Monday, October 06, 2008


Just a short Post here.

The ‘Boston Globe’ has an article about citizen/rider problems with the city’s taxi-drivers. It has a significance, I think, beyond itself, and so this Post. (

There was a time within living memory when taxi-drivers were by and large military vets who had been born locally; they retained a certain military sense of orderliness and mission and self-possession, even a care for their vehicles; they had been exposed to the Depression as children and had seen either World War 2 or Korea first-hand; and, being local, they not only knew where they were going, but they knew the best and quickest route to ‘get there’, and were also current on alternate routes ‘B’ and ‘C’ if needed. They didn’t expect to get rich quick and they knew just what their job and position required of them – and they were OK with that.

Then something happened. They aged and retired, about the same time as the country started both to lose its industrial base and jobs and – under a new sensitivity to ‘identities’ and a distaste for things ‘American’ as defined by Political Correctness – immigration of one sort or another started to speed up.

On the West Coast, you see a lot of Russian drivers now. You really don’t want to give them any lip; but on the other hand, despite a proclivity for speaking furtively in some Russian-ish language on their cell-phones, they get the job done efficiently and with almost no haggling.

But in other places, there are a lot more gentlemen who seem to be starting out with far different operating assumptions: they seem to come from cultures where being a ‘male’ means that you serve nobody, where ‘service’ demeans a ‘male’; where driving – not surprisingly – is a kind of serious and visceral competition to prove one’s ‘maleness’, because being passed or having some other driver merge into your lane in front of you is an insult, and yielding to another driver is a form of self-abasement; where – in many cases – ‘women’ are not on this earth to give orders to ‘men’. Needless to say, they are not ‘local’ and aren’t overly familiar with the streets. Also needless to say, they are not only ‘not from around here’ but they are from another culture altogether.

And utterly needless to say, they have come to ‘America’ to make money, much of it, as fast as can be – and in this ‘multiculturally sensitive’ era, seem to have gotten the impression that Americans are on this earth these days simply to function as walking ATM machines on the immigrant path to Paradise. And many seem to be of a generational ‘philosophy’ whereby the cab is ‘their’ personal space and you are merely an intruder upon it and have no right to make any comments or have (‘impose’) any expectations – which is an experience that would best be understood by parents of particularly troublesome teens.

Yes, it’s painful to say it. I myself long ago gave up cabs and – when my presence is required in the big city – wear a pair of good walking shoes and carry a monthly pass for public transportation (which is an adventure story all its own). The walking is healthy (if you can avoid getting hit by passing cabs, among other things) and it’s always a wise idea to save money these days.

Nor am I insensitive to the idiosyncrasies of modern urban cab-riders: folks who have a bit more money (or debt, nowadays) than they really have the maturity to know what to do with, are always in a hurry because that’s what successful people ‘do’, and have seen far too much ‘Masterpiece Theater’ for their own good – drawing from it the childish conclusions that the ‘drivers’ are ‘chauffeurs’ retained by the family to meet every whim and put up with any insult with a stiff upper lip and ‘umble tip of the cap.

As I would not want to ride in a cab these days, I would not want to drive a cab either.

And perhaps these modern cab-drivers are making money to send ‘back’ somewhere. Possibly so. And there are rising fuel costs and a declining economy and you-name-it expenses. No doubt.

But it’s not enough to override the impression that there are a goodly number of folks driving cabs nowadays who really aren’t ready-for-prime-time. And whether the emotional volatility and rudeness is an indicator of a mistaken sense of ‘entitlement’ (if white and/or American oppresses, then it’s not rude to oppose ‘the oppressor’), or an unripe inability to put up with the stresses, or a displaced childish petulance at the non-magical quality of life in ‘America’ these days, or of outright mental disorder … well, any or all of those constitute not grounds for ‘patience’ and ‘non-judgmental tolerance’ and putting on a multiculti happyface and accepting the whole thing as penance for one’s PC ‘sins’, but rather grounds for asking if the drivership doesn’t need to be screened a bit more carefully.

Or, if PC still has too strong a grip on one’s local media and government, then perhaps one might spare oneself the fruitless aggravations by more carefully organizing one’s schedule, by working in some walking-shoes or public transport (the former rather than the latter, if you can at all manage it), by ‘making do’ as the WW2 Brits did, and in divers ways reducing one’s exposure to the cab problem. Sooner or later, the economic dynamics alone will have to convince the municipal government if not the cabs themselves that a few changes will have to be made.

Last month – September – by the by, was the 23rd anniversary of the first time that America became a debtor-nation since before World War 1. That was under the late Mr. Reagan, as many will recall – and America has not, even with Mr. Clinton’s vaunted ‘budget surplus’ - ever recovered. I don’t recall any Congressional observance – from either Party – of the anniversary, but it seems the thing to do at this time. Requiescat in pace – as folks used to say.

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