Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WLA Conference, day one: Getting There

I’ve had the good fortune to attend several conferences in the last nine years. Most of my conference travel has been in carpools. Those have always been excellent opportunities for getting to know other staff because there’s plenty of time for meandering conversations. This year, however, I am traveling solo and it has been an adventure of sorts, involving a car, two ferries, a bus, two taxis, the Victoria Clipper, and good walking shoes.

The first Seattle taxi ride was mostly uneventful. I had planned to spend the night at our son's apartment, so he met me downtown. We flagged a cab, gave him the address, and off we went. It was immediately apparent that the driver wasn't familiar with where we wanted to go. We ended up giving him detailed directions to an area that we had assumed he would know. Cherry Street is a major arterial, after all. But it was no problem, just a minor surprise.

The next morning, I called Yellow Cab to request a pickup. All was arranged and I awaited the cab’s call, which came right on time. It took a couple of minutes to get out the door (pulling two small, rolling cases and using a cane.) My phone rang. It was the driver.

“Are you coming?” he asked.
"Yes, I'll be right there," I replied.
In less than ten seconds, my phone rang again. It was the Yellow Cab dispatcher.

"The driver says you aren't there."
"I am there. I just have to get out to the street."
"Ok. Have a nice trip."
Almost immediately, my phone rang a third time. Are you kidding me, I thought.

"Are you coming?" asked the driver.
"Yes, you should be able to see me. I'm just a little slow getting down the stairs."
"What stairs?"
"What do you mean, what stairs? The stairs in front of the building."
"There are no stairs here."

A puzzled pause.

"What address do you have for me?" I asked.

The wrong one, seriously wrong. He was on the north side of downtown, I was in the Central District. We parried, he and I, over where I was supposed to be. (Did I mention that he had a thick East Indian accent? Not helpful, especially on a cell phone.) I called the Yellow Cab dispatcher to redirect the driver, who arrived within minutes. He loaded my bags into the trunk and we zoomed off to the Victoria Clipper.

I apologized for the confusion over the address, although I lived in Seattle for years and therefore knew quite well how to give a correct Seattle address. I was rewarded with a curt tutorial on Seattle streets and how addresses are organized. He was really starting to riff on this theme when he was interrupted by his cell phone; a heated, earnest discussion took place (in his native tongue) with who was clearly the Yellow Cab dispatcher. He ended the call. The rest of the journey was silent.

We finally pulled up to the Clipper. He helped me out of the cab and took my bags to the sidewalk, smiling, eerily friendly, and wished me a pleasant journey.

He did not receive a tip.

Overheard on Twitter: lead pipe wielding maniac? lead pipe-wielding maniac? lead-pipe-wielding maniac?

Next time: Day One continued - The Victoria Clipper. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Thaydra said...

I refuse to use taxis in Seattle anymore. Twice they almost ran people over, once a family of four, including a toddler and a stroller. Then one ran us off the road, and claimed our fault (he ran us into a concrete barrier, merging over). Then he fled the scene.

I'm plenty okay with using my feet as long as I still can! Scary!