Tag Archives: Trump

Thinking about taxis, rather than something else

It’s oppressive. You can’t get away from the Trump chaos. Everyone talks about it. Walk down the street, meet a friend. Immediately they bring it up even if you don’t want to hear it. A friend who is skiing in Vermont emailed me about meeting for dinner. But then she ended with, “what’s to become of our nation?”

A Scottish relative even got into the fray when she took a bus back to Lossiemouth from Elgin. An elderly woman near her told her she pitied the “poor Americans.”

“They niver thought in a the days o man that that absolute fool o a man wid be in the White Hoose,” she said. “And now I hiv tae ging back into Elgin again the night tae join the protest.”

Who knew elderly Scottish ladies would be protesting in far-north Elgin at night?

I try not to think about the nation’s problems unless I hear something funny. Thank goodness for the online Borowitz Report and Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, the New Yorker’s Calvin Trillin and Rachel Maddow, whose news is filled with irony and glee at the latest absurdity.

My most successful tactic, however, is to think about banal things instead of scary ones. Taxis come to mind. Life in Boston would be better if we had better taxis. Let’s think about them instead of something else.

Like telephone booths and typewriters, they are a relic of another age. There are the same number of taxi medallions in the city as in past years, according to the media relations department of the Boston Police Department, but there seem to be fewer taxis on the streets. This is hard to verify, however, since no one can tell me how many are actually on the streets.

But taxis don’t have to become relics. They have one advantage over Uber and Lyft. You can stand at a street corner and hail them. And you can find them at taxi stands—the one behind City Hall and in front of 225 Franklin are particularly convenient. If you can find one quickly, they are quicker than Lyft, for whom you have to wait. While taxis are more expensive, it’s usually only a few dollars difference. It won’t break the bank.

But taxis make it hard to love them. Signs pasted on the dirty, clunky divider urge passengers to stay loyal. But who can stay loyal to cramped quarters, no indication that a cab is available when it approaches you, clumsy payment options, hostility if you pay by credit card, annoying blather coming from a small television screen and a lack of air conditioning in the summer?

If taxis are to remain on the streets of Boston, they must up their game. Here are some modest proposals.

Put a light on the top of every cab that says if it is available or not. New York City cabs can manage that simple piece of information. So can DC’s cabs. It’s welcoming and efficient to know that the taxi coming toward you can stop for you.

Get rid of the divider between the driver and the passenger. These were installed long ago after a couple of cab drivers were assaulted. But that occurs rarely. Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, taxis do not have that bulky barrier that prevents easy exchange with the driver and air conditioning from flowing through. And those places aren’t as safe as Boston.

The unsightly barrier makes it hard for passengers to get in and out and have a place for their feet. A barrier-free ride would make a passenger’s ride more comfortable and make that passenger more inclined to take a taxi rather than Lyft, which is always more comfortable.

Make taxi service regional rather than city-based. Surely if Amazon can figure out how to deliver packages everywhere, some smart person should be able to plan how to deploy cabs all over Boston, Cambridge and Brookline, for starters, with efficiency and standardization. It is annoying to realize that the cab coming toward you near is not supposed to pick you up even if it is empty.

Boston also has its job to do. Taxi medallions are like liquor licenses. They should not be able to be bought and sold in a private market. They should go to one cab and be retrieved when that cab is out of commission. They should be affordable for individual drivers. They should be issued with public comfort and accessibility in mind and not for the benefits and convenience of big owners.

If the taxis don’t make these changes, they’ll descend into the junk yards where Compaq computers and Walkman devices have gone. No one will miss them or be sorry. And we’ll have to go back to thinking about Trump.

Thanks, Donald, for the big reveal

One good thing Donald has done for America is that the regrettable frequency of sexual assault is now out in the open, and it’s not just a bunch of drunk college sophomores committing the crimes.

I had read that women were revealing their own experiences with it to their mates and to other women. Then I landed with several women friends I see a two or three times a year. They started talking and talking and talking. I was observing the disclosures first-hand.

At first two themes emerged. One was that the men who had perpetrated these acts were pathetic, creepy creatures, and we suspected they had small “hands.” Another was that the women felt humiliation years after the acts had taken place.

Then one woman described an attempted rape. C. said that a busboy who’d been serving in her college sorority offered to walk her home, and she was happy for the company. But when they got to her place, he pushed her into her room and tried to rape her. Terrified, she could think of only one thing to do—she made herself throw up, all over him.

Disgusted and distracted, he paused, and she was out of there.

That set me to thinking: how many women have been threatened with sexual assault and prevailed? After a unscientific poll of my friends, it turns out that due to luck, height and clever thinking, many have done so.

Take S.’s experience:

“Some years ago, I was living with a large, chocolate point Siamese cat named Harvey and dating a professor from a local university. One evening after dinner at a lovely restaurant, we came back to my apartment for coffee and conversation. We were standing in the hallway leading from the living room to the bedroom when the professor began playfully backing me toward the open door of the bedroom. Before I realized this was not a game, the professor had pinned me down on the bed and was trying to disrobe me. I virtually bellowed my objection to no avail.

“In response, Harvey, issuing his great hoarse Siamese meows, leapt on the prof’s back and clawed him vigorously. Prof ran out the door with Harvey at his heels.”

Another story that may be more common than anyone realized was P.’s. She said her doctor pushed her against the wall as he was leaving the exam room and kissed her on the lips before slipping out the door. She retaliated by getting a new doctor.

Cleverness sometimes helps, although it’s hard to be clever when you are scared.

One woman told of being in grad school when a young teen approached her on the sidewalk. He was tall and skinny with a sweet baby face. She thought he was going to ask for change, but instead he knocked her books to the ground and tried to grope her. Astonished, she asked, “What would your mother say if she knew what you were doing?”

He stood back, looking really scared, and asked, “Do you know my mother?”

She replied, “Of course I do!!”

He disappeared down the street at record speed.

Having a weapon helps. In one tall woman’s case it was her elbows. She was married to a professor. As she came out of the bathroom at a department party, the head of her husband’s department pushed her back in and tried to disrobe her. This woman is about five-eleven, and she made use of her size, elbowing him and fighting him. She managed to get out. He came out soon after, continued having a good time at the party and never seemed embarrassed at subsequent social encounters with her. She wondered if he even remembered. She certainly did.

Another woman described using her door as a weapon. Some years ago a neighbor joined her as she was walking home through the colorful fall leaves in the Back Bay. He helped carry some of her heavy books. At her door, he returned her books and began to grope her. She pushed him away, but he still had one hand on the door frame. So she shut the door on his hand and kept it there, pushing against the door, as he wailed in pain. When she finally let up, he sprinted away. She laughed, then shook and cried.

Unfortunately, other stories of assault were less satisfying because the women could not get away.

The best news, however, is not that predatory men can be vanquished. It’s that so many men are dignified, caring, loving, respectful, and real friends and partners of women. Those kinds are the real men.

July’s Tragedy or Comedy

You’ll have to admit democracies are more entertaining than dictatorships. Nothing ever happened in East Germany except for people trying to get over the wall. Nothing happens now in North Korea, where everyone follows the same orders or else.

Instead democracies have uninformed people deciding matters of great importance. Rabble like us, as our founders feared, like to stir up trouble just because it is fun even if we don’t have a clue as to what is going on.

So that means we’re going to have a truly fabulous July. If you’re not crying over the British Leave vote on the EU, at least you can watch the turmoil that has roiled the land of Keep Calm and Carry On after they voted themselves out of the serious world, apparently, not realizing the effect a Leave vote would have on their economy, London’s financial headquarters, their factories, or the chances their young people will have for good jobs on the Continent. (Sorry about that long sentence, but as intelligent Americans, we can handle long sentences. After the Leave vote, Americans are finally considered smarter than the British, but we’ll be a better judge of that in November.)

Observers are calling Britain rudderless, panicky, already regretful. Scotland is threatening to leave Great Britain. It’s probably a disaster, despite the calming words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Right now maybe it’s better to think of it as good theatre. Any drama with the word Exchequer in it has to be diverting.

Soon, on top of the British breakdown, we’ll have the Republican convention. That ought to keep us glued to the television if we’re not there, and it looks as if few Massachusetts Republicans will be there. We’re expecting bombast, dirty words, bragging, politically incorrect talk, preposterous accusations, and, if we’re lucky, major bigotry.

The Democratic Convention (Democrat Convention to Republicans who sound as if they left school at fourth grade, not having been taught the difference between an adjective and a noun) can’t possibly be as good. How can you top the one with the bonkers billionaire as its star? But we’re hoping Bernie provides a bit of drama as he tries to get the Democrats to agree to his platform, which they already agree with, but don’t see how they’ll get there through Bernie’s means. The Democrats need a fire-brand 74-year-old, heady with the love of his followers and with his own form of bad hair, to keep things even.

Blessedly, for our continued entertainment, we’ve also got Marco Rubio trying to regain the Senate seat he rarely sat in. We’ve got Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan bamboozled, trying to figure out why the hoi polloi of the Republican Party doesn’t give a darn about conservative values. A Noah’s Ark is opening in Kentucky with models of dinosaurs playing with children, because there are people who believe this kind of thing. And some guy who barely met the Clintons is coming out with a tell-all book about their supposed rants in the White House. You can’t make this stuff up, but apparently he did.

Surely there will be additional brouhahas erupting from the terrified class who are aghast at the thought that women might have to use the bathroom at the same time as a man who has become a woman. How many people are we talking about anyway who are men becoming women? Can’t we deal with it? I once stood in a bathroom line in France at a break during a performance with the women headed for the men’s stalls while men peed at the urinals. No one seemed to mind.

Luckily, the left wing has comedians to help them get through. Andy Borowitz and Stephen Colbert, sometimes still Jon Stewart, and even Rachel Maddow, who is supposed to report serious news, are pretty funny. I’ve never figured out why the right wing has no comedians to help them.

In any case, by August, both political parties will probably have nominees. Who knows? Britain might even have rejoined the EU. So many people are on vacation that not much will happen. (Some people, of course, think everything happens in August—the start of WWII, for example.) But during July, enjoy the fray. You won’t have to bother going to the movies. You’ll have real life to entertain you.