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October 29, 2008

October 29, 2008 – One Of My Tricks

             I have developed a good trick, a system if you will for cooling down my engine while I am driving.  Catherine’s taxi’s are old and outdated and have an array of problems associated with them.  One is that they overheat regularly.  This is caused by a few things – although it us most often due to a coolant leak somewhere, the fact that Catherine refuses to buy coolant (she just puts water in the radiator), or that the driver hasn’t checked the oil in months.  Truthfully I am guilty of that as well.

            That wasn’t the case today however.  My car has been routinely overheating throughout.  I notice this because the water/trace coolant begins to boil and steam up something nasty on my windshield.  It’s almost like a gurgling sound.  This is the point where I check my temperature gauge.  Often at this point the gauge is teetering on the red (DANGER) zone.  Whenever this lever goes into the red you’re in trouble, and risking blowing your engine.  Often times it will have to be in the red zone for a matter of time, I would suppose at least 15 seconds usually.

            It was quite busy and I didn’t feel like being inconvenienced by the office/shop and swapping out my taxi for another one.  This is quite time consuming.  So whenever I see my car approaching the red zone I either drop the car into neutral and coast for a bit, this works especially well on the bridge where the engine is cooled by the air, or turn it off.  I have many chances to do this, usually at stoplights.  If the engine is really hot I just tell my passengers that I have to make a quick 2-minute stop.  I explain how much of the circus things are with the shop and the cars and the office.  My passengers are always fine with this, and often times sympathetic.

October 27, 2008

October 27, 2008 - The Inverse Economic Relationship Of The Cab Company

           Cortez cab is unique in a number of ways, which if you have been reading is quite apparent at this point.  One of the more notable ones is the economics of the business.  With most companies, the more profit that they make, the more the employees are benefited – raises, bonuses, added benefits.  So as things prosper for the employer, these benefits trickle down to their employees.  Not at Cortez Cab though.

            Since we are contracted out by the company (as independent contractors) we are the main source of revenue for the company.  Whatever Catherine is able to profit above and beyond her overhead (maintenance on the vehicles, her office workers meager wages, etc.) she gets to keep.  The drivers pay a weekly least of $310, which will soon increase to $360.  

            So when Catherine makes more lease money, consequently there are more drivers, and less available fares per driver.  However, inversely, when there are less cab drivers working, there is more available fares per capita for the drivers working, and there is less lease money going to Catherine.  An important note though is that when there are less vehicles on the road there is less maintenance required for her vehicles as well, so her overall costs are lower.

            Lately the trend is heading towards more cabs unfortunately, and less money for the drivers, some of whom are working 70 – 80 hour workweeks, sometimes for weeks on end.  Catherine's not sweating it though.  Not in her air-conditioned mansion in Pt. Loma.

"Catherine's Home"

October 19, 2008

October 19, 2008 - My Audience

       This is what people were looking at when they stumbled across by blog this week.

          I'm not all that sure on what drives traffic here.  But one things for sure, if my taxi blog was about the drivers taking big shits in the toilet I would probably have found my "niche" market.

October 15, 2008

October 15, 2008 – The Main Gate

           Today one of the Navy carriers came into port. When I asked one of my fellow drivers which one it was he replied “The big one with the stupid people.”  Unfortunately this didn’t narrow things down much.

            We have a couple carriers that are ported here in Cortez.  The “Nixon” just left – it’s now ported up in Washington I believe.  Today it was the “USS Kissinger” that pulled in.  They’re all the same, just big ships with a bunch of people.  That’s not how some of the sailors see it though.  For a while we had 3 ships in port.  The Richard Millhouse Nixon, the Henry Alfred Kissinger, and the Spiro Theodore Agnew.  It’s true that Agnew and Kissinger don’t have a ship named after them, or Nixon for that matter (and it’s likely that none of them ever will) but just like my blog, their true identity will be forever shrouded in anonymity, or as much anonymity is possible at this point.  I’d hate to defame such a stellar service that Catherine runs over here.  And so I digress.

            At any rate those hooligans from the Nixon caused us quite a bit of trouble when they were in port.  They had so many of their sailors receive DUI’s that they imposed a ban on rental cars.  One of them tried to choke the cashier at the McDonalds on base.

            One day a while back a few of the sailors from competing ships got into a pissing contest about “who’s ship was the best” and started a giant brawl.  Something like 140 people were involved.  In all fairness it’s not all that unusual for people to get into an argument about this sort of stuff.  We call them children.

            One thing that I do enjoy when these ships come in is the business that they generate.  We get a huge influx of business for the first few hours that a ship comes into port.  I just go straight to the main gate and pick up whomever needs a ride.  There’s no shortage of people who need a taxi at the main gate.  People often try to bargain with me on the fare.  I don’t play that game when it’s busy, and with the Navy, when it’s likely that they won’t be tipping.  Were not alone, I talk to the servers at the local restaurants and they don’t get tipped either.  I don’t make up the rates, the city does, and although they are expensive, they’re fair.

            Since it’s so busy at the main gate there is typically a shortage of drivers throughout the city that are needed to pick up passengers at other establishments/homes.  As soon as I come back into Cortez, Catherine tries to send me to these.  I used to oblige, although since her thievery involving her competing livery service has become more flagrant I have quit doing so. 

            I’m out here to make money, not to appease my boss who is intent on stealing from us, and since it’s become clear that there doesn’t seem to be any sanctions handed down from the cab company, I don’t see the harm.  I just go over and over to the main gate and grab rides for $20 a pop.  I do it for the principle of the matter mostly, and to make Catherine steam.  If she’s going to illegally operate her livery service I’m going to make her work for that money.   Money that she’s not legally entitled to by the way, so that I can make less.  I sometimes turn the radio off entirely so that I don’t have to listen to Julie or Catherine asking frantically for help.

            The business continues through the night, but dwindles after a few hours and then spikes again, typically around 11, since the sailors usually need to be back on the ship by midnight.  When they leave the bars and request a ride back to the base they usually need a little help.  This was my conversation from my last ride.

            Me: Hello, where are you going?
            Sailor: To the base.
            Me: Which base are you going to ? (There’s like 7 Navy installations near the City of San Diego)
            Sailor: The Navy base.
            Me: Which Navy base are you going to?
            Sailor: The Navy base.
            Me: Right, but there are several, I need to know which specific one you are going to.
            Sailor: The one here on the Island, on the other side.
            Me: They’re all on the other side.  What’s the name of the base you need to get to?
            Sailor: I’m going to the ship.
            Me: What’s it called?
            Sailor: It’s over there. (Pointing)

            This is ridiculous.  How can you not know the name of the ship your on, or which base you’re currently ported at?  These are kind of important details.  Do they lose their gun too?

October 11, 2008

October 11, 2008 – “The Gesture”

            Catherine called me today, which she is becoming increasingly reluctant to do.

            It was about a complaint that she received from another driver on the road.  Earlier I approached a car (Car A) that was sitting at a red light.  I needed to make a right turn.  It appeared if Car A was just sitting there, waiting for the light to turn so that he could proceed through the intersection.  I saw an unused parking lane on the right side, which I have to admit, was slim.  But there was enough room to squeeze by on the side – so I did so.  As I was passing the stopped car the man began to shout in his car.  I couldn’t see what he was saying, but it was apparent that he was mad.  For what, I have no idea.  I gave him the finger and went on my way.

            Ring, Ring…

            Me: Hello
            Catherine: Hi -----
            Me: Yes
            Catherine: It’s Catherine.

            For those of you who haven’t been reading my blog, every single time Catherine calls me the conversation starts out like this.  It’s strange.

            Me: Yes
            Catherine: Do you know what this is about?
            Me: Nope

                        Why would I offer something up that she might not know?  This is exactly how detectives talk to suspects.

            Catherine: Were you driving the taxi earlier?
            Me: Yes (As she knew I was, she was dispatching)
            Catherine: Do you know what this is about?
            Me: No
            Catherine: Were you at 6th and Main earlier.
            Me: I’m sure I was at some point.
            Catherine: (A condescending laugh)
            Me: ------
            Catherine: Do you remember an altercation at 6th and Main.
            Me: Oh yeah, that guy that threw a fit in his car for no reason.  Now I remember.
            Catherine: Yes **** (My name, which I won’t reveal) that man.  He said that you snuck past him when there wasn’t any room.  He said that he was trying to make a right turn and you cut him off.
            Me: Well if there wasn’t any room then I wouldn’t have been able to get past him.  If he was wrong about that it’s likely that he was mistaken about everything else.
            Catherine: Yes ****, he said that you cut him off and wouldn’t let him make  his right turn.
            Me: If he wanted to make a right turn he could have used his signal to alert me, but he didn’t, and if that was his intention I would have had no way of knowing.
            Catherine: Yes **** , and he was a little confused about the gesture.
            Catherine: ****, do you see what the problem here is?
            Me: That the man wanted to make a right turn without using his signal, and realized after I was in position to take mine?  There were no oncoming cars. I’m not sure why he didn’t.  He was just sitting there.
            Catherine: (Another condescending laugh)
            Me: Well, I don’t know what to tell you, I don’t see what I did wrong.  I used my signal, and he didn’t.  I can’t read his mind.
            Me: I can’t talk right now, I’m driving.
            Catherine: Ok

            I don’t know why the other driver would have been “confused” about me giving him the finger.  There’s not much room for interpretation on that one.  Catherine talks to me like she is painting a picture for the jury.  Recreating the scene.  Building a case.  Trying to obtain a conviction.

October 6, 2008

October 6, 2008 – “Mexican Music”

            There has been much more of what the office calls “Mexican music” on the cab radio lately.  This is described as any sort of music with Spanish lyrics.  Or Mexican lyrics, because the office most likely thinks that “Mexican” is a language.  Typically music that originates in Mexico.  In San Diego there are dozens of stations that play that sort of stuff.  The cabbies are well aware of this.

            It doesn’t get take much to get our dispatcher, Julie, worked up.  Usually asking her to repeat herself will be enough.  It wouldn’t be a problem if she knew how a radio (CB of HAM – I forget which one we have) worked.  There’s a slight delay.  And that she starts talking before she presses the button on the mic.  She thinks that the drivers just constantly ask her to repeat herself to get her worked up.  I’m not sure who that might benefit, or what the advantage of getting screamed at would be if we knew what address she had sent us to.  I’ve tried to explain that several times to her.  Julie’s convinced that the drivers just do that to taunt her.

            At any rate she quickly loses her temper and fires off at the driver who asked for clarification.  It usually goes something like this.

            Julie: Cab 19
            Cab 19: Go ahead
            Julie: 14 Main St.
            Cab 19: 10-9 (Repeat)
            Julie: 14 Main St.
            Cab 19: 14 Main St?
            Julie: NO!
            Julie: 14 Main St!
            Cab 19: There’s no 14 Main St.
            Julie: YES THERE IS!
            Cab 19: No, there’s not.  The street numbers start at 100.
            Julie: Listen Carefully!

            If the conversation gets this far, as it often does, Julie is already furious, and the disgruntled cabbies rally.  A cabbie mutiny if you will.  The fart noises, burping, and what the office despises most – “Mexican music.”  If Julie had only be able to properly use the radio's mic she would have been able to inform the driver that they needed to go to 514 Main St.

            The office has a theory on all of this of course.  They’ve solved it.  They’ve figured out who is playing all of that dreadful “Mexican music.”  The Mexicans of course.  Really?  How scientific.  I mean who else could it be right?  You would need a sponge the size of Nevada to soak up all of the idiocy in that office.