Sunday, July 28, 2019

Taxi Do's & Don't's Part 5--- Police & More Specifics Concerning Passengers

Cabbie relations with the local Seattle & King County police departments, have been, in my personal history, a fraught narrative mandating a bureaucratic punch-in-the-taxi -nose to any cabbie within reach of the "too long arm of the law."   There are real reasons why, until recently, the US Department of Justice  officially oversaw Seattle's Police Department, with the recent cancellation of the mandate undergoing further review.  Over my 30 plus years driving cab, the vast majority of my contacts with local police authorities haven't been positive, meaning I have been the loser regardless of all and any perceived right and wrong. The reason for this is simple: police fear offering any signals that they, and not you, are completely in control.  Expecting conciliation of any kind is a mistake. Instead the closed fist, the psychological "hand gripping your collar" their operational vernacular.  As said, when dealing with the police, there is no winning, only losing.  But before providing further elaboration and advice concerning the police, I feel it necessary to further expand upon passenger relations, more specific detail perhaps helping when talking to, and dealing with, your valued customer.

Situations & Personality Types

The Interviewer---This personality type wants to know everything about you, asking the most personal questions.  While often not taking my own advice, the best approach I have found, as politely as you can, is to say something to the effect that you feel uncomfortable volunteering personal information.  Understand, that in my long experience, this kind of passenger is some version of crazy, no one sane or normal interested in prying into you life.  Their questioning is a kind of intrusion or assault, so feeling violated is a natural enough response.

The Bully---Their gig is to be completely controlling, dictating your every move, sternly commanding "turn left, turn right, etc," verbally slapping you around.  In telling them to stop, I make it clear their behavior is very distracting, preventing me from safely driving down the road.  Too often, their response is an impolite "I am paying!" which is when I pull over and say, "No you're not.  You don't owe me a dime. Please leave."   Sometimes they refuse to go, prompting me to leave, turning off the cab and walking away.  Always remember this taxi bottom-line: you the cabbie MUST be in control of your cab at all times, never allowing COMMANDEERING of any kind to take place, either by weapon or verbal abuse.  I have found that if the passenger feels they are in control, and not me, I immediately question the customer's motives, and just what will happen next, if the ride is allowed to continue.  As the adage goes, better to be safe than sorry.

The Dangerous Passenger---Anytime you feel that the passenger's agenda is anything but the normal "Point A to B" ride, do this instead of driving on waiting to be killed: verbally state you question what the passenger is doing, or will do.  If you don't like the answer, immediately terminate the ride.  If the passenger won't get out, pull into a busy intersection and open all the doors.  I find that works well.  And if the worst happens, gun to head or knife to throat, speed up while yelling "you will roll the cab!" and do it within seconds if the knife or gun isn't tossed out.  Don't play games with killers.  They will kill you!  Always remember that "you the cabbie" have a higher likelihood of being murdered upon the job than a cop.

Too Drunk or Drug-Addled Passenger---That you were foolish to allow them into the cab is your fault.  Your job now is to somehow safely get the passenger out of you cab.  Just remember that you have a legal and moral responsibility to put them out in a safe location, and not, for instance, on the freeway where they will be killed walking into oncoming traffic.

The Disabled Passenger---Never resent that the blind or physically-impacted or frail & elderly passenger requiring extra time and help and assistance.  Assist to the door.  Carry their groceries.  Be a hero and not some commonplace cad!  As might be suggested, imagine its you needing the help.

Our Friends the Police

Never forget that when you are involved in a police traffic stop, you are officially under arrest until the cop gives you permission to pull away.  Also remember, the ticket you have been issued, whether dismissed or not, will follow you beyond the grave.  I know this factually, having 30 or more tickets dismissed but certainly not forgotten, King County and Seattle prosecutors treating them as "real violations" despite their dismissal.  You will find that even official police correspondence saying you did nothing wrong, the ticket erroneous and unlawful, is not enough to stop you from being found guilty of the moving violation.  As the court rules have changed, I always hire my favorite taxi lawyer, Doug Silva, to protect me from the judicial wolves. Also know that the officer will write comments you will not see until your day in court.  Police, as I have personally experienced, will perjure themselves both in writing and upon the witness stand.  Who do think is believed, you or the cop?

My first advice is to do everything you can to prevent a traffic stop from occurring.  If you are going to break some traffic rule, do it when no one cop is around to to stop you, meaning you should be especially careful after the sun goes down, when the police have the distinct advantage of being able to seeing you first.

But when you are stopped, and you will be stopped sometime in your taxi career, I advise you to to remain calm and say as little as possible.  Often the cop will try to make you talk but politely say you know you have the right to remain silent and that's what you are going to do.  Of course, keep your hands in full view and make no sudden moves.  Early on, in my first taxi year, I was assaulted by a Seattle cop.  All you can do is be completely cooperative and wish for the misery to be over.  And once the stop is over, and if finding yourself too upset to drive, take a break, have dinner or a cup of coffee.

In short, in all other words, do NOTHING to provoke the officer.   Be SURE to REMEMBER that the cop is probably scared out of his/her mind and will shoot you if the excuse arises.  To believe otherwise, is a foolish and potentially fatal notion.  It isn't that the cop will want to kill you.  It's only that they are armed and have the legal right to kill you if they feel threatened.  Obviously then, do nothing that might seem threatening.  That is the best advice I can give you.  Take the ticket and drive away, living to see another taxi day.   That is all you can do.

To be continued.

Next week: How to make the "BIG" money!  Yes, successful and proven strategies assisting in making a given taxi day worthwhile. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Do's & Don'ts Part 4---Passenger Relations

In years past, often I would have more inert passengers, meaning packages, than alive and breathing human beings, the only required human contact secretaries, receiving clerks and various medical staff more than happy to hand you the package or sign for it.  Especially at Yellow, blood was the big mover, taking us to all points east, west, north and south around Washington State.  Packages are great, keeping the conversation to a minimum, and not telling you how to get down to Olympia or north to Widbey Island.  Human passengers of course are more demanding, some even thinking they know far more about taxi driving than you do, bringing me to crux of the matter: you need to be a combined psychiatrist, detective, comedian, saint, cop, mediator, historian and human punching bag to successfully communicate with that unstable animal known as the modern and current planet Earth human inhabitant. If an actual outer-space alien enters your cab, you probably wouldn't know it, our fellow homo-sapiens as varied and different as Mercury, Uranus and all the other planets orbiting our Sun.  "Hey you, Mr & Mrs Pluto, where would like to go? Oh sure, your son and daughter are currently visiting Area 51?  Yes, we can negotiate a flat rate. Step in my spaceship 1092 and off we  will roar round and round the known world!"

Passengers, Love 'em or Hate 'em, They are Our Taxi Bread & Butter

If there is a true bottom line, and one word, or one approach existing when serving and communicating with our taxi customers, it is RESPECT, imperative our initial greeting is one of respect and nothing else.  Of course, and while knowing full well how quickly taxi interactions can sour, you always should be prepared to instantly respond appropriately when the customer is, in turn, disrespectful in whatever manner.  But in all normal circumstances, regardless of who the person is, welcome them into your cab, hoping they respond in kind.  This also applies to servicing the call instead of assuming that the customer waiting at the the local grocery store is somehow less deserving of your cab, to the point that the fare is "dumped," leaving the customer questioning just "where-the-hell-is-my-cab?"

Respect also applies to the drunk passenger.  Within reason, make every attempt to assist, getting them safely home.  As is obvious, over a year's span, you will potentially meet every kind of human being in every conceivable life situation.  This is where "taxi sainthood" comes in, because often the "patience of a saint" is required.  "Losing your temper" should only come into play when you are either in danger or unjustly insulted.  Being grumpy is okay, or at least moderately grumpy, because too often that is what I am after too many hours plying the streets.  Just remember, beyond anything else, that the passenger sitting in your back seat is not responsible for your life situation.  Whenever possible be emotionally embracing, welcoming.  If that approach is rejected, well, so be it, finish the ride and say goodbye.  Hatred is not helpful.  Instead, try to find some viable alternative.  You might even get a good tip as a result of your effort.  As I know well, you never, ever truly know what will happen!  Good luck dealing with the insults!  Again, just another part of the taxi experience we all share, the good and bad and the everything in between.

To be continued.

Next week: Dealing with the Police

Also Passenger Relations Part 2---More Specifics

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Taxi Do's & Don'ts Part 3---Successful Approaches To The Inebriated Passenger

More than a necessary nuisance, drunks, especially extremely drunk passengers, are dangerous and unpredictable, one personal example of many being a sodden customer's hand reaching the steering wheel and nearly pulling us into a head-on collision. Ah yes, ain't alcohol consumption wonderful, cheering the masses into collective euphoria?  From my taxi perspective, the opposite is true, excessive drinking a self-induced psychosis leading only to nonsense and mayhem, and in worst-case scenarios, the morgue.  The following are a few suggestions and strategies for dealing with this never ending problem encountered day and night in this here United States and the world in general.

Dealing with Drunks

As is often said, a happy drunk is a pleasant drunk, laughing and joking, truly the life of the taxi party.  While maybe true upon the twirling dance floor or the convivial lounge, drunks---happy, sad, aggressive or crazed---present a serious problem for the cabbie.  Too often the most basic is impossible, getting the fool to tell you his/her address, meaning, how can you proceed forward when everything is ass-backward?  Not easily is the answer, the drunk at times an unresolvable equation, the math involved one giant subtraction minus all positives.  Above all, above all other considerations, you must be sure that the drunk will pay you once you have reached the destination.  I mention it because the issue will come up, and negotiating with the drunk is both frustrating and insane.  I guarantee you the first words emanating from their mouth will be "Haven't I already paid you?"   And don't think they will believe anything you say.

From hard experience, I have learned some basic tenets concerning drunks.  Heed my warnings or forever be damned, the uncaring drunks' unerring goal is to make your life a misery.  As always, in every taxi situation, be aware of who is (and their state of mind) getting into your cab, because once they are in the back seat, it can be extremely difficult to get them out again.

One "hard & fast" rule is to NEVER , EVER ALLOW the "blind drunk" in your cab without a somewhat sober friend who can and will control their companion's behavior.  Another steadfast rule is NEVER ALLOW  a bartender to make his/her PROBLEM your PROBLEM!  Lock you doors and say, minus all equivocation, that you are not letting the passenger in until they are reasonably sober.  Be sure to also call dispatch, appraising them of the situation because you don't want the bartender to simply call back in an attempt to find a more compliant cabbie.  As I have told more than one bartender, "You are one who over served the guy, this is your problem, you are not going to make it mine!"

And what do "blind drunks" do?  They leap out of moving cabs.  They refuse to pay.  They physically assault you.  They have you circling round and round a neighborhood, shouting "Why can't you find my address?"  They accuse you of stealing their money.  They accuse of you beating them up.  They say you sexually assaulted them or made lascivious suggestions.  They yell "you are kidnapping me."  And of course, like the "garden-variety" drunk, they vomit all over the backseat.   If any of this sounds fun, then you too are "out-of-your-mind," because dealing with the "blind drunk" is complete insanity and nothing else, a thankless task for the weary cabbie.

A Short Checklist for the Wise Cabbie

If possible, before letting the drunk in, ascertain their level of inebriation.  If too drunk, drive away.

Always! Aways! keep the drunk in the back seat.  Drunks sitting next to you are a menace. Beware!

Never, ever allow them to vomit in your cab.  Have the drunk drape newspaper over their lap or provide a paper bag.  Keep the drunk seated next to an open window, admonishing them to tell you if they are about to vomit.

Make sure the seriously drunk individual have an escort who will take control of their friend or spouse.  No escort, no ride.

Know the address before pulling away.

If you are uncomfortable, seek pre-payment.  If they don't pay, terminate the ride.

If attacked, immediately call 911 and make yourself safe.  Turn off the cab and get out.

After successfully getting the drunk home, assist as fully as possible getting the passenger to their door, making sure they can unlock their door.  Otherwise, you might witness them falling over and cracking their heads.  And also advisable, if possible, is to get the spouse's telephone number and call ahead, seeking assistance at the door.  This strategy can also "sober up" the customer, knowing the wife is waiting to slug them over the head.

Make sure nothing is left in the cab, including money.  Also make sure the drunk doesn't over pay.  If they give you $50.00 for a $20.00 fare, point it out, asking them "do you understand you are giving me this?"  While you may think you deserve  the money for your "pain & suffering" after dealing with this total asshole, honesty is, and always will be, the best taxi policy.

Again, and I repeat, never let a bartender transfer their trouble into your cab. Tell them to call the police, not another cab.

Never get intimately involved with the drunk.  Many drunk woman will beckon you.  Leave then alone.  You are potentially looking at very serious trouble.  Once they have sobered up, they might say whatever happened wasn't consensual.  Beware!  And besides, what is reasonable, positive and good about sleeping with a drunk?  Nothing I can think of.

Whenever encountering an overly aggressive and angry drunk, tell them, in no uncertain terms, to stop and get in control.  If they don't, ask them to leave.

There you have it.  Good luck.  You'll need it.

To be continued.

Definition of "blind drunk" added 07/15/2019

In talking to "she who can't be named," she asked just what had I meant by referring to some customers as "blindly drunk."  And from my unfortunate experience, a "blind drunk" is someone intoxicated pass saturation into an alcohol induced poisoned state of body and mind, causing a kind of walking, talking unconsciousness, the individual "blacked out" yet moving down the street, zombie-like, totally disconnected from functional reality.  Communication is not possible, making all interaction fraught with dangerous possibilities and bad outcomes, the "blind drunk" literally "out-of-their-mind" until sobering up how many hours later.  No fun is my clear and obvious reaction, the kind of passenger to be avoided at all hours of the day and night.

PS 07/21/2019---"Drying-out Center closed

For years, the homeless, hopelessly drunk had a free place to safely and peacefully sober up but no more.  Located for years on Boren just off of Stewart Street, it is now officially closed.  Their new location, in the new hip and so-called alternative Georgetown neighborhood, cannot open on time due to neighborhood opposition.  Perhaps they prefer instead the inebriated to vomit upon their doorstep.  So much for the "liberal" embracing of the downtrodden.  What would Jesus do? 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Do's & Don't's---Part 2

That it isn't necessary to know every Seattle & King County nook and cranny is something I can confirm, somehow stumbling, bumbling to many addresses throughout greater King County ( and some parts of Snohomish County too) minus glancing at my old, and getting older, Thomas guide.  But having a basic knowledge of your area's roads and highways is essential, not relying on some GPS mapping device to get you where you are going.  What many don't understand is that GPS is now a mechanical version of the seeing eye dog, and after observing many of those good canines work, clearly it is better if you can see the way forward yourself.  That is why I say, to truly be a professional cabbie, as much as possible, you need to be directed by your brain alone to where you gotta be minus circles and dead ends. It can't be that difficult if I can do it.  You can too!

Correct Routing from Point A to B Should Always be the Goal

A good, quick way for someone to get themselves booted from my cab is to accuse me of intentionally taking them the wrong way, having little tolerance being called a thief.  But that point, on a very basic level, is acknowledged.  Some cabbies, intentionally or not, go the wrong way, taking a less efficient route to the expressed destination.  Dishonesty of course can never be accepted.  And obviously, neither can ignorance of the local roadways, your workplace of choice.  Without question, all cabbies must have a decent grasp of their city's major arterials and numbering and addressing systems.  Without that knowledge, you are driving blind, something totally unacceptable to the task at hand.

I have two easy self-tutoring methods helping you gain what you need to know.  First, get a good map and spread it out upon a table.  Look it over and note all the major street and roads, including highways.  Then take a high-lighting marker pen and trace over, in your favorite color, all of them, trying not to miss any, because knowing your streets is indispensable to knowing the correct route and making the big money you deserve and want.

After doing that, get in your car after rush hour and drive those streets, familiarizing yourself with every part of town, along with every route taking you to the airport, train, bus stations, and as in the case of Seattle and area, every ferry terminal.  Be patient, take up to a month, and once behind the taxi wheel, you will be, more or less, prepared to drive passengers around minus too many serious mistakes.  Errors you will make, and if particularly egregious, reduce the fare by five-ten dollars.  As a taxi professional, it is your duty to your passenger to "get it right" minus all and any excuse.

My other suggestion is to keep learning on the go, paying attention to all the street names you pass by.  Try to remember their names, and the hundred and thousand blocks, the first time because you never know when you will need to find Campbell SW or Peach Court East or Dibble Avenue NW or Carkeek Park or Matthews Beach.  If the tourist from Japan, speaking no English and in the USA for the first time, gives you a written address reading 36_ _ 26th SW, you will instantly know it's located near the corner of SW Spokane & 26th SW.  This is not only the cabbie you want to be, it must be the kind of cabbie you are.

Staying Safe

Seattle, in terms of danger and threats from nefarious passengers, is tame, many years since we have had a single cabbie murdered in Seattle and King County.  In other cities, that can't be said, but here in Seattle you are relatively safe.  But still, you must be able to read your passenger's intentions.  Along with that, never, ever allow yourself, late at night or early in the dark morning, to be directed into an alley or dead-end street.  Tell them straight out you are uncomfortable, and if they want to go further, they will have to walk.

And that is what I advise.  If the situation looks grim, stop and speak directly to the passenger, saying you think they might hurt or rob you, their reaction telling you everything you need to know.  Now you don't want to be neither stupid or discriminatory but if you feel the ride is over, end it, pull over to a safe place and say you can't go any further.  Screw the fare, just get the potentially dangerous passenger out of your cab quickly.  Make every attempt to be fair and diplomatic but remember, your goal is get get back safely to your family.  Losing the money is meaningless, your life and well-being all important.  There will always be another passenger to serve minus trouble and mayhem, ready to smile and tip you big.  It's true as the sky is blue.  Stay safe!

To be continued.