A few years back I drove a taxi-cab on the weekends for some extra cash. It’s on the top twenty list of weird things I’ve tried out in my life and it taught me a piece of an important lesson. Well, actually it taught me a few. Don’t trust a freshly twenty one year old kid who finds himself abandoned by his friends at the bar. Chances are, they’ll stiff ya. If someone is being a dick, go really slow and take the long way around. And don’t stop the meter at red lights.

The outfit I worked for ended up being a bit of a sleeze-shop. Taxis and Tours was the name, out of Suquamish, WA. When I first started it was actually a cool deal. There was a really nice lady in the dispatching office that helped out and directed me where to go to get some really good fare paying passengers. Any questions, I’d call her up and I was good to go. The next weekend I was told that her coworker quit so one of the other drivers was going to take over dispatch while she was off. Cool right…? Dispatch would ultimately tell us what part of town to stay in so we could maximize passengers and maintain fairness so we weren’t roaming in someone else’s territory. If a customer called in needing a cab they’d get the closest cabbie to go pick them up and that was about it. I noticed that when this other guy was dispatching, I never ever got calls for pick ups yet he was always giving me ‘hot tips’ on where to go sit and wait for fares. Hmmm….

A few weeks into this, money slowly waning away from lack of fares, I was called over to a parking lot to meet up with another cabbie. I pull up and the weirdest thing… the guy that was dispatching was sitting in another cab. He was dispatching remotely. Meaning when someone called in and needed a cab he took it. Why would he give a fare to someone else unless he absolutely couldn’t do it? Actually he did pass off fares to others. Like picking up disabled people that needed a five dollar ride to the corner bus stop. How the hell was I supposed to make any money? It all made sense. I quit the next day. This was straight up bullshit. The way the company worked is that you would ‘rent’ the cab each shift and pay for the gas. Everything else was money in the bank. I barely made enough to break even when he was dispatching, which as it turned out was most of the shifts that I was working.

On a less dramatic scenario, I’m driving trucks with a little more efficient of a dispatching system. Not by much though. I can’t complain about the money or opportunity with this interim job, but there’s a pattern to an important life anomaly. I get paid by the mile yet I have to factor in DOT rules about how long I can be on the road as well as the times I can pick up and deliver to customers. Add in the time it takes those customers to load their product and any equipment deficiencies eat away at extremely valuable time that could be time spent spinning the wheels down the road. We are in a perpetual tug of war between ‘be safe!’, ‘be on time’, and ‘don’t go over your DOT hours.’ Though the dispatchers and planners pay little attention to what’s actually going in with the drivers. I’m turn, for example, I was stuck in the middle of nowhere for four days since they couldn’t seem to plan ahead and get me another load when my driving hours came available again. Hurumph…

The thing I’m getting to here is the amount of our lives that are run by the dispatchers. The middle men. The snotty receptionists that screen what the boss hears. The paper pusher who works on ‘their’ time and ultimately only cares about ‘their’ paycheck and work/life balance. We all have them in our lives. You want to buy a house? You have to muddle your way through a plethora of gatekeepers. Buy a car? See your doctor? Call a technical support hotline? These people are all dispatchers. You only have a certain amount of leverage to get something accomplished. Just like I can only say so much out here on the road. If I bitch and complain about conditions, all they’re going to do is put me to the back of the list… They are the ones who make or break us. It’s a funny power trip that people coincidently acquire when they are put in these positions.

I think this is an untapped region of importance for success. When I considered opening another restaurant this last year I was looking at some real estate. I spoke with one of the agents and he was trying his hardest to sell me on a strip mall that hasn’t been leased out since it was built three years ago. I said I’d like to talk to the property owner and work something out. I would go to Bellevue to have a meeting with Andy Chen and see what could be worked out. Great! Until this sleezeball agent says I need to fill out a credit report before Andy will meet with me. I asked him, ‘you’re kidding me right?’ No kidding around. Mr. Chen was straight business and he didn’t want any riff-raff coming in trying to swindle him into a bum deal. My switch got turned off real quick… It wasn’t about my credit, it was the principle. I’m not going to do any sort of business with a person who thinks so highly of themselves that a simple meeting with them requires scrutiny from a credit check.

As much as I despise ‘money’ and what it does to people and societies, it is a necessary evil. It’s something we have to deal with. Truth is, unless we have a ton of social influence or ‘money’, we are going to be subjected to the crazy dispatchers that ultimately direct our lives where they see fit. Try walking into a car dealership saying you’re going to pay cash for a car. Wow! How the tables turn. Ask for financing or show any sort of financial weakness and they will drag you through the ringer. Even with good credit, they still have an upper hand. I contemplated buying a newer car a few weeks ago but not spending more than eight thousand. The salesman initially started out asking me what kind of payments I wanted to be making and what kind of down payment. I just wanted to see the particular car I was looking at. He would not shut up about the money aspect. I said ‘Look man, I’m going to pay cash when I find the right deal. I want to actually see what you have to offer.’ His attitude turned me off from not only buying anything from him, but to put off the idea of buying anything all together for now.

I can deal with authority. I can deal with being lower on the totem pole. What I can’t seem to come to accept is being shrugged off by some know-it-all middle man, or dispatcher, deciding what I need or don’t need in life. And this is becoming the real motivation for continuing school. It’s not about knowledge, it’s about leverage.


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