NYC professional chauffeur and taxi driver Douglas Schifter shot himself in front of City Hall in protest to the loss of business and the unfortunate state his life became after ridesharing swamped NYC 's streets. Schifter wrote "The whole purpose of life is to learn, teach and love. I don't know how else to try to make a difference other than a public display of a most private affair. I hope with the public sacrifice I make now that some attention to the plight of the drivers and the people will be done to save them and it will not have been in vain."
Unfortunately, his death is in vain as Schifter proves the theory of evolution in its full gory glory. Uber and Lyft might have used every underhand tactic and financed a comprehensive federal and state-wide strategy to manipulate and lobby for deregulation. A system, that proved highly capable and led to Uber and Lyft taking over the streets of the US in full force.
NYC was manned by 13,000 taxi drivers and 40,000 liveries and black cars, now there are 130,000 cars on the streets of NYC and price wars have destroyed the income of traditional taxis and liveries. Schiffer wrote in his last message that "Due to the huge numbers of cars available with desperate drivers trying to feed their families, they squeeze rates to below-operating costs and force professionals like me out of business. They count their money, and we are driven down into the streets we drive becoming homeless and hungry. I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead."
It is unfortunate that this individual took his life rather than fight. I cannot begin to imagine what went on his mind and what happened in his life to reach this decision. However, while death is unfortunate, suicides are always forgotten. The only deaths that ever-made historical impact were the assassinations of central figures, such as Archduke Ferdinand that started the first world war.
The only impact this unfortunate act has is that it proves that if you cannot adapt, cannot change, cannot find a way to react to a situation, no matter how hard it makes life, then you cannot survive. The theory of evolution is that only the strong survive. Unlike Schifter, there are thousands of taxi drivers that adapted to the situation and became Uber/Lyft drivers. Some drivers incorporate blogs and websites to implement their income as full-time drivers, while others have two separate jobs. There is always a solution, and it is sometimes elusive and hard to find, but we have to dig down into our souls and find the strength and the determination to come back fighting for our livelihood and life.
I look at the unfortunate demise of a great actor, the comedian Robin Williams and you try to fathom out how such a talented and famous person would end his life. You then realize that he suffered from clinical depression. I can only assume that Schifter suffered from depression too. Now here is the scoop on this story. I too was once in a very bad place. I had so much debt and so many business failures in life, and I also had a failed marriage. I was desperate, I drank, took various pills and thought of death and suicide, even testing the effects of a large dose of pills with alcohol. In the end, I decided to fight back. I had an insurance income; it gave me a small financial gain that I could use to re-base my life. I started to work as an independent contractor and have clawed my way back step by step.
Life is precious; nothing is worth taking away your own life. I have a classic example of a Holocaust victim that survived Auschwitz and went to Israel. He lost all his family, wife and kids in the camps. He remarried and lost one of his sons to cancer. He made another child and continued to live. This is a true story of true strength. No matter how hard your life is, no matter how much debt you are in, you must not give into depression. You must fight it, and you must find ways to survive your darkest hours.
I cannot condone what Schifter did; I can only sympathize with the depths of his feelings of loss. I cannot blame Uber or Lyft for his demise. The world of business is hard; life is hard. If we do not learn to adapt and change, we cannot expect to succeed. Taxi drivers have other options, just as the drivers that took up working for Lyft and Uber had hard lives before they started to work for these companies, so too can Taxi drivers facing their professional mortality find ways to improve their income through adaptation and integration into the new environment.
Bottom Line: I send my sympathies and condolences to his family. I week for his loss, his loss of his life at his hands. I wish that he would have found the strength to adapt, to find a solution to maintain his source of income. However, I will not blame Uber or Lyft for his decision. Business is not about sympathy; it is about thesis and synthesis, adaptation, integration, and evolution. We all must be prepared to adapt and to fight to survive. The end of the era of a taxi is upon us. In another decade we will all have to contend with driverless cars. I cannot imagine that a million drivers in the US will all commit suicide when faced with unemployment due to Uber and Lyft going driverless. We have t plan and prepare, get ready for the day when we, as Uber drivers will no longer be needed. When that day comes, I do not intend to sit in my car in front of Uber's office and shoot myself.
Afterthought, maybe Schifter's death was not a total waste of a good life, it made me think of mortality and the way business changes our lives daily. I hope that the people who read this article will think of Schifter and why they must not end up like him. Prepare, fight and adapt, don't try to block progress, try to flow with it, you might end up pleasantly surprised where the flow takes you.