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.


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