Monday, January 31, 2022

Greetings From Mazaltan: Taxi Reality In Mazatlan---Juvenal, An Airport Cabbie And All Those Pulmonias & Nothing Official Yet About Taxi Merger & Penacanus Occidentalis

Tourist Town's Grim Taxi Reality 

Mazatlan is a tourist town, a city very dependent upon tourists spending their pesos and American and Canadian dollars to keep their local economy humming.  "The Golden Zone," that hotel congested more-or-less three-mile stretch of everything to keep the mindless, sun-seeking tourist happy is a testament to that, Burger King, Carl's Junior and other American fast-food outlets shoulder to shoulder with Mexican restaurants and sports bars blaring NFL and international soccer (football) games.  Add to that the 4.5 mile "melecon," Mazatlan's world famous seaside boardwalk extending south from the Golden Zone, and you have a bustling street and walkway attracting every unoccupied taxi and pulmonia in the city.  

What is a pulmonia, you might wonder?   The pulmonia is a very local version of an open air taxicab looking much like a large golf cart though the newer versions are far more car-like, with better seats and real doors for the passengers.  Taxis, and especially the pulmonias cluster around the Golden Zone hotels and cruise up and down the malecon, wishing and hoping for that raised arm beckoning them to stop.  During normal times I am guessing the polmonia drivers are pretty cheerful but the coronavirus pandemic is anything but normal, squeezing the market and making everyone a bit desperate.  

Since my arrival last Monday I have taken one taxi from the airport and 13 polmonia rides in and about the Centro and waterfront as we explore the city.  Given my 34 years beneath the toplight, I can read any cabbie like an open book and the majority of these guys are not happy.  Juvenal, my friendly airport cabbie, reports that it's slow business-wise, my fare that day only his second, translating into one fare for each four hour period out of an already eight-hour day. 

I know from personal experience that kind of "waiting, waiting" drives the cabbie nuts, telling them beyond any doubt that you are imprisoned in the cab, jailed, with no escape or parole.  Juvenal drives seven days a week, having no choice but to wish and hope for the best outcome every day and hour.  It's hard on him and hard on the thousands of pulmonia drivers.  I gave Juvenal a $6.00 tip and initially he  didn't understand why he was getting that much money, his tips either much smaller or non-existent.  I got his card and will make every effort next Saturday to call him when we return to the airport.  

I have taken cabs in many countries and it's the same story for them as for me: if it isn't busy, if we aren't making the "real money," we go crazy.  And why are all of us out-of-our-minds?  Because, brother and sister, taxi is a brutal business, gripping your physical body and spiritual heart and soul, tearing you apart minute after hour after day.   That's why I have been tipping all those pulmonia drivers at least one American dollar, equalling more or less 20 pesos, their frown usually becoming a smile and "muchisimas gracias, senor!" And yes, you are very welcome, "por favor."  

No Merger News

Some questions have been asked about the pending Seattle cab association merger but I am waiting to address those until the news hits local media outlets.  I have heard nothing from the City and County concerning the merger but they must be on some level involved, or at least notified about what is occurring or not.  I will not be surprised if announcements are made tomorrow, Tuesday, February 1st, 2022.

Two Pelican Haiku

It has been very entertaining watching the wintering brown pelicans cavort and dive above the local sea.  Though I don't know for sure, some of these pelicans could be year-round residents.  The first poem originates from a late afternoon jaunt to the beach below the malecon, sitting on the sand watching the pelicans perform, searching and diving for their supper.  The second is from a sojourn north of the city proper, sitting all by ourselves on the sand bordering Emerald Bay, with many lines and waves of pelicans flying south over the beach.  A beautiful sight upon a warm Mexican day.

pelicans dropping

diving, splash! into the sea.

"Oh what have I found?!"


pelicans flying

south over our beach---"Hello,

can we go with you?"

Monday, January 24, 2022

Greetings From LA-X---Taking Cabs Instead Of Driving One & Big News: Look For A Taxi Company Merger End of January

 Hello from Sunny Los Angeles

On my way to Mazatlan,  joining "she-who-can't-be-named," where she is seeing the same dentist I saw back in December 2020, having had enough of stateside dentists.  My flight out of Seattle was early, so I caught a Yellow cab, my friend David,  a 27 year veteran of the top-light, who got me to Sea-Tac on time, someone planning on getting out of the business in a year or so.  And once I reach Mazatlan, I will be cabbing it into town.  Once there, when needing vehicle transportation, due to the coronavirus, we will be taking cabs instead of buses.  Always enjoy supporting my brethren, whether in the USA, Mexico or where ever I find myself.  But I think walking is what we will be doing most, as I need to rid myself of some of this taxi weight gained over the years, being at least 30 pounds over my normal, my waistline telling me exactly how unhealthy taxi is.  She keeps telling me that taxi is killing me. Yes that is completely true.

Taxi Merger Coming Seattle's Way

While negotiations continued into last week, it appears that Seattle's second largest taxi association is merging with Yellow, leaving no one else for Seattle customers to call when needing a cab.  Orange is gone, having closed down completely, a few lingering operators still flying their colors but that's it, no dispatch, nothing, gone, kaput, leaving Seattle this new combination of green and yellow cabs patrolling the taxi streets.  I heard our once rivals were down to 40-50 cabs so I suppose it makes sense for everyone to circle the wagons and fight for our taxi lives.  

Once I am clear on the arrangements made, I will fill in the details but "oh, how the mighty have fallen," the company once Seattle's taxi leader, knowing first hand from when I drove Cab 88 for them back in the late 80s. They had incredible business, remembering 60 fares or more waiting downtown on a typical early afternoon lunch hour.  And the reason I am not naming them is because I was told to wait, so the old news will be fresh off the presses in the next post originating from Mexico.  Adios. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Confusing Online Taxi Portals & Too Many Potholes & Last Two Fares Saturday Night & A Photograph From 1973 And Two Taxis & Only The 45th Worst?

 Online Processing is Great if you know how to Navigate the Process 

Yes, the online portals presented by both the City/County and PSD (Seattle Yellow Cab) are theoretically more efficient but it hasn't worked out that way so far because few if any of us really understand or know how to navigate what is being presented to us.  Last week I wanted to renew my taxi for-hire, and finding myself stymied by something I didn't understand, it took the direct intervention of Kathleen K. from King County to get me through the process.  And while I am not in any manner a computer whiz, ten years ago I was able to understand enough to assist in the online process of publishing my last book.  So my comment to everyone was basic: if I am having issues, what about everyone else?

And in terms of Yellow, while understanding why they want everyone to communicate online, assuring that everyone first have the consummate skills to navigate their portal would make compete sense.  I was initially bewildered but maybe I figured it out but I am not fully convinced. 

Yes, the pandemic has turned everything upon its head but as I keep suggesting over and over, commonsense must prevail when decisions affecting large numbers of people are concerned.  Theory is great but practicality is even better.

Ice is not Nice where Roadways are Concerned

The recent snow and ice storm created a series of potholes rarely seen in Seattle and area, melted water freezing at night, bursting holes and cracks large and small in the local streets.  At one point there were over 700 potholes awaiting repair.  Important to note if your car is ever damaged by a pothole, you have the ability to claim damages and seek payment.  Never doubt that the City of Seattle cares about you, or at least have them prove it by paying for your flat tires and bent wheels.

Passengers Need their Cab Regardless of the Hour

Servicing our passengers should be of the utmost importance day and night, early or late.  I mention these two fares to illustrate our quality of service or lack of it.

The first fare was in Chinatown, an elderly woman arranging her time-call for 10:00 PM.  She was overjoyed I got there a few minutes early as she has waited in the past for as long as two hours for her cab.  I took her to 17th & East Madison by a quick route unfamiliar to her.  This is how it should be the majority of time, quick and easy, not slow and laborious.  She tipped me five. 

Second was a 10:20 PM time call at North 148th & Meridian, a worker going to her night shift at Foss Home, North 130th and  Greenwood.  She is having trouble getting there on time.  Recently a nurse had to leave the facility to pick her up at home and bring her back for her shift.  Another driver told her he didn't have change for her $20 bill and took it all but her fare was only $12.00.  I got her there on time and said give me ten, that's all.  This kind of crap shouldn't be happening but it does, over and over and over again.

Two Cabs 1973

Last week in the NY Times Business Section, there was an article about gas prices and supply featuring a photograph of cars lined up at a gas station during the Mideast Oil Embargo.  It got my notice because one of the cars waiting in line was a Checker Cab.  And tooling down the street was some kind of Chevrolet used as a cab, what year and model I couldn't figure out but it was a BIG car, similar to all those other big American cars waiting for gasoline.  In the photo I did see two VW bugs but the rest were those giant American cars popular in that era, no Toyotas anywhere. 

Washington State: Not a good place to drive or own a car

A recent poll said WA ST was only the 45th worst state to drive around in out of 50.  What happened to my vote?  The poll was stolen!  Tell Donald!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Five Passenger Profiles: Look Who Is Getting Into My Cab

 Modern American Life at my Taxi Doorstep

Every cab driver, especially longterm drivers like myself, eventually meets almost every kind of individual, of human being, originating from every social and economic class, be they happy, sad, crazy or just plainly mundanely boring.  And each one having a story, their narrative entering my cab, and for a few minutes filling my mind with who they are and what they are doing at that particular moment.  Most often, I attempt to be what I could call "pleasantly scientific," analyzing while making every attempt not to be judgmental.  This week I offer a handful of examples of five recent customers passing through my cab, offering you a peek of what is my daily reality.  As the old nursery rhyme goes, "Here's the (taxi) church and there's the steeple, Open the the door (and oh my god!) and see all the people."  Yeah, it is basically like that.

"A"---Not Long in the Taxi: Everyone Needs a Social Club

Seattle's "rich" have their Rainier Club, the local Chinese have their Benevolent Associations, the Grunge Rockers have their Crocodile, and Seattle's social outcasts/minor criminals have Joe's Bar & Grill at 500 South King Street.  Located at the edge of Chinatown just west of the beautiful Chinese Gate, Joe's is a kind of neighborhood hangout but also clearly attracting folks living miles away.  Yellow get lots of calls there, and while I don't particularly like the normal "ruff & tuff" drinking crowd, I always respond, knowing that even the disreputable require rides home.  Most often, though "rough around the edges," the passengers usually are minimally well-behaved, which is all I request and little more.  Now "A" was a little bit of a different story, first making me wait when he said he would be right out, then leaving the bar not wearing a mask, prompting me to lock the doors. "Do you need a mask?" I asked but no, he said, putting his on.

Once in, he wanted to go 1820 Minor, a building well known to me, filled with ruffians and many not-so-happy folks.  Given I was parked on 5th Ave South facing north, and knowing the left turn ahead was illegal, I turned right onto South Jackson, telling "A" I would be taking the "up and over route" past Harborview Hospital, while finally proceeding down 8th to Howell and then there we are.  It's a great route, especially avoiding traffic during the later hours.  

Now "A" didn't like hearing this, growling "Why didn't you take 4th?" clearly implying I was trying to "rip him off."  In my long experience I find that some people hire a cab while others "commandeer " the taxi, something I don't allow, prompting my "I am taking you back to Joe's, no charge!"  "I'll pay you extra," he responded . And I say "I don't need your "extra," I've already gotten your "extra" and I don't want any more. Get out!" 

"D"---"Jesus Loves Me, Yes I Know Because FOX Network News Tells Me So!"

"D" is irritating as hell because he has never taken much responsibility for anything, and now, totally dependent upon government handouts, paying for his methadone and everything else in his life, he's become an expert upon everything but nothing, hating Biden, loving Trump, hating Socialism but more than pleased to be getting $1200. SSD payments.  "That's socialism," I tell him.  "No it isn't!" But what does he know for sure I can't tell because he doesn't read, his aunt and FOX News, he says, his prime source and bible.  And his license has been suspended for years though not stopping him from driving his hot rod around town.  "Be careful," I warn.  "I am," he says.

"R R"---The Guy Has Big Feet

"R R" is big, nice guy, huge feet bigger as they are swollen, size 14 or more, in big rubber sandal-like shoes, either his feet or the wet shoes smelling to "high heaven." Stiff, he can barely move, inching, inching into the cab, lying flat upon the seat, and painfully, ever so slowly, even with helping lift his feet, it taking ten minutes or more until he is finally in.  With a pile of money in his pockets, he hitchhiked from Florida to Seattle in 1981, taking 8 days, and here he was, years later,  now living in the Magnuson Park old US Navy barracks heading to a doctor's appointment.  He once drove taxi in Tampa.  He was a Merchant Marine here and there and everywhere.  But now he couldn't move, something afflicting his legs, the skin looking something awful---red, chapped, flaking---and swollen, nothing good happening with those legs.

"E"----Never Understood I was Taking Her to Her House

"E" was funny in her way, an older woman using a walker, originating from a Madison Valley house.  Now I thought that was her house because she just wouldn't or couldn't clearly tell me where she was going on Beacon Hill.  Maybe it was dementia of some sort, I don't know but she knew the streets and first she  wanted to go to the Starbucks Drive-Through on 1st Ave South, going perhaps twice a year and her $7.00 coffee $5.00 the last time she visited.  Back up South Holgate we go and there we stop, corner of 21st South and South Forest.  That was her house, that's where we had been heading to all along. "Why didn't you tell me your address," I said.  "I know my address," she responded.  She likes the color purple.  So do I.

"S"---9010 East Marginal Way South to Sultan, Washington

It was a private Boeing Field hanger located a block north of the Museum of Flight, the company Gulf Stream flying in from Buffalo, New York.  It had been a long week and he was glad to see me, and I was happy too, a fare all the way to Sultan, a 51 mile drive.  At first I thought he was some variety of corporate scion but soon it became clear he wasn't that at all, turning out to be some kind of "personal security" consultant, a US Marine veteran using his knowledge assisting safe transit in unsafe places.  "All my friends from Iraq are now dead."  We talked about how we were on opposite ends of the military spectrum, he of the many Marine years and me, the 1972 Vietnam-era CO, pretty much agreeing that the military not caring a "rats ass" whether you, the individual soldier lives or dies.  Not standing Seattle any more, they moved away from the Northgate area and out to Sultan, buying a house in a large development situated on a ridge northeast of town.  "Half of Sultan likes us here, the other half hates us."  The fare was $133.00 and he gave me $180.00. And we didn't hit any traffic.  That was great!

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Hells Bells A Ringing, Angels And Devils Are Singing A New Song Or Is It Old? Out With The Crap, In With The Bold, The New Taxi Year 2022 Is Here: Do I Hear A Cheer? & The Most Amazing Sunday Comic Strip 01/02/2021 & Seattle Fire Department Lets Man Sit In Sub-Freezing Temperature & A Most Costly Wait

Out of the Taxi Blue, is there Anything New for the Coming Year?

Well, there could be a few surprises in 2022, especially from the City and County if they do follow up upon some initiatives that have been tossed about the past year or so, specifically combining the separate city and county medallions into one regional medallion or plate; and their other idea, one I don't support, is  allowing associations to set variable rates to better compete with Uber and Lyft.  As the local bureaucrats move at sloth-like speed, taking weeks and months to reach the next branch, there is no predicting when or if ever we in the industry will see changes needed or not.  

The crap I wish we would rid ourselves this year in our local industry is the overwhelming lack of professionalism by too many of our cabbies---rolling their meters and leaving untold numbers of passengers waiting for a cab that never arrives.  Given our unusual frigid weather this early winter, I have come upon too many passengers in real danger of freezing to death.  

So will we be bold, will we all be able to cheer, or in the coming year will our customers face each request for a cab with palpable fear, our service insipid, tasting like watered down beer?  I do hate to say it but I will, already knowing the answer, nothing changing one. bit with these imitation cabbies masquerading as real taxi drivers, something they are not interested in becoming. 

The cartoon/comic strip "For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnson: Topical on a January 2nd Sunday

Unbelievable was my first response when looking at the Seattle Times Sunday Comic pages this past Sunday, on the first page seeing the drawing of a man attempting to hail a cab in a snow storm.  What was even more amazing is that the storyline featured an Ethiopian cab driver and something like a "real life" story.  Most Americans I will guess have no idea that Ethiopia is currently involved in a terrible civil war, with many thousands dead and millions facing starvation, and here it was, front and center, for all the world to know about.  The strip was divided into ten boxes or captions, so I will repeat each one by numbering them 1-10.  If you can, look it up and view and read it for yourself.  I find this history making, which is why I am presenting it here as well as I can.

#1---A man is standing in the middle of a whirling blizzard and yelling "TAXI!"

#2---The man see headlights ahead and yells "TAXI!!"

#3---The man is now in the back seat of a cab, the driver's for-hire license in view, and the man says to the cabbie, "Boy, Am I glad I'm not driving! What a rotten day!"

#4---The cab is driving forward and it is a Yellow Cab, and the driver responds to the passenger, "It's a very good day to me, Sir." receiving the reply "That's because you drive a cab!"

#5---"No," the cabbie responds, "It's because I'm Ethiopian.  It can rain or snow or freeze or fry....It's always a good day to me."

#6---"In my homeland, I have seen my friends and my family shot.  If I had not escaped I'd have been killed, too."

#7---I have a wife I have not seen for 3 years---and a child I have never seen!  But here I am safe.  I can provide for them, and soon, I will bring them here."

#8---The cab is now stopped and the passenger is paying the fare. "So you see, Sir, the weather doesn't matter.  Every day is a good day to me!"

#9---The man is now in his house hanging up his coat, the wife enters the room holding their child and says, "Hi Honey! Horrible day-isn't it?" and he responds "Actually..."

#10---"---It's a very good day to me!! while hugging her.


I have friends on opposite sides of the war, of the internal conflict raging hell in their country.   It is something dividing at least parts of the local cabbie community.  The cartoonist Lynn Johnson has done a great public service.  Thank you very much for the humanity expressed !

Yes, the Seattle Fire Department  left him sitting on the sidewalk

Cruel it was to find the man, unable to walk, sitting in 20 degree F. cold, on the corner of 3rd and South Washington, waiting for help.  I had accepted a Fire Dept generated call and thankfully I was only five block away and got to the guy quickly.  He was a Vietnam-era veteran drafted in 1970 and needed to go to the VA Hospital.  He was very ill.  Why the medics didn't transport him is beyond me.  Easily he could have sat there for hours and died. F_ _ked up is all I can say!

A Costly Wait: $800.00 up then $700.00 down

When he first called at the casino for the cab he had won $800.00.  By the time I arrived 4 hours later he had lost all that money and more.  He was half drunk and said, since he was there, he kept gambling.  Bad choice and worse service. Crazy!

 Taxi Article in  The Nation, Dec 27-Jan 3rd 2022 Issue

"How The Taxi Workers Won---The 45 days of fierce protest, shrewd organizing, and ferocious solidarity that made New York City history."  By Molly Crabapple

Written by someone unfamiliar with the taxi industry but a good read nonetheless.  Good to see the NYC cabbies get some positive press.