Sunday, March 24, 2019

Rarely, But Sometimes It's True, The Remarkable Occurs

To this personal juncture, I have never used any GPS-type navigation system guiding me to an address no matter however unfamiliar it might be.  Maps, I utilize maps, using my old Rand McNally Thomas Guide plus two newer Brand X map books to show me where that crazy address is located in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. For that rare longer trip, I have an AAA Washington/Oregon map on hand, because I never know what is coming next.  Most often, the passenger usually knows how to get home but not always, which is why I come prepared to find where we are going regardless of any outside assistance.  But Friday I encountered a most unusual situation, when a sight-impaired passenger, originating from Seattle's Lighthouse for the Blind, and going all the way southeast to Covington, knew the way as thoroughly as someone fully sighted.  Though I consulted my Thomas Guide, it proved unnecessary, first knowing the exit off State Route Highway18, and then saying "now turn right and turn right again on SE 168th," this guy knowing his route home completely by feel and knowledge of the roads.  Remarkable, I say, and something worth noting because, too often I have encountered the opposite, passengers theoretically whole but cognitively fractured, disinterested in applying the mental glue necessary to repair what has become for them an almost instinctual disconnection to apparent and functional reality.  This Covington-bound gentleman instead embracing life, and despite his disability, finding joy in the moment.  Remarkable!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Lyft IPO Analysis & Uber California Settlement

Lyft IPO

The Seattle Times' Monday 03/11/2019 Business section featured an article talking about Lyft's pending stock offering.  Entitled "Lyft's disclosures reveal a deeply indebted firm with little hopes for profits." and written by Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times, it gives a very bleak, and some would say, very realistic projection of Lyft's financial future.  The first two paragraphs succinctly spells it out:

"Investing mavens who think of the big ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft as the next great opportunities to get in on the ground floor of a fabulously profitable stock must have been downcast by Lyft's financial report in advance of its pending initial stock offering. 

At least one would hope so.  The IPO registration statement made public on Friday reveled something the smart followers of this supposedly disruptive industry have known for years: Lyft is deeply, deeply in the red, and it has virtually no prospect of turning profitable any time soon, if ever."

Why did the reporter write this incredibly damning assessment?   In 2017, Lyft lost $696.1 million on total revenue of $1.06 billion.  In 2018 Lyft lost $911.3 million on revenue reaching 2.16 billion.  The remainder went to the Lyft operators and to CEO salaries and other compensations.  Co-founder Logan Green is said to have received over $935.000 dollars for what he called "personal security services" in addition to his normal salary.  In other words, he earned over one million dollars for doing what no one knows for sure.  Like Uber's former CEO, who are these guys enriching themselves, bilking their investors while all those drivers work for ride-share peanuts?  As I keep bringing this up, both Uber and Lyft seem to be little more than new variations of old fashioned Ponzi-style schemes.  This pending Lyft IPO appears to support that premise. 

The questions then surely must be two.  One, how can anyone be taking Lyft and Uber seriously, given their great financial losses, Uber losing at least $24 billion since its inception?  And two, why does the collective American taxi industry cower in the shadow of these two false, ersatz giants?  As successful companies go, they are a joke.  Shouldn't we stop crying, and instead, begin laughing at the fools they are?   That is my advice for the all of us.  Stand strong and laugh uproariously, the joke's on them, not us.  And perhaps  laughing at all those investors, as the saying goes, "throwing good money after bad."  Again---Ha Ha Ha!

Uber Settles with 13,600 Drivers

On March 12, 2019, news came out that Uber had settled with just over 13,000 of their independent operators for $20 million dollars over the standing issue of whether they were employees or somehow fitting in another category, as they had sought a new employment classification.  While failing ultimately in their effort, it appears they won a "Pyrrhic Victory," nothing gained except a bit of money, Uber ultimately regaining and winning their legal argument.  This occurred earlier in a September 2018 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, O'Conner vs Uber , a 385,000 member class action lawsuit, the ruling upholding Uber's arbitration clause.  The lesson here is be careful what you sign and agree to, and don't be surprised when, after signing away your legal rights, you are then kicked in the butt.  Uber is not your friend, and to believe otherwise is, plain and simply, foolish.

Hitting the Taxi Jackpot?

Just like in the movies, last week I came upon a sizable amount of cash left in the cab.  And how I returned it to the rightful owner.

Late last Sunday I picked up an older couple at King Street Station and took them to a DT Bellevue hotel.  Being my second to last fare of the night, with my last passengers failing to tell me something was sitting on the back floorboard, I only discovered the black travel bag in the morning.  A quick search in a side pocket revealed $160.00.  Finding that interesting, I called Yellow to tell them what I had found, along with calling the hotel in an attempt to reach the folks who lost their bag.

The hotel staff member was not helpful, acting like it was impossible to match the couple from Arizona to their check-in time, approximately 8:45 PM.  Frustrated with that, I looked further and found the names of both the wife and husband.  And in that search I opened a small pouch and found what appeared to be thousands of dollars.  Having the information I needed I didn't count all that neatly folded huge wad of bills but again called the hotel, and this time found myself talking to Frank, husband to the aggrieved Linda.

Later, after taking my brother home from his doctor's appointment, I got her belongings---money, cellphone, credit card etc back to them.  On the phone I told Frank it might be better if his wife didn't travel with that much cash on hand.  His short reply said much to his emotion upon the subject.

For me, I was pleased to be of service.  In 1991, while in Budapest, I somehow lost my passport.  An American embassy official, a Margret Higgins, got me my replacement passport in six short days.  Travel can be like this.  Things happen, good and bad, so it is great when assistance arrives in whatever form or guise, a welcome solution to real trouble.

Postscript 03/20/2019 12:04 AM---More Lyft IPO

In a NY Times article composed and reported by Kate Conger & Michael J. De La Merced, it is reported that Lyft hopes next week's stock offering will be valued up to $23 billion dollars.  As I've said, many think this makes little sense concerning Lyft as it has yet to turn a profit.  I quote one paragraph and let you decide what is up and down with all this financial hoopla.

"We're looking at Lyft as a bellwether for the summer IPO market," said Mathew Kennedy, a senior IPO market strategist at Renaissance Capital.  "The others in the pipeline are watching Lyft and looking to see whether investors are interested in companies that are highly unprofitable but highly valuable."

My question is, how can something be both highly unprofitable yet highly esteemed by investors?  It might be like saying though the beef steak on your plate is highly rancid while at the same time it is highly eatable.  Huh?

And what is a bellwether?  Separate the wether part and you have a castrated ram (sheep).  Ba Ba black sheep or something like that.  Maybe all these Lyft investors should instead buy Viraga stock.  It might be more financially uplifting, straightening out their economic heads.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

"Com' On Baby, You Can Do This, Never Thinking This Is Easy" & Taxi Miscellany & Poem

Tuesday morning it snowed again but this time, later combining with rain foretold a minor not major event, making my school run to Bellevue incident free.  It was only after I dropped the student off, and accepted a Metro/1st Transit run in neighboring Kirkland, did my fun begin.  Already 45 minutes late on this call, I was under pressure to both reach the passenger and get her to her Microsoft building in Redmond minus substantial delay.  Adding tension was an unknown address posing a potential mystery comprising slick roadways, steep hills and other assorted unpleasant winter weather surprises.

Looking at my Thomas Guide, plus the fact that I worked at nearby Fairfax Psychiatric Hospital in 1984/85 assisted in getting me pointed correctly, and yes, I was talking to myself out loud, relieving the stress, by "Com' on Baby, Com' on............! " making sure I wasn't losing my concentration.  

And yes, I quickly found my fare but truly few if any understanding the skill and professionalism entailed in getting to her address minus delay and excuse.  If it was understood, Uber and Lyft would not exist, the attitude being anyone can do what I do but of course it "just ain't true" and that is the damn way it is!  Yes, I am complaining but to whom I have no idea.

Cab Miscellany

---Second time I had this somewhat inebriated couple from Pioneer Square to the North-end.  A drunker version of the comic pages "The Lockhorns," this intelligent couple bantering their way northward.  I really like them, honesty minus pretense.  And getting $40.00 each time sweetens the sentiment. 

---Why dd it take the City of Seattle months to notice all these questionable massage parlors in and around Chinatown?  I knew instantly what was going on, and finally disgusted after reading about a NYC bust  in the NY Times, I sent it to the mayor, along with some choice commentary.  

And just a few  days later, the Seattle Times shouts out that 11 of them had been shut down.  One had aroused suspicions since 2015, meaning "better late than never" might not apply to Seattle's too usual "the blind leading the blind," making the obvious invisible to local authorities repeatedly saying they know what they are doing.  Beyond City Hall, does anyone else believe them?

---If this story is true as described, the State of WA should be totally ashamed, persecuting a flat-rate for-hire driver for not knowing both his WA State Business License and WA State Drivers License had been suspended due to him being "nine days late in paying child support."  

Turns out his 7 children are doing well, with 2 of them in medical and law school.  Who knows why he was delinquent but as was told in the hearing, it seems like he has been a supportive and loving father.  

The bigger question is as to why does the State of Washington criminalize small infractions while allowing landlords across the state to charge insanely high rents?  Due to a bill passed in 1981, landlords can charge anything they want but pity the cab driver who innocently offends State dictates, questioned as to "Why did you pick up fares over those nine days?"  Who is the real criminal?

And of course the answer obvious, everyone knowing the answer but certainly not stopping the "Spanish Inquisition-style" persecution, pressing the driver into a bureaucratic corner, stern fingers wagging "how could you, how could you have been this negligent?"

---Another joy associated with taxi is not being able to walk, two days ago my left knee suddenly squawking, making it very difficult to take a step forward.  "Why," my knee screamed at me, "why have you kept me bent for 30 years in the god damn taxi!  Are you crazy?"  

Thankfully, stretching and two bouts in a whirlpool helped some, allowing me some small functionality until I can get to my two acupuncture treatments scheduled for this upcoming Monday and Wednesday.  As I always say about taxi, for me it truly is "insult to injury."

---The NY Times wrote about the recent Uber legal hire who is attempting to clear out the over 200 credible sexual accusations against their operators, this before Uber's upcoming IPO (stock) offering.  I guess Uber doesn't want Wall Street to think they condone rapists.  

And I agree, not a good management decision. Instead, Uber is saying "it cares about and loves you" which might be true but since perhaps $120 billion dollars are at stake, one could question their sincerity.  

Do I?  Of course not, knowing they love me too despite my vociferous tongue describing Uber contradictions and evasions proliferating the transportation landscape.  

And where did this legal eagle originate?  The Obama administration.  Obama's former AG also assisting Uber, Uber one big Obama political family.  Ain't that nice?  Remember this next time you vote Democrat, the laborer's friend and ally.  


The only taxi-related part of this poem is that it was written when I wasn't driving cab, instead traveling with "she-who-can't-be-named" in northern California nearly 8 1/2 years ago.  I read this poem at my last "book opening" reading and thought it a good one but, upon review, not quite finished.  I share it because I'd rather talk about anything else other than taxi.  Ah yes, to be sitting right now by a river, never to drive a cab again.  I was ready then and more ready now.  

                                                                Crooked Numbers

Four plus four plus four equals five

           but of course it doesn't but certainly it does

if I want it to, with eight and nine and twenty
         adding up to to fifty-one;

                                                 or oppositely subtracting

eleven from ninety resulting in an implausible thirty

          or is it forty? 

or better, none of it mattering, numbers meant to be


                 me and you and all 

to be added to 

                      or subtracted from,  everyone suddenly irritating


Or requesting a higher math,  multiplied or divided into
                     what or why perhaps

completely inconsequential to an existing 


                     stating beyond doubt 

everything and anything

               is what I want or make or say it to be,

life obviously an artificial construct building to

       nonsense equating nothing to substance

                                       and why believe something

when instead one can maintain anything

       and all to be true by simply wishing upon

                      whim and fancy and imagined reality

floating upon a mountain-rimmed restless sky,

          dusk embracing me and you

and the river. 

This was written at Mule Bridge trailhead beside the Salmon River sometime July 2010.  Now you know what "goes on in my head" besides taxi.  Scary, huh?


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Be Wary Of Applications: DOL Mystery Solved & Disingenuous Sea-Tac

This is when a simple mistake, if it can even be called that, is transformed into a bureaucratic crisis minus necessity and commonsense, as I am still trying to understand the consequences of a clerical error.  Statutorily, what are the legal ramifications of documents stating DBA Yellow Cab 1092 versus DBA Seattle Yellow Cab 1092?  What in the world could possibly occur to make this slight deviation important, trying to think of circumstances requiring this kind of question and examination.?

"Mr. Blondo," some official or lawyer might demand,"Just why did you state you were operating as a Seattle Yellow Cab on page 2, when on page 1 of said document you stated you were operating solely as a Yellow Cab?"  "Tell me why.....?  they might sternly shout, "Why did you do this?" finding myself subjected to a  interrogation worthy of Kafka,  Orwell's "1984" or  Koestler's "Darkness at Noon," which for those unfamiliar, is perhaps the best fictional depiction of Stalinist Soviet Union, Koestler's novel a modern horror story.

After a visit to the Seattle office of the Washington Department of Revenue, the very nice woman assisting me unravelled the mystery, unveiling as to why one particular Department of Licensing auditor sent me a threatening letter stating my taxi business would be shut down by the State of Washington.  The answer, as it turned out, was simple.

When I filled out my initial DOL business license application, neither me or the individual assisting noticed what is considered by some an important discrepancy, listing me on page one of the application as "doing business as Yellow Cab 1092", and when left to my own devises, stating myself as "doing business as Seattle Yellow Cab."  Yes, this was the big issue, and if the person helping had noticed the difference, my entry would've been changed to match the entry upon page one.

As I have been saying, until Friday afternoon, I truly had no idea of why I was being accused of this  horrendous misdeed.  In truth I was for the most part mystified by all the bureaucratic excitement over, what it turns out to be,  a simple (and innocent) clerical lapse.

But again, while at one turn potentially crucified by the State, that same State came to my rescue, both recognizing the problem and creating resolution by helping me officially replace "Seattle Yellow Cab" with just plain, old "Yellow Cab."

Crazy?  Yes, of course but certainly a lesson to the unwary.  Be very careful when both filling out government documents and subsequently putting your signature on said document.  God! who knows what could happen, with perhaps the State of Washington breaking down your door in the dark of night, rushing over to your bedside screaming

"Why? Why? Why did you misstate your name on our official form?  Why?  We want to know right now, or forever remain awake for all eternity!"

Yes, so please be careful because they could someday be idling outside your house waiting for the correct moment to



Port of Seattle Fails to Take Responsibility

While not attending the latest Sea-Tac/Port of Seattle "taxi issue" meeting occurring this past Thursday, February 28th, 2019, I have from good sources told it was a rare friendly conference, many voices sharing congenial debate.  Forwarded the Port pdf file, and after perusing its various sections, I have one very strong comment: Doesn't everyone concerned understand you have just been stabbed in your taxi back?

And why do I say this?  Reading through all of the Port statements, you never see what is most important for all cabbies working, or interested in working, at the airport, that being the acknowledgement the Port of Seattle was wrong in allowing unfettered Uber/Lyft access; and in a grand concession, will now cap Uber/Lyft numbers henceforward, along with an apology for adversely impacting area taxi operators.

 Nothing short of this from the Port of Seattle should be acceptable.  Holding hands and singing "Kumbaya" with the very entity responsible for your demise is both unsettling and grotesque.  The real answer is to limit/cap ride-share numbers to a number equal to the overall Seattle and King County taxi fleet, which is currently at about 1, 200 cars.

For those not paying much attention, you should know that the Port of Seattle, the City of Seattle and King County intentionally, minus hesitation, put our local industry in direct competition with companies capable of bleeding billions of dollars yet staying in operation.  To this date, Uber has lost approximately $40 billion since its inception, with Lyft just announcing a $1 billion dollars loss.

What was government thinking when they embraced these companies minus any protection for the long standing taxi industry?  Were they concerned about what would happen to me and you and all of us long serving cabbies?

The answer is no, not caring a "rats ass" of how we would be impacted, making it clear the Port's latest outreach is an insincere ploy designed to smother further resistance and complaint.  How can my fellow cabbies be so foolish not to notice the executioner's bloody hand?  Because simply, they don't understand what is being said to them.

But because I do, I refuse their burnt offerings, remembering history, remembering how prior to WW II, Germany said it was just solidifying its borders, even signing Peace Pacts with potential adversaries.  In 2015, I visited three Holocaust sites.  I saw for myself how honest the Germans were in 1939.

Of course many at the Port, at the City of Seattle and at King County will think I am crazy making such a comparison, and I say, "yeah, if I am this deranged, prove it by capping Uber and Lyft at the Port, in Seattle and in King County, minus all hesitation and excuse."

But in reality, I am perfectly sane, at least as sane as any cabbie gets.  I know when people are speaking the truth.  And so do they!

As Micheal Cohen, in his remarkable testimony made clear, both lies and liars are commonplace in government speech and actions.  As Cohen might say, it takes a liar to know a liar.  Will all those "nice" Port of Seattle" officials begin looking at themselves in the mirror?

Ha Ha Ha is my answer.  I know what they will do.  And in the meanwhile nothing changes, nothing changing whatsoever, the taxi boat remaining adrift upon governmental seas, nearing ever closer menacing reefs.