By John Miller
A Blind’s Man Journey
(Because you don’t need sight to see the world)
For some blind folks, as far as I know, it has never been all that practical to try and flag down a taxi. I suppose some can do it, depending on what level of sight they have. Maybe, catching the closest available ride is easier. Smart phone applications are beginning to make this possible. I think, however, that there is some kickback to the general implementation of this idea. I hope it happens. For now, I will still use the old-fashioned method: place a call and wait though this is often nerve-racking.
I now live in an apartment with a difficult-to-discern address. Everyone from dispatch to the drivers, to heck, the pizza delivery folks and other passersby argue about exactly what it is. Even if I check with my phone’s GPS programs, I’m likely to get different results at different times. This means finding me can be a challenge.
For instance, I once thought a guy had said that he was on the way to the right place and would pick me up shortly, because he said the correct street and number. However, it turned out that he sat waiting in front of some location a bit farther up for ten minutes, finally placing an irritated call asking “Aye man, are you still trying to get a cab?” for this reason, I often opt to just go somewhere else for pick-up.
OK, so I’ve successfully gotten into the taxi an am on my way. Where are you trying to go? How best to get there? Now, it’s certainly easier as I can just use my phone to tell me. But not all cabbies take the most cost-effective way, and I guess I can’t really blame them.
Because I’m interested, I just looked at an, apparently not wholly reliable, Wikipedia article that suggests that the first metered taxi service began in Germany in 1897. It says the meter even ticked, now that sort of feature would actually be convenient for the blind passenger.
Failing that though, I’ve heard there are supposed to be solutions on the horizon that will allow us to know exactly how much the driver should in fact be charging, as it accumulates. Maybe the meters will speak? Or perhaps the info could also be sent through our phones someday. If I feel somewhat shaky about how much it might cost for me to get there, I’ll just ask dispatch to give me a projected fare quote before leaving. Of course, if traveling a great distance many companies require that you pay in advance anyway.
So I’ve arrived at my destination and been told how much it will cost. “Uh,” I say “do you accept cards?”
If I’m lucky, they’ll grudgingly get out the card machine and swipe it. Or, maybe they’ll call it in and read m card number out loudly enough for anyone standing by to overhear. Worst of all? “No, I only take cash!”
Having finally begun to tire of this, I’m trying to make myself start carrying more cash around again. This of course has its own risks, but asking the cabbie to take me to an ATM so that I can withdraw the needed funds is definitely flipping a coin. In their defense, I must say that most try hard to be honest and make sure that I know they’re so being. Some have me call my bank and check the statement immediately. One individual, who could barely speak English, just summoned a nearby police officer to assist me in getting the dough.
The only person whom I think has taken me for a ride was a woman I met via Craiglist, who probably shorted me $20.00! and then, vehemently denied doing so. “I’ll just come and give you $20.00” she said when I attempted to call her out for that. She never did so though, and I never used her again. She’d actually seemed pretty nice. But it’s always difficult to tell.
As they say, it’s usually best to find and stick to a particular driver when possible, so that a fuller trust can develop. I do have my favorite driver, but lately I’ve not been as able to get her when tying to call. I can’t say why this is. Amusingly, on my short trip from Durham’s bus station to the Amtrak, I did meet the woman my favorite driver had asked to pick me up at a prior time. She said that in addition to my little $5, she’d only made $10 all day long. I can kind of see why, as she didn’t strike me as the friendliest person in the world.. That's the thing: The best or probably most aggressively tipped cabbies are also talkers/psychologists. Hey, whole shows have been made about this phenomenon.
So, to my other blind readers out there, what have your cab experiences been like? I know that, unfortunately, they’ve still not always been friendly to those with guide dogs. This definitely needs to change. I have heard horror stories of people being dragged down the street while clinging to the door handle, all while to secure a ride for which they’ve desperately been waiting. Let us know your thoughts on this and other aspects.