Keeping free enterprise & safety together is a driving force today

BY BOB WACHS, News + Record Staff
Posted 5/3/19

I fundamentally believe in the American free enterprise system.

I believe if someone has an idea and the smarts and the energy and the desire and the hard work to make a go of a business or a …

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Keeping free enterprise & safety together is a driving force today

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I fundamentally believe in the American free enterprise system.

I believe if someone has an idea and the smarts and the energy and the desire and the hard work to make a go of a business or a service, then he or she should do that as best as they can and reap the rewards of it all.

I also believe what the Good Book says about taking care of the widows and orphans and those in need, namely that we should do that.

I do not, however, believe in taking care of folks who can work but won’t. And I also don’t believe that whoever made a go of a business or service is required to share part of their profit with me if I didn’t have anything to do with earning it. If I don’t have enough profit in my life, then it’s up to me to find a better-paying job or take on a second one or cut my expenses.

I also know if I’m going to find a better job or add another one, then it needs to be in an area in which I have some interest and skill. That means I will never be an auto mechanic, but I would make a good mattress tester or fried chicken eater.

None of this self-awareness will ever win me the Nobel prize for economics; I know that. And I’m pretty sure I don’t need or want the prize. At this stage of life, I don’t think I have the energy to go for it. And since there are not, at least as far as I have been able to determine, any openings for mattress testers or fried chicken eaters or even for someone to eat fried chicken while lying on a mattress, I will stay where I am.

That doesn’t mean, however, I don’t appreciate those folks who are out there moving and shaking and trying new things and ideas but, from my seat on the sidelines, I have noticed a new but growing business endeavor that seems to me to be something that just doesn’t make sense.

Taxis and taxicabs have been around for who knows how long. Maybe it was right after Henry Ford did his thing. I remember two from my growing-up days in Pittsboro. One was owned by Wade Pugh, the other by Elbert Ramsey. How these two managed to make ends meet in the business world is something I’m not familiar with but I remember them being around for quite some time. Years ago, Siler City also had a taxi stand, as well as a bus station. And you could catch the Trailways or Greyhound at Dan McCrimmon’s Drug Store in Pittsboro and ride to Durham for 55 cents — one way.

But taxis never seemed to be that much in demand in small towns. Maybe that’s why the whole concept of Uber puzzles me. If by chance you don’t know, Uber is when you drive your own car and give folks rides for a fee, working when you want to and being your own boss — in other words, sort of an independent taxi.

Granted, there are no guarantees the driver of any car you get into is the safest person to ever sit behind the wheel. Maybe they’re the second version of Richard Petty. But, at least when you crawled into Yellow Cab you had some sense that there was a company behind your driver, a company who had screened its drivers.

Now, I’m not saying Uber doesn’t pay attention to its driver candidates and does the best it can to find reliable folks. I have a cousin who is in the business in a North Carolina city. But I’m pretty sure I remember Mama telling me not to get into cars with strangers. She also told me not to get into cars of some people I did know but that’s a different story.

I know that can work both ways. There’s no guarantee that the next person Yellow picks up won’t be an axe murderer. So maybe Uber and Yellow drivers pack heat; I don’t know. But I do know it’s sad when folks think they’re getting in with Uber and they aren’t but instead someone who intends harm. There are too many stories of such incidents not working out well.

The days when I thumbed to summer school at UNC in 1966 are long gone. They really were a bit more innocent than our culture of today. And, yes, there were times I got into the cars of total strangers. And then there was the time I was really stupid and got into a car with three guys who I’m pretty sure intended harm to me until they slowed down and I bailed out the door.

It’s been a gazillion years since I’ve thumbed; that ride with the three guys cured me. I’ve always had my own ride since those days. And it’s been just as long since I’ve picked up someone standing on the side of the road with his thumb stuck out. I think maybe the last time was when I lived at Harpers Crossroads and used to pick up Spike Moon on my way to Siler City.

So, good luck, Uber — and Yellow. Make a million. Drive safely and as the sergeant on the TV program “Hill Street Blues” used to tell the police at morning roll call, “Let’s be careful out there.”


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