Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Do's And Don't's Of Professional Cab Driving---Part 1

Months ago I promised Puget Sound Dispatch I would put together a pamphlet to hand out to all recalcitrant cabbies.  Whether I will ever truly find the spare time is questionable but since I am sitting here at the Burien, Washington Les Schwab tire shop, and waiting to have 2 new front tires installed, I thought this would be a "good-space-in-taxi-time" to jot down some obvious thoughts concerning the fine art of cabbing, applicable I think to any city or country or even Mars.  Did you know that "there is a place in Mars where the women smoke cigars, and all the men drive in little-kiddie-cars?" I learnt that ditty in Toledo, Ohio sometime in 1957, and since those Martians are driving vehicles somewhere way up there in the sky, I am sure they also have some planetary version of taxi.

Taxi is taxi where ever you may go, and getting it right is essential but even I don't always follow known and stationary rules.  This morning, after waiting 40 minutes to reach the the front of the Pier 91 cruise ship line, I had the misfortune to have a Mister Rude ask me, "how much to the ferry terminal?" and I made every effort not to answer him.   Thankfully, as I hoped, he angrily stalked to the next cab parked behind me.

While breaking usual protocol, tired and weary to the taxi bone, I just wasn't interested in "suspicion and superiority" smacked in my face.   I say this to state that nuance is everything, meaning, while my suggestions are based upon 30 plus years upon the cabbie road, I am not God, this isn't a bible, and bend, whenever deemed necessary, all prescribed remedies.  In no particular order:

What a Cabbie is

What we shouldn't be is some free form, unbridled wild man (or woman) running amok upon your particular city's streets.  That is the more-or-less Las Vegas model, something I find abhorrent.  In theory and practice, the cab driver should act like any other business operator, adhering to usual norms of behavior, and not like some kind of self-styled criminal.  The most valid complaint concerning the majority of cabbies is that they do whatever they want regardless of rules and regulations. Viewing yourself as a kind of airline pilot is a better model.  Be professional and safely get your taxi up in the air and down, your passengers your first and only priority.

Don't Involve Yourself with Nonsense

Taxi driving is unique due to its self-regulating nature.  For the most part, you and you alone are making the decisions.  In terms of routing, in terms of what happens in the cab's interior, you are the boss, the sole arbitrator.  Accountability then is key, your behavior ultimately dictating a given rides' success, direct and efficient routing from point A to B always your first goal.  Take payment and be gone, away to the next fare and more money in your pocket.

It's when the cabbie doesn't to this is when the trouble, the error begins.  Every cabbie does and will receive questionable invitations to embrace all and any varieties of nonsense, mostly of the sexual and drug-related nature.  I have too many personal examples of this kind of beckoning, be the individual drunk, crazy or plainly misguided.  Why would I want to embrace desperation?  I don't and my advice is to steer clear because complication, and perhaps severe consequences, wait right around the corner.

And allowing drug use of any kind, liquor included, in the cab is insanity and a great way to get yourself into serious trouble. My advice will always be to work hard, make the good money, and once the cab is parked, leave the nonsense behind.  Believe me, the next day, nonsense once again will be waiting to bite.  What is the best preventative vaccination?  Commonsense administered daily.  And of course, an organic apple a day keeping the too inquisitive police officer away!

To be continued.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Do You Know The Way To Northwest Norcross Way? & Eat At Luigis

With apologies to that great Bacharach/David 1968 song, Top 10 hit sung by Dionne Warwick, "Do You Know The Way To San Jose," I ask all Seattle cabbies the question if 2 very drunk Irishmen jumped in your cab from the Old Peculiar at 1:00 in the morning, and telling you their destination was the 1300 hundred block of Norcross Way, would you know the way to 133_ NW Norcross Way, minus GPS devices and even a map?   By sheer accident I did, vaguely remembering that 12th Avenue NW taken north off Holman Road taking you right in, or more or less it does, first intersecting with Woodbine NW, and then veering right to Norcross and Carkeek Park, Norcross the southern boundary of that fabulous park.

Why did I know?  Approximately 18 months ago I picked up on Norcross, taking a vacationing couple to Sea-Tac International Airport. Yes, Virgina, there are cabbies outside of London holding their local version of "the Knowledge."  But if you want me to take you to Santa Clauses' igloo workshop, you'll better off consulting with that famous worldwide flyer, Santa's Rudolf, the yellow-nosed reindeer, yes, that very same famous fellow curtailed from participating in any taxi reindeer games.  For shame, and if anyone is, its the Seattle City Council to blame!

The Address is 3213 West McGraw Street

Yesterday, late afternoon, I ate at Luigi's Pizza & Pasta located in the Magnolia Village, south side of the street, adjacent to the post office.  Regular customers of mine, Maynard & Pat, have been going there for decades.  With great food, inexpensive prices and terrific service, what is there to stop you? Eat at Luigis after taking a walk in perhaps Seattle's greatest green space, Discovery Park.  Try the W. Emerson Street side for secret entrances.

And don't forget to try the homemade desserts!  Wonderful.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Flare-up, Anger And Peace At The Cashier Window & Craig Leisy's Book

Us cabbies are a solitary species, taxi wolverines plying the urban landscape but occasionally, like actual wolverines, (gulo gulo, Latin for glutton) we find ourselves in the same locale, snarling and spiting, attempting communication and commonplace civility.  Yesterday afternoon, while doing "our turn" at the cashier's window, a verbal altercation broke out involving four drivers, three against the one WAT (wheelchair driver) over the mundane issue of the 10 cents fee all Seattle-area cabbies pay per trip to supplement the WAT operators.  Always controversial, many Yellow drivers are upset since PSD management released an income list stating some of us are making $2000.00 per week, this in response to many cabbies pleading poverty.   And according to practical theory, the only guys who could make this are the WAT owners who receive, within City boundaries, $20.00 per wheelchair trip in addition to the meter rate.  It is indeed sweet getting a built-in tip with nearly every fare you receive.

Call it jealously, all it anything you wish but most drivers are angered with what they see as  bureaucratic (and discriminatory) treatment favoring the WAT operators, unfairly padding their wallets while pilfering money from ours.  Yesterday, guys got angry, targeting one individual who tried to be calm until he too losing his temper.  Eventually, order was restored, tempers cooled and more-or-less civil conversation ensued, all recognizing who and what the real culprit is: dumbbell administrators and their hackneyed policies.

Yes, the taxi majority feel victimized by decisions adversely affecting their daily bread, mindless policies made by the clearly clueless.  If you don't think this is true, go to any current Seattle City Council meeting and witness the prattle emanating from the outgoing Sally Bagwell, and like I have, becoming depressed listening to the theoretical musings espoused by this astounding fill-in-the-blank.  As I continue to say, "taxi-gods-help-us-all!"  Yes, Ms Bagwell, what kind of creature are you?  Or maybe a new species already---stultus fatuus?  Welcome to the Seattle Governmental Zoo, "How do you do?"

And Kshama Sawant too---indus paulo follis.  And Bruce Harrell?  Sorry, I give up!  Time to be polite in the taxi night, day is breaking and my cabbie heart is aching, buckets of tears pouring into my local beer.  Or something like that!

Craig Leisy Wrote a Taxi Book

Most Seattle readers will remember Craig, that former City of Seattle taxi licensing manager recently retired to Colorado.  Now that he is no longer daily plaguing us, he has written a sympathetic tome concerning how the Uber incursion nearly killed us.  He even quoted me.  Stay tuned in the next few weeks for a review.  I bought a copy and should be done reading soon.

Transportation Network Companies and Taxis: The Case of Seattle

Published by Routledge

go to the website, and enter code SOC19 to receive a 20% discount.  But I warn you, even with the discount, it is pricy.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

This Could Be Your Life---31 Non-Stop Years Washing Dishes

As I say concerning taxi, I meet everyone in every conceivable situation and scenario, and last night, "serving the bell" in the north-end due to no cabs, with a machine gun-like "rat-a-tat-tat-tat" business flow filling the late hours, I once again picked up Dano (not his real name), a Yellow "regular" going home from a Greenwood-area nursing home.  Dano, a slightly developmentally disabled man, has been washing dishes at the same facility six days per week for the past 31 years, Monday's  off.  Asking him when he will stop, he replied age 67, Dano turning 54 this upcoming August.  Imagine this if you can, a life of drudgery encompassing, if he physically survives until 2032, 54 years of soap and suds. cleaning plates and scraping pans. Having washed dishes at an eastern Colorado truck-stop for a month in 1969 when I was 15, I know it to be a living hell, disrespectful devils prodding you on, back then paid $1.00 per hour for the displeasure of cleaning toilets and busing the tables too.

Every work day Dano takes the two-bus one hour-long ride to work, returning home every night at 11 PM in the $18.00 cab ride.  After 31 years, he now makes $16.00 per hour, his ride home taking 15 minutes.  Multiplying $18.00 by four 15 minute intervals means I am making the equivalent of $72.00 an hour, something I often more-or-less do.

Does "life" hold real meaning and purpose?  Find someone like Dano and ask him how he/she understands and accepts his /her lot in living upon our shared earth. Then reflect upon your own life.  How does it compare?  Are you happy, sad, justifying and accepting what you have, or not?

As for Dano, I can only hope he has secret plans escaping to a better heaven than the kitchen Hades he now resides.  If believing in prayer, pray for Dano and a better future minus monotonous steamy, sweat filled hours, God helping Dano and us all the live-long day.  Amen!

The Taxi Gods Speaking!

The round-trip "drug run' was normal until the gentleman in question unexpectedly began directing me.  Having picked up on the same block a mere hour before, I requested he stop but no, he wouldn't desist, instead aggressively mocking me.  Out I sent him, not wanting his money, only a swift departure out the taxi door; and immediately afterwards, clearing the meter, receiving a redemptive $62.00 account fare to Kent. And having to once again go around the same block, placing myself in the correct direction, there the guy was, walking in what can only be described as "his personal rain cloud," a sudden storm drenching this misguided soul.  Thank you "taxi Jesus," or something like that!

Adios Squeaky! RIP

Two weeks ago, the taxi lifer famously known for his high-pitched voice, Squeaky, passed on to hopefully better taxi hunting grounds.  When I started way back in 1987, Squeaky was driving for Panos Taxi, finding him sitting at the old Pier 52 ferry stand.  Having driven for nearly everyone, Squeaky was a well-known local cabbie character.  Another taxi lifer, Dennis A., told me about Squeaky's demise while I was having 1092 repaired Friday at Jim & Gill's auto repair shop.  Farewell Squeaky, it was good knowing ya!  Rest-in-peace!

Postscript 06/10/2019

Amazingly, my first ride this morning was someone who works at the same facility as Dano.  She has been there 22 years.  All I can do is quote Bob Dylan from his song Caught Up in Blue: "I don't know what they do with their lives!"  And that is an understatement.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Answer To Downtown Seattle's Street Congestion---Alternating Odd & Even License Plate Numbers To Control & Regulate Daily Access

During the past months, not once have I heard anyone, either government or media, speak to what I think is an obvious solution to DT Seattle's crowded streets---limiting cars into the greater downtown core by requiring alternate day entry from our very interconnected King, Snohomish and Pierce tri-counties. While requiring cooperation from municipal, county and state government, the payoff would be less prime-time congestion and more car pooling, a win-win for all concerned. This is how it could work.

On a Washington State level, all licensed non-commercial vehicles in the three-county area would be issued identifying stickers for the license plates. This is important because it would be unrealistic to tag all state residents.  The sole purpose of requiring odd and even alternate day entry is to limit commuter entry from say, a twelve hour period of 5 AM to 5 PM into an area bounded by Mercer Street to the north, I-5 to the east, Yesler Way to the south and the Puget Sound to the west.  Before, and after these hours, there would be unlimited entry.  Commercial and delivery vehicles, including taxis, would be exempt.  Also, all vehicles originating from other Washington counties and states and Canadian provinces would also be exempted.  Operational fees in theory could be charged but free would be better, gaining more ready cooperation.  Car and van pools would be encouraged, along with ample free parking provided.

The penalty for violators, along with enforcement mechanisms, is something to be carefully negotiated.  I would recommend a substantial fine but eliminate all towing in this very too tow-happy city, this potential policy instead looked upon as a helpful, non-punitive solution designed to assist, not harm our tri-county area residents.

Presented well, I could see everyone embracing what is only a commonsense approach to a vexing problem, because something must be done before DT Seattle becomes another Manhattan, non-stop traffic jams becoming our daily reality, though I do believe we have time before the worse occurs.  From start to finish I see this policy taking 12-18 months to implement, meaning by mid-2021 we could see traffic flowing upon DT Seattle streets in a more or less normal fashion.  By that time, much of the light-rail link expansion will be completed, hopefully media and government encouragement helping seal public approval.

While some will object to this approach, to do nothing is not optional.  And tolling rush-hour congestion, it seems, is not a viable option either, as London, England's Trafalgar Square now as crowded as it was before implementing tolling.  Going that route, like London, what you will get is people willing to pay for but not limiting personal access.

Seattle has to limit prime-time vehicle access to its downtown center.  There is no alternative.  This has to occur.  And the sooner the better, local topography dictating what can be done or not, Seattle built upon the Cascade Mountain Range foothills descending to the salty Salish Sea.

Bad place to build a city, choosing this series of big hills hemmed in by two large bodies of water, Tacoma once a more logical choice but Seattle, for me, is the home for infamous and dumbbell decisions.  I have been here more or less since 1973, and have personally witnessed countless poor municipal decisions impacting us all.  Why be sensible when chaos far more entertaining?  Hey! Charlie Royer, where are you when we need you?!