Monday, August 23, 2010

Francoise Update

I think the best thing about cab driving is the marvelous people you meet: sometimes in the cabs, sometimes behind the wheel, sometimes at meetings. For me, 2009 and 2010 have been especially good for unique, marvelous and extraordinary humans. This year, I'm getting to know Francoise Speigleman who, in her quiet way, might be more special than any of the others.

I can't imagine carrying the responsibilities that she has shouldered over the last 10 years. Nor can I imagine accomplishing what she has with the burdens she's carried. During that period, when she averaged about 1,800 hours a year of cab driving, she's raised three kids, earned a Bachelor's degree, taught art in the schools and continued working on her own art.

From 2000 to 2004, she drove taxis five days a week from 4 am to 2pm. From 2:30 pm to 6:30, she taught art to pre-schoolers. At 7 pm she'd finally get home to take care of her kids. She says that she didn't teach art for the money. She only made about $70 day doing it. She could have done just as well simply by getting a better taxi shift.

Francoise taught because she believed that children need art in order to grow into complete human beings and she did it until she became so exhausted that she couldn't do it any more.

About the only good aspect of her situation is that it should result in hearing officers becoming better trained in the future. Both Barry Korengold and Victoria Landsdown wrote to Manager of the SFMTA Hearing Section, Julie Rosenberg who said that she and the other hearing officers "would like the opportunity to ride in taxis" so that they could understand the cab business better and improve "the application process." Rosenberg also said that she had "instructed Officer Chin to expedite his review and, assuming there are no problems, we will have a decision next week."

"Expedite?" Francoise has already waited 10 days and could wait another 10 before she discovers her fate. What would truly "expedite" the situation would be a dose of common sense. Would a medallion applicant, who only needed 800 hours for proof, fake 2,300 hours worth of waybills?

This means another week of tossing and turning. Everyone, including Francoise herself, thinks she will probably get her medallion but the uncertainly is excruciating. She still feels "like a victim of an inquisition" and doesn't know if they'll claim that she's never driven a cab at all - despite the fact that she's obviously done so for 20 years.

Francsoise borrowed the $1,700 to pay for the medallion three months ago. Her kids no longer live with her but one of them just graduated from college and still needs help now and then. The medallion will cure these financial problems when it arrives.

Francoise should have had her medallion a year ago. Can you imagine her stress and disappointment? Yet she always greets you with a warm and charming little smile.

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