Monday, September 23, 2019

Another "What It Means To Be A Taxi Driver:" This Only Happens Beneath The Top-Light

What would you do if a half-naked, very frantic man approaches your cab seeking help, someone everyone is avoiding "like the plague?"  Maybe like me, you make a quick assessment, judging that, instead of the guy just being "ordinarily crazy," something serious and dramatic occurred, assistance and intervention logical and necessary.  Pleading "Help me! Help me!" even got this jaded cabbie's attention.  Saying he needed to get home to Everett and having the fare, I said "get in" and off we started north.

This is his story:  Having left the Mariners' baseball game, heading toward his car, suddenly two hours later his life a total mystery, awakening prone on the ground in a tunnel behind the train station minus half his clothing, keys and telephone gone but somehow retaining his wallet and cash, clueless as to what had happened.  Once again standing, he rushed panicked out of the tunnel, seeking help from an unresponsive public.  Coming upon me, I guess he got lucky, me of course having seen almost everything possible already in the insane asylum cab, so the young Vietnamese man originally from New Orleans was not a complete surprise, someone instead to properly assess and make accurate judgment upon.

Having proceeded only four blocks northbound on 4th Avenue, we called his "worried-out-of-her-mind" girlfriend, agreeing to meet her back at the train station as she made her way down from Lynnwood, the aggrieved gentleman in question just happy to be warm and dry in the cab, but first, grabbing my flashlight, we reentered the tunnel looking for his belongings.  All this took about 45 minutes, the girlfriend pulling up behind me, my passenger hugging me goodbye, saying "keep the $60.00" he had given me for the ride up north, and reaching my window, the appreciative girlfriend handing me an additional five dollars.  How this all occurred will remain unresolved but hey, it has been at least recorded here, unimportant yet important history in this United States of Uncertain and Sometimes Mysterious America.

Yes, the dumbbells always ask me

Yes, they do, asking "why aren't I driving Uber?"

and finally I have come up with the correct answer, because usually I don't respond at all to such inanity.

I now say, "Imagine asking a soldier in the American Army why he/she isn't a mercenary instead?"  One problem I have is that many have no idea what I am referencing, cultural illiteracy my worst enemy.

Do I give up?  Yes, I do.

How long will it take before PSD (Seattle Yellow Cab)

realizes that the Manila-based dispatch callcenter is a very bad idea?  How many "lost calls" will it take?  "Taxi gods!" help us all, is all I can say.  "This is crazy, man, just crazy!" or something like that.  Shall we all laugh or cry or just simply die! Haha boohoohoo!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

More Upon Paul Roberts' Taxi Article But First, Why Taxi Is Sometimes Okay

Yes, first is right, trying to write this in 55 minutes.  Yeah that's right, taxi at this juncture, less than less but still, picking up my first student run of the new school year Tuesday morning, making cab okay when the Somali mother showed such grave concern for her disabled son, with me transporting the child to a special education school in Renton.  I called her back, telling her we had arrived safely.  Mostly, taxi is nothing times nothing but that morning meant something important and good and meaningful.

That took five minutes.  Now to that Seattle Times article.  The reason Roberts wrote it is because the City of Seattle is considering ways to somehow mitigate, assuage the harm done by them to the local taxi industry.  Roberts was somehow attempting to explain the trials and tribulations faced by us but didn't help much by referring that we have made it a habit of refusing to provide "short destination" rides, along with the insult saying how we "scam " drunks, libelous comments to be sure.

I asked him to retract his comments but I knew he (the Seattle Times) wouldn't do it.  Why would they want to right an egregious wrong while simultaneously placating us?  No reason whatsoever is the sorry answer.  Roberts did say that Uber is in trouble, which it is.  And now with the State of California saying Uber and Lyft drivers are employees, stay tuned with that new development.  Now if only my fellow cabbies can awaken to their new found opportunity, taking up the new ground once lost to Uber but of course I have grave doubts, especially after, once again, thousands of potential rides post-Husky were left wanting.

That took me eleven minutes, and yes, it is true, yesterday Seattle's taxi industry once again ignored the UW Husky football game, the match versus the University of Hawaii a blowout, the score 38 to 0 just before halftime, with only one cab to serve the hordes dashing out of the stadium, me.  In just over two hours I made $100.00 spread over five rides.  Only at game's end did I see another cab.  That was it.  Making it worse was how my request to publicize the game over our dispatch was ignored, instead repetitious messages telling us what we already know, and should know, etc.  Is anyone truly serious about anything in our shared Taxi-land?  Doesn't seem like it.  The Huskies trounced the Rainbows 52-20.

That took me nine minutes.  Isn't brevity wonderful! the total piece taking, including editing, 36 minutes to complete.  "She-who can't-be-named" will be pleased!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Raining Like Heck! Thousands Of Fan Leaving the Stadium And Where Were All The Yellow Cabs? No Where To Be Seen

This week's posting concerns local Seattle, how its operators function, along with media and public precepts of our industry, specifically Paul Roberts' front page featured article in the September 2nd, 2019 edition of the Seattle Times.  I do have some commentary upon an outsider's analysis of this complex subject, complex at least to longtime researchers like myself, this deranged occupation known as driving a cab. 

But first, related to the Roberts' article, concerning how much money cabbies are earning, I have to relate Saturday's experience at the University of Washington's Husky Football stadium, and why, when thousands fled into the rainy, thunderous night following an official weather-related game delay, why was I the only cab available to serve the sodden, rain drenched fans?

How is it possible, someone could ask, that Yellow's Cab entire fleet remained uninformed concerning 70,000 fans gathered for a late starting (7:30 PM) Saturday night college football game?  The answer from an interested observer, me, is simple.  The vast majority of the approximate 2000 plus Seattle-area cabbies plying local streets began their taxi occupation ill-prepared for the task, an unfortunate genesis begetting now poorly formed business skills and concepts resulting in Saturday night's cabbie debacle: thousands of potential passengers wailing for the cabs failing to appear.  Five times I dipped into that agitated mass of drenched humanity, my last three fares taking me in order to: DT Bellevue, Clyde Hill and Kirkland, the Bellevue fare resulting in a $29.00 tip. After the game resumed 2 1/2 hours later, I decided it was time for a well deserved dinner break, basically retiring for the evening.

Talking to cabbies later that night, and the next day, at the train station, to a person no one had been aware a local college football game was scheduled and played  I asked, "do you read the newspaper? do you listen to the radio?"  And the answer is clearly no, they don't, not taking the effort for a few minutes beneficial research.  One might ask, just what do these fellows do to understand what is occurring locally around the city and county, to source financially beneficial information upon a given day or week?  The unfortunate answer is, essentially, nothing whatsoever which of course results in no money earned whatsoever, the relation causal and fixed to not knowing what you certainly need to know.  Complaining that "I am not making any money!" is no help, only sorry lamentations tossed into the misbegotten night.

All this ties into the Seattle Time's featured article by business reporter Paul Roberts, "Seattle Taxis are hanging on as Uber & Lyft lose billions."  While mostly sympathetic, it contained the expected "guesswork" from someone looking from the outside in, attempting, in a page long article, to explain an over one hundred year old industry.  Roberts' first presents as exhibit # 1, Tegegne Mersha, owner of Orange Cab 825, a nine year taxi veteran   Mersha rightfully points out his Post-Uber financial demise, saying his once easy income declining to a now hard $100.00 a day.

How and why Mersha was chosen to be featured is a mystery, personally knowing many Seattle-area cabbies better able of explaining the Seattle taxi experience. As I already related about the crazy weather Husky stadium Saturday night---lightening strikes filling the electrified air---there is much to know about "taxi in total," making it clear Mersha, amongst many others, are still learning how to successfully drive a cab.

And I can say, me too, having previously said each day something new, different and awful occurs in the cab, hopefully translating to my fatigued brain additional and helpful insights.  I can only pray to the taxi gods for Mersha and his immigrant brethren, hoping that Uber will indeed fail, and once more opening the door to fewer hours and easy money, heaven on taxi earth indeed made manifest over munificent streets.

I end with having said almost nothing close to what I intended to concerning the Roberts' article but I have a ready excuse:  I only have one body.  If granted another, I will be more productive.  Ain't that a scary thought, two Joe Blondo's running amok. Yikes!  And the concept of 2 bodies is borrowed from Yogi Ananda's "Autobiography of a Yogi."  If his Master could do it, don't know what is stopping me from splitting in two.

Required Reading

New book, just out, "Super Pumped----The Battle for Uber" by Mike Issac

Norton, 408 pages $27.95

I bought a copy.  You should too!

Postscript 09/10/2019

For those interested in knowing more about Paul Roberts article, tune in next week for a more complete examination of his attempt at explaining taxi to the curious, inquiring public.  Tired yesterday, I remain the same, tired, just like my exhausted prose.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Two Older African-American Women From Memphis Ask About Uber

Passengers are always asking about Uber, and this time, these two inquiring tourists from Tennessee received a very unexpected response.  Though before I tell you my reply, I think everyone should know that the positive embrace Uber received from local governments was not accidental, something often cited as nothing less than a prescient embrace of a new technological age sweeping the nation but I know it as something much more, something insidious and malignant.  While few will admit, or comprehend, it is related to the year 1619 and beginnings of slavery in North America and the kinds of institutionalized discrimination and hatred we still grapple with today in 2019 in these United States.

What Uber's founders, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp had in common, was being both Caucasian and socioeconomically Upper-Middle Class, traits easily recognizable to elected bureaucrats in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and elsewhere in modern America, this essential point forming the crux of my response to the shocked residents visiting from Memphis: that the Uber founders were white, making them easily embraceable by the majority white mayors and City and County Council members, applying a kind of trust never before seen by the nation's taxi industry.  I told them that I knew they knew all about it, themselves treated as second-class citizens in this fine country we share, something they certainly couldn't deny.

And being white is why Uber continues to have investor support while losing over 10 billion dollars alone since 2016.  Can you imagine this kind of financial trust in a company run by African-Americans (blacks)?  How much money has Uber loss since its 2009 inception?  Something between 30-40 billion.  It is breathtaking, the kinds of losses investors have absorbed but still holding onto the fanciful, financial mirage that is Uber, and to a lesser degree, Lyft.

And what color is America's taxicab industry?  Black and brown, along with a smattering of feral Caucasians like myself who just aren't quite white enough, me with my Eastern European and Sicilian heritage.  Why did the City of Seattle and King County continue to insist on fingerprinting us annually year after nonsensical  year?  Well, you know the answer.  It is obvious.  I just told you.