It's so much easier to flag a cab here. I love it. After getting some pho, I just step outside, engage in some controlled cigarette smoking with the ex-marine (we'll give him some more dignity and call him J), and stick my hand out when I see a cab. Perfect.

I basically have the same interaction with G, my driver, as I've had with every other cabbie since I've been in town. How's it going? I drive one of these down in Portland. Talk about money, both going out and coming in. Mutual amazement/disgust with Seattle medallion prices. Discussion of how my company works. Seattle driver is impressed. We arrive at my destination, and I tip 50%.

Except... G is very excited to hear about the cab business in Portland. His best friend had been a cab driver in SeaTac, but is now a pastor in Portland. This friend has always told G that if the business is good in Portland, he should move down there. And now some white kid in the back of G's cab is telling him that the cab business in Portland is, in fact, a little bit better than in Seattle. Not only that, but that it's easier to buy one, and that at one company there are several other significant perks. Besides, Portland is a smaller city and there's not as much crime.

G is now very excited. He'd thought about moving before, but he hadn't wanted to. He's spent nine, ten years getting to know Seattle, "What for to move?" he asks. But now he's hearing about a pretty good deal, and asking me about housing prices. How much to buy a three bedroom? I'm clueless in this regard, but say that he could probably get something in a decent neighborhood, not too fancy, in the mid 200s. This sounds about right to me, given conversations I've had with others, but it isn't based on anything empirical.

"What do you think, should I move down to Portland?"

Suddenly I'm feeling a little sheepish. I do not feel in any way qualified to be telling East African immigrants, who apparently have families, about major career/life decisions. I'm trying to remember if the East African community in Portland is mostly Amharic or Tigrean, Ethiopian or Eritrean, etc. I'm not remembering, and I have no clue where G falls into all of that. I have no clue whether my superintendent would hire him - on the one hand he has plenty of experience and knows how to use our dispatch system, on the other his English is very heavily accented and not quite fluent. We have immigrant drivers, but all are easily intelligible and conversant in English, and the super turns away about 10 drivers for every one he hires.

"I think you should come down and check it out before you make any major decisions," I tell him. I explain to him that my company is pretty much the only one he'd want to work for - maybe our largest competitor, but that he probably would be making a little less money as a lease driver with the competitor than he is now, and that I don't know if ownership there is as good a deal. He'd also be making less as he learned the city, though I explain to him that Portland is much easier to learn than Seattle given the fact that it was actually well-planned and that the roads form a grid.

He asks for my card, and I give it to him. He's a little taken aback by my card's... unusual graphic design, but still smiles as we shake hands. I tell him to call me any time if he has questions. Part of me's excited for him to call and for me to help an immigrant take a step up the ladder, another part's scared that he will, and end up moving down to Portland and somehow getting screwed.


Blogger MJ06 said...

I would be scared to whats good for some is not always good for others I can imagine how you are scared that it might go to hell for him.

September 14, 2006 3:51 PM  
Blogger G.S. said...

I'm enjoying reading your blog and am adding it to my own blogroll. Question: did you ever see the episode of "The Honeymooners" where a judge asks Ralph what he does for a living and he nervously replies, "I brive a dus!"? Is the title of your blog derived from that scene?

September 15, 2006 8:39 PM  
Blogger Cabbie X said...

I'm always torn when I face this one. I love my job, but it's not right for everyone. Your guy already does it, likes it, but changing cities is a huge step and I'd be kinda scared someone would be willing to take that step based on my own personal experiences. At least if he does, he'll have a friendly face to maybe make the transition a little easier.

September 17, 2006 6:38 PM  
Blogger gothmog said...


September 18, 2006 10:07 PM  
Blogger Crabbie said...

Well, the guy knew that Portland proper was on a near perfect grid, and that real estate was cheaper, and that there wasn't sales tax. His best friend is a pastor here, so he'd have a supportive community waiting for him (and only be a 2.5 hour drive away from his old one).

And he'd just found out that it costs 1/9th what it does to buy a cab in Seattle, and that you can gross much more on a typical night. I can understand why he might suddenly think it's a good idea to move.

September 20, 2006 5:51 AM  

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