Thursday, February 27, 2020

Adios, San Miguel---PSD's Great Online Newsletters & Criticism: The Devil's Tongue? & 2 Poems

This morning we leave, perhaps our last visit ever to San Miguel.  I like this part of Mexico a lot, this being my third visit, and her fourth but clearly it is a big, wide world with many wonderful places to visit if one choses.  But just being anywhere not driving a cab is gift.  If I needed any reminders of that reality, last Thursday, the day I arrived, we took a local cab from La Gruta Hot Springs to our apartment in San Miguel's Saint Cecilia's neighborhood, the cabbie's old Nissan flying down the road, no speedometer, no mercy upon his errand, working hard for his 200 pesos. Yes, being away allowing me to think, rest, write 2 poems, and read Dickens "Tale of Two Cities;" in general giving me the time and space to be myself, not just another crazed cabbie like the gentleman previously mentioned. Tomorrow I will be back in the cab.  I don't want to be there. 

La Gruta & Spa, San Miguel-Dolores KM 10,, Telephone 415852162

Puget Sound Dispatch's Newsletters to the Drivers

After last week's unsparing comments concerning taxi in general and Seattle Yellow Cab's (PSD)  dispatch decisions, in particular, I consider it only fair that I spotlight something positive, because minus any contrary argument, PSD's newsletter is a smashing success. Why?  What is so startlingly special about this newest effort communicating with the often diffident taxi single owner group/community?  What stands out is PSD's honest attempt to communicate, this most recent issue making an important point about how our now most active account, MV/First Transit, want their customers contacted when a driver is potentially early, the newsletter  providing clear and understandable procedural steps aimed at eliminating confusion and poor service. That this approach is opposite of past behavior is an understatement, Yellow Cab's old "lump it or leave it" (or worse, none at all) directives something all of us are too well acquainted.  Therefore, congratulations to PSD's GM Amin, and Tina, PSD's dispatch manager for making the effort to communicate effectively with our usual wild crew.  Thank you.

The Devil's Tongue

"Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn---and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving." ----Dale Carnegie

"Once in a gold hour, I cast to earth a seed. Up there came a flower, The people said, a weed."---Alfred Tennyson

As I have alluded to, criticism often comes minus real solutions, the trashing of an idea or person the critic's sole objective.  I say this because some might rightfully say that many of my weekly columns are simply harangues and nothing else.  Yes, I continue to find taxi frustrating on too many levels but making unkind or unfair statements never is or should be my goal, objectivity a much better and more civil marker.  Hence forward, I will attempt to balance more effectively my "demon tongue" condemning all and everything to eternal perdition. I promise.

Two Poems

One of my prime writing mentors, the British writer, J.B. Priestley, dying 1984, was greatly influenced, perhaps too much, by Charles Dickens.  This little poem about one writer influencing another traces some writers I have found both enjoyable and helpful down the writing road.  Do, I implore you, check out Kenneth Rexroth's translations from the Chinese and Japanese.  And in terms of the great Tu Fu, he is now often referred to as Du Fu.


                                                    What Dickens Taught J.B. Priestley 

                                           Charles Dickens taught Bradford's JB Priestley
                                           long sentences and how invaluable a narrative device
                                           coincidence is, connecting plot and characters
                                           into plausible, functional wholes.   

                                           Mister Priestley, in fine tradition, imparting to me from
                                           the19th Century carrying into the 20th Century to the                     
                                            now 21st, extended, flowing sentences minus excessive
                                           semicolons while remembering conviction and merit.

                                            T'ang Dynasty's Tu Fu, translated by Rexroth and others,
                                            composed classical written pictures, be they poetry or prose,
                                            saying paint the image where you find it: government
                                            office or floating down a river ignoring civil war.

                                            While Basho, hiking up and down steep northern
                                            mountains, exclaiming brevity never a weakness,
                                             ---a frog leaping,---an ill duck falling,--- a crow upon
                                             a frozen branch.

                                            And Yazoo City Wille Morris stating beyond all
                                            doubt fluidity in word and line beautiful even
                                            if few care or notice, the childhood dog
                                            wagging the writer's tale.

                                                                            8 Pesos 

                                                    He passed me, walking faster, another
                                                    San Miguel worker on his early morning
                                                    way, quickly pulling ahead in a motived
                                                    hurry to his destination.

                                                    Going to La Gruta and its hot water,
                                                    I catch a bus, and one mile later, wait
                                                    for another.

                                                    Suddenly there he is, passing again,
                                                    surprised to see me, my eight peso bus
                                                    fare the 8 pesos he doesn't have, taking
                                                    me where I need, without walking.

There are many real and good reasons why many brave the attempt crossing over America's southern border, not having bus fare when heading to your job, one of them, 8 pesos roughly, at today's exchange rate, 45 cents.  That correct, 45 cents.  Instead of wearing himself out, 45 cents.



Friday, February 21, 2020

Greetings, Ola From San Miguel De Allende, Capital Americana De La Cultura---Taxi's Erroneous Premise

Hello from sunny Mexico.  Today it was 80 % F., making for a pleasant day in San Miguel.  This time around though, it will be a fairly quick trip, as we fly back stateside next Thursday.  One more interesting development I can report were the "novel coronavirus (COVIG-19)" precautions taken at the Mexico City airport upon my arrival.  Usually, Mexican authorities take a lackadaisical approach to incoming visitors, but this time around, after clearing customs, all connecting passengers were met by a phalanx of mask-wearing Port employees checking upon flight origination, seeking to know if you were coming from or had recently visited China.  Beyond that, the experience was fairly ordinary, Mexico very interested in obtaining your tourist dollar.

Today my topic is something very familiar to me, being the taxi industry's general attitude that "no experience is required," both in driving a cab or being part of the overall staff supporting the drivers, be it dispatch or other associated professional activities.  Before Yellow's (Puget Sound Dispatch) most recent GM arrived, the past two having no experience whatsoever driving a cab, or were in any manner somehow previously connected to taxi, both being former military officers.

My personal experience driving a cab is what everyone shares: having never done it before no obstacle before "thrown to the lions," surviving or not totally up to you. While it is true that Farwest and Yellow once held nominal training; and the City and County even conducted a three-day program, none of it coming close to the kind of comprehensive teaching and training necessary to be immediately successful.  Of course, what we have now is anarchy and chaos posing as normal, with millions of clueless Uber and Lyft drivers operating nationwide as quasi-taxis.

This type of approach unfortunately also applies to those hired to assist the cabbies in their everyday duties, something nearing bedlam when combining two poorly trained groups into one very theoretical, cooperative collaboration, somehow expecting synchronicity when instead dysfunction is all you achieve.  That this short essay speaks to this is something I wish everyone would both recognize and address. Why remain crazy when you can have at least a modicum of sanity and function?  As I often say, that's a good question.

The Taxi Industry's Erroneous Premise

For those of us long connected to taxi, it is no surprise that it has always been "a sink or swim" kind of industry, tossing all and everyone into the  same taxi swimming pool, and if you find yourself drowning, the consistent response is "please enjoy yourself at the bottom of the pool."  If you fail or have a serious car accident, or "freak out" like so many Uber and Lyft drivers are now doing, assaulting their passengers, the response is "tough luck, we'll sorry to hear it," and good riddance to you too!  I assure you, this is the reality we are facing, be you driver or dispatcher, the industry caring little to none how you are personally affected, and even more egregious, how it affects the customer innocently requesting a ride.

How did we get here?  The simple, bottomline answer is the making of money, the industry's history rife with individuals only interested in milking as much money from the "taxi cow" as possible, all repercussions be damned.  Why concern yourself with quality of service when you can save a dime.  Puget Sound Dispatch's (Seattle Yellow Taxi) decision to move dispatch to the Philippines is a poster-child for this kind of attitude.

Have the new dispatchers ever driven a cab? No. Have they ever been to the United States, let alone Seattle?  No.  Do they know the geography and addressing system?  No.  The daily traffic patterns of a very congested city?  No. Are they both confused and irritated by the cabbies themselves?  Yes, they certainly are.  Again, what can you expect when they are clear across the Pacific Ocean, 7,600 miles away?  Functional performance ?  Hardly, is the answer.

In 2014, some average wages in Manila were 250 Philippine pesos a day.  The rough Peso to US Dollar equivalent was roughly 60 pesos to $1.37.  Hopefully salaries have risen but the average Philippine income appears to be about $12.000, while the medium (what everyone is really making) is about $7,600 yearly.  Now you know why Yellow has switched to the Philippine-based call-center.  Money!

Further complicating Yellow's equation is the hiring of Seattle/Tukwila based managerial staff only faintly acquainted with taxi, making them responsible for understanding something that takes years of comprehensive study, not the usual, as I said, "sink or swim method," which of course setting us all up for argument and distress.  The reason for this is what has governed the industry for over 100 years: money, the making of money minus any and all other considerations.  Does anyone care when we begin to shout instead of communicating civilly?  No, no one cares.

All this bringing me back to the beginning, repeating again that the taxi industry's misguided  premise, amateurism equaling professionalism, is both erroneous and grossly irresponsible, something indefensible and wrong.  But do I think it will change in Seattle or in Chicago or NYC?  No, I don't because it is all about the money and nothing else.  Doesn't money make the "world go 'round?" It certainly does, even in the Philippines.   


Monday, February 17, 2020

More Upon City Of Bellevue Ticketing & PSD Account Info & Does The City Of Seattle Have Any Verified Taxi Meter Violations?

The Bureaucratic Monster that is City of Bellevue Ordinance11.23.026

How it reads on the City of Bellevue website:

"The operator of a for hire vehicle shall not stop, stand, or park such vehicle upon any street  at any place other than in a designated taxicab stand.  This provision shall not prevent the operator of a for hire vehicle from temporarily stopping in accordance with other stopping, standing, and parking regulations at any place for the purpose of and while actually engaged in the expeditious loading and unloading of passengers.  This provision does not apply to vehicles or companies that have leases or agreements with the city for use of its rights of way."

Please notice that this law applies to all streets, avenues and roadways in Bellevue where legal parking is offered to all vehicles other than for-hire licensed vehicles:  cabs, TNC (ride-share) and flat-rate cars. I am guessing it also applies to limousines. As I said last week, this means that a cab owner cannot park his/her taxi upon a city street in front of their own Bellevue-addressed residence, it not mattering whether you live in the DT, Newport or Newcastle neighborhoods, you remaining subject to both the ticketing and the towing of your car.  It also means you cannot park in metered parking.  Though you paid your money and are legally parked, in Bellevue you are not.  Also note there is no mention of any exemptions for WAT vans or vehicles with Exempt license plates.  This ordinance is sweeping, vacuuming up everyone in its path.  Another major issue is that you will not find a posted sign telling you can't park your cab in the City of Bellevue, making this rule a kind of "invisible law," expecting you be be aware of something you would have never imagined existed.

Making this even worse, is the City of Bellevue's "Catch-22," stating in the ordinance that parking is allowed in a "designated taxicab stand."  The problem is, they don't exist, and in an email to a taxi colleague sent on February 13th, 2020, at 7:34 AM,  from City of Bellevue Transportation Department employee Cheryl Terry, states "The city does not have any of these stands."  Her telephone number is 425-452-2029, if you are seeking any kind of verification of what the City of Bellevue is doing. In short, the implied accommodation contained in the law simply doesn't exist.  And it isn't that Bellevue hasn't had the time to create cab stands, as the ordinance was revised in 2012 to include all types of for-hire operators, giving them a full eight years to address this issue.

The point then is quite obvious, the City of Bellevue is stating, minus all doubt, that taxis and cab drivers, within the entire city limits, remain unwelcome unless quickly loading and unloading passengers.  Can you legally park on a city street and eat at a restaurant?  No, you can't, the vehicle you are driving making you into a kind of last-class citizen where basic rights are forbidden.  Stop to use the bathroom? No, you can not do that either.  All you can do is step upon the gas and get the hell out of Bellevue, good riddance their parting comment.

One might suppose, as I have, that this rule is both discriminatory and illegal, directly subjecting a targeted group of individuals to treatment in violation of the US Constitution and various other equal protections of the law.  How can Code 11.23.026 be legal?

Please do all of us the favor of voicing your opinion concerning this erroneous law by contacting Bellevue's current mayor, Lynne Robinson at 425-452-7810.  Her email address is:  Be sure to reference City Code # 11.23.026.

In a few days, I will filling a complaint with the Washington State Attorney General's Office, personally taking this kind of local government  action as an attack upon an entire industry.  It's not fair.  Please join me in righting this egregious wrong.

1st Transit/MV Account now PSD's largest account

In my conversation last week with Amin, he displayed a graph illustrating that, since Jan 1, 2020, our account with Metro 1st Transit is Yellow's biggest money maker, surpassing Hopelink.  This is good news, as the MV account providing passengers essentially 24/7, making it important for all us hard working cabbies.  Another interesting feature was that the we are currently earning more carrying Highline School District students than Seattle School District kids.  Given this, don't be shy about working the southend.  It should pay off.  Also, start working Zone 498 more than you have in the past.  With the new Burien Kidney Center now open, some great trips are coming out in Zone 498.

Placement of MTI Tablets

The City of Seattle responded to my concerns. Later this month, I will be discussing the issue with those in charge. This will happen latter part of February.  Their idea is to position the tablet on the "face of the dashboard in the center of the vehicle."  Stay tuned to new developments concerning this issue.  I will also be applying to receive all data concerning meter violations.  I thought it would just be sent to me.  Government, all government, love official channels, making us fish swimming through bureaucratic canals. Oh well!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Puget Sound Dispatches' Overtures To The Sea-Tac Cabbies & Why The City And County Wants Us to Reposition Our Tablets & RCW 46.61560? Ticketed While Legally Parked In Bellevue

This week I have the problem of having much to report minus the real time to do it, meaning I must be brief, and if necessary, returning to the subjects later, probably next week.  The first issue, what PSD (Seattle Yellow Cab) is offering Sea-Tac cabbies is pretty straightforward. The second, the City and County request concerning the repositioning of our tablets (taxi computers) in March 2020 might take more time than I have this week.  The third subject is the confounding parking I received today in Bellevue, WA, given because I wasn't in the act of dropping off or picking up passengers. Huh!?

PSD $45.00 Overture to the Sea-Tac Cabbies

A source presented this to me last week, coloring it as something nefarious.  Very concerned about what it meant, I sat down last Friday morning and to discuss the matter with Amin, PSD general manager, turning out this was all old news but new to me.  What is happening is fairly simple, an overall innocent response to the over one hundred cabs departing Yellow last Autumn in their dispute over paying for PSD's new MTI dispatch system.  Beginning last October, overtures were made to Sea-Tac single owners for the twofold purpose of 1) renewing Yellow Cab presence at Sea-Tac, and 2) increase Yellow fleet numbers, now at about 280 cabs.

The standing offer is this: come back to Yellow for a weekly rate/fee of $45.00 and you the single owner will receive two days of dispatched calls.  The $45.00 request is of course 1/4 of PSD's usual $180.00 weekly dispatch fee.  They would also be asked to pay a 10 % processing fee for all account vouchers.  Seems like a fair offer to me, not that many so far have been interested, only one cab to this point making the transfer.

Repositioning our Tablets

My major question is why do we need to move our tablets, which now also serves as our meters, when over 28,000 Seattle-area Uber and Lyft operators, along with 400? flat-rate cars, have no visible meter whatsoever, often knowing what they are exactly charging their customers guesswork at best.  The recent example of Uber & Lyft overcharging customers fleeing Seattle's recent 3rd & Pine shooting site illustrates this.  And some might remember my mentioning of the rash of complaints a year ago during a Patent Lawyer convention, flat-rate drivers repeatedly overcharging the lawyers during their week-long stay.  One action I have already taken is to request that the City provide data as to all year  2019 cab verified meter violations.

While understanding it is traditional for cab customers to watch the meter tick, the meters are calibrated and accurate, with the rates posted upon doors and windows.  And it is also true that if there are two passengers in the back seat, the one sitting behind the driver has a clear view of the meter.  What I am asking for are verifiable reasons for the tablet repositioning.  I still remember when the City & County felt it both necessary (and legal) to annually fingerprint cabbies when logically there was absolutely no justification for it.  Only when I got someone at the King County counter to say "because your fingerprints change yearly," did they stop.

Another mistake the City and County is making again is the misguided assumption that the taxi associations represent the single owner community, thus thinking they do not  have to directly communicate and negotiate with us.  I repeat, the associations are only dispatch companies, companies providing us dispatch services, which we pay for.  We are individual businesses.  The City of Seattle and the State of WA recognize this, by requiring individual business licenses.  Why doesn't the City of Seattle FAO office understand they need to talk to us individually about any changes made to our cabs?  I say it is time that they do.

Why is the City of Bellevue ticketing legally parked cars?

I do not want to deal with this.  It is totally crazy but there I was, legally parked in a two-hour zone waiting for a call.  Relaxing with the seat down, I fell asleep, only to awaken to a parking ticket upon the windshield.  My total time in the space was about 45 minutes, so what was my violation?  Not loading, unloading passengers.  I called this number (425-462-4208)  listed on the ticket and spoke to a very nice woman who attempted to help.  She called me back and told me it was a RCW 46.61560 violation.  I encourage everyone to do an online search concerning RCW 46.61560 and you will discover  it has nothing to do with cabs.

The amazing thing is that the City of Bellevue presented me with the erroneous information that taxi cabs in the State of Washington can not park legally on any street in the entire state, including, I am guessing, metered parking.  I am not making this up.  I must also add that Bellevue does not have an single official taxi stand in the entire city.

And now they have rogue parking enforcement officers writing bogus tickets.  I will be filing an internal investigation complaint along with contacting City of Bellevue officials.  What I also find interesting is that there is no Code number violation listed on the ticket.  More on this nonsense later.

Update 02/11/2020:  City of Bellevue Code # 11.23026

I encourage everyone to look this up.  What it says is the amazing fact that a for-hire vehicle can not legally park their car ANYWHERE in the City of Bellevue, even in front of your own house.  They say you can stop in a legal cab stand but if there is even one cab stand in Bellevue, I have never seen it.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Rainy Season Taxi Doggerel & A Good Mechanic Gone Wrong?

By 6:00 PM Friday, January 31th, the Sea-Tac rain gauge (official Seattle statistic) registered 9.15 inches, with six hours left to the month to add to the total.  It has been wet, with local creeks and river flooding.  Has the weather slowed down the manic drivers?  Of course not, why use caution when instead you can crash and die, leading to sorrow and early graves?  In celebration of the sodden season, I offer doggerel for this rainy, dumbbell political impeachment season, where honesty evaporates into thin air and all that's left is a governmental cupboard bereft of anything good, empty of reality, not at all interested in causality, with us the American public, and our democracy, the casualties.

                                                       Rain, Rain soaking

                                                       my sorry taxi brain,

                                                   certainly an occupational hazard

                                                  hydrocephalus, waterlogged

                                                  and dim, my thoughts filled to

                                                                their brim

                                                           by daily showers

                                                     obscuring windshield and

                                                  strained eyes crying unimpeded,

                                                    ---my sight, my cranium

                                                        fogged during a season

                                            minus any true sense and coherent reason,

                                                               Senate politicians

                                              cavorting like synchronized dishonest dancers

                                                      choreographed in tandem and mayhem

                                                  chaperoned by the ghost of good, old dead

                                                                  Jackie Gleason.

During my "when I was a kid" television viewing days, I marveled at the kaleidoscopic choreography of the "Jackie Gleason Show" dancers, thus a reference you find befuddling you.  And again, doggerel isn't to be taken too seriously, written upon a wish and a whim and a star.

Pham's Complete Auto Repair & Service

It's a sad story I must relate, liking and respecting Pham and his wife but I will never be taking my cars back to him.  The reason?  A simple oil change turned into something unexpected, the consequences unnecessary and troublesome.  This short story began in November when stopping at Pham's to have my 2012 Chevrolet Sonic oil changed before I drove down to San Francisco.  Pham's mistake was letting his son do it, and in the process, I watched him break the top of the oil filter holder.  Okay, now I am delayed, and worse, Pham charges me for the replacement part.  I didn't like it but I paid and went on my way.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of the tale.

About 3 weeks ago, I began smelling burning oil.  Having Gill's shop check it out, Jim spent a 1/2 hour thoroughly examining the car but couldn't find the source.  The problem continued, and Gill said take it back to Pham, as I felt the problem was somehow related to the new oil filter holder.  Pham looked it over but ignored my suspicion, instead thinking it was a leaky seal, costing $2-300. to fix.  Going back to Gill, he said, "Leave it with us for a day."  and I did.

What did they discover?  The cap was leaking.  Replacing the cap, the problem was solved.  Taking the cap back to Pham, he was less than responsive, acting like he didn't fully remember, even saying his son didn't remember, and this is the same Pham I have given over $7000.00 dollars to for the purchase of the car, a later replacement transmission, 4 new tires etc.  All I was requesting was some accountability.  That it wasn't provided means I am done with Pham, not pleased that he can't take responsibility for something caused solely by his shop.

Again I like Pham.  I respect Pham.  But I am done, resenting anyone screwing around with my Sonic, a car costing me $18,000.  Thank goodness I have Gill & Jim to rely upon.  They are honest.  They don't make excuses.  That's all I can ask for.

RIP Sen Lu YC 382

Yesterday, longtime cabbie Sen Lu died at home, experiencing a fatal heart attack.  He was only 53 years old. Condolences to his family.

As all of us know, taxi is an unhealthy business. So long, Sen Lu, you will be missed.