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. 

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