Uber in Hamilton Update: Maria Pearson, Don't Delete This One.
A cabbie friend of mine told me that she had recently received a follow-up call from her council rep, Maria Pearson - Ward 10, over a recent licensing issue.
After some small talk, the councilor asked my friend, I'll call her Molly, how things were going in the Hamilton taxi business now that Uber had been formally exempted from Hamilton's "old category" of taxi licensing bylaws.
Molly told her that things were really bad. Then Molly suggested that if Maria wanted more information on the Uber impact, that she should talk to "Hans."
Maria replied, "Hans Wienhold?"
Maria: "Oh. I just delete his emails."
When I heard this I laughed. First, Maria feigns interest in the plight of Hamilton's cabbies (probably just fishing for a vote, IMHO,) and then, when offered a source of information on the Uber impact, Maria unconsciously intimates that she is not remotely interested in the subject.
Maria: "Oh. I just delete his emails."
As I have said on many occasions before, most politicians are phony people who pretend to care about their constituents, but demonstrate by their actions that they care much more about their own careers. Once you know what to look for it becomes very easy to see.
Step one: do they put on a big show about how much they care about the poor, downtrodden, and marginalized members of our community? (Like Hamilton's cab drivers?)
Step two: ask yourself if their proposed solutions to any given problem involve digging into their own wallets or purses, or someone else's?
Need I go into any more detail?
I call this Hans Wienhold's free, two-step course on Everything you Ever Need to Know about Politics and Politicians.
Molly was absolutely mortified when I told her just how juicy the information she just gave me was, and that I intended to use it in a future blockrant.
"I don't want to get into any trouble," she said.
I could write an essay on that response alone. Where did a person develop the impression that telling the truth about something could get them into trouble?
Of course, this reaction disturbed me. I told Molly that she should not have to fear retribution from a politician, and that the politician, theoretically, is her servant, NOT her master.
“When the people fear the government, that's tyranny; when the government fears the people, that's freedom.” -- Thomas Jefferson
Poor Molly. No citizen should have to live in such fear of politicians.
Alert: Prostitution in the Taxi Business
Last night, as I loitered at the Blueline parking lot while Uber taxis drove our former customers home, the prominent Hamilton taxi consultant, Jaspal Gill, showed up to purchase gas for his cab.
We had a conversation.
We started out talking about how badly Uber drivers were being suckered into believing that their investments in relatively fancy new cars, permitted them to succumb to the illusion that consuming their capital for a few dollars today was a form of "job."
The insanity of the whole concept is staggering in dimension. Some of these Uber drivers actually borrowed money to buy their cabs. How could such a blatant fraud have gained such friction? Tom Sawyer would have been green with envy. Tom Sayer got an apple core and a dead mouse, or something. Uber got to mobilize billions of dollars of worker-owned capital to line the pockets of it's capitalist investors!
You've got to hand it to Uber. It's fucking brilliant. There's a sucker born every minute.
"There's a sucker born every minute" is a phrase closely associated with P. T. Barnum, an American showman of the mid-19th century, although there is no evidence that he said it. Early examples of its use are found instead among gamblers and confidence men.
The conversation turned to the number of new entrants into the non-exempt taxi sector who, themselves, were purchasing brand new cars to operate as taxis.
We all laughed. "That's fucking nuts!"
Our small group were all seasoned cab drivers. We laughed without prompting, because we all knew how stupid a person had to be to buy a new car for use as a taxi.
Jaspal is not only a very competent businessman. He is a great philosopher as well. He knows how to distill reality into short, concise, and comprehensible anecdotes.
Here is my reconstruction of what he said:
"What people fail to understand, is that a taxicab is like a prostitute. It is something to be used, abused, disrespected, and discarded."
That is not the ideal. But it is the reality.
Therefore, getting married to a brand new car, only to whore it out to random members of the public, is a form of self abuse.
For another perspective on the true nature and value of a taxicab, I recall what my late friend, Uncle Jay, used to refer to his taxicab as..... a toilet, because that is how the public treat them. (Only months before his death, the City whacked him with a spitefull $180 fine for a broken seal on his taxi meter. Uber's meters, as you might already know, are exempt from the seal requirement.) Level playing field?
Jaspal was showing us one of his new cabs. It was clean, shiny, and almost brand new looking. He had picked it up for a few hundred dollars, and done some needed repairs.
An astute businessman knows how much to spend to accomplish an objective without pointlessly pissing dollars away into someone else's (or the government's) pocket. Uber drivers, by contrast, pay in excess of 25% of their earnings to the Uber corporation for the privilege of using their own cars as taxicabs. Uber is astute.
Someone commented on one of my anti-government-Uber-bullshit videos, that Uber had outdone the worst nightmares of the bona-fide communists, by extending the exploitation of workers by the owners of capital to the exploitation of workers using their own capital!
An historic and brilliant insight. And a brilliant business play on Uber's part.
Tim Hudak tried to popularize the concept by calling it the new "sharing economy."
What a fucking joke. Share your car with Goldman Sachs.
I spoke to a cab driver this morning who's life had been so seriously distrupted by Hamilton's politicians decision to allow Uber to circumvent the traditional requirements for taxi operations, that he is talking about suicide.
I had read about the suicides of an estimated 50 Dublin, Ireland, cab drivers as a result of a similar catastrophic regulatory reversals. Given the impact similar political malfeasance has had on Ontario taxi drivers in Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville, London, Hamilton, Ottawa, and more, I am surprised that I haven't heard of a single case of cab driver suicide in Ontario to date.
But I do have this.
I spoke to a Hamilton cab driver this morning who told me he is feeling so cornered now by the disruption Hamilton's politicians have dumped on the taxi market, that he was actually contemplating suicide.
If something like that happens in Ontario, don't blame Uber. Blame those who facilitated it.
The invertibrates that gravitate to political office.
Aside: That's one reason I like Donald Trump. He is not one of them.