Florida: The Punchline State – WSJ

Bulldog barks: I love Dave Barry. Read one his columns for the first time at least 30 years ago and I swear he’s even funnier these days. If you spend three minutes reading Dave’s explanation about why the Sunshine State is so damn weird–funny weird–you’ll have put your three minutes to very good use. Over to you, Mr. Barry:

 

It has more than its share of craziness, but it’s never boring—and it’s still the best place in the country to live, says longtime Floridian Dave Barry

Source: Florida: The Punchline State – WSJ

Driving, Recruiting, Training: A Taxi Career in a Changing Industry

Driving, Recruiting, Training: A Taxi Career in a Changing Industry

It was 1999 when I first got into the taxi business. I drove for a mid-sized company here in Central Florida. If you’re from around here, you’d no doubt recognize the name. The training was bad. Well, there was none. It’s not the easiest business to be in when you’re a newbie and it didn’t go well for me. I went back to slingin’ hash; I had had a long career as a waiter before deciding that taxi was a better way to go. It was a good and safe strategy to go back to something familiar, something I enjoyed and was very good at, but I still felt like driving a cab was “the next thing” for me in the career box of life.

After thinking about it for a few months, I decided to try it again, but this time I opted to go to the “big dog” in town to see if the result would be better. I landed at City Cab Co. of Orlando, a company that had been around since 1939, offered thorough training and knew how to be successful in the taxi biz. They had plenty of business over the phone, all the best parks and hotels, including the contract to service the taxi needs of Walt Disney World. And, yes, that proved beyond a doubt to be a better way to go. That’s an understatement. By the way, City Cab Company is the legal name, but Checker Cab, Yellow Cab and Winter Park Yellow Cab are all fleets operated by the same company all based out of the same location. Folks have often been confused by that.

A quick additional note about changes: those separate fleet names or brands will soon all give way to the Mears Taxi brand, but that could be the subject of a different post.

As the company evolved–way before my time–they jumped into shuttles, luxury sedans and became very big in the bus business too. Mears Transportation Group does pretty much anything and everything in the transportation business here in Central Florida, and do it well. I’ve now been associated with the company for 16 years. Just over seven years of that was driving cab, the rest has been in the department that recruits and trains new cab drivers. We also do a lot of administrative work, making sure that the drivers we have already have are up-to-date with driver permits from the city of Orlando, can still pass a vision test and are current with all contractual matters, especially after taking a hiatus from driving. In our industry, drivers are independent contractors, and the admin requirement do not stop once they’re on-board.

But our main focus in my department is getting new drivers contracted and ready to go; we recruit them, screen them, then train and motivate them and pass them on to our Operations Department. Some new drivers decide that our biz is not for them and they move on. Some, like me, take to it like a duck to water and go on to make a good living while enjoying a gig that’s quite literally like no other. I’ve got to say that driving a cab in Central Florida was, hands down, the best gig I’ve ever had.

There have been many changes in the transportation business in the last few years. In the cab business especially. Some of these changes are big. Game-changers, you might say. We who drive taxi or work in the business in administrative or support roles are feeling the changes. None of us can say with any certainty just where these changes are leading. But it’s big stuff. Ride sharing is a huge innovation, one that’s gone over well with people who use transportation services. Uber, Lyft and others have, and no doubt will continue, to change how people move from here to there. Speaking as an old-school “taxi guy” I want to acknowledge that many of us know that ride sharing could do to our industry what the internet did to newspapers. I don’t think that’s a “done deal” by any means but these 21st Century ways of going about our business are succeeding and the ramifications for those of us who’ve had success operating in the traditional way are huge.

I’m proud to be associated with a company that’s had impressive success over many, many years but that is keeping a close eye on the industry and how it’s changing and has put together a vision for how to embrace change and move with confidence into the future. I do not know what our industry will look like five or ten years from now. But I know that the qualities that have always helped a company and their people succeed will pretty much remain the same: having a good, well thought-out and adaptable business model; carefully selecting and thoroughly training your crew; supporting your workforce and giving them the tools they need to succeed; embracing changes in technology and ways to get things done and applying them in thoughtful and effective ways.

Changes. Challenges. They’re coming. Of that we can all be certain. Now as I toss out this pithy remark as my close, let me acknowledge that I need to hear and heed this advice probably more than most of you who might read it: the future belongs to those who will plan and prepare for it. I’m getting off line now so I can meditate a while on the weight and importance of that last sentence…YellowVan-movin-cropped-saturated-23523m

 

Tragedy Strikes a Family at Disney World

On Tuesday, June 14th, two year old Lane Graves was wading in ankle-deep water at Disney’s flagship resort, The Grand Floridian, when he was attacked and dragged under by an alligator. Although his father was close by and tried to keep young Lane from being taken, his efforts were no match for a gator’s jaws. Mercifully, Lane’s body was recovered the next day.

The Graves family was visiting Central Florida from Nebraska on vacation and remained here for several days to make the arrangements for their son.

Lane’s funeral was held on the afternoon of June 21st. The service was limited to family and close friends.

A couple of observations about this mind-numbingly tragic event: although the loss of this precious child is first and foremost a tragedy  for the family, it rocked the Central Florida community as well, coming as it did, on the heals of the murder of singer Christina Grimmie and the attack at the Pulse nightclub in downtown Orlando. These three hugely-traumatic events would have weighed very heavily on the heart of Orlando regardless of the “why and when” factors. But having them fall, as they did, in a period of only five days was a perfect storm of shock, incredulity and heart-break for people who call Orlando home. It’s hard to conceive. Honestly. I can’t think of anything remotely like this in my half-century plus of living here.

Having said that, our community began the process of healing from this “unholy trinity” of events pretty quickly. The journey toward healing will be much longer for the families of those who were lost.

A GoFundMe account has been set up for the Graves family. If you’d like to help, follow this link. Please note that if you’re reading this a few weeks down the road from this tragic event, that account may not be active at that time.

To see how you can help the victims and the families of the 102 who were gunned down in the Pulse attack, click here. Note that of the 102 who were shot, 49 didn’t make it. At this writing, two and a half weeks later, only six survivors remain at Orlando Regional Medical Center. One is still in critical condition. But a lot of those folks will be healing from their wounds for a very, very long time.

On the 9th of June, if an angel had come down from heaven and described the events that would soon be happening in Central Florida, none of us would have taken the celestial messenger seriously. Those who might have put some stock in the angel’s revelation could not be blamed if they had taken the first flight out. But much to the credit of our people, this community has risen up and done great things to support the survivors, their families and the ones whose lives were lost. I hasten to add that much love and support has flooded in from places way beyond our part of the world. Like the love and unity which seemed to be everywhere in the aftermath of 9/11, these “warm, fuzzy” thoughts and behaviors will most likely wane as the shock and grief lessen. But the love and unity I’ve seen all around Central Florida in the last two weeks has been extraordinary and I hope it lasts a while.

I Cor. 13:13  New Living Translation

Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.

 

 

Orlando’s very, very tragic week

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard about the incredibly tragic events here in Orlando over the last week. There’s been non-stop coverage of all three events, not by local media only, but the big boys have been all over it too. CNN and the New York Times, among many others. And when you think back over the week’s events, it’s not hard to see why.

First, singer Christina Grimmie was shot dead in an autograph session at the Plaza Theater on Friday, June 10th. Then, barely 24 hours later home-grown terrorist and homophobe Omar Mateen cut loose with a torrent of death that claimed 49 innocent lives and injured 53 others. And then on Tuesday night, Lane Graves, a two year old boy visiting from Nebraska, was dragged under and drowned by an alligator at Disney’s flagship resort. An incredible week, to say the least, and one we who call Orlando home will never forget.

In the next three posts, I’m going to have more to say about these three truly tragic events. At this moment, I just want to point out-though it’s been done countless times in the last ten days-that this is probably more cruelty, shock, sadness and sorrow than has been visited on any single American city in such a short span of time in our century. If that sounds like hyperbole, it’s not. What a week it’s been! I hope no community here in the U.S. or anywhere else on the planet, ever has to deal with this improbable mix of insanity, hatred and ill fortune in a six day span. Heaven help us.