Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Per King County, Policy Changes For Seattle/King County Taxis And Flat-Rate For-Hire Vehicles

Proposed Changes for Seattle/King County Taxicab & For-Hire Industries

Beginning in January 2023, two new governing ordinances will be presented to both the Seattle City Council and the King County Council.  Instead of summarizing policy changes, I will provide most of the text of page two of King County's "Regulations and Notices Overview."   This is important information and I encourage everyone reading this to tell your friends and colleagues to read what I am presenting.  My goal here is to educate and inform.  Too often I hear the complaint that nobody tells us what is going on, taking on a kind of victimization.  If you tell your buddies to read this, then they cannot express any surprise.  While many don't seem to realize it, this blog is for you my fellow transportation professional.  Stay informed, stay empowered.  

I have made ten copies of the complete overview/update.  Ten lucky drivers will get one.  If you do, make copies and share.

From the Direct Text:

Earlier in 2022, the (WA) state legislature passed a bill adopting new state-wide transportation network company (TNC) regulations.  The bill permits the City and County to continue regulating TNCs but limits the ability of either government to update those regulations to address changes in the TNC (Uber/Lyft) industry, unless such changes align with state-wide TNC regulations.

As a result, the City and County now plan to each transmit two ordinances to the City Council and County Council no later than early 2023.   The first ordinance will amend existing City and County law to effectively remove taxicab and for-hire owners, drivers, and companies from the code. leaving in place the existing regulations on TNC's.  The second ordinance will establish a new chapter, in City and County codes respectively, focused on the taxicab and for-hire vehicle industries by doing the following to ease and streamline regulations:

1. Allow all medallions (City, County, and Dual) to operate throughout the region

2.  Transition all for-hire vehicles to taxicabs

3.  Adjust insurance requirements and adapt to a changing market and policy models

4.  Eliminate outdated operating requirements and align City and County requirements

5.  Establish a regional for-hire driver's license for taxicab and for-hire vehicle drivers, with an option to obtain an enhanced regional for-hire driver's license with the addition of a fingerprint-based Federal background check

6.  Require adoption of smart taximeters including integration with public facing regional trip planning tools, integrated payment processing, and authorizing greater use of dynamic fare setting

7.  Simplify enforcement and penalties and create a more coordinated appeals process

8.  Establish a uniform vehicle age limit of 15 years, lower the minimum for driver age from 21 to 20, and adjust maximum allowable driver operating hours

9.  Authorize the County to set a minimum fare for short trips, such as those from Sea-Tac Airport

10.  Establish certain vehicle owner and driver protections, including provisions for advanced notice of contract changes and the opportunity to provide input on agency policies that affect drivers

11.  Plan for the use of all electric vehicles (EVs) when technology and infrastructure make EVs viable for for-hire passenger transportation

_____________________________________________________

Next week I will include the section including fee changes.  To send any comments about all this, use this email address: FAST@kingcounty.gov 

I encourage everyone to read through these eleven proposals carefully.  Read for hidden meaning.  These eleven items suggest a world of change is coming.  Much of all this is very taxicab friendly.  One change not listed here is the temporary suspension of taxi, for-hire vehicle and TNC vehicle age limit through June 30th, 2024.   That's very good news if you are still driving a Crown Victoria.

Big Bob Lives!

Recently I got a pleasant surprise when Bob (the famous Big Bob) said hello after dropping off at King Street Station in his E-Cab.  My friendship with Mister Big Bob dates from my earliest days as a cabbie, that is September 1987.   He said "You are still doing this?" and also made mention that back then many of our fellow cabbies thought I was a spy working for the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency).  I was still working my psych case management gig and seemed an unlikely cab driver.  Bob and I laughed but knowing Bob, he still might have doubts concerning all that, that I could really be a spy!   I assure you I'm not, only another deranged cabbie like the rest of us.  Ain't that reassuring?








Thursday, November 24, 2022

An Unavoidable Conclusion: It No Longer Makes Financial Sense To Operate A Taxi In Seattle---Uber Winning The Transportation Conversation!

I may be slow on the uptake, walking (or driving) in a self-induced haze but reality is what it is, and all of us driving taxi in Seattle are operating at a deficit, paying much more while getting far less versus Uber and Lyft, whose corresponding financial expenditures are negligible in comparison while their rates are higher.  Simple math tells the story, all adding up to what the hell am I doing driving a cab, paying a bunch a money for the privilege of wearing myself out to the bone?   Given my current insurance rates of $500.00 per month plus my weekly $195.00 dispatch fee, it all rounds out to the reality that I don't make a dime for myself until surpassing $1300.00 dollars.  Breaking that down to $30.00 per hour translates into about 43 hours of my time, which again roughly translates into nearly four 12-hour long days working "for the man" and not myself.  

Conversely, Uber and Lyft drivers pay almost nothing other than their personal car insurance costs, everything inclusively covered while carrying passengers minus their gasoline and car maintenance.  Yes, Uber and Lyft takes a portion of each ride but your personal outlay before that point is basically nothing, and nothing, my friends, is a good price versus whatever price the cabbie is paying.  And my initial outlay is less than what other cabbies pay.  A taxi buddy was paying $1,100 per month for insurance, meaning he had to earn $1900.00 dollars before seeing any money for himself, all this sobering when again positoned against Uber and Lyft expenditures. 

The question again then must be asked, what are we doing?   Are we fools?  The answer is fairly obvious. And another obvious reality is that the local taxi industry here in Seattle and King County was betrayed in 2014 by Seattle's then mayor working in conjunction with the Seattle City Council, and they in turn with the King County Executive and his King County Council.  The results, the verdict was victory for TNC and defeat for the cabs.

Uber and Lyft won then back in 2014 and continues to keep winning while we driving taxi have been shafted up the yin-yang.   As I said, reality is what it is and to refute reality is more than foolish, it's stupid.  Welcome to TAXI REALITY, Thanksgiving Day, 2022.  What are we?  We are a bunch of TAXI TURKEYS!  Gobble, gobble!  

Will President Biden grant us a Holiday pardon?  No, off with our heads!  We are dead! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Add Gasoline And Mix And Instantaneously You Are An Uber Or Lyft Operator

Add Fuel and Mix

And do you then self-immolate, a fiery exclamation point to bureaucratic folly, your instant transportation career now engulfed in flames?   Perhaps unfortunately not, because due to policies kissing Uber's backside, governments have stripped away any pretense of real regulation and oversight over who can, or cannot drive strangers on and over American roadways for monetary compensation    

I found this to be true after checking out Uber and Lyft's very simple online signup/application websites.  There is really nothing to it, you just put in your information and poof! almost instantaneously you can now ply the streets of Seattle or any other American regardless of real qualifications.  There appears to be only one standard: you are breathing and have a pulse.  That's it.  

And all you need for your background check is a social security number, whether it's yours or not, because there is absolutely no verification process saying you are who who say you are.  Fingerprinting, which would prove you are the real John Joseph Smith or Judy Agnes Johnson is no longer used.  Manufacture any and all documents and Uber and Lyft will never know the difference.  Worse, the municipal governments overseeing all this have decided to let the TNC companies to have nearly complete control over the process.  Unlike cabbies, you don't even need a physical for-hire license in your wallet, instead a TNC for-hire permit sticker is issued for your car.  

Thinking about it, with a fictional mind at work, one could imagine how a serial murderer or diabolical  poisoner (concentrating upon takeout food deliveries) could run amok, doing all kinds of nasty things, then suddenly disappearing minus anyone knowing the culprit's true identity.  Fiction unfortunately sometimes mimics real life and the many real safeguards and and preventative measures that could stop a deranged killer have vanished into governmental created thin air.  Better watch that next pizza delivery!

As I have reported in a recent post, in California, Uber is being allowed to deal with reported sexual assaults and rapes in-house, without first reporting the alleged crime to the local police.  Of course this isn't reasonable nor wise but this certainly haven't stopped governments from handing the enforcement keys over to Uber and Lyft, whose track record concerning corporate responsibility the past ten years has been abysmal, very less than stellar.  

This brings me back to the beginning.  Want to drive for Uber and Lyft?   Do it because there's nothing stopping you, and you can drive an old car too, 2008 and newer is just fine here in Seattle, your taxi  officially cannot be over ten-years old.   If you instead wanted to own a cab, good luck finding an available medallion, and worse, straddling yourself with a much higher financial overhead and tougher regulatory scrutiny.  

And adding further insult to taxis, your rates driving Uber and Lyft are now higher than a cab, making it much more profitable to drive for a TNC service.  Don't be a fool like me and drive a taxi.  Be a smart asshole and drive Uber!   Don't be dumb!  Be an Uber Bum! 

David Friend is Out of the Puget Sound Dispatch Door

Yes, it's true, that rascal David Friend, the lawyer who won a big part of a controlling interest in Seattle Yellow Cab years ago in an injury lawsuit, has sold his shares to his buddy Lema.  Since I have nothing good to say I won't say anything bad, if you can understand my words.  Good luck and other parting epitaphs left unsaid.  

A kind of tribute Poem to Sean Singer, that poetry writing former NYC cabbie

It can be fun writing in a style or form not your own, and liking what Sean Singer did in his poetry volume, "Today in the Taxi," I decided to amuse myself by writing a poem in slight imitation of what he accomplished.  Many eons ago, in San Francisco, I jokingly wrote a poem in the manner of Charles Bukowski, that infamous poetry writing degenerate, shocking my wife with a Bukowski-style "betting at the racetrack and bangin' a whore in a sordid hotel" poetic tale.  Then I was being silly and today only a trifle more serious.  Bukowski was a bit of a walking, talking, writing, drinking parody, something Sean Singer is not.  He's the real deal---cabbie, writer, poet.  And that's good enough for me.

In Friendly Imitation of Sean Singer

Today in my taxi I picked up Madness on its way to Thirteenth and Bedlam to meet a Mister Beelzebub and his nephew Wormwood,

who were all visiting Anne Sexton's ghost residing in a narrow hallway forever repeating,

"We stand in broken lines and wait while they unlock the door and count us at the frozen gates of dinner."

and later I sat parked in a yellow queue at a Big Corporate Hotel waiting for Sanity but of course Madness knowing much better than I,

directing me instead down the dreary drugged phenothiazine infused Monks Orchard Road to Beckenham, Medical Lake, Lakewood and other maladjusted scenic destinations. 

__________________________________________________

See, wasn't that fun! Ha Ha Ha!  The quote is from the American writer Anne Sexton, taken from her most amazing poetic description of living on a psychiatric ward, "You, Doctor Martin."  Having worked on psych wards and in a psychiatric hospital, her words ring true.  Phenothiazine is a family of drugs used to treat schizophrenia.  Back in my youthful days in San Francisco 1979-82, I read that poem to patients in various psych wards.  Beelzebub of course is the evil devil and Wormwood is taken from the C. S Lewis novel, "The Screwtape Letters" in which Uncle Screwtape is giving devilish advise to his young nephew Wormwood.  Beckenham is where Bedlam Hospital is located.  Medical Lake, Washington is home to Eastern State Hospital.  Lakewood, Washington is where Western State Hospital is located, where very recently a patient killed his roommate.  Monks Orchard Road will take you to Bedlam.

 








Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Back In The Taxicab Saddle---Nothing Whatsoever Has Changed & Yet Another Uber Quarterly Loss & Is It Really A Good Idea For The American Taxi Industry To Partnership With Uber? & 1917 Studebaker Series 18 Model SF Taxicab

Times They Ain't A' Changing, At Least Not Yet

I never want to say never but for the taxi moment, clearly upon my return last Thursday, nothing, as near and far as I can see, has changed in the world that is Seattle and Seattle taxi.  The roads remain clogged.  The majority of the Seattle's drivers remain clueless, acting like it is their first moment behind the wheel.  And some passengers that can be categorized as from lower socioeconomic/cultural classes continue to display poor communication skills.  

It is also true that too many passengers are still waiting up to two hours for their cabs to arrive, Yellow's Philippine-based dispatch callcenter's continued poor monitoring of waiting fares creating long waits and no-shows.  And all this happened over a four day span.  

Business however remains good, and one might comment, too good for the number of working cabs out there.  In short, I can now report on Election Day, November 8th, 2022, that the chaos that is driving cab in Seattle remains constant.  Don't we all love consistency?  Shall we laugh or cry or commit suicide and die?  No, don't do that.  Instead smile and the world will smile with you; yes smile like a hungry crocodile disguising any murderous guile, knowing that life is hard and a daily trial, taxi eventually making it through the difficult mile.  One can hope on a nearly full moon night!

Uber Keeps Bleeding Money

Uber's Third quarterly revenue increased while at the same time reporting a net loss of 1.3 billion dollars.  In the second quarter Uber loss 2 billion dollars.  Will they ever make a profit?

Uber and Taxi Suddenly Kissing Cousins?

In a conversation with PSD's (Seattle Yellow Cab) General Manager, he told me, having just come back from a national taxicab convention in Las Vegas (Sin City), Nevada, that a major topic of discussion was building a kind of business cooperation with Uber, aligning themselves with the very company that nearly destroyed the American taxicab industry.  Sounds like a big mistake to me.  And it makes me think of a comparison with current rhetoric spouted by Republican GOP politicians concerning abortion, stating that if a woman is raped and impregnated, she must give birth to the child regardless of any and all consequences.  

In that sense, one might say that Uber raped the the world's taxi industry, and now some in the industry want to hold hands with the rapist, giving birth to a new collaboration.  Obscene is my response.  Instead, arrest Uber for the criminal company it is and kick their ass straight into an awaiting prison cell.  What are people thinking!

The Seattle Times Sunday Pacific NW magazine, November , 6th, 2022 edition

In the final two pages of the magazine this past Sunday, in the "Now & Then" weekly feature, is a picture of a Seattle cab driver from 1921 standing in front of his cab, a 1917 Studebaker.   It is a great photograph and I encourage everyone to search it out.  The guy is well dressed in clothes of the era, his head topped by a wonderful black fedora.  He is wearing a buttoned down white shirt.  The car is an open-air sedan.  Must have been fun riding in it on a rainy Seattle day!  But I don't like the cabbie's expression.  I wouldn't want to get into his cab!








Monday, October 31, 2022

Once Again In Seattle---Old Bad News From January 7th, 2016 Is Still Bad News: Seattle Times Article From Six Years Ago Reminds Us Of Something That Should Not Be Frorgotten

I'm Back Jack, Skip the Flack

Got back in Seattle just after 3:00 this afternoon.  More about that next week and commentary about being back in the cab.  But on this scary Halloween Day I want to reintroduce to memory some taxi monster's monstrous behavior.  A colleague sent me this article a few days ago, something I somehow missed when it was published.  I was probably out of town.  This also reminds me as to one possible reason why BYG (Seattle Yellow Cab) didn't hire me in 2014 to be then GM Tommy Keys' assistant.  I would have blown this crap out of the water and would have gone headhunting with a sharp axe. 

01/07/16 Seattle Times Article by Evan Bush and Carol Garnick: "Sea-Tac taxi group underpaid Port pf Seattle---and Port didn't notice, audit says"

The first paragraph says what happened:

"A Port of Seattle audit presented Wednesday found the Port's lax management of dispatch and taxi services at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport allowed Puget Sound Dispatch, which operates Yellow Cab taxis in King County, to underreport receipts and underpay the Port."

The article expresses disbelief that that for years no one was paying attention while someone or someones at Yellow Cab were not paying established fees owed to the Port of Seattle.  Was all of it completely intentional?  No one could really tell, given the Port's lack of oversight.  How much was not paid, or was it simply stolen?   The Port didn't know the answer, though the loss ranged from an estimated 4-5 million dollars.   What was Yellow's penalty?  Paying the Port nearly $880.000.  What the article doesn't state is who was potentially responsible at the time for paying the fees, not naming then General Manager Frank Dogwilla and Dispatch Manager Jim O'Malley.  Were they held accountable?  No not at all but O'Malley did retire to his Camano Island estate.  

Yes, I have written in the past about this incident but glad once again to shine a spotlight on it.  Do I think a crime was committed?   My only comment is that I knew both Frank and Jim very well.  I'll leave it at that.

Screw the Taxi Nonsense, instead have a Poem about more important topics:


                                                                   Arcata Marsh

                                                                Wednesday Afternoon

                                                     Three otters fishing, three otters ordering

                                                     lunch---chomp chomp disappears a fish,

                                                     and yet another down the otter gullet, all 

                                                     three very happy, heads bobbing in unison

                                                     but rudely not leaving a tip. 

                                                                Early Sunday Morning

                                                       Forty white egrets congregating, brilliantly

                                                       outlined against the grayish-green water, 

                                                       patiently waiting in the corner of the pond

                                                       for breakfast to be served one sharp beak 

                                                        at a time.

                                                       






 


Sunday, October 23, 2022

Adios San Miguel, Hello Houston, San Francisco, Burlingame, San Bruno, Arcata: Book Review: "Transportation Network Companies And Taxis---The Case Of Seattle" by Craig A. Leisy & Beware Of United Airlines?

Goodbye Mexico, Hello Again USA

I accomplished what I needed to, finishing the editing of my book "To Age 13" but it has come with an unexpected proviso.  Somehow over the years I ended up with two working copies, choosing version two but found I had left out important paragraphs and sentences I meant to include from version one.   If this sounds confusing, it is because I made it that way, taking nearly ten years to complete a project after I had finished the first draft in nine months.  

For those who don't think taxi is intrusive, consider that I have struggled with finding the correct time and space to write over and over again.  It's not that I haven't had incentive to write.   Instead it's that I allowed taxi to be more of a priority than I should have, taxi too often leaving me dead on my feet, disconnected from my brain.   Not a good combination to get anything done, something I will never allow again to reoccur.  

Returning to Arcata before I head back to Seattle, I plan on having everything in their proper places by October 24th or the 25th.   Then it appears I will be back beneath the toplight November 1st more or less.  I will curtail my hours while concentrating upon submitting, something I have generally avoided but not this time.  Time to make it all happen.

Greetings once more from Arcata:

It was an unfortunate, and more than arduous journey from San Miguel to Arcata, which, for those interested, will be outlined at the tail-end of this post.  My postponements were are all due to fog and poor weather conditions at the Eureka/Arcata airport which is actually located north of McKinleyville in a notorious foul weather belt.  Not the best location for an airport to say the obvious.  

Making this all worse was United Airlines' response  to over three hundred unhappy passengers.  What I found is that United employees often act like "governments within themselves," arbitrarily making decisions affecting many individuals minus consequence.  In all my years of travel, and I've been to over 45 countries and territories, the only other time I have witnessed similar behavior was in then communist Hungary and Yugoslavia.   

From my recent experience, United Airlines has a customer service bureaucracy that's out-of-control, whimsically making decisions minus oversight.  I was due to arrive late Wednesday night but eventually deciding to opt out of flying all together, arriving instead by car mid-Friday afternoon.  

It is a modern but not pretty story.  If you are wondering about the title page, Burlingame and San Bruno are two Bay Area cities close to the San Francisco airport, having hotels where I stayed Wednesday and Thursday nights.  But I warn you, the narrative is long, and unless you want to read my sad travails, skip it.  I certainly wish I had.  What a pain in the flying butt!

Book Review: Transportation Network Companies and Taxis---The Case of Seattle, by Craig A, Leisy, Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group) published 2019 (hardback) & 2020 (paperback) 300 pages

Introductory Note:

I've known Craig Leisy a long time, maybe 20 years give or take a year, beginning when Craig was more or less the City of Seattle figurehead for all things taxi regulation.  I believe we first met during one of City of Seattle's silly English efficiency examinations, when the obnoxious cabbie, me, presented as exhibit one for the defense a copy of my poetry volume, "The Greyer Elements."  

At the time I didn't know Craig too was an avid writer and author but as the years progressed, and after attending many of his monthly TAG (Taxi Advisory Group) meetings, we had a friendly "meeting of the minds," and ever since, even after his retirement, have remained in contact.  While we might never agree completely on everything that is crazy taxi, I have always appreciated his sincerity, knowing he always wished Seattle's taxi industry the best of outcomes.  

This attitude, as Craig displays in his book, is a bit rare.  It isn't that others hated taxi, its that they never took the time and effort to understand it.  Craig Leisy has and here it the book to prove it.  I also appreciate that he included an April 2018 excerpt from my taxi blog, which can be found on page 220, proving beyond all doubt that Craig's outlook is to be inclusive.  This book demonstrates that.

The Review:

Before anything else, any potential reader of Leisy's tome upon Uber and Lyft and the taxi industry (Seattle the case example), should understand it was designed to be a textbook and not a quick overview of a serious and scholarly subject.  Mike Issac's 2019  "Super Pumped" might be that but Leisy's book  isn't light, instead dense and esoteric even for a taxi professional like myself.   Mind you, this isn't bad, it is just what the book is, both its strength and weakness, at least for the general reader who is not interested in becoming a student of early 21st Century transportation issues.  

The ten chapter titles quickly display Leisy's intent and focus: Introduction; 1) Definitions and concepts; 2) Economic regulation (1912-1978); 3 Economic deregulation (1979-1983); 4) Deregulation: lessons learned; 5) Economic reregulation (1984-1995); 6) Regulatory revision (1996-2010); 7 De facto economic deregulation (2011-present); 8) TNC vs taxicabs; 9) TNC industry growth (2013-present); 10) Pending issues; 11) The future.  

Now this is great for the classroom and if read from beginning to end, you will be a minor expert upon the subject because its that comprehensive, and for the most part, 98% accurate, Leisy still not understanding how much the professional cabbie makes.  Yes, he has the statistics but no cab driver could live on $30,000 a year in Seattle.  I am reminded of a Seattle Times front page article from many years ago, featuring a cabbie who said his annual take was $8000.00.  Why $8000.00?  Because making more than that meant he had to file income taxes.  Its the rare cabbie who will tell you the truth about what they are earning, official statistics be damned.   Maybe to me but never to you.

 Throughout his book, Leisy makes it clear that what brought the Seattle taxi industry to the brink of collapse was decades of mismanagement, exemplified by this quote taken from the introduction, page 1: "Lack of a sound understanding of the basics is precisely why elected officials continue to make disastrous policy decisions about how to save the taxicab industry."   

Truer word have never been written concerning the taxicab industry, both in Seattle and everywhere in these United States.  Chapter after chapter underlines this point.  This is what happens when you have government officials and their appointed lapdogs sticking their noses into a subject completely alien to them.  They might as well be regulating orange groves on Mars, describing how little most regulators and city council members etc are grounded in planetary taxi.  And the hiring of people directly from the taxicab industry is something they never do---water and oil never mixing appearing to be the prevalent attitude. 

In chapter 7, "De facto Economic Deregulation," on pages 151-154, Leisy presents the kind of idiotic ordinance changes and concessions (table 7.7 Changes to SMC 6.310 by Ordinance 124524 (2014), instituted by the Seattle City Council, allowing the TNC companies (Uber and Lyft) to run free minus any real City regulation of their behavior and standards, while simultaneously doing the same for the taxi industry, lifting the dress code requirement for white shirts and black slacks, mindless responses not based on real industry and customer needs.  One might ask why did they do this, and the answer I think is clear.  Capitulate completely to TNC demands while tossing table scrapes to the feral cabbies, making everyone happy, or at least silencing the rabble occupying the cheap seats.

In chapter 8, "TNC vs Taxicabs." page 182, under the heading, "Below-cost fares," Leisy provides a quote about TNC practice of intentionally undercharging to gain market size, all this due to unfair subsidizing of fares:

"Uber operations are staggeringly unprofitable...and its growth to date must be seen as the result of predatory pricing against incumbents who have lower costs but need to charge fares that cover the entire cost of trips and lack the financial strength to withstand years of below cost pricing subsidized by Silicon Valley billionaires."

Mike Issac's book describes this practice in detail, making it clear just how un-level the playing field was for the taxicab industry.  Leisy often expresses wonder how we cabbies in Seattle survived this unfair competition, and the truth from my own experience is that we were too dumb to understand how perilous our situation was.  And too hardheaded to admit defeat, our hatred of Uber and Lyft fueling our resistance. 

In Chapter 10, "Pending Issues," page 220, Leisy writes a short paragraph of introduction to the excerpt he included from my blog posting of April, 9th, 2018, which is an open letter to then Seattle Council President Bruce Harrell.  Mister Harrell, by the way, is now Seattle Mayor Harrell.  God help us all!

"Joe Blondo, a long-time taxicab-driver who writes a blog, expressed the exasperation of many drivers in the taxicab industry in a recent blog.  He clearly believes that Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell and the other members of the Council, are now attempting to fix the mess they made when they admitted an unlimited number of TNC drivers into the market in 2014.  But the damage has been done and it might be too little too late."

And as I have been reporting in earlier posts this year, Harrell and the City Council continue to coddle TNC drivers while completely ignoring taxicab drivers needs and requirements.  Yes, the. old story continues, ad nauseam.

I'll end with two quotes from Chapter 11, "The Future," pages 269 and 270, expressing how much business the Seattle taxi industry lost, and Leisy's dire prediction which thankfully has not come true, at least not yet.  

Why Seattle's taxicab industry has survived is pretty simple.  Uber and Lyft cannot serve the kind of account business that keeps Seattle cabs busy: medical and school accounts.  Often they are our lifeblood, and without them, as Leisy feared, we might no longer exist.  But another recent factor in our favor is that Seattle's taxicabs are now generally much cheaper than Uber and Lyft, bringing our old customer base back to where it once was.   Since Uber and Lyft have stopped subsidizing their fares, people love taxis again.  And isn't that sweet, an old romance rekindled!

Both of these quotes are taken from the section with the heading "Post-taxicab Seattle:"

"As discussed in the preceding, if the elected officials decide to pursue economic deregulation of the Seattle taxicab industry again, it will most likely put an end to the industry.  During the first 4 years of TNC competition the Seattle taxicab industry lost 56.5% of its business to the TNC industry: from 5,143,552 revenue trips (2013) to 2,234,614 (2017)."

Pretty grim but hey it can only get better, ain't that right?  And here is Leisy's worrisome prediction:

"The trajectory that elected officials have followed since the adoption of Ordinance 124524 in 2014 will almost inevitably lead to the complete collapse of the Seattle taxicab industry by sometime in 2020-2021.  It is likewise expected that the for-hire vehicle industry and the limousine industry will also cease to exist as organized industries.  Of course, the end could come even sooner if we enter a recession.  So the time is ripe for considering what a post-taxicab Seattle will look like."

I am glad to say that Seattle's cab industry, while not totally striving, can not be described as dead, or one wheel in the taxi grave.  We are still alive as an industry, and the same can be said in San Francisco, New York City and other big American cities.  

What Leisy perhaps failed to add to his estimations is how awful Uber and Lyft are, with millions of customers returning to taxicabs because they hate Uber and Lyft and trust taxicabs because they are regulated in a way they can understand.  For many, the TNC companies, especially Uber, are villains to be avoided.  At least for the near future, the taxicab industry's biggest threat is the ignorance displayed by City, County and State governments.  If anybody can kill the taxi industry its them, and as I see it, no one else.

Oh My God! United Airlines

My travel saga began innocently, getting up at 5:30 AM, Wednesday October 19th,  in San Miguel de Allende in anticipation of my 8:30 AM shuttle pick-up to the Leon/Guanajuato Airport, an approximate 1 1/2 drive .  No problem at all until I checked in for my flight, which seemed routine, having been issued my necessary boarding passes and with nothing else to do except wait.  But looking at my passes I noticed something odd had occurred, having been bumped without explanation from my original Houston to San Francisco flight to a much later one, meaning my long layover would be spent in Houston, not San Francisco.  

I went back to the ticket counter and the same agent informed me my original flight had been cancelled. I found that interesting, and if true, why hadn't I been told.?  Adding insult, my small 100 peso metal frying pan was taken away from me when I went through security.  Neither of the employees spoke English while demonstrating how the pan could be used a weapon.  This was the height of absurdity, and having gotten the attention of another passenger, she told the dumbbells to please take it home, as it shouldn't be tossed.

Once aboard the airplane I told an obviously veteran flight attendant about my flight change, and upon looking up my original flight, said it wasn't cancelled, still scheduled to leave at 4:24 PM in Houston.  Upon arriving in Houston, and quickly clearing US Customs, I went to the United customer service desk and was once again set for my original itinerary.  Though once in San Francisco I soon received the bad news that my flight to Arcata was delayed due to bad weather, not cancelled but delayed for a full 24 hours.  

This is an important distinction, a weather delay giving them the excuse to not provide anything for your inconvenience   So after traveling all day and now finding yourself stuck overnight, what is United's response?  Tough, boys and girls, we ain't doing anything for you.   Or at least that was the initial response I got at the San Francisco customer service (disservice?) counter.  And then came the  multiple contradictory responses over the 1-800 United Airlines customer service line.   It is also important to remember that this all occurred over a three-day period, with changing scenarios and characters.   

It is now Wednesday evening and I now know I will not be going anywhere until tomorrow at the earliest.  I am facing either a night in the airport or the unexpected cost of a hotel room.  And there are hundreds of stranded passengers just like me, wondering what they were going to do.  

I asked for a hotel voucher and it was a defiant no, we are not responsible for weather related delays.  Note that even though the flight was cancelled, it was only delayed, meaning all of us trusting United Airline customers were out of luck, having to fend for ourselves.   

I was quite emphatic that my situation warranted a hotel voucher, all of my pleas falling upon deaf ears.   One customer representative was particularly nasty but in the end for all my arguing I was rewarded with two $15.00 food vouchers redeemable at any airport food outlet, this being the first of many examples of what I discovered to be true: that nearly every United employee held their own version of what was standard protocol and how and why they should respond or not.  I found this both remarkable and stunning, an United Airlines kind of operational, contradictory anarchy where no rules are their rules, making them up as they go.  To this minute I have trouble believing it is true but it is, it's how the customer service teams operate.  It's what they do.

My first of four telephone calls to United customer service told me, that since my delay was over 14 hours, company policy was to provide hotel vouchers.  When informing San Francisco agents, they said, no, it's not true.

The second telephone call brought me the good news that she was authorizing a $1000.00 refund for any costs incurred during my delay, saying I would be receiving an official email from United Airlines stating that.  That email was never sent, or it was sent, it was not to my inbox. 

The third telephone call connected me not to the Philippines but Chicago.  She told me no, she knew nothing about that email but told me call in the morning and I would be connected to the United Airlines refund department.

The next morning I called for the fourth time, connecting once again to a Philippines-based agent who said repeatedly that I would be connected to the refund department.  After waiting too long on hold I just hung up.  She called me back and repeated that I would soon be talking to someone.  Again, after a long wait, I hung up.

Returning to the airport, and with the news I would be leaving on a 1:10 PM flight to Arcata, I once again went to the customer service counter to get a new boarding pass.  And sometime during that 15 minute conversation I found that I had been given an online $125.00 United Airline voucher.  Whether it was the Philippines agent or the San Francisco agent responsible for this act of kindness, I don't know but the San Francisco agent said she also wanted to give me a online food voucher though something prevented her from sending it.

In the meanwhile, three flights had been scheduled to get all of us out of there and back to Arcata.  Unfortunately, all three flights were eventually terminated.  One did take off but was unable to land, forcing it back to San Francisco.  My flight reached the tarmac in preparation for takeoff but was called back to the gate where we all disembarked.   By this point it was chaos, with none of us quite knowing what to do.  And that included United, who handled it very poorly, creating more confusion than clarity.  Would there be flights scheduled for Friday, and if so, would we make it Arcata?  No one really knew, and while standing in line once again at customer service, I was told many were receiving hotel and meal vouchers.

Upon speaking to an agent, she said no, no, no, no hotel vouchers and no meal vouchers for anyone.  Oddly, she did schedule me for a next morning flight to Los Angeles, with a connection to Arcata.  Why fly south to fly north seemed nonsensical but despondent I accepted my fate.  And then she whispered to me, "Don't say anything." as she quietly handed me three $15.00 paper food vouchers while printing out my first boarding pass.   Later, when the commotion died down, I went back and a different agent printed out my second boarding pass.

As I was heading to yet another night in an area hotel, "she-who-can't-be-named," anxiously waiting for me in Arcata, called and said she might have found me a ride to Fortuna, a town about 18 miles south of Arcata.  And to shorten this saga, this is how I finally made it back, Cary, my savior, calling me after I had already made into the airport and through security Friday morning, suddenly it making perfect sense to take a guaranteed ride instead of a mystery flight to LA.  

Earlier I had talked once again to the customer service agents and asked what would happen to me if the LA to Arcata flight was cancelled.  They conceded that I would now be stranded in LA, even further from my destination.  That sealed it. I jumped on the BART and met Cary at the 24th & Mission station, he a former San Francisco cabbie.  We were instant comrades.  And yes, I am now in Arcata.  

What a crazy three days!  You can be assured United is going hear  from me, not only about hotel refunds but about their customer service agents.  What the hell is going on with United Airlines?   It's sheer madness!  I will also be complaining to the FAA.  We passengers can't continue to be treated this way, can we? 

 



 






Thursday, October 13, 2022

From San Miguel Again: Review Of "Today In The Taxi," Poetry By Sean Singer, Veteran NYC Cabbie

 Ola from San Miguel

This week it's all about taxi and poetry, or poetry and taxi so if one or the other doesn't interest you, I suggest maybe it is time to take a snooze, maybe nap time is nigh.  But for those bold enough to trudge forward into what seems esoteric, you might enjoy the journey.  First you are getting an essay about poetry, and then the poetry book review.  After that you'll find a very odd Ogden Nash poem about cab driving and then two cab-oriented poems by yours truly.   I like Sean Singer's book and hope my review prompts some sales.  Poetry on the whole usually doesn't sell well so I am sure Sean would appreciate the revenue.  

As I know personally, most of us writing poetry never do it for financial gain, and if we did, we accurately could be described as "crazy poets, " and worth the label.   Biggest one day take I've had so far was reading at Chicago Coffee in Chicago, Illinois, making $100.00 after selling a small pile of books.  That I have made over a hundred in over an hour driving cab more times than I can remember perhaps explains why me, Sean Singer and other writers and artists have resorted to driving beneath the toplight.  It pays well but as Singer makes clear, it is certainly one pain-in-the -taxi-ass way to make a living.  So my friendly suggestion is, buy the book and forever keep Mister Singer away from the taxicab.  That would be kind.

_______________________________________

"So my advise to mothers is if you are the mother of a poet don't gamble on the chance that future generations may crown him.   Follow your original impulse and drown him."

                                                                                                                Ogden Nash

                                                   What is Poetry?

Poetry can be many things, including funny but what really and truly is poetry?   Once oral, spread and sung over campfire and hearth, those songs, myths and ballads eventually spread to the written word, inspiring many of the newly literate to think, 'Hey, that's such a good idea I think I'll try my hand scribbling a few lines of verse."  Thus the tradition began, across many cultures, with rules and structures created to formalize what was then considered "beautiful speech."  While yes, sometimes lovely, too often these measured, metered lines boring and tedious pantomime, century over century this extended tradition pulchritudinous yet statuesque, not as in shapely and tall but immovable--- monstrous monuments better suited for the park pigeon's toilet.  

Yes, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams and many others said, there is much we can  do with this medium called poetry, and so they did but opening the door to "poetry can be anything" and I for one remain doubtful that is true.  While early traditions wanted to make poetry difficult to write, poetry as high art, more modern practitioners said "screw all that sonnet and T'ang Dynasty crap" and let's provide poetry to and for the people, free verse for the masses, and let those Victorian versifying sophists wipe their golden asses.  

But oh my god! did they open the stable door, with any creature poking its head out, be it donkey, cow or sheep braying, mooing and bleating to the sun and moon: emanating through the air the contented munching of hay or the agitated stomping of hooves---perhaps lyrics best suited for barton rustics.  And while domestic elements should always be welcomed into the King James mix, barnyard music shouldn't be mistaken for W. S. Merwin or even Anne Sexton.  

Poetry, as I understand it, should be original language aiming for the most eloquent written communication that us humans can muster.  If it isn't that, then it isn't poetry, at least not in its purest sense.   Doggerel is easy but a bit too breezy is something Mister Nash might have sprouted, and that's the issue here, the making of good and permanent art not easy and not without pain.  Sylvia Plath killed herself on the mantle of poetic love, displaying how tragic even good poetry can be.  

But you don't have to commit suicide to write lasting verse, be it metered or free or some other form yet to be thought and considered.  Instead, become fluent in your native language while reading tens of thousands of poems lean and fat, and then sit as a poet beneath the Muse's tree reciting it's where I have sat, and that good old Greek Apollo, he'll like it like that.

Book Review: "Today In The Taxi" by Sean Singer, Tupelo Press, April 2022, 65 pages $18.95

What I find most invaluable about Sean Singer's book, the quality or not of the writing, of the poetry, is how it introduces the reader to "real taxi," taxi how it is minus fantasy or guesswork, the 64 poems therein leaving no doubt the cultural immersion, and horror that's driving a cab in New York City or any other American setting.  This is it, brother and sisters, slammed directly in your unprotected face!  Screwing any and all pretense,  Singer's poems puts you beneath the toplight, whether you want to be or not.  Why this is so important is the need to understand the various realities that comprise in total the reality of a world created by the human species.  And "Today in the Taxi" adds yet another written asset to our essential human library. 

There is long history to this.  Matsuo Basho's "The Narrow Road to the Deep North," introduces you to 17th Century Japan.  Anne Sexton's 1960 poetry volume, "To Bedlam and Part Way Back" tells you all you may not want to know about psychiatric wards and madness.  John Greenleaf Whittier's 759 line long "Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl" takes you into a New England December winter.   Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" brings you the despair of an ill-fated ocean voyage.   And Arthur Waley's two books of poetry translations from the Chinese, "170 Chinese Poems" and "More Translations from the Chinese," introduced us into a  world most westerners knew little: the glory that is Chinese history, culture and literature.  While some might consider Singer's contribution modest, it isn't, instead opening a door to an occupation few know, and fewer care about but not stopping the ignorant from commenting and regulating an industry opaque and mysterious to them. 

The grand irony here is that most cabbies would rather not know the crazy world of taxi driving but have no choice, that reality sitting mere inches behind you.  From "Glands and Nerves" page 46,

"Today in the taxi I brought two woman from 19th Street

 and 6th Avenue to 48th Street and Broadway.  Unfortunately 

they worked with Fox News, talked about Fox and Friends, 

and were excited to see the new Chik-fil-A and took pictures

 of it.  They were polite, visiting from Nashville, and awful."

Yes , the sometimes banality of the passengers and horror of listening to their gibberish.  You can't kick them out, they are perfectly nice yet awful, a scenario all cabbies know too well.   You can't turn up the radio because you must remain responsive to their directions. 

Another reality snapshot, from "Voyagers," page 45,

"Today in the taxi I was thankful for all the near misses and

sudden stops, times I nearly died or almost nearly."

Nothing fun about all those miles in heavy traffic, a sure prescription for accidents, or worse, death behind the wheel of a cab.

From "Ice Freezes Red," page 33,

Tonight in the taxi I picked up two 'dudes' from a steakhouse

on 44th near 5th.  They were going upstate, more than an 

hour away.   They were drunk.  They were constantly grabbing

my phone, the wires, and touching me.  I warned them several

times not to touch me or harass me, but they kept doing it.

Finally near New Rochelle I turned off at the

next exit and forced them out."

Ain't this commonplace is what I have to say, the cabbie treated like commonplace public property, no matter your protests, passengers grab and poke you and do whatever else they want to do.  Telling them to stop they say, "I am paying for this ride" which prompts the cabbie pulls to over and respond, "No you're not. Get out!"   And Singer is describing a big, over one hundred dollar fare.  You have no choice. Get Out!

And another version of trapped, "Empty," page 35,

"Today in the taxi I got a couple on Lafayette Street going

to the Home Depot on West 32rd Street.  The woman

was about eight months pregnant.  At some point the man started

sobbing.


"We're in debt every month!  We're so close to the edge. I

can't do this anymore.  The woman said,  "I'll return it...I

had no idea you were this upset...I've never seen you this

upset before."  The man was hysterically crying "We're in

debt every month!  And it doesn't seem to bother you...you

don't care!"

You get the idea, there you are in this incredibly emotional scene, you the unwanted witness to their upheaval.   

Getting to the writing itself, there is obviously a strong prose element but usually after the introductory stanza, a more poetic sense begins, trying to explain emotionally what you just read.  One device Singer uses are references to other people or actual quotes.  In eleven poems he mentions or quotes Franz Kafka.  I thought that an alternative title to the book could be "Kafka Drives a Yellow Taxi."   I am guessing that over half of the poems contain these kinds of references.   Are they effective?  Are they properly used?  And I would say yes but original language I believe should be the poet's prime goal before anything else.  To me, the writer's goal, no matter the style, should be to write what they know, sharing their interpretation of the world.  Adding, like Singer has done, could be taken as a kind of diminishment, diluting his pen with the ink from another not his own.  

I'll end with the complete text of "Road," page 59, a poem of questioning, something all cabbies have done, wondering how did I get here in this cab:

"Today in the taxi I wished I had not done things, or had done

things differently.  Or,  I wished that I had done things, or

hadn't done things the same way.


I thought of all my faults---as a husband and man---concentrated 

in one hemorrhoid that cab drivers get from sitting all day.


She's right there, but I miss her so much.  I thought of parallel

wheel tracks in the mud."

Ah yes, a cabbie's lament.  But why do we do it?  The money of course very good, especially if you start thinking about it, making it the craft it is.  But Sean Singer is now out of the cab.  Buy the book and keep it that way!

All Sean Singer poems Copyright Singer/Tupelo Press _____________________________________________________________

More Taxi Poems:

"The Strange Case of the Pleasing Taxi-Driver:  by Ogden Nash, from "Verses from 1929 On"

Once upon a time there was a taxi-driver named Llewellyn Abdul-lah---White---Male---5' 10 1/2---170

Llewellyn had promised his mother he would be the best taxi-driver in the world.

His mother was in heaven.

At least, she was in a Fool's Paradise because her boy was the best taxi-driver in the world.

He was, too.

On rainy nights his flag was always up.

He knew not only how to find the Waldorf, but the shortest route to 5954 Gorsuch Avenue.

He said thank you when tipped, and always had change for five dollars.

He never drove with a cigar in his mouth, lighted or unlighted.

If you asked him to please not drive so fast, he drove not so fast, and didn't get mad about it either.

He simply adored traffic cops, and he was polite to Sunday drivers.

When he drove a couple through the park he never looked back and he never eavesdropped.

My boy is the best taxi-driver in the world and no eavesdropper, said his mother.

The only trouble was that the bad taxi-drivers got all the business.

Llewellyn shrank from White--5' 10 1/2---170 to Sallow---Male---5' 9 3/4---135

Cheest, Llewellyn, said his mother.

Cheest, Mother, replied Llewellyn.

Llewellyn and his mother understood each other.

He took his last five dollars in dimes and nickels which he had been saving for change and spent it on cigars at two for a nickel.

The next day he insulted seven passengers and a traffic cop, tore off the fender of a car from Enid, Oklahoma, and passed through 125th Street while taking a dear old lady from 52nd to 58th.

That evening he had forty dollars on the clock.

Llewellyn is no longer the best taxi-driver in the world, but his license reads White---Male---5'11---235

In the park he is the father of all eavesdroppers.

Couples who protest find him adamant.

Since he is the father of all eavesdroppers and adamant, I think we might call him an Adam-ant-Eavesdropper and there leave him.

Goodbye Llewellyn.

________________________________________________________

Editor Note:  My computer isn't allowing to eliminate spacing when I want to.  With the next two poems, both taxi poems written by me during my early taxi years, the originals have no spaces between lines.  Same goes for the Sean Singer poems.  No line spacing.  Anyway, that's how it is.  Both poems are from the "The Greyer Elements----Poems 1986-1995."  Should it have been Grayer?  Who can spell?  Not me.


I'd rather be first-up on nothing

than fifth-up or worse

on no chance whatsoever

on a dead Sunday

sitting in the late Autumn sun

knowing eventually

getting a fare somewhere, short

or otherwise,

(contrary to rumor, no cabbie ever died

upon a stand)

so I'll enjoy myself reading, writing,

or plainly doing nothing,

something I do best,

watching tourists idle by,

letting this day take its due course,

minus my usual frantic insistence.

__________________________________

This was written my first taxi year, Fall 1987, driving for a three-car company, Classic Cab, all original Checker Marathons.  Great cars.   The setting is the Space Needle stand.   First published in Caribbean Impressions 1991.

_________________________________

                Sometimes

        I have no idea how I'm going

                to continue

        this mad routine of all work,

                little sleep

             restaurant cooking

        plus large doses of sorrow;

             as if I wanted this

             from the beginning

                      of what

                         I ask

    the beginnings I no longer pretend

                    to understand

                       suddenly

                     discovering

              there is little fun in this

                   deluge of misery

              the justification of which

                     corresponding

                  with nothing good.

_____________________________________

Ah, the fun of taxi life!  depression the sometimes underlying theme of good old cab driving.  Written in 1995.   Ironically, the best photograph of me and taxi was taken at this time.  I am leaning against my Chevy Caprice, YC 92.  Later, in November 1995,   I was driving a cab that lost its brakes and suspension on a hill, E. Roy between Mercer and Melrose.  The previous day I told the mechanics there was something seriously wrong.  Picking it up the next day they assured me it was okay.  I took it out and all hell broke loose, the car beginning to spin down hill though luckily I almost had it straightened out when I hit the concrete retaining wall just above I-5 north-bound.  My nose will never be the same.  It is bent. Thank you taxi for almost killing me.   I don't appreciate it.




                 



 

 





Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Greetings From San Miguel De Allende: Uber Not Reporting Santa Clara County, California Sexual Assaults To The Police & Taxi Deleterious To One's Health & Transportation In San Miguel---An Unfriendly Cabbie

Here to Finish & Soak  

While incredibly interesting driving around the USA and jumping in various hot springs, getting the work done and finally finishing the final editing on "To Age 13, An Examination of a Childhood," requires I have few to no distractions, thus my reasoning to seclude myself  here in San Miguel and write minus excuse.  Amazingly to me it has been ten years since I started this project, and in fits and starts I have gotten close to the finish line, determined that by October 19th it will be submission ready save for one last independent review.  

The blog this week is a kind of fill in for what will be coming in the next two weeks: a review of former NYC cabbie's poetry volume, "Today in My Taxi" and Craig Leisy's book concerning Seattle taxi and Uber, "Transportation Network Companies and Taxis---The Case of Seattle."  I am still reading both books so until then, here is some reporting about San Miguel cabs and all those buses going up and down San Miguel's hills.  As someone who once briefly drove city buses I marvel at the drivers here. You have to be incredibly skilled to negotiate these narrow streets.  It is not easy.

NYTime October 4th, 2022 article, "Silicon Valley County Battles With Uber Over Reporting Of Sexual Assault," reported by Cade Metz

Has anything truly changed at Uber and how they conduct themselves?  It appears not , as Uber, as a matter of policy, DOES NOT report immediately to the local police when a passenger alleges a sexual assault committed by an Uber driver.  And this isn't only occurring in Santa Clara County but across the USA.  Santa Clara County wants this policy to change, ensuring that every rape and sexual assault allegation concerning an Uber operator is quickly forwarded to the proper authorities but Uber remains resistant, wanting to deal with this kind of horrific crime in private.  

My response is is how the hell did Uber get the permission to conduct rape investigations on their own?  How could Uber, and local government officials across the USA allow this type of behavior?   It's nonsensical and extremely dangerous, essentially telling female passengers that what happens to you is not Uber's priority, their priority instead, at all costs, first and foremost, is the protection of company reputation.  Another good question is why these assault victims aren't bypassing Uber to begin with, and filing charges directly with the police.  It's a mystery.  One would think there would be some urgency after being attacked by your driver. 

And does anyone believe that if a passenger was raped in cab, that government response would be, "Hey taxi association, you deal with it, we trust you to fully investigate and prosecute the offender?"  If you believe that, you'll believe anything, including that Uber can be trusted with your wife, mother, sister, girlfriend, partner, grandmother or daughter.  So much for fantasy!  Uber's approach is despicable, a continuation of a reprehensible legacy originating from its earliest minutes, an institutional slap in the face to reason and good sense. 

Unhealthy Taxi

It has now been over two months since I've been in the cab but still I remain in some kind of recovery mode, the damage done by too many accumulative hours driving taxi still active in my poor body.  Now I will say that driving all those miles here and there and everywhere across the USA hasn't helped but taxi has been unkind to my aging body.  For those who don't know I am 68 years, nine months old, and what I could put up with, 12 hour plus shifts plus too many days in a row is no tenable.  Not only do I not want to go through that kind of physical abuse again, my body won't allow it.  

Recently during June and July, I would begin to get physically sick after three or four taxi days, taking another three or days more to recover and return.  If I do return to driving, it will be abbreviated.  How could I look forward to dealing once again with Seattle's stupidly crowded roadways and ignorant drivers?  I don't.  Driving cab in Seattle has become nightmarish but at least the West Seattle Bridge is now open, so that's a positive, isn't it?

Buses and Cabs and Walking in San Miguel de Allende 

San Miguel is a city (and municipality) in constant motion, at least until nightfall, its 60,000 residents, and 175,00 overall in the greater area going up and down the steep narrow streets in buses and taxis and on foot.  People are everywhere and San Miguel is one very large human anthill, everyone intent upon their business whatever that might be.  Everywhere you will encounter the local buses, purple and white Ayco  Magno Mercedes Benz buses maneuvering through impossible streets, with every ride witnessing feats not thought possible but somehow the driver makes its through.  It's incredible to watch.  And the buses are very affordable, 8 pesos (40 cents American) will take you to every corner of the city.

The green and white taxis, usually the famously deathtrap Nissan Tsuru, are everywhere and used by everyone but maybe to the high price of gasoline, about 23 peso per liter, some of the cabbies are getting a bit surly.  To this point I have taken only one cab, that was to the La Gruta Hot Springs spa from the outskirts of San Miguel, about a 5-6 mile drive, and the cabbie was very unhappy to have settled for 200 pesos, having initially asked for 250.  Given that the bus ride to La Gruta is only 15 pesos (about 75 cents), paying what is the equivalent of about ten dollars is about all I am willing to pay.  A local resident told me the average fare is in and about town is usually 60 pesos, or three dollars. 

You will also see many people walking, including me, especially when I am in the Centro or the center of town.  Yes the streets are busy and tight with cars and trucks and buses but there is much to see, and what better way is there except to hoof it up and down the hills.  One very major drawback to all this vehicular traffic in tight spaces in the pollution, which explains why I am solo this particular visit minus my usual companion, "she-who-can't-be-named," who got me going here in the first place.  The exhaust was making her sick.  But don't let that stop you from visiting at least once.  San Miguel is a wonderful town.  And La Gruta, now just over $12.00 for an all day soak, is a wonderful place to be. 

Poem: Drowsy Vendor

Nearly asleep behind his piles

of limes and tomatoes and 

other fruits and vegetables

I thought a purchase would

awaken him to carrots

and potatoes and one

delicious papaya serving

me breakfast four 

sunny mornings in 

a San Miguel row. 








Ayco Magno. Nissan Tsuru 













Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Greetings Again From Hippie Arcata: Criminality And The Taxi Industry: Fact Versus Mythology & Seattle Yellow Cab's Fabled Thanksgiving Dinners

 From the Redwoods

I always enjoy being in Arcata, a faint reminder of what might have been if America and the world had truly embraced the 1960s Hippie Cultural Revolution but alas, tie-dyed T-shirts and organic food and long hair only small incremental steps toward where the world needs to proceed, Arcata a few inches forward to the kind of sane outlook that might save our disinterested human species from destroying the very foundation that is our spinning planet.  At least here in Arcata there is some pretense that we can change. Elsewhere, in cities like Fresno, that fantasy is just that, a kind of fanciful delusion spoken in whispers in the dead silence of middle-class nights---instead cowboys in big pickup trucks race into the sky, circling the moon and stars and the Milky Way. 

But one positive minus argument here in Arcata is the Cafe Mokka/Finnish Country Saunas located at 495 J Street, 707-822-2228, the hottest sauna you'll find this side of Tallinn, Estonia. $12.50 for half hour sessions, $24.00 for the full hour.  Hours are 11 AM -11 PM.  If passing through on Highway 101, call at 11:00 AM beforehand to make a reservation.  They also have hot tubs.  Soak, bake, and enjoy.

Criminality and the Taxi Industry: Fact versus Mythology 

Any cabbie everywhere has heard this accusation more times than they can remember: "You are taking me the wrong way!" or "The long way!" or some variation upon a crooked theme, the passenger knowing beyond a doubt that you, you the disreputable taxi driver---"nature's criminal"---is doing what we all do: ripping off the customer as a matter of general practice. and routine.  Yeah they know, and how do they know?  Because everyone knows the cab driver is Mister or Ms "Botton-of-the-Barrel," desperate and barely employable, driving a cab because they "can't do anything else," otherwise why would they do what others would never in a million years consider doing?  

While the preceding description might be slightly exaggerated, it accurately describes a prevalent attitude toward cab drivers and the taxi industry overall: you are not to be trusted.  Try as you might to find one but there is no other industry or occupation that lists customer complaint telephone numbers as the door is opened.  Imagine entering a Macy's or Starbucks or an United Airlines 737 and festooned everywhere are complaint telephone numbers encouraging you to report all the bad things they are doing, or will do to you their hapless customer.   

For the cabbie, it is their reality, tried and convicted before moving an inch down the road.  But is any of this actually true or only a kind of demeaning mythology unfairly denigrating an entire industry minus real evidence, a kind of mindless discrimination embraced by unsophisticated dopes, fools and ciphers?  How, one could ask, did we arrive at this unpleasant juncture?  

It might have started long ago in 19th Century London with horse-drawn hansom cabs.  Who knows what are all those bad horses did?  More likely the mythology began with the 1922 advent of Checker Motor Corporation onto Chicago and New York City streets, the beginning of Checker's domination of the taxi car industry, fully extending into the late 1970s and early 1980s.  

Anytime an industry flourishes, the potential for abuse expands, perhaps explaining the genesis of a suspicion coloring every driver and every taxi ride today.  When there has been real criminality, it has been usually connected to large cab associations or individuals owning multiple cab medallions.  But while some drivers will succumb to temptation and deviate from honest procedures, most just keep their nose to the taxi grindstone and work, work, work until they drop, go to sleep and begin all over again the next morning or day.

One of the fundamental reason for this is that grim taskmaster called time, going the wrong way taking valuable time away from the next fare, and the cabbie is always focused upon the next fare, already knowing what he will getting from the passenger sitting behind him.  The key to making money driving cab is volume, putting as many fares into a given hour as possible.  Scrounging for an extra dollar or two makes no economic sense whatsoever.  Does alienating the passenger generate a good tip?  No, not at all which is another incentive for playing it straight, dishonesty a deep, dark hole no cabbie wants to fall into. 

As someone who once returned over $10,000 left in my cab by an elderly couple, I can attest that the vast majority of cabbies would have done the same.  We are not thieves.  Yes, often ill-tempered and many other fill-in-the-blanks but robbers we are not.  If you don't agree, like many of my brethren, I will pull to the curb and invite you out of the door.  But believe me, it isn't personal, merely not interested in being treated poorly.  And thinking I am out to steal your money is insulting.  Please, I repeat, get your butt out of the cab, pronto!

The Biggest Tragedy

Big bully Uber "busted" up much of American taxi, and the damage done in Seattle led to the cancellation of an annual tradition: Yellow's sponsor of a superb Thanksgiving Dinner for all of its drivers and their families.  The food was usually fantastic, cooked by various ethnic restaurants from year to year, the traditional turkey teaming with various delicacies changing the mundane into a dining adventure.  And of course the meeting of friends only usually seen flying by was wonderful, the dinners a time to sit and relax and be with whom, though few would say it, we loved and cared and would kill to defend. And that is what Uber destroyed, not caring one iota concerning an intimacy lost, never to be regained. 

Poem: Into The Ansel Adams Wilderness

Walking to Doris Lake in the high Sierra,

a perfect blue sky morning warm upon a trail

hugged by granite formations taking us up 

and to cold amber colored water, 

and jumping in, hundreds of tiny fish 

questioning our unclothed flesh. 





Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Greetings From South Lake Tahoe, California: Bellingham, Washington Taxi & More Concerning Uber

Too Wet

Greeting from the California/Nevada border, writing from a local Motel 6, rain chasing us from campgrounds to more standard shelter.  A wide-reaching storm in this part of California and Nevada, while making life somewhat difficult for us, is bathing the parched landscape along with putting out the Mosquito Flat fire northeast of Placerville.  The rain is welcome though somewhat dampening our overall experience.  Again, more on my travels in a later post.

Deb and Ron---Salt-of-the Earth Bellingham Taxi

A few days before setting off on this car trip, 7000 miles and counting, I finally got to my oft delayed visit to Bellingham Yellow where I met Ron and Deb, two real taxi denizens if I have ever encountered one, and in their situation, two.  Ron is originally from San Francisco and drove in that Golden Gate city for many years, Ron a counter-culture relic transferring from the Bay area to that Canada gateway city, Bellingham.  

At first, Ron and his wife Deb didn't initially start their company but a few years after their arrival, they decided that owning their own cab company was a good idea.  Even Deb's mother, who had been driving cab on Cape Cod, migrated from the East Coast to assist, driving for few years for her daughter.  As you can see, at least for us in the "taxi know," I am portraying "real" taxi people who know the business inside and out and back inside again.  It was refreshing to spend a few hours with them, with folks who speak the language and lexicon. 

Upon my visit, they were in the last hours of finalizing the sale of their company to former and current employees, ready to say goodbye to something that has dominated their lives for all these many years.  During our visit, they took many calls from their dispatcher, making it clear what I know too well, you don't just drive taxi, you "marry" taxi and that it how it is regardless all argument.  

The reality of taxi is many, and when they decided to transition from a lease-only driver base to an employee-based company, "Big Government" began making demands by saying your Washington State Labor& Industry (L&I) insurance payments would now be $1.25 per hour, prompting them, amongst many reasons, to say "they kinda have had enough" and begin planning their exit.  All I can say is that I hope they enjoy their retirement and forget about taxi altogether, otherwise it will remain a sinkhole drawing them in to its terrible bottom.  And who wants that!?

Clarification 

Ron is originally from Lynden, Washington, a town near Bellingham, which explains why, after leaving San Francisco, he moved back to that part of the state of Washington.  The sale is still pending.  And the transition from lease-driver to employee-driver was to better provide for the drivers, government demands notwithstanding. 


Asshole Uber

In Mike Issac's book, it was clear that Uber in its formative years had no interest in embracing normally accepted business practices, doing whatever it wanted both here in the United States and around the world, not caring who it hurt and what damage it caused.  Why that was true is less due to Uber's founders than a prevailing attitude from all involved, that being "we are the anointed" and because we know more than you do, we have the privilege to do what we want to anyone we want at any time we choose.  Where does this come from, what is its foundational basis?  

Obviously to me it is the too old story of class privilege and how people from the economic so-called Upper-Middle Classes, believing themselves to be superior are then just that, superior.  As I have just written, when you have this attitude everything you might want to do is justifiable, destroying people's lives the least of your concerns.  

And that in short, is the real Uber story.  Bribery, bullying, lying, it was and is all okay, as long as the business organism known as Uber strives, nothing else was and is important.  Yes, it is a standard American corporate attitude but Uber took it many steps forward past known bounds, "screw you" and "go to hell" their operational credo and motto.  

The sad part is that Uber found so many business and government partners willing to grease the wheels, letting Uber bludgeon anyone who might get in their way.  But when the "superior" gather together, hold hands and dance down the financial highway, you will be run over and that's how it is.  Scream and yell, no one cares, you are dead, roadkill festering upon the roadside, carrion vultures picking at your bones. Whoever has the money are the bees that make the honey.  Welcome to America, the ghost of Christopher Columbus forever proud, the blood of the Kalinago staining his hands.





 

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Greetings From Williams, Arizona---Book Review: "Super Pumped---The Battle For Uber" By Mike Isaac

Since leaving Seattle on August 13th, I have driven nearly six thousand miles plying the many interesting roads taking me first to Ohio, and now finding myself heading back west on I-40 (old Route 66), where on September 13th I will be stopping at the Fresno, California airport to pick up that famous personage, "she-who-can't be-named," where we are then off to someplace called Mono Hot Springs and peace and quiet in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  And in between all these miles I have been able to get some necessary reading in, finally reading what is the 2019 more-or-less biography of the ex- Uber CEO and Founder, Travis Kalanick, Issac's book a slightly myopic examination of a subject broader than the irascible Kalanick.  

Sometime during the next month or so I'll provide a condensed version of my travels across two/thirds of America, as some of my readers appear to be as interested in my wanderings as they are about all things taxi.  The Ohio river is one big drink of flowing water!  And southern Missouri just above the Arkansas border is a wonderful blend of green rolling hills and verdant deciduous forest, the Mark Twain National Forest encompassing much of that area, Route 9 taking me through and past all that delightful country and into northern Arkansas.  

A Review: "Super Pumped---The Battle for Uber" by Mike Isaac,  W.W Norton & Company, 2019  

For those who are interested in learning the genesis and rise of Uber, this book is for you, a smoothly written account by a New York Times reporter whose primary focus was Uber and what it was doing.  If only I had known much of this narrative before Uber came calling at Seattle's door in 2013/2014, my response would have been much stronger and better informed.  The title of the book comes from 14 bullet points Kalanick presented at a 2015 Las Vegas Uber convention, "Super Pumped" being number twelve in that long list of what he saw as "Uber values" conquering the known world. "Pumped" is a term adopted by the tech world in Silicon Valley, something emphasizing one's energy for your project.  That Uber's "energy" spiraled out of control is also part of Isaac's story.

The car hailing concept originated not with Kalanick but with Garret Camp, a newly minted 75 million dollar tech millionaire who was irritated that he had trouble getting a cab late at night in San Francisco.  Being who he was, and having absolutely no understanding of the taxi industry, he thought that an app-based ride hailing service would be the answer.  Relaying this to his fellow tech millionaire (22 million dollars) Travis Kalanick, the rest is history of how and why they decided to take on the evil, uncaring taxicabs, bent upon a destructive and arrogant campaign to overwhelm and conquer the taxi-like transportation world. 

Much of the book then is about how Uber did that, raising money from people and companies whose primary purpose was only to make money regardless of any and all consequences, and how their ruthless CEO battered anyone who got in his way.  While that part of the book is comprehensive, much of the story is left out, as the recently released "Uber Files" have made clear, Isaac's book half of the story, if even that much.  One big criticism I have is, that in total print, Isaac wrote less than a full page about "Big Taxi" and why, from Uber's standpoint, it needed to be destroyed.  As I personally know, that kind of mythological world did not exist in Seattle.  Far from it, as the local industry was forever victimized by City, County and State governments.  

In short, Isaac knows "shit" about the American cab industry, this serious shortcoming weakening his overall narrative.  While clearly a great researcher, he shortchanges the reader by not fully understanding the territory he entered.  Yes, he does make brief references to other related issues, like how Uber and car leasing companies trapped immigrant drivers into catastrophic financial deals, but Isaac not going far enough in dealing with this and other examples of a company completely out-of-control.  Did Kalanick care about what happened to the very people making Uber successful?  No, not at all.

Despite its deficiencies, I  strongly recommend that all taxi industry related folks and interested parties read the book.  You will be better informed having done it.  And Travis Kalanick is once again in the news, raising money for his newest tech adventure.  All I can say is that there is something seriously wrong with the guy.  He can't stop himself even though he now has over 5 billion dollars in the bank.  He doesn't seem to know how to stop and that again is the Uber story.  Will it ever stop tormenting the world?  That history is yet to be written.  Stay tuned.





Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Again From Toledo: For The Taxicab Passenger, Taxi Is Life

 Taxi is Life!

As I have previously described, taxi for the cabbie is at best drudgery but for the usual passenger, it can be life, and quite often, sometimes life lived to its fullest, many on the way to a domestic trip or European adventure, while for others, they are simply glad to be getting home after a long, tedious workday, pleased to having avoided a laborious and lengthly bus ride.  My first numerous cab rides occurred on a 1982 honeymoon, five weeks in West Germany, Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal, taking cabs to dinner and elsewhere, we the happy couple oblivious to the thoughts and emotion of the drivers taking us to pleasant destinations, Madrid especially memorable, zipping around, for us, in that Easter Sunday city in Spanish-made Fiats.  

The taxi then, for many tourists and travelers new to a given city, is freedom from the perplexity of unknown streets, the cab their magic carpet ride to restaurants and hotels and cars and nightclubs.  For the many medical patients also using the cab, the taxi is often what keeps them alive, dialysis and cancer patients at times very reliant upon taxi services taking them to and from life-providing  and life-sustaining appointments. 

Yes, taxi can be seen as death to the cabbie, a never ending night minus morning's dawn but for many passengers it is a celebration about everything worth living, embracing each breath as they exit the cab, life and all it entails waiting at the next curbside, the cab their vehicle to the next pleasant minute and hour waiting around the corner, surprise and exultation host and hostess to an expressive and exciting night, cab a quick pathway to what all we hope may be an earthly heavenly garden.  While the cabbie growls, the passenger smiles, and "thank you," they say, "thank you very much, we enjoyed the ride!"

Art is Life!

Instead of first flying off to Paris or Madrid or Rome or Amsterdam to see the art and explore all of their great museums, first consider these terrific museums here in Midwestern America,  a wonderful trio all residing within a compressed, narrow 280 mile triangle of each other.  I know because I have just visited all three and all of them are world first class pillars of art and the creative spirit.   The three, in order of my visitation are:

The Art Institute of Chicago 

The Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art

Detroit Institute of Art

The highlights are many.  In Chicago, the Thorne Miniature Rooms are unique, located nowhere else.  In Toledo, the Glass Museum located across the street from the main building, along with the two Van Goghs, are enough to incentivize a visit, and do check out the incredible Max Beckmann painting, "The Trapeze," an artistic expression of post-WWI Germany.  Detroit has Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry Murals," along with an incredibly comprehensive collection of art from every corner of the planet.  

Chicago is 245 miles from Toledo and 281 from Detroit.  Toledo is only 58 miles south of Detroit.  Take seven days and explore.  Rent a car like I did in 2012 and drive across Indiana.  There is so much to see, not only in the museums but along the rural roads taking you west to east, east to west.  I love Paris but these museums are a match, and you don't have to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to see them though looking down at Greenland is always fun.  See Greenland before it melts away into climate-change gloom and doom.  







Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Greetings From Toledo,Ohio:Taxi Is Death

Early Tuesday Afternoon in Toledo

Having arrived yesterday, I will be leaving on September 3rd, heading down to West Virginia, then into Kentucky, two states new to me.  Driving here I really enjoyed much of what I came across, including parts of South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.  Northern Iowa can be damn beautiful, lovely terrain along with nice small towns filled with many ornate wooden houses.  Viewing the many old downtowns along my travels has also been fun.  Contrary to rumor, much of America is alive and well and thriving, yes, doing okay, thank you.  And many folks along my route have been downright friendly, even to a counterculture relic like myself.  Above all the noice and rhetoric, the majority recognizes that we are all equal citizens of our wonderful country.  "This land is your land, this land is my land....." sang Woody Guthrie, and its true, his words, his lyrics ringing genuine and true, a liberty bell minus any cracks. 

Now for an essay describing what taxi is really like for me and for the many others driving beneath the toplight.  I call it death because, for me, there is no other way to accurately describe what is essentially an inhuman experience.  While many jobs and occupations dominate one's life, taxi is a specter haunting body and mind, no fun for those tied to a nightmare never ending.  

After leaving the parking garage after my visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, I saw a taxi with a sticker advising "Call 311" to report the awful cabbie.  Catching up to the driver at an intersection, I was able to ask him about it.  He said, "It's the money.  They want my money!"  And I said, that's right, I can now call and say you have done anything, running me over, etc and they will make you responsible. "Yes," he laughed, "Yes!"   

And there you have it, the ongoing insult that is driving a cab.  Think you are gonna see that sticker on the back of Lyft and Uber cars?  No way, Mister Jose!

Taxi is Death

Driving taxi is a python, a boa constrictor squeezing the life out of you as ply the streets of any given city.  Why is that true?  Its due to two foundational elements that is taxi: a stressful work environment and a high overhead---a never ceasing request for your hard earned money, because taxi is all about money, both the money you make and the money everyone wants to take from you.  Whether you own or are leasing, you are liable for expenses from the beginning.  If you lease, you have your "gate" or "nut" plus all that gasoline to pay for.   And it's even worse for the owner, with insurance and dispatch fees hanging over you, along with local government medallion fees and costs, which in NYC can mean, even with the now celebrated "medallion loan" reductions, another $1200. monthly payment on top of gasoline and potential car loan payments.  More than just squeezed, it is a heavy weight crushing, pressing you into the ground.  These kinds of financial pressures can be overwhelming, destructive, sometimes leading to utter despair and suicide.  

Then there's the "human punching bag" working environment that daily pummels the cabbie, the taxi driver never forgetting that he/she is "public property" permitting anyone who wants --passenger, cop, fellow motorist---to abuse and attack and assault you in whatever fashion they wish.  Add the stress of working in a congested city dealing with traffic, pollution, unrelenting noice, excessive heat in the summer, icy roads in the winter, all of it tied with having to make the MONEY! lots of MONEY! to keep the taxi wheel turning, you have the living nightmare that is taxi, death on four rotating wheels, keeping you from actually living the peaceful life you deserve.  Taxi ain't heaven, it's hell!

What should be clear is that driving taxi is not truly living.  If it is, it is life encased in a moving metal box, a yellow coffin with a meter and toplight.  Since leaving Seattle August 13th, I saw the rising full moon transition from a glowing orange to yellow to a pure beaming white coloring the night desert sky.  In Montana while driving along a forest road, I was forced to stop for a herd of big horn sheep, fifty or more ewes and lambs crossing from one grassy pasture to the next.  The next day, also in Montana,  I woke up and walked a mile to Upper Potosi Hot Springs, having the pool entirely to myself.  What a beautiful, sunny morning it was, treading my way through golden fields.  In Iowa, after surviving a night filled with hail and driving rain, the eastern horizon a flashing light show much of the night, in the early dawn I stood next to a meandering river, unknown birds singing.  Further miles down the road, I found a trout stream bordered by flowering bushes---both orange and yellow slippers delighting the eye, thrilling the brain, the air clean and fresh.  And yesterday, in a kind of punctuation, while waiting at a light on Route Six in Edgerton, Ohio, a ruddy-headed perhaps eight-year old boy crossed in front of me, catching my eye and flexed his right bicep, an unexpected human communication.  All of this and more I would have missed if I had instead been in the damn taxi.  

Yes, driving the taxi is death.  Stepping out is life, and thank goodness for that, stormy weather, big horn sheep and flowering bushes embracing my life.  Thank you, thank you very much, drenching me with life!

Poem: 

August 21st Lost in Rockford, Illinois 

In the night,
my camp rained out,
my hair and clothes wet,
I drive east seeking shelter 
upon roads new to me, numerous
construction detours transforming 
vague notions into "I have no idea"
except continuing east toward Chicago
and a hopeful theoretical respite through
this infernal Midwestern downpour
reminding me, if I had ever
forgotten, I remain very
much alive. 

___________________
This was after yet a second night of torrential rain.  I found a motel and was glad of it.  Expensive but I was dry and able to dry out my tent.