Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Taxi Obituary: Dennis Eugene Roberts---COVID19 & The Loss Of A Seattle Taxi Industry Icon

Eulogy of sorts

All of us at Puget Sound Dispatch (Seattle Yellow Cab) are still processing the loss of Dennis Roberts on April 09, 2020 to the novel coronavirus COVID19 pandemic.  One could accurately say Dennis was both a fixture and representative of what is best at Yellow Cab and what we are daily attempting to do: transporting passengers in a cheerful, efficient manner.  Dennis was also typical of a certain type of cabbie, his position comparable to the French Foreign Legion, where once recruited, your past identity forgotten, your old self completely absorbed into your new position as a taxi soldier sent off to the cultural battlefields.  I say this because currently, though knowing Dennis over twenty years, his past for the most part remains a mystery, at least to me.  But it is the known Dennis we are both mourning and celebrating, our friend now taking "bells" somewhere in the celestial heights, delivering singing angels to their lofty choir stalls perched next to Jehovah's Heavenly Gates.  Dennis liked to sing, last year on the train station regaling me with the old Johnny Horton C&W hit, "North to Alaska" but why that particular song I can't remember, Dennis having good reasons for everything he did.

Dennis Roberts   May/18/1946-April/09/2020

As alluded to, I don't know where he was born and what previous occupations he might have plied but as long as I knew him I believed the rumor that he participated in late 1950s horror films though in what role I never bothered to ask.  I am told he also made an appearance in the "Northern Exposure" television series, but again, how and why I don't know.  But what I can tell you for sure was Dennis's yearly fund raising efforts for Seattle's Children Hospital, covering his cab with "donation ballon tags" signed with the donor's name, each year all the local cabbies providing funds for his favorite charity.

Dennis also dressed as Santa Claus, and during Seattle's annual "Sea Fair Days" took on the guise of a seafaring pirate.  Though in reality, Dennis was the last cabbie requiring a costume, his normal, everyday appearance unforgettable: a squat, somewhat rotund body topped by a perennially smiling face festooned by white sideburns and almost waist length greying hair.  Along with baggy trousers and an equally comfortable blue jacket, Dennis could never be mistaken for anyone other than Dennis. Yes, our departed friend was unique, some might say eccentric but if there was a sincerer cabbie, I don't know him, Dennis the personification of 1960s idealism made manifest.

So Dennis, a fond farewell but where ever you might be, keep on singing, be it "North to Heaven" or some other such song.  So long and goodbye.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Admitting I Might Be incredibly Foolish---The Realities Of Driving Cab Amidst the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic & Taxi Doggerel: "58 Coffins"

I admit, when belled into a hospital ER during these "COVID-19" days, it's with a severe apprehension and shudder, finally understanding full well that the next passenger could be contagious, and "why-the-hell-am-I-doing-this?" comes to mind.  Yes, it's a good question, and in part it's due to a slow comprehension of how dangerous this virus is, and that it kills, having killed over 170 thousand worldwide per this morning's current figures.

What bothers me personally is my slower than normal reaction to real danger because usually I'm quick in ascertaining when something is wrong.  That I have been dumb is disappointing, and even worse, my stupidity potentially fatal, because at this moment I have no idea whether I am contagion free or not.

Yes, I am now wearing my mask, and yes, disinfecting parts of the cab but truly how effective these preventatives are is complete guesswork, a kind of gamble with my life and the life of others.  To say this is disconcerting is a great understatement not fully expressing a dilemma I have inserted myself, a diorama not located in a museum but one in constant motion around me.   But be it as it may, I am here until I leave for New Mexico on the afternoon of April 29th, visiting my adobe house on the high desert prairie.   Perhaps by the time I return on May 13th, the situation will be clearer but do I believe that?  I don't.

More or Less Current Worldwide COVID-19 Death Tolls

Underlining my concerns are the grim statistics stating just how many people are dying from the virus.  The following is a selective sampling illustrating how wide spread the pandemic is, affecting all countries and all corners of our planet.  Most of these figures date from today but a few are from yesterday, Sunday 04/19/20

USA---41,155    Belgium---5,453    Spain---20,852     Italy---23,660     UK---16,060

France---19,728      Iran---5,209    Turkey---2,017   Egypt---239      Algeria---375

Holland---3,100      Costa Rica---5      Saint Maarten---10    China----4,632      Brazil---2,372

Switzerland---1,368   Mexico---686    Canada---1,587   Moldava---67   Bukina Faso---36

Washington State deaths total 620.  Two local bus drivers have succumbed to the virus.  And very shocking, I have just found out that my friend, longtime cabbie Dennis Roberts, is dead, his cab still sitting in front of his home. RIP Dennis.  More on his passing when I have the details.

Taxi Coronavirus Doggerel 

As I have been pointing out, clearly the situation is dire, but I was inspired to write this nonsense piece with the Saturday news that Jacksonville, Florida opened its beaches to the public, defying commonsense.  The person responsible, Mayor Curry, GOP., this on the day 58 Floridians died from COVID-19.

                                                              58 Coffins

                              Hey Mommy, look! 58 coffins are floating out to sea

                              in celebration of Florida's state-rights Democracy,

                             Yes, the very same day Jacksonville's  Mayor Curry

                             announced the city's beaches were free to roam,

                             tragedy overtook Florida's local cemeteries and funeral


                             58 more Floridians declared COVID-19 dead,

                             and given that sad reality,

                             there is truly nothing more necessary to be


Special Postscript 04/21/2020----The passing of Dennis Eugene Roberts YC 464

It is with great sadness that I have to announce that longtime Seattle cabbie died April 9th from COVID-19.  Dennis might be the first such taxi fatality in the country.  Next week I plan a more extensive obituary once I know more details. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Supreme Irony Of Taxi Designated As An Essential Service---We The Newly Anointed

Yes, if you can believe it, because I still can't, that it is indeed true in the State of Washington, taxis are now considered essential to the well-being and health of the overall community, my disbelief stemming from my long years of harassment and targeting by local police and government, exemplified most recently by discovering I cannot park my taxi legally anywhere upon the streets in the City of Bellevue.  Having referenced this in earlier posts, my court date is now rescheduled for July 31th, 2020, finding myself looking forward to the Mayor of Bellevue and other city officials explaining to the judge why taxis are accorded this especial criminal category---cabbies somehow a shameful blot staining Bellevue's streets and byways, requiring a general segregation from normal and usual liberties.

Given this background, and the reality of receiving dozens of moving violations by local-area police over the years, I can only smile when acknowledging a recognition previously denied me and my fellow taxi ruffians.  Now, very suddenly, we hold importance, obtaining a status parallel to doctors and nurses making us frontline warriors, our lives and the threat of contracting the coronavirus secondary to all other duties, societal expectations excluding all other personal considerations. Again, I find this transformation breathtaking, elevating the dalit (untouchable) to the brahmin something even Lord Krishna couldn't contemplate, short-circuiting the karmic/reincarnate cycle---the cockroach now instantaneously a soaring eagle.

Yes, that new ranking, along with the very real prospect, percentage-wise, of being exposed to the novel coronavirus, makes working out here upon the street surreal, a progressive, active hallucination of negative consequences dancing upon sidewalks and roadways, the next passenger, the next moment potentially leading to debilitation and death.  But yes, despite that chilling reality, dialysis and cancer patients still requiring their vital, life sustaining treatments, for once making us cabbies a recognizable resource for the greater societal good, providing necessary transport upon and over the viral byways.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

"Stay Home, Limit Travel, Save Lives"---Stay-In-Place Order Extended Until May 4th, 2020

The message in the title can be seen on 1-5 electronic reader boards in the greater Seattle-area.  Are local citizens heeding this suggestion, along with Governor Jay Inslee's order to stay in your home and read a good book?  The answer, like most questions addressing human behavior, is yes and no, depending greatly upon time and place.  The Renton Walmart and the Seattle 4th Avenue South CostCo remain crowded with shoppers, with Walmart, for one, finally issuing entrance requirement in an attempt to slow down the maddened, undisciplined mobs packing the aisles.  Seattle's streets and sidewalks themselves are fairly uninhabited, with shops and restaurants remaining closed.  It's on the freeway where you see the people flying down the road in larger numbers---unrestrained 70-80 mph banshees telling you "the hell with the coronavirus! I will do whatever I want regardless of conditions and common sense,"--- reader board warnings mere scenery to crazed minds.

At least here in the State of Washington, there is a theoretical attempt at moderating behavior, while in the States of Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, their GOP governors have so far refused to issue official statewide "Stay-at-Home" orders.  Like everywhere, response to the virus is mixed, many still not realizing we are in the beginning stages of a new worldwide plague.  Last week I wrote the death toll was over thirty thousand.  It has now surpassed fifty thousand, the pandemic reaching all corners of the earth.  One scary development is the very real possibility that the virus is spread simply by the breath, a sneeze or cough not required to send the virus out of an infected person's lungs.  The wearing of masks are now suggested for everyone though the president says he won't be wearing one.

Here in Seattle, the mayor announced they will not, for the time being, be issuing parking tickets. Too late, as I saw three days ago in the Ballard neighborhood for a row of at least twelve parked cars, all having newly written parking tickets proudly placed upon the windshield. Hopefully all will be dismissed but since this is Seattle, I wouldn't depend upon it, punishment Seattle's unofficial motto, the wagging of the finger saying "you should have known better!"