Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Taxicab Doggerel & Three Poems

Taxi Doggerel: 

O Taxi! (with apologies to Mister Whitman)

O taxi! O taxi!  I'm out of my mind!

No, I am not having a good time

working late into the night and morning

when I'd rather be snug in bed,

if this is living, 

I'd rather be dead!

And if I keep this up,

I'll certainly be guaranteeing my funeral,

and what will be the verdict at my autopsy tribunal?

"That he could have done better and sought all those higher degrees,"

"But excuse me," the lead doctor yawned, "I unfortunately have to 


Three New Poems

What if anything but nothing do the following have to do with driving that damn taxi?  The alarm clock was given to me by Maynard, one of my loyal regular customers.  Maynard, age 85, and his wife Pat are wonderfully kind people.  What do I do in return?  Take out the garbage and change the occasional lightbulb and take them here and there and sometimes everywhere.


                                         Less than myself I enter this morning

                                         fifty-five percent me, the remaining forty-

                                         five percent I have forgotten somewhere

                                         I cannot remember.

                                        Where have I gone?  Am I hiding me from

                                        from myself?  Or is it I have never known 

                                        the totality I am or could be, one eye 

                                        shut, the other definitely swollen.


                                                            Bell (Westclox Baby Ben)

                        The class bell rings but no, its the 1948 Baby Ben Maynard gave me,

                        its clanging alarm saying its time to close the textbooks and go where,

                        where, where should I go but having no idea, walking sideways crab-like

                        through the door into the corridor the big oval white-faced clock above my

                        head tick-tock ticking ticking my breath way.  


                                                            in this room

                                   In this bedroom with books reading poems 

                                   from a collection, reading to understand who forgot,

                                   some neglecting what must be remembered---

                                   the long nights and sentences accumulating 

                                   into lines after glorious line, asking: were you

                                   studying when the lamp said "its time to sleep,

                                   making the ink blotted verse your eternal pillow?" 

French Wolves and Uber

Turns out there are many expressions in the French language regarding our furry friend, the wolf.  I like this one, and isn't it a bit poetic?  Anything poetic about Uber?  Nah!

"Quand on parle du loup en voit la queue"

and the English translation is

"when you speak of the devil you see its tail"

There once were many wolves roaming France's forests. Now there are few forests and fewer wolves. 




Saturday, March 27, 2021

United Kingdom Uber Drivers Now Designated As "Workers" & More Call Takers At Puget Sound Dispatch & New York City Taxi 1976

Uber Duber comes out of its Stupor

On Tuesday, March 16, 2121, Uber announced, after initially saying it wouldn't, that it was reclassifying its more than 70,000 British drivers as "workers," meaning they are now eligible for minimum wage, vacation pay and pension benefits.  In the UK, there are two employment categories, "worker" and "employee," the British high court deciding that Uber operators fit the lesser role, translating into fewer protections and benefits.  Starting April 1st, the British minimum wage for those over age 25 will be 8.91 British pounds, or about $12.40.  For anyone keeping track, Uber reported a loss of 6.8 billion dollars in 2020.

And for those wanting to be sick to your stomach, read, like I did, Uber's CEO's opinion piece in "The Evening Standard."  My less than humble opinion?  Dara Khosrowshahi is an insufferable ass! 

PSD News

A question heating my mind is finally answered.  The PSD board is not taking profits during this, our season of discontent.  That's very good news and I will take my source's word for it. 

Also, the dispatch fee is returning to $180.00 per week.  PSD says it needs the money.  I don't like it but I agree, they do require increased income because they will be adding more dispatch staff both in Seattle and the Philippines.  

Currently there are 131 Yellow Cabs.  The cap is 160.  Please return. We need you!   Remember when we had over 525 cabs and day and night shifts?  I do!  Thanks for nothing Uber and Lyft and the Seattle City Council.  Screw you!

Oh the good old days of NYC cabbies!

On pages four and five, in chapter 1, "The Real New York," in the 1976 Time-Life "The Great Cities" series, first there is a full page, glossy color photograph of a "real" NY cabbie and then the following caption written by, of all people, Anthony Burgess:

"Hardened to the hazardous ways of his world, a New York City cab driver bites on the stump of his cigar while waiting for a traffic light to change.  About 12,000 licensed cabs, painted yellow for visibility, cruise the city's streets, their drivers as willing to listen to their passenger's troubles as to tell their own."

That's wonderful, and the picture is great!  Will I some day look like him?

Johnson & Johnson 2 weeks ago

I am now part of the only 14% of the American public that are fully vaccinated.   J&J is one dose effective, meaning that should be it unless new virus variants begin raging terror upon the recently vaccinated.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

My Hour Long Conversation With A King County Taxi Regulator

 Last Friday, March 12th, a King County licensing official called, and in the ensuing hour we talked about all issues taxi, what they (the City and County) have been thinking and mulling over these past few pandemic months and how they might and will affect us local, hard working cabbies.  This particular individual is clearly on our side, having taken a noticeable interest in the issues affecting our everyday wellbeing.  He is straight forward and to the point.  Do you wonder why I find that refreshing?  What you have before you is a quick synopsis of what was said.

The long requested regional licensing will be coming soon, meaning that everyone will be able to serve the entire King County with only one joint medallion.  The current system of City and County separation is long outdated and I am glad to see its extinction, something akin to the eradication of the smallpox virus, the two medallion system a malignant pox upon both passenger and driver.   He said some cabbies currently owning dual-plated cabs voiced some objections but for me their lingering nostalgia for times past are extremely misplaced since our taxi medallions are now essentially worthless, the last big Yellow medallion owner having given away his last 36 City of Seattle plates.  No, regional medallion licensing is way of the future, and in that sense, attempting to provide a viable future to our much wounded industry.  

Another big change is the transformation of the flat-rate cars into taxis, meters replacing their much disparaged zone fare system, something which allowed all those thieves to habitually cheat their customers.  A year ago I would have been shouting to "high heaven!" about this change but now I feel it doesn't matter much, certainly not in the short term for us already established taxis.  Eastside-for-Hire has been decimated by the pandemic business falloff, meaning they and the other smaller flat-rate companies will be slow to recover.  And given Uber's ever expanding rates, I see business averaging out, with  customers abandoning Uber and Lyft while transferring more to whom they trust, meaning the established taxi industry.

One disagreement we had is the City and County plan to allow taxi associations more flexibility with adjusting rates, allowing for something similar to Uber's "surge charging."  My objection is based upon what I have been saying all along about the current non-regulation of the taxi associations, that by allowing them to be unaccountable to the single owners, the City and County have created a kind of taxi industry "monarchical absolutism" answerable solely to themselves, meaning empowering them even further could hold dire consequences.  I ask everyone to think back to 1975 and Seattle and King County's taxi industry de-regulation experiment, and how the ensuing anarchy countermanded any possible positives, displaying minus any doubt how big an error that was.  Bringing us forward to 2021, it's clear to me the taxi industry still requires guidance---the guide dog's sharp fangs prepared to bite!  

Another plan I questioned was the proposed two-tiered for-hire licensing, one license for basic passenger transportation, and the other a higher level for-hire license clearing people for Hopelink passengers, etc.  One requires fingerprinting while the other doesn't.  I think the security requirements should be the same for Uber/Lyft and taxi drivers.  He said both background checks are mostly the same but still, doesn't it make sense that everyone is gone over with the proverbial "fine-toothed comb." thus guaranteeing the passenger public with a reasonably sane driver?  I think so.

One pleasing decision is the extension of the for-hire driver licenses forward for a full year, providing us operators with one less thing to concern ourselves with.  As I said in the beginning, a friendlier FAS has emerged and I'm happy for it, open communication always better than the regulatory hammer.  May the new Spring grace our industry and spirits. Let the robins and sparrows sing!





Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Five Taxicabs Total To Serve The Entire 2,307 Square Miles That Is King County, Washington

Late Saturday night, early Sunday morning Yellow Cab had, including me, a total of five cabs working to serve numerous rapid-fire bells (taxicab requests) originating from all over Seattle and King County.  In a futile effort to serve everyone, I worked through the night, not getting to bed until past 7:30 in the morning.  Already dead-tired, a last fare from downtown took me out to the countryside outside of Marysville, an over $100.00 cab ride.  That I drove most of the way though a fierce rainstorm only added to my misery.  I did enjoy the breaking dawn, stepping out to breath the new morning air, new light kissing the trees and sky. 

Why I know there were only five cabs working is because, curious, I called dispatch for the figure, and was told we had five cabs working a service area that could be the largest in the United States.  Yes, potentially the largest, because, as stated in the title, King County's total land (and water mass) is 2,307 square miles, or 5,980 square kilometers.  That it isn't possible for five cabs to serve such a large area is obvious but that's what has been happening weekend and after weekend night since the pandemic hit, a handful of taxis attempting the impossible, trying to serve all of the callers in a timely fashion. 

To put this in some kind of understandable perspective, I am listing land areas of some selected countries and American states to illustrate  how difficult a task we all faced during those often harrowing hours.  The European country of Liechtenstein is comprised of 61.78 square miles. Nearby Luxembourg is 998 square miles.  That Caribbean island, Barbados is 166.4 square miles.  And using two states as a measure, Rhode Island is 1, 214 square miles, while Delaware is a trifle larger than King County, with a total square mile area of 2, 489. 

 I ask you this.  Do you think these countries and states would only utilize five cabs to serve all their citizens and visitors during the nighttime hours?  I would say clearly not, so why in the world is Seattle Yellow Cab attempting what isn't possible to do or achieve? 

As I have repeated often in these pages, isn't that a good question when pondering head-scratching decisions made by those dictating taxi reality.  And you can believe that if I wasn't bringing up this issue  now, yelling out loud to gain everyone's attention, nothing, and I mean nothing would be done to address it, no one truly caring that passengers are waiting too long for their cab.   One customer I met started calling at 2:00 AM before I finally arrived at 5:00 AM, his persistence finally paying off.  Is this absolute nonsense?  Of course it is.  What would you think if it happened to you, what would be your response?

Some might respond that this issue is nothing new, problems with "passenger or bell coverage" commonplace and historical, but since the demise of the Yellow Cab (BYG Co-op), coverage issues have only worsened minus any step toward remedy.  Before the Uber/Lyft onslaught, Yellow had over 500 cabs providing 24/7 coverage, their "4 to 4"  day and night shifts guaranteeing you a cab where ever you might be calling from. 

Now with a paltry more or less 130 cabs working, with most of them operated by "single owners," zone coverage has dropped precipitously, most often due to drivers going home after 6-8:00 PM, especially Saturday and Sunday, leaving the Seattle and County poorly served until about 6:00 AM the following day.  But as I keep saying, since Yellow has traditionally been a 24 hour service company, people keep calling, expecting their cab to arrive just like they did ten years ago, most city-zones being 10-15 minute service areas.  And given that people will keep calling Yellow at all times of the day and night, is there a solution to the current lack of zone coverage during the "witching hours" of the now vacated weekend nights?

I say there is, and it's extremely simple, and it's merely providing a shift subsidy or credit to those willing to work the late weekend hours, say the period between 10:00 PM and 3:00 AM, a five hour-long slot now usually devoid of cabs.  Make the subsidy minimal, deducting $5.00 per worked hour from the owner's weekly dispatch fee during the already stated five-hour slot, adding up to a total reduction of $50.00 over the two-day period.  

I strongly feel there should be no objection to this kind of subsidy because it is the association's legal obligation to provide coverage for the company's customers, everyone hopefully remembering that Yellow (Puget Sound Dispatch) and the other taxi associations are regulated and licensed transportation companies, translating into quickly dispatching a cab to any person requesting one.  When the associations fail to do this, they are in violation of their licensing agreement and thus subject to penalty and even revocation of their business license. 

That the City and County cab regulators have been asleep at the taxi wheel is more than obvious, failing to protect the customer public from poorly performing associations.  This kind of governmental malfeasance clearly needs to end and end now.  It is time for City and County regulators to loudly state to everyone involved: the single owners, the associations, the dispatch companies that you must do what you are licensed to do---pick up the passengers, damn it, and quit making excuses. 

Now that I have brought this important issue to everyone's attention, what will all of you do to make sure passengers will longer wait one to two to three hours for the cab to arrive?   Making people wait for long periods in the cold and rain is not just immoral, it's criminal.  

I can only hope that in the next few weeks I will be able to report a substantial uptick in late weekend cab coverage.  As I said, it needs to happen and it needs to happen now.  No excuses! 


Saturday, March 6, 2021

The Not-So-Hidden Secret Behind The Awful Driving Conditions In The Marysville To Olympia I-5 Corridor And Why It Remains Incredibly Dangerous & Health Update Upon Superintendent Jerry

That it might be subjective as to why driving on the Seattle and area I-5 Corridor is more hazardous the past year, one aspect of the local driving experience is abundantly clear---driver patience is shorter while speeds are faster---a frustrating combination endangering everyone driving down the highway.  Locally this means that nearly 95 % of the drivers are ignoring the posted 60 MPH speed limit within the Marysville to Olympia corridor regardless of time of day, traffic and weather conditions wet, snowy or dry.  

The not-so-hidden secret is the tacit permission given by Governor Inslee and the Washington State Patrol allowing  everyone to speed 5-10 MPH over the speed limit minus fear of being pulled over and cited, an equation forcing anyone following the speed limit to fear for their lives, the speeding drivers unthinkingly pushing, pushing the cars in front of them forward, disregarding consequence and safety.  60 MPH it seems then never good enough, driver after driver jockeying for space and advantage, a vehicular steeplechase down the I-5 roadway, the drivers racing to who knows where but clearly none of them caring as long as they are the first to arrive, never for once considering the inherent risk they have been taking to achieve little to nothing consequential.     

Why State of Washington leadership condones this is something you might ask them because it makes little sense allowing this kind of recklessness to continue flourishing, a new kind of cultural madness infecting the general population.  Turn on the traffic reports and listen to the constant reporting of car accidents blocking the roadways, causing injury and delays.  Upon any day, any hour I find myself passing "bumper to bumper" accidents pulled over to the roadside, tailgating and failing to maintain correct following distances a constant and ever reoccurring reality, drivers forever disregarding commonsense and basic "rules of the road."

For an easy experiment proving my point, drive to a position on I-5 to where you find yourself centered between two groups of drivers, all the while maintaining a steady 60 MPH.  Watch in your rearview mirror the rapidly approaching cars bearing down upon you, quickly engulfing you in a wave of cars exceeding 70-80 MPH zipping by, leaving you far behind.  Like the ocean's tidal current, you will find this repeated mile after mile, metallic waves rolling past in a sea of gasoline-propelled fury.  

Will they ever slow down, you ask?  And the answer clearly is no, nothing impeding this runaway mob taking over the roadway.  Watch as they fly past the parked WA State Patrol cars waiting for bigger targets, 70 MPH not warranting much notice.  If the police won't intercede, who will, stopping a rioting clear to see?   

I don't know the answer, only knowing it would be better if everyone slowed down and maintained safe following distances and practices. Are these drivers stupid?  Yes they are.  Are these drivers insane?  Yes they are.  Do they care about you and me?  No, not at all.  Will they kill you and me and themselves minus hesitation?  Yes, of course, they will.

And meeting them at Heaven's Gate, ask them why they killed you.  You might find their reply interesting.

A Superintendent's Illness

Some of you might have noticed Jerry's recent absence from the office, and wondered, like I did, where he had gone.  The sad explanation is that he had a stroke and was hospitalized for nearly a week.  Thankfully the attack was relatively mild but symptoms unfortunately remain, his brain still recovering from the neurological trauma.  I know all this because he was my passenger this afternoon, by chance picking him up after a doctor's appointment.  Say a prayer for our longtime Yellow Cab superintendent and taxi buddy, returning the good support Jerry has gracefully extended to us over the decades. Best wishes, Jerry, and get well soon!  

RIP Melody

Just found out that my friend and fellow writer Melody A. died after her long extended illness.  Melody wrote the jacket comments on my last book.  Goodbye Melody, it was good to know you!



Monday, March 1, 2021

"You Are So Smart! Why Are You Driving A Cab?" & He Said The FBI Was Paying His Fare & A Quick Report Concerning The War In Tigray, Ethiopia & Seattle & King & County's TRIP Initiative & Taxi Social Anthropology: Entering Bill's World & Brit Uber Drivers Win In UK Supreme Court

A Too Typical Sentiment Espoused By The Uninformed 

She was a true "country bumpkin," as the saying goes, "just off the turnip truck," her remark meant as a compliment but of course her unintended insult reflecting an attitude held by many---taxi a menial  occupation anyone can do, and if intelligent or capable, why demean yourself when you could be doing anything else but this worst possible?  Yes stupid and unsophisticated but why would I expect anyone to understand the obvious when interpreting the simplest equation is, for most homo sapiens, a  mountain too high to summit when enjoying the scenery the usual and best expected outcome.  

Do I expect comprehension?  No.  And the reason is ingrained bias learnt when the individual wasn't looking, instead walking into a darkened room and staying there until the inevitable funeral.  

Hey, you say, it really can't be that dismal but of course it is, providing us the world we all know too well, an existence composed of dead-ends, deadbeats and the hollowed-out thinking of modern zombies never considering what could be, should be, and is.  

Did I find her a fool?  No, only deficient and misguided, confused from her earliest beginnings to "I don't know what I am saying but forgive me anyway, meaning no harm, despite the damage I am really quite friendly." In that I take solace, forgiving the dog's fangs or the cat's claws understanding one's nature is natural when a bump upon the head your first nursery lesson.  

And why be angry with God's misbegotten?  A good question I am sure better answered by someone else at a different moment upon another day better than this, a day less deflated, less broken.

Why the FBI?

God I was tired, explaining why I didn't stop immediately when the guy told me he was going to the FBI Building, especially at midnight.  Once I got on the freeway I asked, "How are you paying for the cab?" and he said, "the Federal Bureau of Investigation is paying."  Oh god! again, how could I have been this stupid, telling him it was all a fantasy and how I resented him including me in it, that he was wasting my time and  quickly exited the freeway, all the while he insisting I would get paid.  Goodbye, goodbye! my parting comment to someone I should have left at the curbside waiting for J. Edgar Hoover.  

Massacre in Tigray 

Since the vast majority of Seattle cabbies are either from Ethiopia or other Horn of Africa countries, I feel a short report on the civil conflict in the Tigray region would be of interest, both to those from Ethiopia and to others interested in current world events and wars.  In late November, in the Holy City of Axum (Aksum), forces from neighboring Eritrea and rival ethnic Amhara militias murdered over 800 Axum residents in and near the Church of Saint Mary of Zion.  Axum is the reputed birthplace of the Old Testament Bible's Queen of Sheba. It is reported the streets were covered with blood from the many victims.  Most were buried in mass graves.

Earlier in November, there was a massacre in the city of Mai-Kadra, this one conducted by Tigray forces. More about all this at a later date.

It's a TRIP but where is the City and County taking us?

The City of Seattle and King County have been making announcements about their new plans about for-hire renewals and, I think, new regulatory patterns for Seattle's taxi industry.  What will really end up occurring I don't know but as I've have been telling them, they need to gain control of how local taxi associations function in order to protect taxi customers from the sometimes awful service they receive.  Everyday I find customers who have been waiting far too long in the cold and rain for the late arriving cab.  Especially on Saturday and Sunday nights I find myself getting "no-show" after "no-show" because the customer found another way to their destination.  Who wants to wait 50-60 minutes or more for their cab?  No one is the obvious answer.

Bill from the VA Hospital

The first "belled-in" Yellow Cab driver failed to get out of his cab and enter the lobby where Bill was waiting.  A second call got me there and I DID get out and search for Bill.  Finding him waiting in a wheelchair, no shoes, only wearing socks, I got him into the cab.  Bill was an older African-American man going back to his White Center apartment.  He didn't have his wallet and he didn't have his keys but we got into his building anyway and his unlocked 3rd floor apartment. 

Entering his overheated home, strewn with clothes and unwashed dishes, we made it to his bedroom and the hidden wallet, Bill giving me a twenty for my effort, me a quick witness to poverty and despair.  Where else would I get this kind of privilege, provided glimpses into the more intimate area of people's lives, allowed to take mental notes and photos?  

Thank you taxi, I think!

British Uber Not Happy

Uber has lost a big lawsuit in the English Courts, their highest court affirming that since Uber controls driver movements, the Uber operators must be treated in the same manner as regular employees.  It's a big deal and more on this next week when I am less tired.  Screw Uber!