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And her response was to become withdrawn and feel insulted which is natural enough when one thinks they are asking a simple question which instead draws a less than expected answer.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?