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!