside Avenue North, having quickly turned into an instant nightmare, with the young woman, clearly in some kind of altered state of consciousness from it seems an unfortunate combination of alcohol and drugs, first refusing to pay the eight dollars owed, then physically attacking me, both hitting me in the face and knocking off my glasses.  There are many inherent lessons contained here, but most importantly for me is that I must pay attention at all times regardless of how tired I am.  If  perhaps I had been paying better attention I would have noticed how disconnected she was, realizing how unsuitable she was as a passenger.

I have met others like her, individuals who are "blacked out" on their feet, making it impossible to communicate in any normal way, their overall quality (and state of mind) being violent aggression melded to a childish immaturity. If you can think of a worse combination, I suggest running as fast as you can in the opposite direction.  I assure you it isn't anything you want to be involved with.

My only excuse for all of this is the usual taxi exhaustion blanking my mind at a time I truly needed to think quickly, forgetting to both send message 57 indicating I had an "emergency" and not hitting the emergency button next to my knee.  I truly wanted the police to respond but at that moment my telephone screen had gone blank, allowing me to accept calls but not to call out.  Since the fare was small I should have just let her go but in my lack of wisdom, deciding to keep the doors locked in a misguided attempt to hold the idiot accountable.

One step I sometimes take in situations like these is to take the person back to where the fare began but again this was a bad idea because the woman was completely berserk and clearly dangerous.  On the way back to the Dock I got the bright idea to ask a group of "twenty-somethings" to please call the police.  To my dismay they collectively refused, not having the ability to comprehend that something quite serious was occurring, or to put it another way, were confused by the woman screaming, and grew suspicious that the horrible cabbie was going something "mean and awful" to the innocent and victimized passenger.

When it became clear they were all about to become righteous vigilantes I kept going but stopping when I came across another Yellow cabbie, telling him to call the police.  While waiting there, some of the heroic "twenty-somethings" came running up, with one offering to pay the fare.  Handing me a ten, I gave him back his change.  Given half a chance I would have told him I would now take the young fool back to her address but he and his comrades appeared more interested in saving the day so whom am I to argue?

My only vindication is that suddenly they had her on their hands, having to deal with the unconscious zombie that she was.  Given that, I am sure they all had a good time. How do you communicate with a blank wall? From my experience you simply don't, walls very poor conversationalists.

Later I found her debit card on the rear floorboard, along with a drug pipe and various cosmetics. Anyway, if there is ever a next time, I am letting the fruitcake run where ever they like.  I still remember a similar case, upon getting the guy to pay me, I last saw him running down the street screaming at the "top of his lungs." But hopefully, if there is a next time, I will be more alert and never, ever let such people into my cab again.  While she was attacking me I clearly pulled a muscle in my back.  Oh yes, isn't taxi fun?  No, I wouldn't say it is, would you?

My final comment is that the lack of assistance from the kids on the corner reminded me of that famous murder in New York City dating from March 13th, 1964, when Kitty Genovese was stabbed repeatedly by Winston Moseley while people ignored her blood curdling screams.  Would they have responded if I had been repeatedly stabbed?  A good question for which I have no answer for but since I didn't the time to count all those kids, I still think there were fewer than 37 of them.  God lets hope so is all I can say!

Hey, if someone asks to call 911, just do it minus any attempt toward unnecessary analysis.  No, heroics aren't required but commonsense certainly is. What is that?  Well if you don't know I give up, tired of explaining the what should be as obvious as, is said, the nose on your face. You do know you have a nose, don't you?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

42 Minutes From NYC

Greetings from the great public library at 42nd & 5th, NYC.   Now I just have over 40 minutes left to complete this week's posting.  If not then I will have to wait a few minutes to get more time with the public computer.  Leaving my laptop at home forces me to utilize other computers, similar to my last trip to Europe back in the autumn of 2015.

Let's say everything I am doing has been delayed due to the snow back in Seattle. Yes, snow! began falling on Sunday evening, and by Monday morning there were 2-3 inches, with more coming.  My delay was caused by them taking over 2 hours to de-ice the airplane, meaning we left Seattle at about 10:15 AM instead of the scheduled 7:45 AM.

While a great and uneventful ride, it meant I arrived in the dark of a New York City evening, further slowing me down to my eventual arrival to my Brooklyn Bushwick neighborhood AirB&B abode, a room in a house for $118.00 total for four nights. Cheap, believe me, for staying anywhere in greater NYC.

This morning I walked around the clearly shop-worn working-class area while searching for a good cup of coffee.  Finding a "Dunkin' Donuts" I joined the many others just escaping the streets for a strong espresso and cake donut.

It was fun just walking the streets, just as I have been doing here in Manhattan.  Walking around I can clearly see I am suffering from boredom, Seattle's too well known streets offering me little in terms of either novelty or entertainment.  Not only am I bored with taxi, Seattle too adds to the tedium of something I dearly need to say goodbye to.  At this point, I require either the noise of a giant city or the compete reverse, the total quiet of birdsong and the great prairie and its open skies.

In terms of Seattle taxi news the only important item to report is the sudden resignation of Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick, who stands accused of many things including giving himself an unreported $24.000 raise.  With more time I will list the litany of items the Port Commission is unhappy with but short to say, some of the charges are disturbing, including one alleging he directed Port business contacts to his father's company.

Fick himself got my attention during the various Port hearings concerning Seattle Yellow's  past Sea-Tac contract, during which he couldn't conceal his displeasure when Yellow's issues were brought up for discussion.  His obvious disdain was expressed through his irritation with Port staff and what he saw as their poor accounting practises in relation to Yellow Cab's potential Sea-Tac ride-counting errors.  Going back to a 17th Century Spanish proverb, it is now seems like Fick is the "pot calling the kettle black."  How I love the righteously indignant, especially when it proves otherwise.  Should I laugh or cry?

Upon that I have 8 minutes to do my final editing.  By the way, I left the snow behind in Seattle.  Here in NYC it is a spring-like 46 degrees F.  God! what a world and planet!