Sunday, May 31, 2020

There's A Riot Going On & Official City Complaint & Dennis Roberts Fund Raising Ends First Week In July & Needing Cabbies Saturday And Sunday Nights

Last night here in Seattle, and also around the USA, protests and marches against the police killing of George Floyd resulted in general mayhem and property damage.  Also last night, I-5 was closed for a number of hours, and as I am writing this at 6:09 PM, Pacific Time Zone, the freeway has once again been closed from I-90 to State Route-520.  While its understandable why people are dismayed over police maltreatment of ordinary citizens, its an overreach to say breaking windows and looting stores is the proper response.  More than once yesterday I rescued folks stranded by the chaos, with one gentleman going all the way north to Arlington, WA from the train station, saying "Get me the hell out of here!"  The same situation might be reoccurring at this moment but I have others priorities, like communicating to you the state of modern-day taxi.

Another Off-the Wall Complaint

Nonsense is as nonsense does, and last week I got a complaint filed with the City of Seattle charging me with overcharging a customer with an unapproved ten dollar tip.  Very strange as I ask every person giving me a large tip if this is what they want to do, having no interest in unduly taking someone's money.  What makes this complaint even stranger is our new MTI dispatch system's credit/debit machine is located behind the front passenger seat, situated about 10 inches from the customer's nose, meaning the customer either personally punches in the transaction, or if needing assistance, watches the transaction take place.  Tipping is always voluntary, and when, as in this case, the passenger's erratic behavior signals disturbance of some kind, I take note and confirm if this is what they want to do minus all doubt.  Passengers also receive a printed receipt, making this doubly mysterious as to why she decided I had deceived her.  My guess is that a combination of forgetfulness and psychiatric resulted in this accusation, her tip that morning a gesture of appreciation after Yellow once again was late, with me getting her to her Virginia Mason Hospital Clinic appointment on time.

Something perhaps more disturbing is the complaint process itself, when the City, fully aware of how our system works, allows a compliant to go forward when its clear, given our MTI processing, that its fully volitional and and directed and operated by the taxi customer.  The only time when this isn't true is when the cabbie is using a Square or some other brand of credit card approval system.  And part of the initial investigation should be a determination of which system was used.

Also, many regular readers might remember that last year I found a travel bag in my cab containing thousands of dollar, something I promptly returned to the rightful owners.  Now if I did that, why would I attempt to overcharge a customer any amount?  No reason I can think of.

Month of June Fund Raising Push for Dennis Roberts

Talking to the King County Medical Examiners Office, Dennis's body will be held until July 9th, ending a 90-day holding period.  That means this upcoming June is extremely important to enable what I outlined last week to be achieved.  I will do my best to bring in the needed 3-4 thousand dollars.  Donations keep coming in.  I will keep everyone informed concerning the gathering process.

A PSD dispatcher told me yesterday Dennis once showed him a list of 20 movies he appeared in as an "extra," including the hit, "Little Big Man." 

A Plea to my Fellow Yellow Cabbies

We need more of you working on Saturday and Sunday nights.  Last night was nuts, and I remain tired after staying out late covering the bells. All I can say is, WE NEED YOU!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Local Novel Coronavirus Threat Not Over & Taxi Association Due Process & Travis Kalanick Taxi Quote & Dennis Roberts Fund Raising Update

The longer I continue driving during this period of pandemic, the more trepidation I feel, thinking I am very foolish putting myself in harm's way.  King County continues to have 60 new confirmed coronavirus cases daily while statewide the confirmed rate is 200 confirmed new cases, which appears to mean that perhaps as many as 2000-3000 people are still being infected each and every day.  Simple math then tells me I must be encountering passengers who are carrying the virus.  This is not reassuring, to say the least. Statewide the virus death toll is reaching 1,100, and nationwide the toll is now about 100,000 COVID-19 victims.  Worldwide, over 350,000 people have died from the virus.  Yes, business is very good, especially since we have maybe 70 cabs operating at any one time. Yesterday, Sunday night, it seemed like we had maybe 10-20 as it was too busy to keep up with the volume, tiring me out and quitting for the night despite bells waiting.  And as I mentioned last week, the work environment remains crazy, with deranged passengers following one after the other.  Last night this guy kept giving me money even after I told him the $60.00 already provided more than enough, ending up getting $120.00 for a $40.00 fare, it just not making any sense.  Yes, yes, yes, welcome to taxi!

Above the Law?

I for one fully understand why PSD (Yellow) is frustrated by cab driver antics but as I keep telling PSD, where is the legal permission for instantaneous punishment?  Lately there has been an increase  in drivers dumping fares or rolling their meters, which is something not to be done, leaving passengers stranded, wondering "where in the heck is my taxi?"  For as long as I can remember, Seattle-area taxi associations have punished drivers for various offenses minus any due process, meaning no formal charging, no fair hearing, no appeal process and no legal representation.  As is obvious, someone charged with a crime in a normal setting are not treated like this, are allowed to plead "not guilty" and given a jury trial.  Also, the crime, regardless of the seriousness, is considered alleged until final judgement is made.

In PSD's last newsletter, it is stated, that after one warning for dumping or rolling the meter, all additional infractions will result in a three-day suspension from all accounts.  As I am implying, there are many potential problems with this kind of summary action, most especially is that these violations have never been listed on any PSD documents stating you can't do this or that and signed as part of the lease agreement.  If this document exists, I don't remember seeing it.

And again, I have asked repeatedly for legal State and Federal documentation providing taxi associations the permission to skip normal legal procedures.  Since they have never been provided, I can only assume they do not exist.  And by stating in the newsletter what PSD will be doing to offending drivers, PSD potentially opens itself to to legal scrutiny and future legal actions.

As I have said repeatedly, training is the answer, not punishment.  We receive training for Metro and Hopelink accounts.  We receive training before allowed to transport students.  And we received training about to how to use the new MTI dispatch system.  Isn't it time these guys receive some much needed training on how to be a PROFESSIONAL CABBIE?

Clearly it is time for this to happen, and as I have offered previously, I would assist in creating the curriculum.  Let's do this right or not at all.

Travis Kalanick 2014

This is what Uber's founder said:

We're in a political campaign, and the candidate is Uber, and the opponent is an asshole named Taxi."

Nice, isn't it?

The Seattle Taxi Industry Needs to Step Up and Fund Dennis Roberts' Burial and Obituary Costs

Maybe it's my fault with being too damn busy but I am telling you folks, the about $550.00 committed so far will do little expect pay for cremation costs and not much else.  My wish is to have Dennis's remains buried in a local cemetery topped by a marker or gravestone.  I also want to have a Seattle Times obituary for Dennis.  The obituary is not cheap, with first lines costing between $137.00-164.00, with each additional line costing between $102.00-$129.00.  Photos cost between $153.00-$193.50.  I am guessing the burial cost will be about $3000. or more.

As you can see, we are not anywhere close to covering these costs.  Maybe the issue is trust, that potential donors think I will be running off with the money.  No, what will happen will be an itemized list of everything spent.  Any remaining funds would be donated to Seattle Children's Hospital.

During these next two weeks, I will be making a big push to collect additional funds.  Please, I implore you, let's send off Dennis in dignity and grace, his memory and past service deserving that.

Hello Handsome?

Last night a short RT fare turned into absurdity when my passenger, a hooker, walks up to this guy standing at the gas station, says "Hello handsome!" while simultaneously hugging him.  The only problem was, how could she tell, his face covered by a mask!?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

O MY God How I Hate The False Full Moons & Richard Adler's "The Lady Remembers (The Statue of Liberty Suite)" & Dennis Roberts' Needs Your Assistance In The Afterlife

The calendar, if not the moon itself provides warning that aberrant, stupid and crazy behavior is on its way, but when the moon is not misbehaving and the world around me is unexplainably "going nuts, then my only comment is that this isn't at all fair, blindsided by incipient bedlam.  Yes, I am once again immersed, or submersed in all things taxi, and while sometimes amusing, it certainly is not where I want to be, as I said last week, sitting next to a river with my shoes off much preferable. 

On my first full day back, Omar gets in my cab at 5th & Pine, and says he had to get back home, having left his gas stove on, translating into me flying like the proverbial taxi "bat-out-of-hell" to 34th and East Denny, running red lights etc to save his house and soul.  Nuts! 

And my very next fare is Tracy, a woman clearly in psychosis wanting to go all the way up to the Shoreline Fred Meyers, this after buying over $160.00 in items from the Queen Anne Bartell's Drugstore.  How do I know this?  As Tracy was doing what I can't describe next to the store, a clerk came out to assure me she had plenty of money.  And she did, holding a huge wad of cash in her hand.  Once up at the Fred Meyer's, I suggested it would be better if she concealed all that money.

Later, picking up a Hopelink fare at University Hospital, a Hopelink representative motioned to me after the clients got in my cab, quietly telling me they were armed with both a knife and ax.  I told him not to worry, as I had "sharp teeth," making him laugh.  Why the young couple brought cutting tools to a maternity appointment is beyond me but they were fine, making it all the way to Federal Way without beheading me.

Today I was first up in the Medical (zone 230) and thought I might get lucky with a good account fare but no, instead I got C______ who was concerned that I was sent some by nefarious organization called Stalkers International, a group now tracking her every movement because she had filed an anti-discrimination complaint, and due to that action, targeting her for surveillance.  I dropped her off at a grocery store.

Richard Alder Symphony

Last year, driving in Seattle's Broadview neighborhood, I found a entire rack of classical CDs, many of then unopened.  They had been left out in the aftermath of a garage sell.  Not believing my luck, I discovered a collection worth perhaps one thousand dollars.  And amongst those treasures I discovered  this World Premiere Recording of "The Lady Remembers---The Statue of Liberty Suite."  It is an amazing tribute to America and American music and I started off each morning during my stay in San Lorenzo with it.  It has 11 parts.  The recording I have features the Detroit Symphony led by Gunther Herbig, which also features the soprano, Julia Migenes Johnson, Johnson famous for her permormance in the 1984 film version of the opera "Carmen."  This is a great piece and I recommend it highly.

Dennis Robert Donations

The only real news is that the medical examiner's office found a distant cousin.  The current total is just over $500.00 At the moment I am essentially exhausted from my return to Cab Land but next Saturday I will provide a more extensive report and commentary upon all this. 

And you can also look forward to a quote from Uber's founder concerning taxi.  Yes, he is a real sweetheart.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Greetings From Albuquerque: Essay: Taxi, An Unnatural World & Update On Dennis Roberts Fund Raising & Uber's Final Year?

This time around it seems circumstances conspired to keep from writing this week's post.  First back in San Lorenzo, my temporary wifi connection kept disappearing, and today, after flying in from Silver City, my hotel's wifi was down for hours, only now, at about 9:07 PM, did it return. Of course it's getting late and I should be thinking about sleeping instead of sitting here typing away.

And by the way, there is some sacrifice taken making sure I get this done week after week for more-or-less ten years, keeping this ongoing line of communication going.  I'm not whining but I know sometimes my effort is taken for granted, wishing it wasn't the case, looking at least 2-3 hours of work ahead of me.  Enough of that and down to the business at hand, making this blog readable and entertaining for you, the taxi public.

In the essay, my point is a personal one, trying to make sense of something that only seems sane if you pretend it is, both driving a cab and living in our spinning top of a modern world.  Did you know that in the Indian city of Mumbai there are a million people living in an slum called Dharavi in an area comprising only 2/3s of NYC's Central Park, which totals 840 acres or put another way, 1.317 square miles, or in Dharavi, just over 620 acres.  That is their modern reality.  For comparison, the State of Alaska has a 2019 population of 731,545 spread over a landmass of 663,300 miles, or 101 million acres. I just read a Washington Post article about Dharavi and how the "packed like sardines" residents are coping with the coronavirus pandemic.  The answer is not very well, and there I was sitting in the proverbial middle-of-nowhere next to the Mimbres River surrounded by towering cottonwoods all by myself, for two hours only me and the flowing water.  What condition, what reality would you choose?

Essay: Taxi, An Unnatural World

Sitting next to the Mimbres River (Rio Mimbres), wonderfully shaded by tall, leafy cottonwood trees, could seem an odd location to argue the sanity of flying around Seattle, or any city for that matter, in a taxicab.  One could convincingly, I think,  promote that the money is good and, as I know well, taxi is itself a kind of urban human river transporting everyone day and night down that asphalt stream. Yes, that's all true but I know it would be much better if everyone had a wild, unpolluted river to sit by, the modern world suddenly disappearing due to a lack of merit---restaurants, symphony halls, NFL football teams, art museums no longer important.  But of course, that won't be happening, the so-called civilization we have cultivated remaining, sitting here in the sand next to the Mimbres, a breeze rustling branches, better than anything else I could be doing, coming down to, I suppose, what you value, finding nature's acumen superior to humankind's chaos. I know this is true, all other realities untrue, leading to deaths quick or slow, to what purpose, to what gain?  That's why I enjoy the river speaking to me while I say nothing at all, soaking my feet in its persistent, babbling flow. 

Update on Dennis Roberts' Burial Fund Raising

The start has been disappointingly slow, the total so far about $500.00.  Folks, all I can say is that the spirit of a fallen taxi comrade is in your hands. 2 former BYG owners have each sent me $100.00 checks.  Much more is needed.  In addition to the go fund me site, you can send checks directly to me.  One interesting development is that the KC Medical Examiner's Office located a distant cousin in California, someone who will be providing legal permission to go ahead with any burial arrangements possible, which is why your financial support is essential.  This week I will be contacting taxi companies nationwide in an effort to raise funds for Dennis.  Please be generous.

My mailing address is J. Blondo, POB 20023, Seattle, WA 98102

Uber is in trouble

Uber has just announced another loss of 3 billion dollars this past operating quarter.  And now the State of California is suing Uber and Lyft over the misclassification of their workers, violating a new state law, A. B. 5, which requires companies to treat their workers as employees if the company controls their tasks or if such activity is a routine part of company business.  Amazingly, Uber has made the specious claim that their business is technology, and the drivers themselves not a key part of their business. Huh? can only be the response to that.  Since the pandemic, Uber rides have dropped by 83 %.  Uber's total loss since its inception must now be close to 45 billion dollars.  With these newly added pressures, how long can they survive?

Hungry in Albuquerque?

Great China, 3143 San Mateo---Good, cheap and big portions.

Brickyard Pizza---avoid the salads but the pizza is great!  And they deliver.

Annapurna's World Vegetarian Cafe---Ate there in November with "she-who-can't-be-named."  I liked it but she not as much, she of two stays in India.  2201 Silver Ave SE.  Near the university.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Greetings Once Again From San Lorenzo, NM---Hopelink's Dubious Appreciation & Go Fund Me Site For Dennis Roberts---Donate If You Can

A neighbor tells me that summer is arriving early this year, though its only the first weekend in May, temperatures are in the mid-80s F., hinting its going to be hot until autumn arrives way off in September.  Thankfully there often is a cooling breeze blowing through, and night temperatures are currently in the low 50s.  Yes, very different from Seattle, where I am told it is raining but here I have miles of silence surrounding me, the high desert hills and mountains guaranteeing development remaining limited, with big city Silver City (population about 10,000) 24 miles away.  Last night I noticed that the Big Dipper had shifted to the west of my rear north-facing door, changing its position from last October when it seemed that the constellation so near I could almost touch it.  Such are the big thrills around here: sun, wind and crystal clear night skies. And who needs neon when the moon is a spotlight illuminating the desert night?

But getting back to taxi realities, this week I have to report more questionable shenanigans from that local sweetheart of a helping agency, Hopelink, and how it displayed its respect for Eastside Flat-Rate-for-Hire and its independent operators.

Be Careful When Hopelink Says It Loves You

This truly is a sad and short woe begotten tale, telling anyone interested to leave well enough alone when dealing with a quasi-governmental agency.  The story begins with Hopelink telling Eastside how pleased they were with its performance during this coronavirus pandemic.  Eastside responds back stating all appreciation goes to a small percentage of their drivers focusing upon serving the Hopelink account.  Hopelink then audits Eastside's Hopelink paperwork, where upon they suspend a number of drivers from the account for improperly filled out vouchers.  When Eastside responds to that indignity, Hopelink suspends the entire company from serving the account.  And remember, this all started with Hopelink congratulating Eastside for a job well done. Ya gotta be kiddin'!?

This sorry tale tells me many things, of course about Hopelink but also how too many of my fellow for-hire operators just aren't completely prepared to be doing what they are doing, having in their minds simplified what cab driving is: picking people up and grabbing the money, end of story, and knowing how to fill out a voucher properly not important, not part of the job description.

From close observation, learning how to be professional is not everyone's first interest, again explaining why Uber and Lyft legacy of poor operator performance will be a permanent part of their history.  If you can't be sincere, at least try to fake it.  Most won't notice the different so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by pretending you care about your passengers.  And you never know, they might even tip you, surprise, surprise!

Go Fund Me site for Dennis

I've set this up to provide Dennis Roberts a decent burial, and if the funds are available, a Seattle Times obituary.  Once I found out that Dennis had died from COVID-19, I contacted a few Seattle media outlets but to this point no one seems interested in knowing that a cabbie died while working the novel coronavirus front lines.  What is true is that Dennis was taking precautions, wiping down his cab and wearing a mask, doing what he could do protect both himself and his passengers.  He was also in the process of contacting the City of Seattle in an attempt to lend better protection to the Seattle taxi community.  Regardless, Dennis deserves better than an unmarked grave, and given that potential reality, I encourage all who knew him to contribute.  I personally will be committing $100.00 but anything you can afford will be greatly appreciated. Any funds above and beyond funeral and obituary costs will be donated to Dennis's favorite cause, Seattle Children's Hospital.

A Grim Reminder from October 18th, 2005---HPV, the human papillomavirus

Yesterday, unpacking a box I came across a NY Times "Personal Health" column published on 10/18/2005 by Jane Brody entitled "Getting to Know a Virus, and When It Can Kill."  HPV, and there being over 100 types of HPV,  can be deadly, with about 15 HPV varieties identified as causing cervical cancer.  I tell you this just to let everyone know that HPV and other viruses like COVID-19 are real and not some kind of fiction. Of course everyone is aware of the influenza virus but what about small pox, rabies, ebola, HIV, Dengue fever, measles, Lassa fever, killers all.  Here in Southwest New Mexico, where everyone is fairly isolated from the current pandemic, I have certainly overheard some truly dumbbell comments; and unsolicited, I have responded back, ignorance and stupidity certainly grabbing my attention.  If they think they're tough, perhaps I''ll squeeze on them.  I know they will appreciate that!  And yes, the virus is active in the state, with 131 reported deaths.

Iraqi War Dead---Roster of the Dead 10/26/2005

Yesterday I also found a NY Times roster of US military dead from the Iraqi War started by President George Bush Jr.  Yes, 265 photos of dead soldiers, having given their lives up for what, the creation of ISIS?

War, especially unnecessary war is a crime, and just so people won't forget I will be randomly listing one name from the list of 15 rows. The majority of the killed are young, many aged 19. Reminds me when I walked in the Normandy, France German cemetery, noting the ages of the young men killed in the D-Day invasion.  Some were as young as 15.  Yes war, what is it good for?

John M. Smith, age 22, from WA DC

James D. Stewart, age 29, from Chattanooga, TN

Nathaniel Swindell, age 24, from the Bronx, NY

Tran Quoc Binh, age 26, from Mission Viejo, CA

Drew M. Uhles, age 20, DuQuoin, ILL

Ramon A. Villatoro, age 19, from Bakersfield, CA

Charles. G. Wells, Jr, age 32, from Montgomery, Alabama

Dion M. Whitley, age 21, from Los Angeles, CA

Luke Wullenwaber,  age 24, from Lewiston, Idaho

Michael Campbell, age 34, from Marshfield, MO

Jonathan Falaniko, age 20, from Pago Pago, American Samoa

Richard Gottried, age 42, from Lake Ozark, MO

Nick R. Nygardbekowsky, age 21, from Concord, CA

Gregory A. Ratzlaff, age 36, from Olympia, WA

Dana N. Wilson, age 26, from Fountain, CO

The photographs are haunting, with many smiling, Dana Wilson for one.  In the summer of 1966, I visited my sister JoAnn in Fountain where she was training horses at a race track.

Update 05/04/2020

The donation total for Dennis Roberts is currently $150.00.  This includes $100.00 from me.  I talked to the King County medical examiner's office today and, nearly a month later, they have failed to find any next of kin.  This probably means that the onus is upon the Seattle/KC to come through for Dennis. Thanks.