Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Greetings From Seattle's Chinatown----The Story Of Why Explaining My Too Many Years Driving Taxi

In 1991, after a mere four years driving taxi, and that mostly part-time, I thought I was completely done with taxi.  How and why I am still here is something that might interest some of you, because, and you can believe it, it was never my intention to slave away at the taxi salt mines all these years later.  But before I do that, I will elaborate a bit about my latest departure from New Mexico.

Given our flight to Oakland, California was leaving Friday morning at 6:10 AM, we wisely decided to leave San Lorenzo early Thursday morning, having reserved an AirB&B apartment in a small town along New Mexico State Route 47, giving us an early 20 mile drive to the Albuquerque  airport.  Another intention was to check out two national wildlife refuges located parallel to Interstate-25, and were we ever glad we did, coming upon thousands of migrating sandhill cranes and snow geese at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  The first thing we did, before coming upon the birds, was take a 1.7 mile loop walk through this wonderfully leafy, transitional prairie to desert patch of land, unaware of the feathery surprise soon awaiting us once returning to the car.

Continuing on the North Loop road, we soon came upon the first of three mixed groupings of birds, the aforementioned cranes and snow geese along with other bird species, some water fowl, others not, one contingent seemingly of grackles, their purplish black feathers glistening in the sunshine.  Remarkably, further down the road, we were privileged to witness white waves of snow geese swooping in for landings 75 feet away, something normally seen on nature documentaries instead of our front row car seats.  Wonderful is all I can say, and our lodging was fine, getting to the airport minus any serious confusion, filling up our rental car for $2.27 per gallon.

How I got to be a Taxi Semi-Lifer

It really starts when I was twenty, refusing the second of two college scholarships, thus setting myself up for future hardship and my ever tenuous cabbie career.  The first offer was an easy (and rational) refusal, the United States Navy offering me a four-year free ride on the way to commanding my own destroyer or something like that.  But given I was seeking, and granted my CO (1-0) draft exemption, it made perfect sense to say no to that.

My second offer, this time from the University of Washington, was far more legitimate, a fully paid four years plus living stipend, and this dumbbell, totally alienated idiot kid walked away from what would/should have been the beginnings of some kind of scholarly career.  Amazingly to me, especially now, not one person in my circle of college-educated older adults advised me otherwise, the young fool clearly not understanding a great opportunity wasted.  Why did that happen, this avoidance of necessary council by those who knew better?  I could tell you but I won't, it being an embarrassment never admitted by many who still walk our shared earth.

What area of study would I have focused upon, had I chosen to pursue a degree?  I am guessing history, due to a natural tendency in that direction of study.  When I was 18, and in Denver, Colorado April 1972 after two years of wandering the western US and Canada, living in communes and upon the side of the road, I decided getting my GED was a good idea, walking into Denver University minus a second of study and leaving with a "top ten percentage of all high school graduates" history knowledge.  That I knew nearly nothing is the scary part but leastwise I displayed some instinctive aptitude for the subject, knowing that England was actually the United Kingdom and Gambia's primary export was ground nuts (peanuts).

In January 1973, now 19,  I found myself in Seattle looking for my "alternative service" job, and along with my cat Sniffer, hoping for the best. What I didn't know was that President Nixon was about to end the draft in February, leaving me at loose ends in the Great Northwest.  Essentially feeling nuts, out-of-my-mind, I fell into a group therapy situation where transactional analysis (TA) was the primary therapeutic modality, providing some interpretation for our often inexplicable human behavior.  The long and short of it is that I was offered training to become some kind therapist, and being slightly dumb and impressionable, I accepted the offer.  Did I want to be some version of psychologist?  No, not at all. So why did I proceed for three years through the training?  Stupidity is my only answer.

This all brings me up to the subject at hand, how and why I have driven taxi off and on since the Autumn of 1987.  There is much I could say but soon after I refused the University of Washington, I got my first professional "pysch" job at age 20, totally minus a degree.  Two years later I got another one, again with the agency knowing fully I hadn't attended a minute of college.

What this translated to is that by the time I moved down to San Francisco in 1979 to join the woman I later married, I already had nearly four years of professional experience along with my three therapist training years.  Jobs were tight and it was obvious I had to do something drastic to make myself employable, meaning I composed a professional resume saying I had a degree.  Everything upon the resume was true other than that major fib. And for years forward, no one asked for proof like college transcripts and the like.  Clearly I was educated but no one knowing I was my primary teacher.  Also during this time period, I got a poetry editor gig on a debuting magazine.  That I could barely write didn't seem to matter but I worked hard, wrote every day and faked it well to the point that within a few years I was actually nearing competency.  In 1986 they published my long poem "Six Houses," a poetic analysis of my family, including myself.  Given my total experience at the time, it was and remains a decent effort.

Once back in Seattle I continued my degree charade until it no longer worked, given jobs were asking for college records because insuring staff became a tantamount work requirement, legally protecting agencies from staff misdeeds.  When I did begin driving cab, I was in my second year of a five-year long case management gig working with developmentally disabled, mentally ill sexual offenders.  Not easy but I had the skills and it paid well but it turned out to be, more or less, my last psychiatric job.

In mid-1990, I quit that job to drive taxi full-time (4 days a week, 12 hour shifts) at Farwest.  I made bunches of money, saved a lot, quit that and headed for Europe to live and write and concentrate solely upon money-making projects.  I was permanently done with taxi but one major problem occurred.  On the way there, I got sick overnight, something quite mystifying, requiring many years of staying ill before I got a hint to what was going on.  Unfortunately, after only a handful of months, I returned to the USA and Seattle sick, sick, sick.  And soon, with my savings gone, I had to work though I was very ill.

I first returned to cabbing, knowing full well that I probably wouldn't be getting another psychiatric job despite now having a professional resume that included two big-time local neurologists and a therapist specializing in DD-related issues. None knew I didn't have a degree.  And twice I was hired as a Mental Health Professional,  meaning someone going out and making involuntary commitment assessments.  In both instances, I quit after a week when it became apparent there was no getting around the fact that I couldn't provide either agency with the necessary documents.

While there is much more to this story, you now know why I have labored all these years beneath the top-light. The money has been good, and before the Uber Era, I worked two long days on and five completely off.  It worked well enough to be comfortable and get some writing done.  Travel also became a priority.

Yes, that the quick story minus the glory but don't cry, don't cry for me, I was young and dumb and half crazy, and could or should have known better; such is fate, such is life, and my biggest mistake was choosing the wrong woman to be my wife.

A commonplace story indeed. Oh my heart does bleed! while preventing myself the best I can from going to seed.


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  3. As Edith Bunker squelched.. Those were the dayyys!!!