Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ali---RIP! & Two Passenger Profiles & Coming In March, A Taxi Driver Correspondence Course---You Too Can Learn The Craft In Just a Few Easy Lessons!

Saturday I was totally shocked to find that my longtime taxi colleague and friend, Tesfaye (Ali) Mekonene, had died a few days previously.  Ali and I shared YC 478 for years and always found time to chat when we saw each other.  If I remember correctly, his big house in Burien was fully paid and his children had either graduated from college or were nearing graduation.  In any true sense, Ali's life symbolized the ultimate "American Dream," emigrating from  a famine ravaged Ethiopia and creating a good and sustainable future for his family.

From what I heard, sometime last week Ali drove his car into a water-filled ditch which resulted in him being taken to the local regional trauma center, Harborview Hospital, whereupon a large benign tumor was discovered pressing against his brain.  Requiring immediate surgery, Ali unfortunately failed to recover and passed away at Harborview.

Opinion has it that his then unknown condition caused the accident.  A Yellow superintendent told me that a couple weeks ago he received an odd complaint concerning Ali for not proceeding forward after a signal turned green, the passenger having to alert him they were not moving, prompting the theory that the tumor was already clearly having a neurological impact.

Regardless of all conjecture, dying like this is a huge tragedy, something that might suggest just how hard taxi driving is upon body and soul.  Unfortunately, given the timing I missed two memorials held for Ali but was able to contribute to the funding effort toward sending him back home.  As said, Rest in Peace, Ali, your gentle spirit will be missed.

Two Passenger Profiles

Sylvia---"that coffee sure smells good!"

Sylvia is a three-time-a week kidney dialysis patient who also suffers from long-term schizophrenia, a double whammy no one should have to bear.  Residing in an Wallingford-area psychiatric halfway house, I have been transporting the diminutive Sylvia to the Scribner Kidney Center off and on for years, always very careful not to rush her as she has a personal checklist to address before we take off, first asking if the ride is paid for, which it is something she is cautious  about.  How old she is I don't know but I would say remaining very old fashioned in her style, especially when it comes to fragrance, something usually overwhelming the cab's interior, making me nauseous if I don't open a window.

Thankfully this past Saturday she had neglected to douse herself which probably allowed her to smell the latte I had just purchased.  For a moment I thought of buying her a coffee but knowing how unsettling any alternatives are to her regarding both route and routine I decided against it.

But what it did do was inspire me to talk to her normally, and picking a very safe subject, the local car traffic, and I then proceeded to explain as to why it has become so congested.  She in turn, for perhaps the first time in many rides, responded rationally, bringing up something from Seattle's past, which seemed to be calming, causing some reflection.

Yes it was a simple moment yet very satisfying, when for just a few flickering seconds the real core Sylvia revealed itself which is why I am writing about it, a remarkable instance in an otherwise mundane taxi morning.

Shirley---"My husband is dead!"

Sure, I remembered her now late  husband, having taken them both home shortly before I left for Europe.  Now picking her up at the same White Center bar, I find that her husband is now mysteriously dead, having gone out for a walk only to to be found two hours later dead beneath the South Park Bridge from as of yet unknown causes.  Shirley was both frantic and anguished, still processing what had happened which was made worse by not knowing, and conceivably never knowing all the details leading to his death.  Was he murdered?  Did he die from an overdose?  Perhaps the autopsy will tell but still she awaits the results.

Shirley, already drunk, and never these current days very steady due to a serious stroke paralyzing her right side, was accomplished that moment by her even drunker daughter, both having been over served at what is rapidly becoming White Center's most notorious drinking establishment. Listening to Shirley's lament as we drove to buy her even more beer, it was clear this death would never leave her.

And further heightening her plight, the house she shares, Shirley residing in the basement, is with a man with a truly frightening demeanor, anger and disdain evidently his favorite emotions, the owner the epitome of what might be truly wrong with America---a self-absorbed selfishness gone berserk.

Pulling away from the driveway, I had to purposely maneuver to avoid the landlord's car, simultaneously driving off in a kind of demented competitive race.  As for Shirley I fear what will ultimately befall her.  She tells me me the man who was their roommate is now in jail for violating a non-contact order.  What that truly means I don't know but her life now is now crisis after crisis somehow muted by an alcoholic haze.  Yes, this is Shirley.  This is her life!

Paperless Taxi School

Though still working through the details, coming sometime in March will be the first installments of of what I am calling a cab driver (or Uber driver) correspondence course, the subjects ranging from how to learn a city's roadways to proper conduct during a police stop.  The goal is simple.  Read the lessons, study them, take them to "heart" and voila! you will be on your way to learning the true craft of transporting your fellow humans from point A to B.  I envision a minimum of 6-8 blog installments and perhaps more.  Tests will also be included, with answers appearing in the next blog.  I have always thought that we need is a taxi university and now, more or less, we will have one, and even better, tuition free.  And of course you will be rewarded but how will be solely determined by you.  I am only the instructor and a tired one at that!


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