Sunday, February 25, 2007

Are Washingtonians Really Such Awful Drivers In The Snow?

Well, I have finally been able to take the Prius out for a few runs on snowy, slick roads. Clients kept me busy all through last weeks pre-Valentine and Valentines Day ice storms up to todays gorgeous, wet snowfall, with plenty of icy ruts and slush in between. Overall the performance was pretty good; I didn't get stuck once. The moderately slow starts that I am used to are exactly what works best in those conditions, and I passed plenty of SUVs that were having a harder time of it. There was one fairly major slip-up by either the Prius or its driver, though. While cutting through Forest Hills on my way to Rock Creek Park I made (or failed to make, rather) a sharp left turn while heading downhill on what looked to be a very thin layer of freshly fallen powder. The back end went out on me real fast and swung right around. For a moment I had the awful feeling of not having the least bit of control over my fate. I was just a small, fragile fleshpiece within a massive, free-sliding projectile of metal, plastic and glass. WATCH OUT! Fortunately, I wasn't going very fast to begin with and no other cars were coming around the corner towards me. I ended up facing back in the direction I had come from with an embarrassed, and grateful, smile on my face. I guess a 4x4 Subaru really might be better for some things.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ecocabs By Unanimous Decision!

It strikes you as you weave through downtown and Capitol Hill in the early morning rounds: driving is like fighting here. In the tight confines of the city, hard up against your opponent, you're going to absorb some punishment. You do your best to avoid the heavy blows, keep your elbows tucked in and your eyes wide open. You feint, hook, butt heads and then backpedal away. You put a little distance between yourself and the danger, dance away, dance, until that infighting has given way to stretches of nervous waiting crossed with hurtling lefts and right of great mass. Then, at just the right moment, you sneak in a short uppercut that lands just where you want it to. The man in your corner had said, "Take this to Gaithersburg!" and you had done it, and it makes you feel like the best damn middle, er, light heavyweight in the world. You still have to go the distance, though. On the return, crashing down a country road whose old telephone lines hang as loose as the ropes at the Ali-Foreman fight, you have the crude intent of a late round haymaker. You throw two last roundhouse rights and a straight left. Near Bethesda you're backed into trouble and have to duck out quickly to escape a jam. You talk a little trash as you slip away, and then quickly jab and jab again, always anticipating your adversaries next move and shiftng to the side before you can be tagged yourself. Stick and move. Pop! Deliver your blow and go, always moving, until the bell rings signalling the end of the fight.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

There Is No Vomit In This Post, But I Quit Anyway

Ecocabs is no longer involved in the shuttle business. After six months of operating the Atlas Shuttle for Joe Englert and some other bar owners on H St. N.E. I had to bow out. It seems I can no longer stay up til the wee hours every weekend night and still be productive on Monday. We were able to find a very good replacement for the shuttle, though; his name is Clem Hagans and you can reach him at 301 751 1802. The hours have expanded to 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. and the size to a 14 passenger van. So, I'm afraid the Atlas shuttle might have improved in every way. Please do tip Clem as generously as you did me. It's a hard shift.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Am I In Love With Laurie David?

In a chuckle filled conversation with an old friend recently the subject of Curb Your Enthusiasm came up. That was the source of much of the laughter. My friend recounted to me her favorite part of one episode where Larry, while searching for a lost dog, becomes distracted by a passing car, stops, points, and says, "Hey Look! It's a Prius!" and forgets about the dog. Later he describes Prius drivers as a "special breed" in explanation of why he always waves to them. I wish I had seen it. Then, just yesterday, an ecocabs delivery client told me that he met Laurie David not long ago and that he really liked her and that she clearly could not curb her enthusiasm for the Toyota Prius. She urged him to buy one right away. I want to second that. Half the purpose of ecocabs is to promote the Prius and its usefulness as a work vehicle. The hybrid synergy drive technology is a winner. It helps conserve a vital and sensitive natural resource, reduces pollution (it's rated as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle-not just super, not just ultra) and saves its users money. So go out and buy one or, if you prefer, hire me to delvier for you and we will do the conserving, reducing and saving together.

Friday, November 24, 2006

How Desperate Is Our Situation?

In the aftermath of yesterdays Thanksgiving feast I am reminded of an interesting discussion I had with a young woman recently. She is a vegan who goes dumpster diving to get free food. She only takes the things with no animal products inside. She is a freegan. I didn't know anything about freegans before, but the information didn't come as much of a shock, even if the idea of eating food from a trash can does turn my stomach a bit. It really seems like a pretty normal societal growth when you consider all the "waste" we produce. It does make you question your commitment to doing the right thing by Earth, though. Are you willing to turn down your thermostat in Winter, or turn off your lights when they're not in use, or ride a bike to work, or stop eating meat? Are you not willing to do anything because you think there is more Same Old Shit than Save Our Ship to the warnings be sounded around the world?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Prompt Delivery Vs. Planetary Collapse

Not being overly obsessive, and facing definite time constraints, I don't utilize all the methods advocated by the manic hypermilers, but if given a proper chance I probably would. Taking off from a dead stop under electric power alone gives me a thrill, and using the pulse and glide technique to keep my average mileage above 50 per gallon makes me feel like a hero, but, as it is, if a client needs something done quickly I am sometimes forced to FULLY DEPRESS THE ACCELERATOR! I feel bad about that, but there it is. I am driving the line between prompt delivery and planetary meltdown, people, and I'm doing it for you.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Chalk One Up For The Sorority Girls

When Ecocabs took on the difficult, wearying process of shuttling patrons to and from the new H St. bars and nearby Metro stops every Friday and Saturday night from 10 p.m. until 2:30 a.m., I knew there could be trouble. I knew, specifically, that someone could throw up in my car and ruin it forever with a horrible smell and I always said, when the subject came up, that the first time anybody threw up in my car would be the last time I operated the Atlas Shuttle.
Over the months, lo these many months, there have been a couple of close calls. There was the woman who, after half an hour with her head between her knees on the sidewalk out front of the Red and the Black, was helped to the open rear door of my car by her boy friend only to vomit in the gutter there. I had to refuse them service after that, just like the cabbies who came along afterward.
There was another woman, only a few weeks ago, who was waiting for me with three friends outside the Argonaut with a small bucket being held under her chin by her best friend. The best friend was very reassuring to me about the fact that she had the situation under control and that there would be no vomiting on my car. I am not stupid. I started to back away with my hands in the air, but it was very late and the friend was convincing and I took them where they needed to go. Only at 7th and H St., as they were getting out, did the sick woman vomit again as she slumped out of the car. It is a really awful thing to see people so drunk.
And now there is Ian, a 6 foot 2 or 3 inch Englishman with a great big belly who works at one of Joe Englerts Capitol Hill bars and regularly uses my service to get up to the Argonaut where his girlfriend works. I never suspected it would be Ian. Great, big Ian! An Englishman! A bar or restaurant veteran would never be the one to soil my ecocab; it was going to be one of the sorority girls who had ventured down to Northeast for a lark, I thought. On Saturday night, when I picked him and his wonderful girlfriend Vanessa up towards the end of the night as usual, he had a bizarre, forced grin on his face. She made an offhand joke about him driving with his window down that was totally ignored. I bantered with them. Actually, I bantered with her because he wasn't saying much that was intelligible. Then I heard the sound from the back seat. It was a disturbing sound, and she made an exclamation. I pulled right over and she quickly got him out of the car and began wiping up what appeared to be a tiny bit of vomit on the seat. Almost all of it was on his clothing. They were very apologetic and offered to pay to have it cleaned, but I said no and we all agreed that it would be best for them to walk the rest of the way.
In the light of morning it turned out there was a bit of residue on the carpet that I easily cleaned up myself, and I didn't feel the urge to resign my post as Atlas Shuttle Driver. There is no smell and practically no stain, and if you send something with Ecocabs I will be sure to set it down away from that area!
Chalk one up for the sorority girls.