Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eat Me Taxis

Sunday was fun, I had lunch with Sime and the Veta girls, then basketball and a chat at Garage, then Church, then out for dinner and a movie with people. Dinner was good, movie was great. It was the first actual movie I'd gone to see in 3D, so that was a bit fun.

My frustration comes from the end of the night. A guy named John has recently started coming to our church. John is funny and I enjoy trading jokes with him. John has cerebral palsy, and is in a wheelchair. It's not a big deal. Except for when we are out at night, because it means taxis, which for the last two weekends in a row, has meant ridiculously long waits for a taxi to come.

Last Saturday, after the trivia night for the Philippines mission (raised over $2800!), we rang for John's taxi at 10pm. It came at 12:30pm. By then, there was just two others and I waiting with him. We had rung the taxi service many, many times. We had been hung up on; put indefinitely on hold; and told to wait "15 more minutes" many, many times. Around 12pm, I managed to finally get through after a series of ignored calls. When I explained the situation - that they had made John and us wait for two hours - they re-checked the list. We weren't on it. They checked past trips. We were there, under regular taxi. They had sent a regular taxi to us. We didn't go to hail it down, because we were expecting a freaking wheelchair taxi. The lady who took the original order did not tick 'Wheelchair' on the order form, which cost us two and a half hours. It turns out we had spoken to the other taxi driver (in the normal car) before. Amy had chased it down and asked if he could contact the headquarters for us and explained the situation. He said it wasn't his problem and couldn't do anything about it, then drove off.

Then Sunday night, we rang the service after the movie. I was actually dreading it. I got through, ordered the cab, emphasised wheelchair, and they said, "Yeh, no worries, we'll be there in 10. Top of Shoppingtown, movie entrance." That was 11pm.

At 11:30pm, we ring again, just to see what's happening. They say they're having trouble locating a wheelchair vehicle, and if nothing has come in 15 minutes, call again. You'd think they'd be the ones most necessary to be available, but then again, maybe that speaks something about how willing they are to provide services to the less able. 15 minutes later, we call again. Hung up on.

Half an hour later, now midnight, we get through. "Hi! You can go outside now, the taxi should be there, he says he's at the movie entrance."... He was not. We were now locked out of the building and in the cold car park. We ring back the taxi company. Hung up on.

We get another call. "Where are you? The taxi driver says he is there and you haven't showed up." "I tell them we are at the top of the shopping centre at the movie entrance, and the taxi driver isn't where he says he is. The dispatch calls the taxi driver. He says he is not, in fact, at the movie entrance, but at the post office... three levels down and on the other side of the shopping centre. He says he is not coming up the top, we have to come to him. He says there is no height access for his vehicle. We are all stressed and angry. We bang on the windows, shout, run around the car park trying to find an entrance, because it's not going to be possible to get John to the street level unless we dangerously carry him down many flights of stairs.

We get back into the centre when one of the other movies finishes. It's around 12:30pm. We get in the lift, go across the shopping centre, into the car park and out to the taxi. He's hanging in there with a dude, smoking cigarettes. When we approach, dude gets out, shakes taxi driver's hand, wanders off. Taxi driver gets out, says, "Where you been?" and I almost lost it. We get John in the taxi, I wander back to the others holding the door of the centre open for me. We meet up with some of the others, who managed to get in another way finding a security lady. The lady tells us the driver is full of crap, and that if he had come in the way we told him, there would definitely be height access. He just got the place wrong and parked there.

As I drove home, I could not have been closer to breaking point. The emotions of a couple of stressful weeks, added to all my anger and frustration at the taxis had me closer to tears than I've been in a long time. I was also angry at myself, for being so frustrated, and because I was imagining what it would be like if we included John in everything, and had to therefore deal with the frustration of the taxis every week. In all honesty, I was also feeling frustrated at how those who had waited had to give up their time, money (a few of us paid for John's movie, snacks, and the calls to the taxi service, because he forgot to bring that money), and energy. I was frustrated that I had to. I was feeling selfish and this just added to everything else. How do I show love to someone, which I want to do so badly, but when it takes so much away from me? Can I do it? Am I just being selfish, do I just need to suck it up? I went to bed confused, sad, annoyed at my selfish thoughts, furious with the taxi's treatment of customers, and completely drained.

I haven't had much time to think more about my questions about showing that love. All I know is, taxi service has made me angry and question how well our society is built to properly care for people like John. I have lodged a complaint. We'll wait and see what happens.