Sunday, December 23, 2018

After Orwell's Animal Farm, An Essay---"What Happened To Snowball, What Happened To America's Taxi Industry?"

Rereading George Orwell's "Animal Farm" after first reading it 45 years ago, was revelatory, though clearly realizing I had forgotten, other than the startling ending---Neapolitan and the other pigs taking on human features---most of the story other than Orwell's strong message: that revolutions fail to sustain themselves, the rebels themselves acting like the oppressors they once fought to displace.  Modern examples of this dimensional sacrilege are everywhere.  Zimbabwe's Mugabe.  Cuba's Castro brothers. South Africa's Zuma. Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega. And of course, the man who was the basis for what Orwell was writing about: Stalin and his Soviet Union of the 1930s and 40s.  "Animal Farm" was, and remains a polemical classic, foretelling North Korea's corrupt regime and Communist China's political redaction into an authoritarian Capitalist state. And while forgiving a few narrative flaws, I have ended up with one gigantic question.  What happened to Snowball?

While Snowball is oft mentioned after, like the very real Leon Trotsky, he is chased away, running for his life, Orwell fails to tell us just what his ultimate fate was.  I find that a great error, something I probably would have mentioned if I had been his editor back in 1945, "Animal Farm's" year of publication.  And that very question got me to thinking how I could link that quandary to what has happened to the American taxi, neither Snowball nor us cabbies deserving such ill abuse.  Poor Snowball!  Poor us!

                 What Happened to Snowball, What Happened to America's Taxi Industry?

Snowball, along with his other porcine comrades and their fellow barnyard brethren, led the takeover of Manor Farm.  Snowball, truly an intellectual and idealistic hog, was inspirational and enthusiastic, forging ahead with many plans for the new Animal Farm commune, including a windmill potentially bringing both electrical power and new comfort for all the animals to collectively enjoy, all the good farm animals deserving equal and democratic treatment.  But Snowball's swine brother, Napoleon, held other ideas, including making himself supreme leader, and after transforming nine innocent puppies into his snarling bodyguards, gave chase to his surprised comrade, Snowball barely escaping before torn into so many pork cutlets.

Thereafter, Napoleon, and his official spokes-pig, Squealer, blamed everything bad upon the now vanquished and discredited Snowball, even rewriting Animal Farm history, making Snowball not a hero of the Battle of the Cowshed, as he truly was, courageous and bold but instead a secret agent of the farmer attackers themselves, Snowball not friend but forever dangerous foe.  While understanding Orwell's method, I will never comprehend why Snowball's ultimate fate is not reconciled to us the reader.  Orwell provides hints but no conclusion, leaving us to unsatisfactory  guess as to Snowball's final condition---did he die, or did he collude with the farmers, or even wilder, emigrate to Russia?  Alas we will never know, Orwell's death in 1950 forever closing that particular question.

All of which brings me to the United States of America's taxicab industry, and not just what has occurred, but what is happening as I sit typing in late December 2018, what can we expect in 2019? Our story begins in 2009 when an Animal Farm Napoleon-type figure, Travis Kalanick emerges to form the app-ride hailing service known as Uber.  I find it important to note that the word uber means topmost or super, its Germanic language roots translating to over, or above, meaning above everything else.

As the company quickly progressed over the years, that kind of implied superiority became manifest, Kalanick, not unlike Orwell's pig, Napoleon, telling American municipal, county and state governments to essentially to "go to hell!" that Uber was in charge and don't you forget it, similar to Stalin, and more currently, China's Xi Jinping.  And like Orwell's Napoleon, who had Boxer and all the other animals do the hard work building the windmill, not once, not twice but three times over, Kalanick has similarly fooled millions of into buying new cars and working for Uber under the pretense that they are completely independent workers striving for their own personal benefit.

All this happened while the American cab industry sat on its hands, doing little to nothing to stop the Uber tidal wave from inundating and taking away all of its business.  And all occurring with the organized complicity of local government, further shackling local taxi associations with onerous oversight while simultaneously telling Uber they can regulate themselves, that we love and trust you.

While there has been some recent pullback from government's bureaucratic romance with Uber,  Uber continues to expand it business foundation as taxi's shrinks, our overall business depleting monthly, America's taxi industry literally drowning in millions of gallons of its own salty tears, and quite possibly, floating down an ever flowing strident river only to be swallowed by the historical sea.  What has happened to our once proud cab legacy?  Clearly, we are sunk, slowing sinking below our own horizon, waving bye bye, goodbye as we disappear beneath the wave, saying hello to 2019 as water fills our mouth and lungs.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Quick End Of The Year Report----State Of Seattle Taxi Industry December 2018

There really isn't much to report, at least not much good news as 2018 stumbles to a close.  The City/County does plan on adding 25 more WAT (wheelchair cabs) in 2019, along with a yearly $5000.00 expenditure stipend, but does nothing to improve the overall financial viability of everyone else, failing once again to recognize all the unofficial "handicap" fares non-WAT cabs serve weekly, going un-supplemented but taking valuable minutes out of every day.  While rumors have been many, like forcing Uber and Lyft to nearly match our rates, or that all taxis will be dual plated with both City and County licenses, nothing at all has occurred.  As the saying goes, don't hold your breath, as you're gonna turn blue in the face before anything changes.

In other taxi words, it is the same old story, single owner expenses continue to eat everyone alive while Uber and Lyft provide 91,000 fares a day in Seattle.  The only response we seem to receive from the City of Seattle are "sting operations" targeting cabbies with undercover officers or informants approaching parked cabs with alleged stolen goods, offering prices too good to be true but suddenly arresting anyone who says "Yes, I''ll buy that."  All I can say to Mayor Durkan is "Is that the best you can do?"  And that appears to true, to be the TRUE & ACTUAL state of taxi affairs Seattle-wise 2018.  Happy Holidays, anyone!?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

When The Passenger Has No Money, What Should You Do?

Late Sunday night a classic taxi situation arose, with a passenger saying she wanted to go a long ways minus any obvious means of payment.  In this case, going from West Seattle to some unknown part of Federal Way, Washington, the fare somewhere between $50.-70.00.  And besides, I was at that point tired, meaning if I am going to push myself down the road, I need some guarantee of payment. 

That I had to ask whether she had the money spoke volumes, knowing as I do the kind or type who are thinking of not paying, expecting "taxi civility" to get them there, only to say "someone else is paying."  In general terms, when that is the case, the caller has already informed dispatch, along with the telephone number of the person paying the bill.  None of course happened in this potential scam, the passenger suddenly showing up at the cab not from the given address but somewhere off of the street, a ghost suddenly appearing out of the gloom.

Saying I wasn't taking her anywhere expect perhaps the Seattle Police Department's West Precinct just down the street, she pleaded, "Take my purse, take my license!" promising I would get paid.  She also wanted me to turn on the meter only once upon reaching the freeway.  All this said to me "No way Jose!" and worse, making me shout it was time to depart the taxi, forcing me to come around the cab to toss the lout out.

Understanding I meant business, she jumped out but almost immediately approached the cab's left side, slamming her hands upon the windshield, then grabbing a nearby plastic garbage can and tossing it against the cab. Hitting the gas, I got out of there, not interested in further deranged discussion with a clearly enraged woman.

Her behavior I think can be interpreted in at least two ways.  The first is that she was being completely honest, and how can you be so insulting, not trusting me.  The other was proving me correct, displaying just who she really is, a conniving, unscrupulous woman not caring about me for a second, perfectly willing and able to steal from me and everyone else.

That I have had passengers skip out on me in the past is obvious, estimating that over a 30 year span I have lost a total of more or less one thousand dollars, amounting to about $33.00 a year.  Not a lot but these days, almost filling up 1092's tank.

As any veteran cabbie knows, there is a fine line between kindness and stupidity; and while empathic when someone is miles from home, I am at this point not a social worker but only an exhausted cabbie trying make the proverbial buck.  I even tell passengers this but not this time, not having the opportunity, she taking the situation literally in her own hands, tossing rubbish bins and whatever else she could grab.  Maybe next time she will be more prepared, now learning what is required when traveling to the big, bad Seattle city, all those MEAN cabbies ready and prepared to eat you alive!  Pass the mustard and catsup please!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

My Personal "Best Of" In Seattle & Area---Part 1

Given all my years plying Seattle and area streets and neighborhoods, I have made up my mind on what is the best of everything there is to offer to the discriminating consumer.  I am a bit fussy and do demand value for my dollar so I guarantee you will be pleased by selecting any of my various suggestions.  If I don't mention something that you yourself think is obvious, it doesn't mean I don't know about it, instead strongly implying I either don't like the establishment or it just isn't worth mentioning.  While yes, opinionated, I also try to know what I am talking about, guiding you to the "best of" and not the worst of anything, for instance in the "best free view of Seattle" category I recommend the top of the Volunteer Park water tower located on the top of Capitol Hill.  There is no better 360 degree view in the city and you don't have to pay a dime to see it.  And while taking in the view, you can also read the permanent installation detailing how Seattle's great and wonderful park system was created.  And you get exercise to boot, climbing those spiral stairs!  Yes I know, huff & puff, ain't it ruff?


My favorite small park, Llandover Woods,  is located at the NW corner of 3rd Avenue NW and NW 145th Street, adjacent to and just south of the Highlands gated community.  This narrow strip of woods heading down a hill provides just enough unexpected solitude to help one forget that you are in the middle of an urban center.  I also have a couple of favorite napping spots allowing me a few minutes of much needed "rest & recuperation."

Two other parks, both overlooking the Puget Sound, are worth mentioning, Discovery Park in Magnolia; and Carkeek Park in the Broadview neighborhood.  Both are a bit wild and containing enough up and down twisting trails to get slightly lost in.  Often at night I hear the resident coyotes at Carkeek yipping and howling, telling you that civilization will never totally win out over persistent Mother Nature.   Check out the Apple Orchard trail on the south side of Carkeek, enjoying the creek as you descend toward the Sound.

I would be totally amiss if I didn't mention what perhaps is the crown jewel of the City of Seattle park system, Kubota Gardens located way down south in the greater Rainier Beach/Skyway neighborhoods.  This somewhat hard to find park in located just off Renton South & 55the Avenue South.  The official address is 9817 55th Avenue S.  You will be pleased, I assure you, for taking the time to go there.  And as you are nearby, drop by for a snack at the Redwing Cafe.

If you are in West Seattle, take the time to walk along the walkway above the beach at Lincoln Park. In the summer, take a dip in the public saltwater pool.  The park is adjacent to the Vashon Ferry Terminal taking you to Vashon Island, a great place for a daylong excursion.  Some nice beaches to walk on once there.  The shopping district has some good cafes.

And after walking up and down at the Volunteer Park water tower, head over to the once free Volunteer Park Plant Conservatory, now charging a $4.00 adult admission fee.  Regardless, it is one of the better "can't miss" destinations in Seattle.  After taking in all the flowers, you might be inspired to proceed slightly north to the historical Lakeview Cemetery.  Many go there to visit Bruce Lee's graveside.  North of Lakeview is a Civil War cemetery.  All worth your time and energy


As will you quickly notice, my preference is for Chinese and Asian cooking.  Having first tasted my first Chinese food at Denver's Lotus Gardens in 1964, I have been hooked ever since.  The first four joints listed is where I mostly eat out, interested in good, very digestible food along with quick service.  When driving cab, I am usually in and out in 30-45 minutes, no time for argument, no time for delay.

Tai Tung is Seattle's oldest Chinese restaurant. I have eaten there over 5000 times and not counting since 1987.  Since writing that book about their waiter, Milton Wan, I have become even closer to the ownership and staff.  The food is good and basic Chinese food.  Service is fast and competent.  Say hello to owner Harry, he of the white apron standing behind the front counter.  655 S. King Street, Seattle, WA

Around the corner from Tai Tung is the Honey Court Seafood Restaurant, open late 7 days a week at 516 Maynard Avenue South.  Great friendly staff.  Often my choice is the seafood noodle soup.  And also go there for their dim sum served for breakfast and lunch. Enjoy!

As I often find myself late in the north end, I have two mainstays, both located across the Seattle N.145th boundary line into Shoreline, WA.  Yang's Noodle is a "real" Chinese restaurant tempting you with dishes you have never thought of.  Their seafood noodle soup is great.  And their steamed pot stickers are perhaps the best you will find anywhere short of the People's Republic of China.  And yes, I have chowed down in China and Hong Kong too! 14725 Aurora Avenue North (Highway 99), Shoreline, WA.

Nara Chinese Restaurant, 15033 Aurora Ave. North, Shoreline, is open late to 2 AM.  Lately I have been eating their House Seafood Noodle Soup.  Request "no added" msg.  Cheap and good which is what we need and want.  And generally fast service too.

Across from Tai Tung is an old favorite, the Kau Kau BBQ, 656 South King Street, Seattle.  Best barbecue pork in all of Seattle.  Their soy sauce chicken is also good.  They have a takeout window just inside the door.

If you are in the lower Queen Anne, check out the diner, the Mecca Cafe, open late and ready to serve you "old time Seattle" cooking, the way it used to be.  Nothing fancy and the bar can be loud but who cares, old style is good style! and enjoy the booths and jukebox.  526 Queen Anne Avenue North, Seattle.

Also in the Queen Anne is the best Vietnamese soup in the entire Seattle area, Pho Viet Ahn Restaurant. Skip all of the others, their broth laced with msg. Not so at this place!  372 Roy Street, Seattle, WA.

If in the mood for Thai instead, cross over the street to Bahn Thai, open since 1984 at 409 Roy Street.  One of the best of the too many Thai joints in Seattle.  Choose the Bahn Thai and be happy you did. 

East of Chinatown on South Jackson is the Moonlight Cafe, a Vietnamese joint featuring both outstanding regular and vegetarian menus.  Was once a restaurant of first choice when I lived on Capitol Hill.  1919 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA.

As mentioned, the Redwing Cafe is in the far south end, just off of Rainier Avenue South, at 9272 57th Avenue South.  Great bakery along with breakfast items and coffee. Currently it is featuring homemade eggnog.

Pizza worth eating:

Soprano's, 7729 24th Avenue NW, in the Ballard/Crown Hill neighborhood. Seattle.  Run by a family from Bulgaria.

Northlake Pizza, 660 NE Northlake, Seattle, WA.  Big, thick pizzas.  Go there when you are hungry.  Old time Seattle at its pizza best.

Next week, part two.  Want to know where to get your beard trimmed or where to wash your soiled socks?  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Is Uber Just Another Ponzi Scheme? And Who Remembers Bernie Madoff?

As I write this, Uber is preparing an IPO or public stock offering estimated at a value of $129 billion dollars sometime in the upcoming year 2019.  As some might say, "that's a lot of green cabbage, brother!"  Or maybe its something far more questionable than leafy vegetables, since cabbage is eatable, and Uber's IPO possibly just financial garbage and nothing else, this due to years of unsustainable business practices producing billions of dollars in losses since its 2009 inception, this past quarter alone losing 1.3 billion.  The question now is, just why do so many so-called financially astute investors remain willing to invest money in something hemorrhaging cash, an operation providing no clear signs indicating fiscal profits?

But first, here is what the US Securities and Exchange Commission says about Ponzi schemes in a section entitled "What is a Ponzi Scheme."  Read the following and beware!

"A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed from new investors.  Ponzi scheme organizers often solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little to no risk.  In many Ponzi schemes, the fraudsters focus on new money to make promised payments to earlier stage investors to create the false appearance that investors are profiting from a legitimate business."

The unfortunate answer to my earlier question might be greed, something Charles Ponzi and Bernard (Bernie) Madoff knew much about, historically two characters promising investors huge profits based upon nothing little better than thin air.  Mister Ponzi bilked clients for over $20 million dollars in the 1920s, claiming that discounted postal reply coupons were their financial nirvana.  Madoff,  even more dishonest, defrauded 4,800 individual and corporate investors of at least 65.8 billion dollars, issuing manufactured paper and documents to trusting friends and clients, Madoff finally arrested in December 2008.  At least Uber, financially, has been nominally transparent while flushing billions down the investor toilet directly into the pecuniary sewer, those dollars twirling round and round.

What then makes Uber the equivalent to a Ponzi scheme when it isn't hiding what it is doing, not purposely misleading investors?   This potentially shared definition is based upon two factors.  One, it appears that the TNC (ride-share) model can never create a profit, explaining Uber's diversification into bicycle rentals and autonomous driving technology.  And two, huge investor stake holders like Japan's Soft Bank understand, knowing its investment returns relies upon a successful IPO, granting them all their money back plus a substantial return profit guaranteed.

Okay, initial investors will have gotten their money back but what about all those new public stock shareholders, when will their Wall Street financial wager see returns?   Of course, buying stocks is a financial gamble but usually the investment is based upon sound business premises, for instance knowing that people will keep buying Heinz catsup for their French fried potatoes, or that folks will continue eating McDonald's "Big Macs" despite all the calories and potential obesity.  This is something you can essentially "bank upon."

Uber's product, if you can call it that, is instead giving rides provided by independent operators, rides currently financially supplemented by Uber investor money.  That this can be termed a viable and real industry model is something yet to be explained.  At least the taxi model and operation is well understood, with over a hundred-year long history.  Uber it seems is more "flash in the pan," with that pan riddled with holes.  How can something like this make money?

And that is what I am saying, it probably can't, Uber, and Lyft too, economic fantasies, a financial model equal to hallucination, everyone thinking or believing they see something that just isn't there.  Professor Timothy Leary would be proud, his psychedelic adage "turn on, tune in, drop out" taken on by a new generation of straight, non-hippie billionaire investors, all ingesting some new kind of monetary LSD convincing them that Alice (or is it Travis Kalanick) is actually ten feet tall.  I know Gracie Slick is still alive.  Maybe they should give her a call, asking her opinion.  I would love to hear her response.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

New Seattle Area Hotels & State Highway 99 Update

Anyone driving cab at Yellow Seattle is forever bombarded by commonsense reminders to do this or that but providing information the majority of us need and want is another taxi story, for instance Yellow never telling us when yet another Seattle or area hotel opens.  Given this absence, the following list is a compilation of recently opened hotels, or least hotels totally new to me, so I hope everyone finds this helpful, further breaking down the ongoing mystery that is driving a cab.  I have listed them in more or less alphabetical order regardless of location, providing some order in a very disorganized world.

The Seattle & Area New Hotel List

AC Hotel by Marriott
208 106th Place NE, Bellevue, WA

Aloft Seattle---Redmond
15220 NE Shen Street, Redmond, WA

Baymont by Wyndham
12223 NE 116th, Kirkland, WA

Bellevue Club Hotel
12000 SE 6th Street, Bellevue, WA

Bothell Inn & Suites
3850 MonteVilla Parkway, Bothell, WA

The Charter Hotel
1610 2nd Avenue, Seattle, WA

Even Hotel
527 Fairview Avenue N, Seattle, WA

Graduate Seattle (old DECA)
4507 Brooklyn Avenue NE, Seattle, WA

Hotel 116,
625 116th Avenue NE, Bellevue, WA

The Heathman Hotel
220 Kirkland Avenue, Kirkland, WA

Hyatt Regency (opening in December 2018)
808 Howell Street, Seattle, WA

Hotel Interurban
223 Andover Parkway East, Tukwila, WA

Larkspur Landing
1701 East Valley Road, Renton, WA

La Residence Suite Hotel
475 100th Avenue NE, Bellevue, WA

Moxy Hotel
1016 Republican Street, Seattle, WA

Palladan Hotel
2000 2nd Avenue, Seattle, WA

107 Pine, Seattle, WA

Residence Inn,
1815 Terry Avenue, Seattle, WA

SLKU Chroma by Domicile
1212 Harrison Street, Seattle, WA

Staybridge Suites---South Lake Union
1119 Mercer Street, Seattle, WA

Studio 6 Seattle---Montlake Terrace
6017 244 Street, Montlake Terrace, WA

Woodspring Suites
7045 180th Avenue NE, Redmond, WA

Count them and you'll see 27 hotels possibly new to you.  The old Deca just opened days ago, so with the autumn rain, new hotels are popping up like mushrooms.  What day that huge new hotel, the Hyatt Regency is opening I am not sure but the place is hard to miss, taking up it appears the entire old Greyhound Station block.  Whether any of these hotels are truly taxi friendly I do not know but since the Graduate Hotel has the only official cab stand in the University District, I would sit there and see what happens.  As many remember, the old Deca Hotel provided us many early morning Sea-Tac runs.  I can only hope that the Graduate is as good, sending us off southbound with a grin and smile, fifty dollars in our pockets a guarantee.

Viaduct News

January 11th, 2019 is the last day that State Route Highway 99 Viaduct will be open.  The new tunnel will be opening sometime during the week of February 3-9, 2019.  Please note this because it means there will be 3 weeks of traffic hell downtown.  Good time to take a vacation.  The demolition of the bridge is expected to take 4 months more or less.

Some important details:

The tunnel is actually 2 tunnels, north & southbound.  Each tunnel has 2 11 foot wide lanes and a 8 foot shoulder.

The posted speed limit is 45 mph.

The toll until mid-2019 will be free.

 Stated toll rates:  $1.00 overnight

                             $1.50 morning commute

                             $2.25 afternoon peak

I will keep everyone updated through the congested months to come.   Shall we all pray that the City of Seattle will use commonsense when dealing with the upcoming traffic mess?  Amen to that is all I can say!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Where Has Civility And Commonsense Gone?

It was bad enough that the Uber driver drove the wrong way down 11th Avenue NE off NE 45th Street, proceeding nearly three-quarters southbound down the block before finally heeding my flashing headlights and blaring horn, but perhaps worse was the response of all the drivers, upon clearing the signal down at NE 42nd, speeding headlong toward the errant driver.  Somewhat comically, the Uber operator, knowing little how to maneuver his new Prius, having dangerously positioned his car east-west on the northbound street, had instantaneously made himself a vulnerable target for all those modern fools flying pass the frozen, frightened driver, hoping for a momentary kindness never arriving; instead ugly scorn the prevalent emotion, none caring nor interested in another's individual plight. 

That I was totally shocked by the nonsensical response is why I am writing about it, finding the lack of empathy astonishing, understanding that collectively we the so-called superior species occupying the planet are in deep trouble, nothing it seems getting every one's attention.  Yesterday marked the 100th Anniversary of the conclusion of World War I,  the so-called "war to end all wars."  As most know, 22 years later Europe was once again fighting it out.  Does the majority truly care about anything except their own butt?  Obvious is the answer, the now usual attitude a living cancer engulfing us all, shutting off all heart, mind and soul, leaving us bereft of humanity.

What Would You Have Done?

Why did her group of friends think I was going to allow the belligerent and very drunk woman in the cab when all she could say is "I am going to my car." when instead I was supposed to be taking her directly home?  Why would I be interested in arguing with her or, far worse, explain to the police that I knowingly dropped her off at her car, fully aware she had no business driving?

"Oh she's sweet!" and making it dumber, one of her equally drunk friends said I was adorable. No, lady, I ain't, I said, locking the doors and roaring off, not interested in stupidity standing on a Seattle street corner 1:30 AM Monday in the Fremont District, having no time but for slumber late into the morning, dreaming about anything other than taxi and human imbecility.

Only Good Thing This Weekend

Taking the young brother and teenage sister home from Burien to the Renton Highlands, I spoke to them about WW I and the poet Wilfred Owen and John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Field."  "Yeah, I have seen those poppies, they have a black center!"  Those kids were great, happy for a few minutes of innocent sanity.  Thank you!

Another Uber Suggestion for the Seattle City Council

Take all shared Uber/Lyft regulatory authority away from them, monitoring all TNC companies just as the City and County manages the taxi industry.  Allowing the foxes to oversee the hens is a fatal approach, ensuring, come morning, piles of feathers and bones cleaned to the whistle. How could it be any other way?

Oil Now Under $60.00 a Barrel

The cost of gasoline will always be a prime concern for cabbies everywhere, and especially here on the American West Coast where we carry the burden of America's highest prices at the local pump.  Yesterday's per barrel price of prime crude oil ended at $59.93, a huge drop from the recent highs of $73.00 or more.  I think it reached a high of around $76.00 per barrel.  Cheapest I have seen here in Seattle and area have been $3.19 per gallon, making it about 80 cents more than it was a mere 6-8 months ago.  Rumor has it that the world's two major oil producers, Russia and Saudi Arabia, will be joining in a more cooperative agreement, jointly cutting production in an effort designed to stabilize market prices.  Does that mean our short term relief is just that, short?  I would guess that is probably true, as money and the powerful rule, which of course is nothing new!

Oil Price Yo-Yo Postscript 11/14/2018

Yesterday oil per barrel prices dropped 7% to $55.69, the biggest drop percentage-wise in three years.  Today, the prices jumped 1.5% to $56.55.   What it means for local gasoline prices this week I don't know but a buildup in supply probably means a short-term lowering of prices.  All I want to see are prices below $3.00.  When I was nine, gas at Altura Drugs (Aurora, Colorado) hovered between 23-26 cents per gallon.  Of course the good old days, 10 cents buying you a comic book, and one whole dollar a package of green plastic soldiers, supplying all future generals with ready recruits. Caskets were extra.

Monday, November 5, 2018

What Seattle And King County Needs To Do About Uber And Lyft & ACLU Advice About Police Stops & More Taxi Reality

Today's Seattle Times (10/05/2018) front page featured article by David Gutman asks "How Popular are Uber, Lyft in Seattle?", explaining how over 91,000 people daily utilize both ride-share companies in the overall Seattle-area, with 40% of the rides concentrated in four neighborhoods: Downtown, Belltown, South Lake Union and Capitol Hill, translating into daily worsening traffic congestion, along with impacting Seattle's quality of life.  The issues presented are now commonplace in America's larger cities, and nothing new to close observers of the TNC transportation "revolution," altering the transportation landscape to no one's gain save Uber and Lyft.

Instead of repeating of what are now obvious TNC maladies, the following list contains some suggested solutions to the problems posed by Uber & Lyft.  All of them are fairly simple and easily implemented if Seattle's and King County's governing councils can decide to revisit past decisions, repairing some of the damage caused only by them.  Unless new measures are taken, the problem will only worsen because Uber in particular will not, and does not take any bureaucratic direction unless it is at the point of the governmental gun.  Something should be done to relieve congestion.  It is only a question of will.  What will the City of Seattle and King County do, other than nothing whatsoever?

Five TNC Remedies & Suggestions:

1) Impose a one-year moratorium or freeze upon all new for-hire license issuance.  Allow natural attrition to reduce driver numbers.

2) Like taxis, require all Uber & Lyft operators to send their verifiable commercial insurance polices to City, County and State agencies. Too often, area TNC drivers only have non-commercial insurance, meaning they are picking up passengers minus coverage, thus endangering their customers and complicating the lives of drivers who have the misfortune of having one of these non-compliant drivers run into them.  I know because it happened to me.

3) Reinstate the Seattle/KC for-hire driver three-day training program, including strict TNC criminal background checks, eliminating the now too easy online testing.  Make sure that all new drivers---taxi, Uber, Lyft---know the City and County streets and addressing systems before issuing for-hire licenses. What this will achieve would be the professionalizing of an amateur fleet of drivers, recognizing that "adding water and mixing" is not an rational approach to operator accountability, not to mention safety and reliability.

4) Increase TNC traffic law enforcements, especially illegal stops.  Currently Uber & Lyft drivers stop anywhere at anytime, instantly blocking traffic and causing accidents.  How can this continued lack of enforcement remain justifiable?  Why does the SPD allow Uber & Lyft to do this?

5) Equalize fare rates to near taxi levels.  This will improve incomes for all taxi and TNC drivers and push many passengers back onto public transit.  By putting riders back onto buses and light-rail, congestion will lessen, alleviating rush-hour traffic blockages.

Take these five measures forward and everything concerning Uber & Lyft will change toward the positive.  What does Seattle and King County stand to lose by going forward with these recommendations?  Nothing at all.  What will they gain?  Overall better traffic movement and the satisfaction of righting a great wrong done to the taxi industry.

ACLU---Know Your Rights When Stopped By Police Or Immigration Agents

I came across this handout printed by the ACLU in various languages from a display I saw in Seattle.  I thought of mentioning it because us cabbies have been subject to unreasonable police stops for years.  The legal advice is broken down into seven sections, beginning with "If You're Stopped By Police" and ending with "If You Feel Your Rights Have Been Violated."  To read the information in your native language, please go to the ACLU website:

By knowing what to do, you can spare yourself lots of grief.  Knowing your rights are all important because police can and will do anything they want given the opportunity.  Past readers of this blog might remember some of the incidents I have outlined.  I quoted this line from Bob Dylan before, and it still applies:  "the cops don't need you, and man! they expect the same." Be careful out there!

And in full disclosure, I have been a non-lawyer member of ACLU for years, supporting their never ending effort for seeking justice for all Americans.

Two Taxi Anecdotes 

Here are two "taxi reality" tidbits taken from this weekend.  I have more but I am tired and just ready to rest and sleep for a few minutes.

8:13-8-32 PM

Do the math and that is 19 minutes, the time it took me to rush two dingbats from Husky Stadium Saturday night to the airport through the rain and dark and moderately heavy traffic, their flight leaving at 9:00 PM.  For the uninitiated, Downtown to Sea-Tac travel time is usually17-25 minutes given the best of conditions.  That they were fools, with one in particular having no idea how to "speak" to a cabbie, was just how it was, and after my heroic drive, not tipping but nonetheless getting fifty bucks for my effort.  How long should it have taken?  30 more-or-less minutes.

Jeepy Creepy! Awful!

Over the taxi years I have had amazing things said to me but Saturday night, during a very short ride from 102nd & Aurora North to North 85th & Wallingford, this obvious gay man stepped over the line by saying "unless you want me to blow you!" leaving me feeling, two hours afterward, violated and raped.  Yes, taxi as it really is, you the public property, the piece of meat!  That he will never enter my cab again goes without saying, doesn't it!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Where To Wash Your Dirty Socks At 3 In The Morning

Too often passengers express to me, upon finding out how long I have been cabbing, is "You must have seen so many changes!" and while its true, everyone surprised when I say "Seattle is less of a city" than what it was upon my arrival in January 1973, finding it transformed into a less-than-glorified suburbia.  "So don't believe all those big buildings" I say "this place far from an urban center despite all the traffic clogging the streets."  Back in the 1970's, with Boeing laying off tens of thousands, signs were posted, "Turn off the lights when you leave!"  Well, the lights are dimmed and yawning is the most important activity after 10:00 PM

And back, back in those good, old days of the Penny arcade and youthful male hookers eying you at 2nd & Union, you could do your laundry downtown at 1st & Stewart 24 hours a day but now you have to drive all the way south down to Burien and wash those  soiled sheets and shirts at Andys Handy Mart, located at 150 SW 160th Street.  While there you can also fill up the car with your favorite petrol and wash your vehicle at their car wash in back, Andys Handy Mart a living relic of what Seattle once was and now will never be again, the missing required apostrophe only adding to the charm. 

No more great 4 AM  Greek dinners at the Joker Day & Night or at nearby Steve's Broiler.  And also forever gone is the abuse and ham & eggs dished out by the Dog House's greying dinosaur waitresses, Seattle now asleep at the midnight wheel, instead snoring in bed, happily wed to an 8 to 5 routine, nocturnal roaming left to drunken college kids jaywalking at Broadway and Pike, mere ghosts of memories past when Seattle's insomniac citizens wandered the streets looking for and finding full moon misadventure, many finding themselves down the stairs into the numerous, very active gay bathhouses, someone always ready to rub a stranger's back.

My friend and ex-client Charles preferred Dave's at 1st & Battery, which also had a gay ranch and resort located somewhere in Nevada, though never asking him why liking one over the other, privacy of course the essence of urban gentility.  But I would be amiss not to mention a new proliferation of suspicious looking massage parlours cropping up around greater Chinatown, reminding me of old Seattle, especially Belltown when it was the preferred haunt of landlocked Merchant Marine sailors.  Does anyone out there remember "My Susie's?"

So, goodbye Seattle, and instead say hello to Burien, the 148th & 1st Avenue South Denny's waiting for your socks to dry, forgetting all about boring Seattle, and being a good Pacific Northwester, don't ever ask why!  And if you want a huge plate of pasta, head east to the 13 Coins next to the airport, ready to take all your money and your big appetite for life as you would like it to be, scrambled or sunny-side-up, and your bacon fried extra crisp!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Moanin' & Groanin'----Competing Against Companies Who Don't Have To Be Profitable

It was a lousy weekend, taxi veterans complaining they were not close to paying their leases.  And even Saturday's University of Washington Husky football game overall was a financial dud, a close game at halftime keeping the fans glued to their stadium seats and not crossing Montlake to my waiting cab.  While personally rebounding, closing out my four day run with a decent ending, it taking me four days to net what I once did in two days.  Is this fun? No, it is not fun.

And why?  Because since their inception, both Uber and Lyft have not made a red cent, instead living off investor money to keep them up and running, something none of us cabbies can do.  How can one individual like myself compete against the billions of dollars backing these ride-share companies, with it only getting worse when they enter the stock market next year, further insulating them from economic reality?

Clearly I can't compete because I have little choice but to run in the black, making sure my tiny "small-business operation" is never in debt, ensuring I have enough money each week for never ending municipal taxi fees and car repairs and filling up 1092's tank every night.  When the Seattle City Council uncapped Uber and Lyft I am sure they didn't know they were forcing us to engage in a losing battle with multi-billion dollar Wall Street investors and Hedge Funds.  But that is our daily reality, both here and in NYC and San Francisco and cities across the globe.

Just as American companies show no concern over a million minority Chinese citizens now residing in Communist reeducation camps, instead only interested how Trump's trade tariffs are affecting profitability, so have local city governments across the United States treated its endemic taxi companies, allowing us to be trampled under by unfair competition.  And during this next election season, asking to once again return them to where they shouldn't have been in the first place.

Who cares about us?  Only our families and friends, and clearly no one else, subjected to the same fate as those long-departed dinosaurs slated for a premature extinction.  But unlike those unheard dying voices piercing the Mesozoic air, we cabbies are here today crying into the night, beseeching the bureaucratic gods with our pathetic wails!

"Help! Help! Help us before it is too late!"

Monday, October 15, 2018

Discretion Rewarded

Driving southbound on Airport Way South, and looking for a few minutes privacy I noticed a gravel parking lot, and tucked away in the southeast corner, a grove of leafy trees pressed against roaring Interstate 5's backside.  Mid-morning, and after a light rain, this verdant refuge jeweled by sparkling raindrops bedecking limbs, flowering weeds and a spider web occupied by a stunningly colored arachnid, a honey-golden spider descending a silky tread, tiny droplets further animating its yellowish beauty in the soft early light.  Wonderful, I thought, nature speaking to our unnatural world: I am here, I am alive, I survive despite all human intervention, telling me once again there is more than momentary concern for the next fare, more than just making money, more than participating in nothing whatsoever, a inch-square spider telling me everything important I might need to know.

Positive Omens? 

Entering Tai Tung on my first evening back, a departing customer said "Aren't you the guy who wrote the book about the waiter?  Good job!"

Yesterday morning I found an email from someone I had spoken to nearly 20 years ago, sending me a poem entitled  "To Joe Blondo" included in a recent journal.  Thanks, Paul, for the memory.

Nice to be remembered and noted.  Now for a major publishing deal and finally getting out of the
cab.  I am ready!

Postscript 10/30/2018

Last week in the Seattle Times there was a featured photograph of a golden-colored spider, described as an orb weaver, and looking much like my featured arachnid.  Glad to see it, yet sad as the aforementioned parking lot east of Airport Way is now partitioned off, probably meaning that the spider's leafy home is now doomed, slated for removal.  As we all know, nothing remains the same despite all wishes to the contrary. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Specious Logic: Not Self-Driving Cars, Self-Ticketing Cars

                                                 "In the year 5555
                                                  Your arms hangin' limp at your sides
                                                  Your legs got nothing to do some machine's
                                                  doin' that for you"

                             from "In the year 2525" written by Rick Evans & performed by
                             Zager & Evans

Would You Be Happy To Be Part Of The Ten Percent Who Will Die In Autonomous Cars?

Last week it was announced that Honda Motors will invest, over the next three years, up to 3 billion dollars in a joint operation with General Motors developing and researching and refining self-driving vehicle technology, in part exploring GM's driverless taxi venture.  This got me to thinking about just why so many multi-billion dollar companies are attempting to sell you, me and everyone else the idea that autonomous cars are our certain future?  As Zager & Evans sang back in 1969,  that might not be the best idea, taking away an individuals independent ability to do something for themselves, instead having a machine doing it for you.  While kitchen technology has sped up the chopping of carrots and celery, letting a steering wheel-less car on automatic pilot minus a driver zoom you down the highway at 70 MPH is an entirely different matter altogether; and safe, is it truly safe?

In this case, the rationale being used to convince us that self-driving cars will eliminate all traffic related fatalities is just another giant corporate lie, their research saying it will reduce deaths by 90 percent annually, which at first glance sounds wonderful until you consider the greater statistical reality of dividing 10 percent into an annual worldwide automobile death toll of 1, 300,000, math telling us that only a mere 310,000 people will be killed in the horror of self-driving car accidents.  That is why I ask the question, are you willing to be one of the helpless victims trapped in a car minus all options except dying when an accident occurs?

I believe everyones' response would be "Hell no, are you joking?" but Google, Uber, GM and Honda are not playing around, ever intent on convincing the driving public that this new technology is GOOD for you, just take your technological medicine and everything will be fine in the futuristic morning.

And why are they doing this?  Profit, and profit only because there are perfectly good alternatives that could reduce road fatalities to nearly zero, cost effective measures that will protect all and everyone driving a car, bus, truck or motorcycle.

1)  Teach everyone to have the consummate car driving skills before they are licensed and zipping down the roadway.  In the USA high school-based student driving programs have mostly been eliminated, removing an important venue for creating driver literacy.  Imagine if safe driving concepts were taught beginning in elementary schools, teaching the skills necessary to 8 year old boys and girls so when they are 16 they are thoroughly indoctrinated in how to safely drive Mom and Dad's car.  One of the goals would be to instill the desire to drive well, empathizing both personal responsibility to others and the basic matter of physical self-preservation---that by driving well you will neither kill yourself or others.  It is that simple.

And of course, apply these principals to all drivers across the globe.  India is responsible for thirty percent for all driver fatalities each year.  Assuring that everyone is skilled and licensed there would be a great beginning.  Even in tiny population Iceland where I recently rented a car, local drivers kept insisting upon hurrying down the road, endangering everyone unnecessarily.  But this is what happens in every country when drivers are allowed to be licensed minus the proper preparation.  It is inevitable.

2)   Enforce rules as they are written.  If the speed limit is 60 MPH, don't allow everyone to fly along at 70 MPH.  Utilize technology to enhance enforcement.  There simply cannot be enough police officers on the road to ticket all of the current offenders.  Laws must be changed allowing technology to ticket drivers so the offense is duly noted on driver license records. 

And all DUI/DWI offenses must be elevated, classified as a felony, with a mandatory one-year prison sentence for first-time offenders.  Our roads must be made safe.  Currently they are not.  As billions are spent upon homeland security, the only terrorists I meet are fellow motorists, and I have no doubt whatsoever they are trying to kill me.  They must be stopped literally in their tire tracks.

3)   Instead of self-driving, self-ticketing cars.  The way this would work is fairly simple.  Built-in technology in the car would transmit the offense, say speeding 50 in a 35 MPH zone to the relevant court anywhere you might be driving in the USA.  And since you started the car by "scanning" your driver's license, all your information will be sent to the proper court. 

Along with this, your "smart car" will know when you are in the early process/stage of driving improperly, warning you over a dashboard monitor.  That same monitor will also alert that you have just been ticketed.  What all this would do is not allow the driver to escape the reality of their actions, making it clear that stupid and reckless driving has clear consequences.  If you are going to drive a car, you will be doing it safely and correctly or not at all.

In short, instead of machine reliant, we as a human species should become brain reliant, training our amazing brain to be more efficient.  Oft times more than not, stupidity is a choice and not the sole and obvious outcome.  We humans can do better, learning from history.  When we don't, plain and simply, we are stupid.  And that is just the way it is.


Monday, October 1, 2018

I Could Be Coming To An End

As this is my last full day in France before departing tomorrow for my two-hop flight back to San Francisco, I may be reaching a conclusion and end, meaning I have lost both interest in driving taxi and writing about it.  While heretical to some, after a month's absence I would rather not return. Why?  Because as I expressed last week, taxi for me is unimportant, something I am doing only to make money.  Consider the difference between driving cab, and what I have doing the past few days, consumed with the final editing of my newest book.  In my youthful autobiography I am examining my developmental days, how those same years affected my family, along with a thoughtful peek at culture and society dating form the mid-1950s to the near conclusion of 1968.  What sounds more important to you?  And by getting the correct publisher, I will be making money, and if getting very lucky, enough money to support my future writing, allowing me not to waste my time with something, anything I am not interested it.  Writing these words means I have now declared war upon myself for allowing myself to be where I currently am.  No, I don't mean the northern Parisian suburb of Monsoult, sitting in a breakfast surrounded two sides by extensive gardens.  What I mean is war upon all my diversions taking me away from writing.  Going way back to 1979 and San Francisco, I was writing every day, reading constantly and editing poetry for a magazine with a world-wide quarterly distribution of 10,000 copies. For many sundry and assorted reasons I have lost that original focus but clearly I must regain, and regain it I will because my lifespan is closing, and time, not only lost, will be completely eliminated.  I will be dead.  And since that is obvious, I only have one choice, to embrace writing and everything else, excuse my impoliteness, be damned!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What Taxi Has Done To Me

Of the many things taxi is, beyond all and everything is its obsessive nature, consuming your time and energy, ensuring your primary activities are confined to eating, sleeping and driving cab---taxi an active parasite, a tapeworm striving off vulnerable flesh and blood.  But surely Joe, many might say, you exaggerate, no occupation could be that demanding because, as so many people have commented to me, "all you are doing is driving a car.  What is hard about that?"  And besides, the argument proceeding further, what can one expect when operating amongst the menial and lower caste, you the taxi dalit begging for your bread and butter, as too often our profession equated with the likes of dish washing and cleaning toilets or gravediggers in a pauper's cemetery, interring the nameless, forgotten and tubercular dead.  Frankly, we cabbies are the table scrapes leftover from dinner fed to the family pet or discarded into the compost bin.

But yes, what is difficult about maneuvering forward in some of the nation's most congested streets while figuring out "just where the money is?" because, unlike usual and normal occupations, there is absolutely no guarantee you are making a dime, or what what some like to express as, "a single red cent," whatever the hell that means?  What is hard about finding yourself completely alone beneath the top-light, your day a blank slate, totally left to your ability or not to make your taxi day, with no one caring other than the taxi association screaming for the lease or your wife shouting "why haven't the bills been paid?"  If you think this isn't stressful, that this isn't much fun, then you too, like the cabbie, are completely out-of-your-mind, unsympathetic to your fellows, self-appointed royalty ignoring the unwashed rabble clutching at your heels.

As I keep saying, and will continue to say about taxi, is that your only true guarantee is a kick in the buttock and a sore back and cranky knees and swollen ankles followed by indigestion and insomnia, with  the certified assurance that your chronic fatigue and overall exhausted state of mind, body and soul will forever remain your best friend and worst enemy, that "feeling like crap 100 percent of the time" is normal, and why after a few years you won't even notice you are a dead man (or woman) walking, or should I say it, driving?  Isn't life grand, finding yourself transformed into a walking and talking zombie?  George Romero would be proud!

And what has this done to me personally, besides this dismal list of maladies?  Taxi has stolen my life, reducing it to a seven-day cycle of working three to four days and briefly recovering during the remaining three, only to begin the drudgery all over again.  When trying to make up for lost sleep, sleeping twelve hours, when do I then have time to write and read and exercise and just plainly think while keeping up with the usual obligations paying bills, grocery shopping and brushing my teeth?

Precisely I don't which is why I leave taxi for weeks at a time so I can simply breath and remember I am alive, that an entire world outside of taxi exists, one of joy, fun, and can I say, personal satisfaction.  This remaining week I will be working minus interruptions to finally finish the editing of my most recent book, it being last April since I last peeked at it, working on a few pages.

Anyone thinking driving taxi is more important than my writing is delusional.  Taxi for me is a "day job" that's gone on way too long.  The American composer Philip Glass drove taxi in New York City for a few years but finally got out, going on to complete something far more important---adding to classical music's legacy and cannon, receiving a deserved recognition for hard work done.

Now that is something important but taxi, despite its usefulness in sometimes providing very necessary transportation to medical appointments and hospitals, is not equally paramount.  But the writing of just one poem or essay or short story that will outlive me, something people will both read and enjoy centuries from now, is far more important than all the thousands of cab rides I have provided.

There is no escaping that reality. While making money driving cab it's clear I am wasting my remaining unknown precious years upon this planet in this form, in the personage of who and what I am.  In twenty to thirty years I will be dead, obviously then having no ability to do anything special, like completing my childhood autobiography or bicycle along the River Doubs with someone I love.

No, taxi is unimportant.  Eating good food is important.  Walking along the River Seine in the rain is.  Even bickering over absolutely nothing is better than taxi.

And concerning that, there is, nor can there be, any argument.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Greetings From Besancon, Dole, Chartres, Monsoult : Prevailing Reality After 30 Years Taxi

It's been two weeks since I've been in the cab but before I briefly comment on my three decade plus association with the taxi arts I want to recommend the small central French city of Besancon.  Why, with so many famous French cities to come to, why visit this city located on the River Doubs 70 kilometers west of Switzerland?

Well, if you like friendly, welcoming people you will enjoy their hospitality and helpfulness, daily patiently listening to our rudimentary French.  And if you enjoy being surrounded by 17th Century history, you will be more than pleased, Besancon a living and breathing avenue to the past.

A visit to Marquis de Vauban's  (1633-1707) fort and castle complex "The Citadel" which will stay with you forever.  In addition to walking the ramparts I highly suggest visiting the many museums within the castle grounds, especially the Musee of French Resistance and Deportation.  I have been to a number of similar museums throughout my European travels but the one in Besancon is perhaps the most comprehensive, taking you from Germany in the early 1920s all the way up to 1946 and the War Crimes Trials.  In addition to all this, the many trails along both sides of the river are worth walking or biking, again taking you back in time, fortified walls lining the Doubs.

Due to Google stopping me from accessing my blog, it has been a few days since I first began this particular entry.  At the time we were in Besancon.  From there, we moved about 60 kilometers to the south along the River Doubs to Dole, a medieval cathedral town.  The church spire is unusual, commenting and presiding over the winding streets.

And finally getting to our primary goal, we rented bicycles both Wednesday and Thursday, riding first to the west, then Thursday to the east along rivers and canals.  To call our adventures idyllic would be an understatement, riding in truly magnificent weather, a late beautiful summer warm spell dominating the region. Breaking local rules of civility I removed my shirt, exposing my pale body to the French sunshine.

Yesterday we took a fast train to Paris, and from there to yet another medieval town, Chartres, famous for its 13th Century Gothic cathedral.  Having visited there in 1984 and 2003, this visit was different, being in much better spirits this time around.

In 1984, after spending the late summer and early autumn in Paris, it was abundantly clear my marriage was floundering, that season being the unfortunate beginning of three unforgettable, hellish years, with us finally parting in September 1987, the month and year of my entry into taxi.

Was that merely coincidental?  No, not at all, which is why I call the American taxi industry our version of the French Foreign Legion, taking all comers, an active pulse the only qualification, any disqualification not mattering, the only interest being keeping the seats filled and the money coming in.

My final word concerning Chartres is, "go there," and explore perhaps the greatest cathedral Christianity has given the spirit-seeking world.  This morning we stumbled upon a morning market, such incredible food we hadn't seen in a long time. 

Today I now back in greater Paris environs, this time in the northern suburb of Monsoult sitting in a glass enclosed dining room surrounded by greenery.  It is lovely.


Unfortunately that is the first term I come up with when thinking about my relation to taxi.  Demeaning and degrading are also appropriate terms, taxi translated as continual and never ending insult.  During my early taxi days when I was still working my psychiatric case manager gig, I would sometimes drive a few hours in the evening after consulting with neurologists, etc, and  I finding myself entering a completely alternate world, going from the "penthouse to the trashcan."

At 2:00 in the afternoon I would be treated as a professional equal, someone whose opinion was both valued and trusted.  But later, once in the cab I was instantaneously a cipher, asshole, criminal.  Yes, the juxtaposition was jarring, perhaps even disorienting but everyone around me, the cops etc left little doubt as to their opinion: I was scum, and you better watch out! being the prevailing message, deserving little save a swift kick in the butt.

So all these years later, despite the real money made, and the personal freedom provided, I have little good to say concerning how all of us Seattle cabbies have been, and are treated on a daily basis.  On the last page of my 1995 poetry volume, "The Greyer Elements,"  I wrote a sketch about taxi, describing it as being like a lone tree atop a high hill subjected to all kinds of weather.  That is what it is exactly like, buffeted by societal and cultural winds, blown over and knocked down.

And as I have said repeatedly upon these pages over these many years, much of the blame falls upon the American taxi industry itself, more times, as I just said, focused solely upon making money minus building viable connections with municipal, county, state regulatory authorities.  Why have we been treated like criminals instead of viewed as a viable and trusted industry?  The answer is simple, with everyone knowing the answer.  As the saying goes, it is no mystery.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Greetings From Hafnarfjordur, Iceland & Paris: Seattle's Taxi Complaint Process Part 2

We are already into our third day in Paris where the September weather this week has been in the low 80s F. but I would be amiss not to mention our three day stay in Iceland where the wind does blow, and on our first day, never stopped.  Amongst the various highlights was the directions given to us in Hafnarfiordur by the gruff lady running the local taxi company.  Lost, not knowing how to find our lodging, I noticed a taxi office where I was quickly drawn a perfect map to where we were going.  While having no time for pleasantries she was extremely helpful, a genuine taxi veteran interested only in directing the idiots to where they were going.  Frankly she reminded me of me when I am in certain moods, maybe not the most diplomatic but getting you to where you need to be, plain and simple minus usual niceties.

If you go to Iceland, do visit the spectacular Gullfoss waterfall, more cascading, tumbling water than you could ever imagine.  And if you have the energy, drive south on South Highway 1 (there is a North Route 1) to the small city of Hveragerdi and drive a few kilometers out of town to the parking lot to where your 1 1/2 mile ascent up a mountainside begins, eventually taking you to the warm water Reykjadalur River, yes, an actual hot springs river flowing southwest down a valley.

While we soaked our sore bodies, with the both of us falling asleep, we were joined by legions of hikers seeking the same experience.  Go on a late fall or winter weekday and I am sure you will only be sharing the river with the many grazing Icelandic sheep munching away upon the steep hills.  Only be extremely aware of the many very dangerous bubbling pools reaching 200 degree plus F. though you find them to be well marked. And even the sheep know better to avoid them so you too can say baa! to being boiled alive.  Again, if you like geothermal water and geysers blasting into the air, visit Iceland.

Here in Paris we are staying just off the Pigalle Metro Station in the 18th Arrondissement, not far from the famous Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) Cathedral.  Tuesday we ate at Chez Paul in the Bastille and yesterday, having lunch in the Jewish Quarter we ate crepes at two different outlets, the cheaper being the better of the two.  Last night we ate at Le Relais Gascon, 6 Rue des Abbesses, an eatery to be recommended, their set menu that evening of steak and potatoes delicious.  And if you are wanting to munch upon what might be the greatest croissant Paris has to offer, make a pastry beeline for Pain Pain (Bread Bread), a truly terrific boulangerie and patisserie located in Montnartre at 88 Rue des Martyrs.  You will be glad you did, especially if buttery is a favorite descriptive adjective.

Thursday we take the train to the small central city of Besancon where bicycling is next upon the agenda.  Besancon, Victor Hugo's birthplace, is located southeast of Paris near the Swiss border, making it the first time I have been to that part of France.  I will tell you if I spot Jean Valjean's ghost reaching for a stray baguette. And Javert's wraith trailing close behind.

More Concerning Seattle's Cabbie Complaint Process

Last week's blog was written in a quick frenzy just a few hours before we were due to fly out from San Francisco to Reykjavik, meaning some of what I wanted to say was unavoidably omitted, believing that a review of what the City of Seattle requires of us deserves a thorough examination.  And while not knowing the full history of how we got to this bureaucratic juncture, I can instinctively tell that some kind of complete capitulation by the local taxi industry must have something to do with this application of an iron yoke to our collective necks.

As I have previously suggested, no self-respecting industry or company would tolerate this level of governmental intrusion.  Just as in the elimination of Seattle's Uber/Lyft cap, the industry clearly, like some scared mongrel dog, put its tail between its leg and ran howling away to some dark alley.  Obviously this is no way to defend your vested interests, and when any and all unsubstantiated allegations are allowed to be put forward as potentially factual, anyone serious would know that un-investigated complaints are questionable and libelous, open to all kinds of mischief and abuse.

More clearly for those to don't understand the mechanics of the current process, the City of Seattle forwards all official complaints to the associations minus any or all filtering, meaning that anyone can call the complaint number and say anything they want regardless of its actual and legal veracity.  And who has to do the initial detective footwork?

None other than the associations' themselves, the City, and HopeLink too, turning association staff into their own minions, not unlike that rascal feathered friend, the Catbird laying eggs into a Robin or Sparrow's nest, forcing the nesting mother to feed and raise the intruder bird.  Just as nature is sometimes unfair, neither in this case in the City of Seattle, expecting us to incubate its own process.  How can this be reasonable?

As further example of how the process isn't at all sensible, I told "she-who-can't-be-named" that at this very moment she could call the complaint number from Paris and say anything she wanted about any driver, picking a cab number, even mine, and without any verification or validation propel into motion a complete and utter falsehood,  knowing fully there is no legal retribution for lying.  Is this justice?  I will let you find the answer.

And another important question is to just what kind of legal protection does the City provide to the complainant if the cabbie

Two other legal points that might be impossible to interpret are intent and harm, the intent of the driver and the harm to the complainant.  For example, if the passenger felt the cabbie was rude, how do you prove injury, and how can the City say any one statement or intonation was true insult?   If the source of the cabbie's alleged behavior was a sore back or indigestion, how could that be seen as proof of intent and premeditated action?

What I am saying is that it appears the City of Seattle has simplified something that isn't that simple.  And more, it has singled out one kind of business or industry for a type of scrutiny not applied to other kinds of businesses.  Could this just be mindless bureaucracy gone amok, with its ministerial wheels falling off?

I once had verifiable proof of this when, King County Licensing, during the for-hire re-licensing process, remained insistent upon fingerprinting us year after year.  Upon asking one of the County processors why, he made the huge mistake of telling me it was due to "our fingerprints changing every year."  Well of course that isn't true, and upon making his erroneous statement known, suddenly that requirement disappeared.  And I don't wonder why it did!

And that is all I wish for, sensible modification and little else.  As I said, true accountability is necessary and something I fully support.  But I do believe a thorough reexamination is called for, where legal protection and fairness for all parties is clearly spelled out and known; and since it is in Seattle's and King County's interests to maintain the kind of accountability they appear to be seeking, it should be solely their duty to accurately identify the overall credibility of the complaint.  Given that they created and mandated these rules of acceptable conduct, Seattle and King County should be answerable to carrying them out.

And, I must repeat, without any implication of pre-assigned guilt or prejudice.  In the United States of America in 2018, this is how it must be and remain.  There just isn't any other way or route to equatable and just resolution, our democratic principles leaving little argument to how we must proceed, equality and justice for everyone our goal.  Again, it is that simple.  Isn't it?

Horrible Taxi Accident at North 155th & Aurora Avenue North

Friends alerted me to a terrible accident occurring this week involving YC 736 and a non-taxi driver.  For some yet unexplained reason the other driver crossed over the center line, hitting the taxi head-on, with the impact unfortunately killing the cab passenger.  Both the errant driver and the cabbie were seriously injured and are fighting for their lives.  it is of course an unspeakable tragedy.  I will report more details as I have them.  As I have said here countless times, driving a cab is damnably dangerous!  Damn it all!

Postscript Saturday 09/15/18

With my mind officially on vacation, I forgot to relate an experience I have had hundreds of times: some driver shouting at me that "they have my cab number, and they're gonna get me!"  Yes, petty threats are commonplace, with the cabbie an easy target, feeding into an out-of-balance complaint process.  What is also true is that a workday doesn't pass when I don't experience at least one road-rage incident directed at me.  Usually it is the "short chase" when a deranged driver decides for whatever reason I deserve to be punished.

To me, all this points to the necessity of having the City of Seattle do some preemptive detective work before forwarding a complaint to a taxi association.  One possible way to sort out the true from the false is to require that all complainants sign a statement verifying that their accusation is true.  Requiring a notary would only enhance their credibility.  Perhaps only then would the City have some assurance that the incident as described actually occurred.  Currently, as I have outlined, the City truly doesn't know one way or another the true legitimacy of the complaint.  As I have said ad nausea, there has to be a better way.


Thursday, September 6, 2018

The City of Seattle Taxi Complaint Process

Just imagine the uproar if the City of Seattle decided to post official "call to complain" numbers in every type of business operating in Seattle.  In banks, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, doctor offices, car dealerships, gas stations, auto repair shops, once you entered the premises you would encounter in large boldfaced letters the City of Seattle telephone number where you the customer are encouraged to file, not comments but complaints. And just so you won't forget, your bank balance slip or your Safeway receipt will have that same complaint number printed upon it.  I am sure that would make a strong impression, perhaps implying that something must be wrong, that these folks may not be the most trustworthy. 

Of course there appears to be no such plan in the offing because the Seattle of City would be slammed by high powered lawsuits financed by Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks,  General Motors etc, making it clear that this is the wrong approach to take concerning consumer protection.  But that same very same approach is reality in Seattle's taxis, immediately implying that you "better watch out!" because that awful cabbie is about to to take you around in circles.  And yes, the complaint number is printed on our meter receipts just in case you think the driver has just ripped you off and now you have the evidence in you hand.  In other words, the suspicion is inherent, something the cabbies can't escape, the complaint process a public invitation to bash taxi drivers upon their collective heads. 

I say this due to a recent official complaint I received filed by someone who, by all accounts, has some misplaced vendetta against Seattle Yellow Cab, and due to that, has been placed upon the "no service list" multiple times.  That he continues to order cabs using aliases perhaps says everything one needs to know about the individual.  And that, like others who have filed claims, seem to potentially have psychiatric issues which says much about many who utilize Seattle's and HopeLink's complaint process.  One HopeLink complaint came from a very obese woman claiming I had been making passes at her. Another HopeLink complaint centered around the fact that I had taken a detour around a closed street, meaning at that point I had no other option because 25th NE was closed both ways due to construction. 

In this current situation, the guy claims I argued about the route, treated him rudely and in general acted unprofessionally.  Why I would do this doesn't make any sense, other than the guy being upon the eccentric side, and at times unclear in his directions, he truly wasn't out of the behavioral norm other than perhaps being more paranoid than the more usual customer. 

That this was bad fiction and a false accusation is true but when you have a process that empowers the powerless, you are destined to have these kinds of manufactured complaints.  It appears that the City of Seattle doesn't understand this kind of dimension they have created but I do which is why Macy's or Target or The Ford Motor Corporation or Marriott Hotels would explode in response if any such effort was directed their way.

What the City of Seattle message to the local taxi industry is simple: you are not capable of dealing with your internal issues in-house, along with the strong invective that you can't be trusted.  Having been associated with taxi these long thirty-plus years, I know this to be true.   I learned all abut this attitude back in 1987 upon the first time I was stopped in my cab by the Seattle Police.  When the officer said "You just ran a red  light." I stupidly responded that I hadn't, which was true which resulted in being issued not one but two violations which I promptly dubbed "PS I Love You!"   Why did I deserve to be treated like that?  Because I was driving a cab and for no other reason whatsoever, meaning I was a bad person deserving of whatever punishment dealt my way. 

Yes, personal and industry accountability is very important, something I strongly believe in and support.  But frivolous and erroneous enforcement is something I most logically can't support.  The worse anything I have ever done in the cab is get irritated.  Is irritation against the law?  I don't think so and neither does anyone else.  Civility is something we all should strive for but given our current resident in the White House can we really expect that, along with personal accountability?  Yes, despite all resistance to the contrary, we should.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Quickest Of Updates Concerning PSD Computer Dispatch Transition

I know many of you out there in Seattle Yellow Taxi-land are more than curious about what is happening or not concerning our transition from the "George/San Francisco" system to something new and different, and most importantly, more efficient and improved.  From what I can tell, and remember from our visit down to Portland, Oregon last Wednesday to view the functioning MT Data/ Mobile Technologies International (MTI) at Portland's Broadway Cab, it is a good system, one, at least initially, allowing all of us to use our existing tablets.  I say this first off given the concern many have about financial outlays.  Whatever our initial costs may be, I believe they will be  minimal.

Our introduction of the dispatch system was both in the classroom and viewing it in an actual cab.  The only drawback to all this was time, as we rushed from the train in cabs to the Broadway lot only to barely have 2 plus hours to take it all in before we once again had to leave.   Excuse my brevity, but here is my quick description of the presentation provided by MYI's Director of Sales for North America, Floyd Kaminski.  MTI is an international company, recently installing their system in a cab company in Helsinki, Finland.

---All their technology is in-house, developed and provided by MTI

----The system is self-configurable, meaning you can design and frame it to your particular needs. This is a huge advantage, allowing you flexibility, something we currently are lacking.

----Open Architecture, allowing for adjustment

----A very superior smart phone booking app

----Driver-tipping options

----System allows for accurate fare calculations

----Has an ability to create fixed rate fares.  More explanation later.

----Booking via WEB

----Accurate tracking of phone bookings

----Driver rating system accompanied with reason why rating was selected

----Cloud-based system

----Accurate GPS

----G4 to G5 system speed

----Real time traffic/road reporting

----Circular or concentric ring dispatching, meaning the system can be adjusted to closest cab or cabs by creating inner and outer rings, with the closest cabs being chosen by time in zone 

----Two-way direct messaging between dispatch and driver

----Web TelOp measures call-taker performance

----System allows driver photo and details

----System can allow "personals" to be dispatched to individual drivers

---Email receipts

You all might notice that this system is much like the app-driven system used by Uber and Lyft.  What this does is allow us to compete on a more-or-less equal basis. 

When all this becomes operational is any one's guess but probably within the next 4-8 weeks.  Contract negotiations are ongoing.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Poof! Instantly $1100.00 Vanishes Into The Thin Taxi Air!

There are too many viable reasons why owning a taxi is a bad idea but the primary one is about the overhead, the many costs related to operating a cab.  Now if I were 30 years younger I could do what I did in 1987---drive as many hours as I wanted minus feeling later like I needed to check into a hospital.  Taxi truly is a younger person's job because the usual 12 hour shift is akin to twelve rounds in the box ring---you are going to end up battered no matter good a fighter you might be.  And the solitary reason to work all those many hours is make the BIG money, no other motivation making sense.  It ain't to increase you mind, I can tell you that!

So while at age 64 I can swing my taxi with anyone, I get tired faster.  I, like so many other aging folks, see and feel the ravages times takes upon the body, which is where the $1100.00 comes in, that being what it cost (including a $100.00 tip) me Friday to have my mechanic Pham install a new rebuilt automatic transmission into my cab YC 1092.  Pre-Uber and Lyft, all I did was pay my weekend lease ranging over the years from $160.00 to $200.00, clear my $1000.00 and leave for the remaining five days.  Obviously now those wonderful days are long gone, usually now taking me four days to make what I did in two, with it all costing me more than ever before. 

Again, the only way to justify cab ownership is to jump into that taxi river for the entire day, breaking only for a decent meal, and as I now do most days, take a quick shower and sauna at the local YMCA.  You can still make bunches of money but as I said, the physical strain is too much to take, all those hours insulting to cranium, body and soul.

Who needs it?  Not me which is why on September 6th, "she-who-can't-be-named" and I are flying first to Iceland for the geothermal springs, then to Paris for the pastry.  We have talked about doing this trip for years and finally we are going.  When we first met, a song we enjoyed was Jonathan Richman's "Give Paris One More Chance!"  And we are about to.

Will I miss being in the cab?  Everyone who knows me knows the answer to that question, the answer easy as Paris Pie in the Sky!

Specious Uber

An Associated Press article today quoted this Uber executive saying that the real problem with self-driving cars are all those pesky, disobedient pedestrians, everyone requiring some kind of remedial training so they don't jaywalk and do all the stupid things us humans do.  What made his position disingenuous is not remembering that the sole reason Uber and other companies use to justify autonomous vehicles is the lack of skilled and PROPERLY TRAINED drivers.  So while teaching people how to safely walk across street, why not also teach them how to skillfully navigate their car down that same street, eliminating the need for robot cars?  Too logical for the corporate brain is what I say.

And reason he didn't mention this is because all these greedy companies want to make lots of money producing these amazing cars of the near automotive future.  Uber, Alphabet, Tesla and everyone else can smell all that "money, honey!" and you can bet on it, "Mister I Want-It-Forget-The-Poetic-Sonnet!"  Moola, Miss Beulah, is what the new slave master wants.  It is that simple!

PSD New System Update

Wednesday morning, me and at least 7 others are taking the train down to Portland, Oregon to review a system we might be using in our cabs.  Again, expect real news concerning everything next week.

Cheers for Pham

I got the cab there at 10:30 AM Friday and he had the new transmission installed and ready to go by 5:15 PM.  Amazing!  Thanks a whole lot!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Taxi Reporter: The Sea-Tac Settlement With ESFH & How And Why WA State Labor & Industry Targeted Tacoma Yellow Cab

In all my years involved with Seattle's taxi industry, I have never found anything to be neither simple nor straightforward.  Oppositely, the contrary always true, oft times finding a complex tangle difficult to unravel and follow, all of which motivates me to provide you the reader with all the information I have on hand to both clarify and demystify current issues impacting all of us, not mattering whether we drive cab in Seattle or India or Australia because taxi, being a regulated industry shares a commonality across our taxi globe.

Utilizing that logic then, the Port of Seattle's negotiation and deal with ESFH (Eastside-for Hire), along with  L&I's past and current targeting of a particular cab company says much to anyone driving taxi in any locale, informing everyone of both hazards and solutions.  That we as an industry remain fragmented is true but instead, by approaching our industry holistically, together we can help repair and heal the damage done by all those local regulators who, by collectively misunderstanding what the ride-share model was, and is, opened a Pandora's Box threatening our very existence.

That many of us across the USA and other hemispheres and continents remain financially wounded is without question our shared reality.  But just as our situation can theoretically change to the negative, it can also change for the good of all, information our savior and weapon cutting through and pass opaque and blind bureaucracy and ultimately taking us to where we have never been---a united global constituency never refusing to be trod upon and discarded like so any many faceless ants beneath governmental feet---together saying no when others would have us participate in our own destruction.

Logically then we can't allow this which is why I present these two cautionary tales, saying beyond all doubt that we, and no one else, must be in control of our own destiny.  While always remaining open to cooperation and dialogue with local government, it is important that we, not them, create and form the rules and laws governing out industry.  This should not be an argument but set policy, our industry guiding ourselves down the taxi road.  How can it be any other way?

                                         The Port of Seattle Settles with Eastside-for-Hire

Two weeks ago Sea-Tac decided to give East-for-Hire 1.5 million over the life of their operational contract ending Autumn 2019.  This payment, made monthly through SP Plus Parking, the supervisory company situated upon the 3rd floor of the parking garage, brings to a close a fractious argument pitting ESFH against the Port of Seattle, Teamsters Local 117 and the majority of unhappy E-Cab drivers and owners serving Sea-Tac.

While ESFH sticks its "chest out," claiming it didn't give up exclusive rights to Sea-Tac, what the agreement appears to actually mean is that the old taxi pickup model is dead, with the Port Commission intending, if all the cards fall their way, to open Sea-Tac to all regional cabs regardless of association affiliation.  This could also signal an end to the flat-rate for-hire model, with all current licensees converted to old fashioned taxicabs.  With that conversion would be the combining of the now separate City of Seattle and King County license into one medallion or license plate, allowing everyone to legally work everywhere.  This idea has been talked about for a long time but since Sea-Tac is now doing the talking, I am great confident that Seattle and King County officials will give them what they want.

And besides, I know that all of the Port Commissioners and the Port staff are "sick and tired" of listening to the endless bickering between all sides, this argument going on for at least three years or more.  For all those crazy cabbies and flat-raters this is something they enjoy but to anyone else half-sane they recognize all that babble for what it truly is: dysfunctional behavior just for the hell of it, a deranged pastime to everyone save the participants.

Hopefully then, come September 2019, peace will prevail, and everyone will get to work the "Golden Goose" that is Sea-Tac International Airport, and just like all such fairy tales, everyone will live happy and contented ever after.  Amen!

         Washington State's Department of Labor & Industry Inability to Forgive and Forget

Yesterday, August 14th, 2018, L&I delivered yet another bill to Tacoma Yellow Cab, this time saying they owed $400,000 in past due fees.  When were these alleged underpayments made?  In the early 1990s, over twenty years ago. And just about three weeks ago, Tacoma Yellow Cab won its second judgment at the Board of Industrial Appeals, saying it didn't owe L&I anything.  So why does this saga continue, with Jerry Billings, the relentless L&I senior investigator still baying at the moon?  It's a good question, especially since Tacoma ownership changed in 2002, and with the State Legislature's invention in July 2015, removing all L&I requirements for taxi drivers.

The history here is L&I's insistence over the years that cabbies were not independent contractors but some version of employee.  Of course this is an argument heard most recently concerning discussions over Uber and Lyft driver status, something as of yet to be resolved.  But whenever a cabbie in the State of Washington had a serious accident, L&I would come to the hospital and ask the uninsured cabbie with who was he employed, with the answer being the same: the cab company in whatever city or town.

Having received that reply multiple times, L&I decided it must be true and began pressuring Tacoma Yellow and other companies to be paying per hour assessments.  In 1991 Tacoma Yellow strenuously objected, with L&I suing Tacoma and winning in 1992.  Yes, all this dates back to that period of time, L&I to this moment not backing down all these years later even though they have good legal reason to to so.  In July 2017, a judge ordered L&I to recalculate what was owed and threw out all charges of intentional misrepresentation, with a recent appeal validating that judgment.

But with yesterday's action, it appears L&I remains determined to punish Tacoma Yellow regardless of the logic involved.  Tacoma Yellow continues to operate but remains limited, at the moment dispatching approximately 17 cabs.   Can someone in Olympia tell all interested parties why they remain insistent upon "squeezing blood out of the Tacoma taxi turnip?"

It should be time to just let it go, or more precisely, if they can't, sue the original owners and hold them liable if they must.  I swear that even the Roman Catholic Church is more forgiving, never forcing the penitent to plead for absolution for the same sin over and over again.  This isn't justice but a misdirected Calvinist retribution against an innocent party.  Stop already, will you, mistaking government codification for a new bureaucratic religion.  If a point needed to be made, surely it has been made, and in spades! 

DDS Update: There isn't one

Turns out that DDS was being less than frank, by one not telling us that their system was only 3G (computer speed), and perhaps worse, not pointing out a contractual provision stating that they, and they alone would own OUR customer information.  That they don't think this is some kind of invasion of customer privacy says everything about their stance.  PSD is considering other vendors.  Of course everyone will be told what is going on before any decisions are made unlike past instances, drivers and owners remaining in the informational loop.

Killer of 2 Cabbies Executed Yesterday by the State of Nebraska 

In August 1979, five days apart, Carey Dean Moore murdered in cold blood two Omaha cabbies, shooting Safeway Cab driver Revel Van Ness, age 47 and the father of ten children, three times in the back.  On August 27th, he shot another cabbie also aged 47, Happy Cab operator Maynard Helgeland three times in the head, Helgeland leaving three children behind.  Moore got $140.00 from the first robbery and zero from the second.  Both of the cabbies were Korean War Veterans, surviving that bloody fight but failing to survive driving cab in a mid-sized American city.  Moore's twin brother witnessed the execution.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Hooker And The 100 Dollar Bill & DDS Upate

If I am not really interested in working I should never answer a call because, once committed, I never know what is going to happen and how demanding the passenger will be, along with just how many minutes and hours will be involved.  That I did this last Tuesday evening was to my deep regret because, how in the world did I know that at least one resident living in and around Seattle's Alki Point utilizes prostitutes but that was certainly the case then as the nice sounding woman turned out to be a hooker going, as she said, to the Sea-Tac Park & Ride.

I knew something "wasn't right" when she talked about swimming in the river running along Admiral Way because there isn't one, telling her she must be referring to the Duwamish River flowing upon the east side of Marginal Way SW, a river she might want to avoid given it remains on the EPA Superfund Cleanup list.  Her response told me she didn't know where she was, and minutes later, confirming she also didn't know where she was going.

And unfortunately what was normal suddenly transposed into the abnormal as she began panicking about my routing, prompting a quick U-turn onto State Route 599, taking us either to Pacific Highway South or I-5 southbound. Having already once announced we were detouring elsewhere, she again abruptly changed her agenda, this time saying we were now heading to Tacoma and Pacific Avenue, altering the entire scenario, the $40.00 ride now $140.00 and counting.

Telling her that a large deposit was now required she began yelling and cursing and waving 3 one-hundred bills at me, "I have the money, I have the money!" but the only problem being, she wouldn't give me one of them.  Every cabbie perhaps on the planet have been through this, knowing full well that the insane customer showing you the money doesn't at all guarantee you will be getting it save a wrestling match in the backseat, game players being just that---playing serious games no cabbie is interested in participating in on any level.

Telling her the ride was over, she then gave me a twenty which didn't fully cover the current meter amount as I exited onto International Boulevard and dropped her off at the Tukwila Light-rail station, saying she could catch a bus from there.  Thinking that was the end of it, I was glad to be rid of her and having 20 bucks for all my trouble and pain and lasting irritation.

But no, much later the fool texted me to ask if she had left a hundred in the cab.  Thinking it highly unlikely I lifted the backseat up, and amazingly, there it was.  Her third text to me said "Never mind" but nonetheless I called both her and dispatch, telling everyone that I would get it back to her once I came back from an overnight hiking jaunt scheduled for early Wednesday morning.  And all this after not charging her for what she fully owed me.  My personal policy has been, and remains, once I tell a passenger to go, I'm not interested in the money, my sole priority being to get the person out of the cab, like now, pronto, get out and stay out!

The hike and overnight at Lake Talapus in the Alpine Lake Wilderness was wonderful, sleeping away, away from the maddening crowds, listening to owls and other birds talk in the tranquil night.  But knowing I would have to deal with the situation Thursday morning didn't make me happy, knowing she was at best unpredictable, and worst, completely out-of-her-mind.

Finding new texts on my telephone, along with the fact that she was leaving messages with both dispatch and Yellow's Superintendent office, I called her to give her a more-or less ETA.  Problem was she never told me where she was and it wasn't West Seattle where I originally found her but somewhere near the airport.

Suffice to say she wasted yet more of my time, finally all this nonsense coming an end by meeting me in  a car in Chinatown driven by either a current "John" or her pimp, then very reluctantly giving me five dollars for my great honesty and effort.   And this time I got a really good look at her with "Oh my God!" my response, the woman trouble times ten and a hectoring addict hen, and certainly no ones friend!  Why anyone would pay to have sex with this individual is a mystery that I will let someone other than myself attempt to solve and decipher.  Crazy, crazy, and I repeat, crazy, insane etc.

As I keep saying, "Ain't taxi fun?" No!

DDS Update

PSD/Yellow is still negotiating the contract, meaning the changeover and installation WILL NOT be completed before the new school run season begins in September.   One email today told me they planned to do 40-50 cabs at a time.  All this is getting me to think that Puget Sound Dispatch is writing all of us a prescription for disaster and that perhaps it would be better if we waited until next year to complete the changeover to DDS.  I personally will need some reassurance that squeezing all these changes into the autumn months will not once again result into the boondoggle that we all experienced 4 years ago.  We do not need that to occur again. No, not at all.

You're mean!

I can't imagine how many grocery runs I've done since 1987 but this one last Sunday at the Ballard Safeway deserves commentary because when I attempted to load the two bags in the cab she screamed "Don't touch my bags!" followed by tears and saying how mean I was for trying to complete a very routine pickup.  What was her issue?  Schizophrenia near as I can tell.  While I have empathy her response sacred me because what would she say or do next?  Since I didn't know I had to drive away, leaving her to negotiate with the next cabbie.  Good luck!

Tacoma Yellow Cab Kaput!

I was astonished to find out that the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry had forced the closure of Tacoma Yellow.  Longtime readers know I have mentioned that battle in the past but it appears that L&I won the day by killing Yellow.   I hope to feature the full story next week.

Kudos to the City and County Concerning Medallion Renewal

As opposed to just notifying the associations, like Seattle did when it came time to inspect and calibrate our taxi meters, this time I received an email detailing dates and times for all owner appointments.  Thank you, Seattle and King County, for the good communication.  It is appreciated.

Magnolia Marina Fiefdom 

Located on the south side of Magnolia bluff, the Palisades Restaurant and the Magnolia Boat Marina have long been a commonplace taxi pickup and drop off, personally working there over a thousand times, and not once until this past weekend have I ever encountered any interference.  Certainly I have noticed the small guard shack located on the public street but since it was never occupied I gave it little thought other than it seemed rather out of place.  But this past Saturday night some woman attempted to stop me as I drove on West Marina Place toward a pickup at the restaurant.  Later, on Sunday morning, I stopped and looked at all the street signage and saw nothing indicating W. Marina Place was anything but a public street.  In most cases there will be posted signs indicating you are entering a private street but there are no such signs anywhere, and in my 30 cab year experience, there never have been.

Asking the kids working the Palisades valet, they said the marina was private but knew nothing concerning the streets themselves.  Upon leaving this same woman tired to stop me but I kept on going, little amused by what I saw as some kind of self-styled vigilantism attempting to achieve what I had no idea.  If I ever have a spare moment I am going to ask the City of Seattle  about what they know or don't about legal public access on W. Marina Place.  I am curious concerning the ultimate answer of who is in charge, the City of Seattle or a bunch of upper-middle class folks floating around in 500 thousand dollar boats.  All I can say is that they better watch out because I am tempted to save up all my pennies and buy a second-hand submarine.  Up periscope!