Michael Jesso's Fabulous, Derailed
TAXI! TAXI! We’ve all seen the movies: a man or woman standing curbside, anxiously hailing a cab, “taxi” “ TAXI”! Taxi stops, they climb in, driver asks where they are going, and with that the next scene usually implies that they made it to their destination ok. What’s happened to taking a taxi cab in Fort McMurray? It’s nothing like the movies. In fact, once you get in a cab in Fort McMurray, that could be the movie. A word of advice though: Don’t ever get in and say, “Follow that car.” Chances are the cab in front of you is lost, too.
First of all, if you don’t know this city very well, you will not be getting the quickest, fastest route to your destination. For whatever reason, when a paying customer gets in a taxi cab, the drivers get so excited that they lose all memory of where they are going or how to get there. The blank stare they give you may throw you off, but never fear, the driver will be on the phone the entire time, getting what I can only imagine are directions to your destination. Now if the tour you just took of lower Thickwood, when you were suppose to be in Stone Creek, wasn’t exciting enough, wait till it’s time to pay. That’s when the real fun begins.
It’s generally cash-only and there’s never any change. And just because there is a VISA sign on the door, don’t expect to use it. That can be a real fight, with negotiations of five to 10 dollars added on for VISA, or offers of driving you to the nearest ATM machine, with meter running of course. One local cab company recently offered debit use. A few folks who frequently use cabs got really excited and it was great at first. Rules in the beginning were if your driver’s machine was broken, call the cab company back and your ride was free. Fast forward a month and a half and different cars have different service fees added onto the machine. Fares under 10 dollars aren’t eligible for debit anymore. After a call to the cab company and a chat with the driver I quickly figured out why all the rules are different in different cars. Turns out the cab company was charging the drivers two dollars per fare charged on debit, and the drivers are upset they are making less money. At the end of the day, I think the people of Fort McMurray and the entire region of Wood Buffalo deserve better service. Not to mention a fee of $75 from the airport to Timberlea seems excessive.
Imagine for a minute that the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo did what London, England does:
The taxicab driver is required to be able to decide routes immediately in response to a passenger’s request or traffic conditions, rather than stopping to look at a map, relying on satellite navigation or asking a controller by radio. Consequently, the ‘driver knowledge’ is the in-depth study of a number of preset London street routes and places of interest that taxicab drivers in that city must complete to obtain a license to operate a black cab. It was initiated in 1865, and has changed little since. It is claimed that the training involved ensures that London taxi drivers are experts on London, and have an intimate knowledge of the city. It is the world’s most demanding training course for taxicab drivers, and applicants will usually need at least twelve ‘appearances’ (attempts at the final test), after preparation averaging 34 months, to pass the examination.
Until things get better, here are a few tips to hopefully help you navigate Fort Murray a little better when it comes to taking a cab.
- Whenever possible, ask a friend to pick you up.
- Always write the cab number down, which is located on the front fender, or note it in your phone.
- Carry cash in small bills.
- Never, ever be afraid to call the main number of the cab company for assistance.
- Don’t insult the drivers.
- If you are ever afraid call 911, talk to the dispatcher as if you’re calling a friend: “Oh hi Sarah, I’m just in a cab now on my way home.” The dispatchers are trained to understand this situation and will help you.
- Never ever drink and drive. As bad as an experience in a cab may have been, nothing is worth risking your life or the lives of others.
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