Archive for August, 2008

Yellow Menace
August 24, 2008

 

At this moment, we have no idea what happened (or didn’t) when a cab driver crashed into a pack of bicyclists on the MacArthur Causeway.  At this writing, police are still out there in the eastbound lanes with the Checker Taxi, its windshield shattered and caved in, several twisted bike frames under its front bumper.

 

But if you ever drive in Miami Beach, you can’t be surprised.

 

As far as I know, records of accident reports are not searchable by cabbie involvement.  Maybe more telling is that no statistics show how many traffic citations cabbies receive.  My guess is, not nearly enough.  

 

Who has not been tailgated, cut off, or nearly blown off the road by a cab driver using the speed limit as a suggestion? 

 

A busy residential road that I travel daily has speed limit signs that seem to be spaced every 10 feet.  Police patrol with radar guns and ticket books fairly regularly, and they’re shooting fish in a barrel.  But the cars they pick off and pull over are not the taxi cabs. 

 

A few years ago, a cabbie bringing me home from the airport laughed at me when I asked him to slow down.

 

Maybe they get a break from the law because they carry the precious cargo of the tourist trade.  Maybe they draw a bit of look-the-other-way sympathy because they need a decent driving record to earn a living.  Aren’t those are some of the very reasons cab drivers should be held to a higher standard?

 

Remember the Miami Nice campaign a few years ago?  Cabbies were trained as “hosts with the most” because they are a tourist’s first encounter with South Florida hospitality (hold the jokes).   I’d just be happy if they were held to the same rules of the road as the rest of us.

 

So, apologies in advance if the cabbie who creamed the bicyclists this morning had a medical issue or some other mitigating circumstance.  That said, buckle your seatbelt.

 

**Update – 11am Monday, 826 west:

Mario and I are heading to a press conference, talking about the taxi/bike crash, when a Yellow Cab cut off another driver in front of us.  Five minutes later at our exit, the cabbie cut us off so he could exit right from the left lanes.   Then he pulled off to the side on 72nd Ave., and when we pulled up along side of him, he was studying a map

ith the car load of people he had as fares.

 

He looked up and saw the giant Local10 live truck next to him.  We rolled down the window and asked if he were lost.  He was.  We sent him on his way with directions.

 

How I wish we’d had the time and opportunity to interview the tourists in his cab about their impressions of a Miami taxi driver who couldn’t get them to a destination on numerically arranged streets. 

Coffee Talk
August 11, 2008

The little coffee nook in our hotel in Charleston brewed serious coffee, an essential ingredient for any sort of brain power or personality before noon.  So there I was, like a junkie for a fix.   

 

“The strongest brew you have, please.  Large.”

 

I’d come to expect lilting Scarlet O’Hara drawls in Charleston, but the pretty blonde woman at the window had some sort of accent I couldn’t place.   She delivered my fix, and I turned my attention to the little table of accoutrements, to the little ritual of exacting the ratio of coffee to creamer to sweetener.  

 

And out of the blue I heard this: 

 

“Y’all’s country did a terrible thing.”

 

I turned around to watch a doughy little man with bad backwoods grammar (where is Rhett when you need him?) confront the nice woman dispensing coffee. 

 

So she is Russian.  How he knew that, I have no idea.

 

The headlines, for those unplugged from conflicts that do not directly involve us:

The Russian military invaded neighboring Georgia (what used to be its Soviet Georgia), a now-independent, West-friendly country, which had tried to assert its own dominance in neighboring South Essetia, which is a holdout Russian enclave.   Clear?

 

And that’s before coffee…..

 

Anyway, as in most cases of geo-political conflict, there are no well-defined good guys or bad guys.  But the Russian military is unleashing considerable force, its long-term intentions aren’t clear, and as in most conflicts, innocent civilians are paying the price.

 

Speaking of innocent civilians, here is this nice, coffee-brewing, croissant-dispensing Charleston, South Carolina hotel employee who happens to be a Russian national, thrust into the position of defending her country to some coffee-ordering, hotel-staying southern American blowhard.

 

Instead of serving up a blank stare and a smile, the coffee lady offers another side of the story.

 

“Not my country,” she offered meekly.  “Georgia started,” she said.

 

Uh-oh.

 

“Nuh-uh, your country did terrible thing,” the man repeated.

 

Ordinarily, I might come to her defense, this young woman who has apparently tried to better her life half way around the world working in a hotel. 

 

But I hadn’t had my coffee yet.

 

So the best I could do was raise my cup over the guy’s head and say “Spoceba, nostrovya”.   “Thank you, cheers”, two of five Russian words I happen to remember from a week in Ukraine in 1996. 

 

Then I went back to my room to read the New York Times account of what Russia did.

 

The Mother Country may or may not be to blame.  But coffee lady clearly was not.

The Crewcible
August 4, 2008

The vote is in. 

 

After delivering speeches that were alternately angry, indignant, accusatory, didactic and/or defiant, four Miami-Dade school board members voted to fire Superintendent Rudy Crew.  Five others did not.  And the superintendent himself delivered an in-their-face challenge to stop a “witch hunt” and “high-tech lynching”.

 

On face value, the vote was edge-of-your-seat close.  But it wasn’t, really.

 

The four who want Crew gone have, for weeks, telegraphed their intentions or outlined them quite clearly. The other five have publically maintained unwavering support for Crew’s maverick efforts in reforming a big, tough, underfunded school district.  In this case, a last-minute “swing” vote wasn’t really a factor.

 

No, the vote was not a surprise.  But the public outcry was, and in several ways.

 

The number of people who signed up and showed up and took their two minutes at the podium took a collective three hours to speak, many quite passionately, and the vast majority in favor of Rudy Crew.

 

And the Miami-Dade citizens who want him fired?  Where were they? 

 

 

 

We know they exist in large numbers, because the two board members most adamant in their effort to oust Crew said they do.  Those board members made a point to say their duty to represent their constituents was the reason behind their stand against the accused negligence, mismanagement and insubordination.

 

Where were all those constituents during the three hour public hearing?? 

 

 

If there is “clear discontent in this community”, as one board member insisted, why didn’t some of the discontented, any of them, show up to speak? 

 

When school starts in two weeks, Miami-Dade’s social studies teachers should pull the videotape from the meeting and that 5-to-4 vote, and give their students a real-life challenge in critical and creative analysis.