Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Adios Taxi! At The Very Least It Has Been Interesting If Not A Bit Maddening & My Last Taxi Night Ride To Mount Vernon, Washington

Logging Out One Final Time 10:51 PM, Saturday February 25th, 2023

Yes, its goodbye to taxi, a journey begun on a mid-September weekend in 1987.  Of course I didn't know it would last this long, never conceiving such an outcome but maybe I just wasn't reading the taxi tea leaves properly.  On my very first day I rolled $150.00 in 11 hours driving a non-dispatched cab, having very little idea nor clue what I was doing.  After that, I was told "no split sheet" for me, just the ordinary lease (nut).  Within two months I was nicknamed the "Vacuum Cleaner" for my ability to "vacuum up the fares," and again, minus any dispatch.  

Obviously then I held a natural talent  or propensity for something I knew little to nothing about.  I did know the City of Seattle to a reasonable degree, and King County to a smaller extent, so that clearly assisted in making money, the downtown streets and hotels not a complete mystery.   I also paid strict attention to potential money making scenarios like sporting events, music festivals and downtown business conventions.  I made lots of money working the University of Washington football games.  

Merely working the weekends, I found I was "rolling in the dough," happy enough while unhappily transitioning from marriage to divorce, taxi occupying my mind during this unfortunate time.  One thing I did notice right away were the parallels of navigating from crazy to crazy, from my case managing gig to sitting beneath the toplight, both embracing deranged realities the general public knew little nor cared much about.  

In that sense, I was home in each environment, madness the prevailing theme whether talking and relating to doctors or drug dealers.  It was all nuts, and later I would say, "Welcome to taxi as I know and hate  (and love) it!" something true to my very last minute, taxi a rolling asylum, a mobile psychiatric ward.  You want crazy?  Drive a cab!

Maybe one day I will write a history of my cab years, spotlighting the various phases I and the local industry went through but instead of that opus magus I will quickly outline various achievements and highlights during my active years of lobbying and advocacy on behalf of my fellow cabbies.   One reason I failed to radically change our industry was the inherent dysfunction of both the associations and the governing regulators, neither fully grasping what we needed to be successful.  Again, going into detail would require a book but at this point do I really care, and frankly I don't, because who really cares about the cab industry?  Basically, no one.

My biggest gain for the Washington State taxi industry was convincing the WA State Department of Labor and Industry to cut in half their monetary request, with me estimating I saved everyone millions, or was it tens of millions of dollars?  In small recognition, the Yellow BYG co-op gave me a $1,500 tip.  

Beyond that victory, it was mostly shouting into the wind, years thrown away while achieving little to nothing.  As the nominal leader of the Green Cab fight against King County, and the appointed president of something called  "The Alliance of Taxi Associations," all we managed to do was toss away over $100,000 while getting nothing for it.  That was dispiriting.

My two years on the Seattle & King County Taxi Advisory Commission was a joke, truly sadly comical, a farce.   Yes, I was Chair (person) that second year but no one in City or County government was interested in what we or I had to say.  And worse, we had some very unhelpful members who screwed up the proceedings, making me wonder if they weren't on someone's payroll.  Pathetic is the best description for all those wasted meetings.  Though I liked our King County moderator, Jodie.  She was great, a real professional who didn't have to say what we both knew: the commission was a fiasco.

For years, I also attended Craig Leisy's TAG (Taxi Advisory Group) meetings, fun because they were located way, way up in the municipal tower, providing a great view of the city to the west.   More social gathering that anything else, I sometimes had to endure the wrath of Frank Dogwilla, the US submarine Navy commander turned BYG General Manager.  And to think I turned down the US Navy's offer to make me an officer.  Hey, I could have turned into another Frank.  No thanks!

There was also my two years spent battling Uber's incursion, attending countless City Council meetings, with it all ending up into our local demise.   I was intimately involved in the fight, telling BYG we had to sue the City of Seattle or we were done for.  Of course, none of the fools listened to me, and we all know what happened.  Uber won and taxi is a sinking ship.

One last effort was when I was hired to save what was left of the co-op after it left Hudson Street and moved over to Meyers Way.  Not really wanting to do it because I knew it was like trying to put a house fire out with a garden hose, I nonetheless agreed to take $4000.00 a month and attempt to work a miracle but no, Lema said, you'll be getting $2500.00 instead.  That's when I said "hell no!" and soon thereafter, the once proud BYG co-op sank into the taxi sunset.  

And that's the story, morning glory!

Last Day, Big Ride

I am guessing that the local taxi gods decided to be kind on my last day, Saturday February 25th, 2023, by providing me a final decent run but it almost didn't happen, or probably should not have happened due to potentially three fatal mistakes made by dispatch.  Getting the call at 6:00 PM, it was instead scheduled for 7:00 PM.  I was given a pickup address of 705 East Pike when the actual address was 705 Pike.  And the destination provided was Tacoma but of course the passenger was heading north, not south, to Mount Vernon.   That was fun.  $170.00 a bit of a cherry on top.

My last fare of the night was a no-show, double-belled call in the Fremont.  Having enough of that, I logged out at 10:51 PM, saying a final goodbye to 35 plus years.  

Goodbye, taxi, goodbye!  No I don't need a poke in the eye!  Or further occupation in the pig sty!



Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Call Me "The Taxi Turncoat"---My Last Days Driving A Taxi & Early Sunday Morning I Saved A Life

 I will miss the camaraderie 

Saturday, February 25th, 2023, will be my last day beneath the toplight.  The 26th of each month is when my $539.00 insurance payment is withdrawn from my back account, making my decision for me.  Next week I will have all the Yellow Taxi regalia removed from the cab in preparation to do something I thought I would never ever consider: drive for Uber.  

My justification is simple enough, having tired "feeding the taxi dinosaur," a creature now extinct while sinking, slowly disappearing into the primordial muck.  All feeble roars aside, it is past time to say goodbye because Uber and Lyft won the transportation battle, the war is over.   

All of us surviving cabbies remind me of the post-WWII Japanese holdouts who refused to acknowledge that the war ended in 1945, that Japan lost and it was time to go home.  A Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi wandered in the jungles on the island of Guam for nearly 27 years before finally being captured.  Unlike that loyal soldier, I lift my arms up and yell, "I surrender, you win!" because financially, it makes little sense to continue.   

As I have written, my "nut," before I earn a dime, is $1500.00.  With Uber, my monthly insurance cost is $132.00.  As you can obviously see, there is no comparison.  As much as I didn't want to admit it, Craig Leisy, in his tome concerning Seattle taxi and TNC, was totally prescient when writing that Seattle's taxi industry would one day disappear.  It has but no one wants to admit it.  Me, I'm sick of shouting at the sky.  It's over, at least for me, it's over.

His Orange Jacket Saved Him

Early Sunday morning, at 12:17 AM, I was speeding northbound on Aurora Avenue North when a homeless man, having climbed over the medium barrier separating the north and southbound lanes, walked directly in front of my cab, a distance of about 40-50 feet forward.  Slamming the brakes, putting the cab nearly horizontal, I barely missed him, his orange jacket alerting me to his presence.  He was damn lucky it was me driving.  Anyone else would have killed him.  I first started driving a car when I was 12.   I have lots of practice.  Hard to teach that kind of life saving maneuver.  Yes, I could be a race car driver but no thanks, no excessive speeds for me.   I'll take it slow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

She Yelled "Get Out Of The F_ _ King Cab!" Hard To Disagree! & Trouble Brewing In Sea-Tac Airport Taxi-Land & Longtime Seattle Yellow Taxi Superintendent Retires & Am I A Syncretic Cabbie? & How Can PSD's Dispatching Woes Continue?

She Has Had Enough of this Taxi Nonsense!

It's not that "she-who-can't-be-named" is actually in the cab with me but sometimes she feels like she is, and wants me to get the hell out of it, "It is killing you!" and of course she is right, it ain't healthy for mind, body and soul!   Taxi is no fun, no pun and soon I will be done.

Seattle Times Article About Sea-Tac Cabbies

In a Monday, 02/13/2023 article reported by Lauren Girgus, it stated that yet again Sea-Tac based cabbies are unhappy with their treatment by the Port of Seattle, the cab drivers saying that Port staff are not listening or heeding their concerns.  What is different about this renewal of contract negotiation is that the cabbies are representing themselves as individuals, and not, as in the past, as part of some greater taxi association .  While one could say that alleged abuses by Seattle Yellow Cab, and later, Eastside for Hire, helped create the situation, it appears to be nothing than the old Port of Seattle story of caring little to nothing about the cabs working Sea-Tac.  First they let unlimited numbers of Ubers into the airport.  And now Port staff have wanted to increase the fee cabbies must pay after each pickup, regardless of fare destination.  It hasn't been, and isn't nice, the Port of Seattle treating the airport cabbies like cash cows on the way to the slaughter house; and who cares, does anyone really care?   The answer, as I keep saying in relation to taxis, is obvious.

An update to the article is that I was told that yesterday Port of Seattle has renewed a five-year agreement to keep the taxi alignment the way it is, meaning nothing much will be changing unless the cabbies go on strike or take some other kind of labor action.  I was reminded by someone that what we are seeing is a return to the past, which back in 1987 was a colorful collection of small companies and individual owners working the airport.  But what is changed is how much money the cabbies have to pay to keep the Port of Seattle happy, meaning the power dynamic remains firmly entrenched in Sea-Tac's corner, just the way they want it.  And of course, they got it!

Tomorrow, A Taxi Dinosaur Retires

After how many years working the taxi industry, fifty or more wearing various hats, Jerry DeFoi is retiring from the cab world and moving with his girlfriend to a big house near the Maryland/West Virginia border.  I say good for him but his steady voice will be missed in this too shaky of an industry.  His experience and commonsense approach will be noticeably absent, Jerry a dinosaur minus the roar.

Syncretism and the Successful Cabbie

While the terms syncretic and syncretism are usually consigned to the theological, the definition is the amalgamation of various thoughts and approaches, and if Taxi isn't a religion with an assortment of totems and gods, then I have been blasphemous all these many years, praying to imaginary idols not worthy of my many sacrifices made upon the bloody altar that is Taxi.  I have tired to tie everything I have known and applied it to the craft but ultimately syncretic I will let the minor Gods decide.  All Hail the Caesar  that's our invisible emperor!  

I was going to comment about Yellow's Cebu City-based Dispatch

Yes, but I have decided to skip it after I have found out the call-takers are all living in dormitories and making something like $7.88 a day or maybe $360.00 per month.  No wonder is all I will say.  God damn! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

What Would Your Family And Friends Say If Each Month You Flushed $1500.00 Down The Toilet? & Quick Stories From The Taxi Night & Bus Lane Violations Saga Continues & For The Curious: The How And Why I Have Spent So Many Years Beneath The Toplight

Or Throw the Money into a Fireplace, Watching it Burn?

Well, that's what it feels like each month, throwing away my hard-earned cash, that $1500.00 representing my monthly insurance cost, my monthly dispatch fee and the gasoline used to earn it.  How many hours  at say $30.00 per does it take to make that $1500.00?  Divide 30 into 1500 and you get 50 hours of my life thrown away, hours never to be returned.  For most folks that's usually a full week's schedule. 

And what does Puget Sound Dispatch (Seattle Yellow Cab) give me in exchange?   An incompetent dispatch based 8000 miles away across the Pacific Ocean.  PSD also allows our two major accounts, Hopelink and MV Metro Access, to dictate the terms we cabbies must abide by, providing no ability to negotiate our own working conditions.  It's either like it or lump it.  At least this attitude is non-discriminatory, all of us getting equally screwed.  Ain't that nice?

Wild Ending to Monday Night

The nice woman from small town Louisiana got in my cab at King Street Station at 10:16 PM, saying her Sea-Tac flight back home was leaving at 11:30 PM.  Off I roared, getting her to Sea-Tac at 10:30 PM.  And it was raining.  Yes, a fast ride but my record from DT is 12 minutes.  I was slow at 14 minutes.

Coming back I noticed a time-call sitting in Zone 210 (DT).  The nice guy was going home to the Renton Highlands, taking a cab because his Ford Crown Victoria was in the shop.  We talked about cars, and once arrived, he insisted on giving me a $100.00 tip.  "Are you sure? I asked.  "Yeah," he said, "I got the money."  Wow is all I can say !

Heading north, home to Bitter Lake, I take a call at the corner of Aurora N and N 109th.  I pull up and this very tall prostitute, somewhere between 18-22 years old, gets in the cab, going  back DT to a 'John" staying at a local hotel.  She was very nice but appeared somewhat bewildered by what was happening to her.  I didn't comment.  I wished her well.  Off into the night she went and me too, done for the day hurrah!

I will finally get an in-person court date

It's clear that the City of Seattle doesn't give a damn how confusing they might be.  My scheduled telephone hearing of yesterday turned into something I was told wasn't possible: a now scheduled real live appearance in an actual court room.  It will happen sometime in March.  Ah yes, the injustice of justice.  I suppose I should be happy.  In some other countries they would have just put me in front of a firing squad and bang! bang! bang! no more cab driving for me.

God Damn! I have been driving a cab for a long time

From the very beginning, back in September 1987 many have wondered as to why I was in a cab.  Knowing I was working a professional gig, a psychiatric case manager, how did I end up in a cab, everyone assuming I had many degrees when in reality my last full year of "formal" education was the ninth grade, and that year not starting until October, and finding myself attending school in four different Canadian provinces and American states.  Crazy it was but fast forwarding to 1974 I got my first professional psych job at age 20 even though I didn't have a lick of college.  I did toss away two fully paid four-year scholarships.  And I was in a therapist-training program but not at a university.  Later, in 1976, I got a another psych job, this time running half-way houses and again, they fully knowing I didn't have a degree.  

After moving down to San Francisco in 1979 to be with my girlfriend, later wife, I realized I had to fake a degree or not get hired.  My job resume was real, just not the degree.  My poetry editor gig didn't require a degree, only to be an alienated soul, which I qualified. 

Coming back to Seattle in 1982 I had a number of professional gigs dating from then to 1991, when I quit to concentrate on writing.  There is much more to this sad tale but given new insurance requirements, showing your college transcripts became necessary, which meant I couldn't show any even when many wanted to hire me.  Pretty stupid on my part, and yes, I should have gone back and gotten my degrees.  I am a good therapist, and given my three-years of group therapy training, I could teach all that at an University, I really know my "stuff" but with no paper to show anyone I have kept plugging all these years beneath the toplight.  

Yes, such a pathetic story!  Cry! Cry! those crocodile tears for me, baby!