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September 19, 2008

September 19, 2008 – Are We Losing Parts?

            Today one of our drivers cabs broke down.  Well, it wasn’t a routine breakdown, although a routine one for this company.

            “Quincy” picked up young lady who was going out to South San Diego.  This is one of the better rides that we get – typically $35 - $40.  If were lucky we get one of these rides every day or two, although we would get quite a few more if Catherine wasn’t sending her liveries to pick up our rides.  Lining her grubby little pockets.

            It’s only fair that I say a little about the livery scheme, as a premise to the story.  Truthfully it’s a rather dry topic, but an important one for a cabbie.  There are two competing services at “Cortez Cab.”  A livery service, and a taxi service.  A clear conflict of interest. 

             A taxi can be hailed/called for on the spot.  A livery/charter vehicle cannot.  Liveries/charters have a set of guidelines regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission that states the legal requirements.  Namely they are that a prior reservation must be made, and that a set fare must be established.  I believe the fare is established by distance and number of riders in most cases.  Taxis have a metered rate that is set by the city.  The meter is calibrated according to time and distance.

            Anyways, what Catherine often does is take people that call and ask for a taxi and talk them into a livery.  The liveries are paid hourly and only keep tips.  Catherine pays for their gas and maintenance, and keeps the rate that is charged.  Sometimes she just makes up the rate, or the livery driver tells the office that they picked up 3 passengers when they really picked up 5 -and charged them for 5 people I might add.  This isn’t speculation.

            Point is we cherish these long rides, nowadays more than ever.  When Quincy picked up his passenger, “Anna”, he knew from the get go that the car was performing at an even lower level than normal.  There was a certain jerkiness in the steering wheel.  That didn’t stop Quincy.  That wouldn’t stop me.

            So as Quincy and Anna are coming out of Cortez there is suddenly a loud clanking.

            Anna:  Do you hear that?
            Quincy: Yeah, I’m not sure what that is.
            Anna: Do you think that’s ok?
            Quincy: Yeah, but I should probably take a look at it next chance we get to stop.
            Anna: Ok

            Just a few minutes later the steering wheel suddenly jerked to the left side.  Quincy had to quickly compensate and jerk the wheel to the right.  The taxi careened left and nearly did a nosedive into the ground.

            Anna: Uh, are we losing parts?
            Quincy: Yeah, I think so.

            Quincy pulled over and another driver with the company brought Anna to her destination.  Quincy wasn’t happy.  Not only did he miss out on the $40, but he lost two hours of his time and had to speak with the office.  He was immediately blamed for the incident.  This is typical – a default reaction by the office.  Sometimes drivers do neglect their cars, lord knows I do, but often times things just break.   A little jerkiness in the steering wheel could just as easily have been chalked up to a power steering leak, a misalignment, or in this case, a shitty old taxi.  Quincy had every reason to think that everything was, well, routine

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