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?


  1. Joey ,
    About being both , ( although at different times ) , a
    cabbie and a ' for - hire ' driver , always by need to make a living , of course , one quick point comes to mind . With cab - driving , most of us who had entered such occupation , did so because we had older relatives or
    acquaintances already doing this job. So , you basically knew what this job transpired beforehand. Even if you
    never went thru ' cab - school '. With Uber / Lyft ,
    no cab school , no camaraderie , no nothing !! You're
    basically just unleashed onto an unsuspecting clientele .
    So , keep that in mind next time you think about how rough
    it is to drive taxi. Uber / Lyft drivers have it worse !!

  2. Joey ,
    In regard to your question ' who
    wants to be a cab - driver ?? '
    Hmmm , how simplistic I thought
    to ask a simply - minded question
    and as such , seeing no one
    else has the courage to tell
    you , I will . Of course ,
    It's very obvious, you do !!
    Really , I'm serious !! In
    this day and age , with the
    lowest unemployment rate of
    the last 17 years , ( per Reuters
    news reports ), a driver doing
    a job can simply ' shop - around ' for a better deal in this
    tight job market. I'm just
    curious as to why a discrunted
    driver would stay - in an
    unhappy job situation. Too
    lazy perhaps ?? Feeling entitled
    to stay because of low - self esteem ?? Why is that ?? Do
    drivers feel a ' birth - right '
    to drive cab ?? Or are they
    just into self - pity ??
    Explain this to me , Joey.
    Inquiring minds want to know.