For reasons only known to one person and one person only instead of getting the train to Oxford on Saturday I was sent in an accessible taxi.
I'd had a phone call from Oxford Friday evening to say their lift was broken but they could let me out of another door (not public use normally) which would avoid my needing to use the broken lift. Would that be a problem? And I said no so long as they showed me where I was going as it would mean I was leaving from completely the opposite side of the station. Fine, she says, I'll walk you round to the front of the station - the path is accessible but not great (I don't know it).
Ten to eight Saturday morning my landline rings. And wakes me. At that time of the morning my thoughts were 1) I'm not getting up. and 2) oh my god someone's died. still not getting up though. terribly sorry you've died though whoever you are. But I'm still not getting out of bed.
Half an hour or so later it rings again. And I dragged myself out of bed and called them back noticing with no little relief that it was my local train station that were calling me and figuring they'd keep trying till they got me so the only way I'd get more sleep would be to call them back.
And I was told that the lift was broken and I'd be going to Oxford by taxi. I queried it as Oxford had already said they could cope but was told it would be easier if I went by taxi as otherwise I would have to be pushed round the station. Which makes no sense as I all but always go in my powerchair (I've only been on a train in my manual chair once this year that I can think of - well, one occasion but that was about six trains what with travelling both ways and all the changes), but whatever. And the taxi would drop me wherever I wanted in the city centre, just name the place. Oh and don't bother to get a ticket (which also didn't make sense whenever I've had a taxi instead of train before they've insisted on seeing my ticket)
Great. Not what I had planned but this is shaping up to be good I think. Back to bed for half an hour.
So i get to the station and one of the journey care assistants came over to meet me and we wandered back out chatting a bit (chocolate's bad for you she tells me as she catches up to me as i buys some). Just as we got there the taxi arrived and he starts getting me in and secured. The accessible taxi here is something i rarely use and whilst it does it's job it doesn't really have enough head room for me (only just) so I wouldn't want to do it often.
Start with a five minute delay while he panics and searches the car for his pen which he's lost. Eventually we start moving only to stop by the taxi rank at the other side of the station car park. He speaks to another taxi driver and they leave their car to search for a pen to lend him. Crisis over we eventually pull out of the station. And it's almost immediatley obvious that he's a typical taxi driver with the weaving and bobbing in traffic he's doing - and that he missed the memo about driving smoothly (no sudden acceleration/braking if possible) when you have a wheelchair user in the back.
Where do you want to go he asks. I named one of the biggest, poshest hotels in Oxford. It's probably the most well known and near to where I was meeting the NaNo-ers and is on a road with lots of on street disabled parking. I know it well because my Dad almost always drops/meets us there. He said he had GPS but didn't know where it was. So I asked to be dropped at the Playhouse - a little further down the same road. He said no he didn't know it. And no I said, I couldn't give him directions. You're the taxi driver love and I don't drive (I didn't actually say that but I thought it). So I know Oxford as a pedestrian. What about the New Theatre or the Westgate (shopping centre) - nothing doing with either of those. I was rapidly running out of places in the city centre where he could drop me. So I suggested the station but he didn't know where that was either.
And I couldn't think of anywhere else outside of the pedestrianised zone.
So he says "I drop you at Starbucks."
The only starbucks I know (other than the one in borders) is in the pedestrianised zone so I pointed that out to him.
Driving through Oxford I was following where we were going. Which was a really good thing because he dropped me at a tiny out of the way starbucks I've never seen before further away from the main shopping streets than I usually go. And he announces he'll drop me there. I'm like "OK" just wanting out of the damn taxi (I don't get car sick but I also usually transfer out of my chair into people's cars rather than being clamped down and I was worried about where I was going to end up).
Oh, we're on the wrong side of the road he says. Which we'll add to the list of things that didn't make sense given that there was somewhere to stop and the ramp came out of the boot. I'm just going with it though and assume he'll go further along, find somewhere to turn and go back.
But then came the moment. The one that had me going "Mum's going to get a phone call saying I've died. I'm actually going to die"
This is a busy road in Oxford, there are buses and taxis and bikes and people everywhere. And he just pulls out and does a u turn in the middle of the road. You've never heard that many drivers shouting or horns going off as at that moment.
Finally getting out of the taxi I had to walk in the wrong direction on the road for a short distance to find a dropped curb to get on the path. Then I walked back past the taxi.
No sign of the driver, the doors and boot still wide open - and the ramp down.
I can only imagine there's some major reason why he had to drop me at Starbucks and no where else - and why he disappeared like that. I'm guessing he'd gone for a fix of some kind. But I'll never know.
And that, my friends, is the reason why when asked if I enjoyed my chauffer driven trip to Oxford at both stations on my way home (Oxford and here) I ranted about taxi drivers and said "I'm NEVER doing that again."
And why, should I find myself told the train to Oxford is out for me (or as in this case more difficult than usual but still doable) so they'll pay for a taxi again I'll be considering how vital my journey is. And whether I might not prefer a trip to Reading instead.