by Mather Schneider
Dispatchers and cab drivers are always fighting each other. The dispatchers think of themselves as ‘management’, even though the drivers make more money. Cab drivers are constantly correcting dispatch errors and never get credit for it, and on the flip side the dispatchers are rarely held accountable for their errors. If a cab driver makes an error, the driver loses money. If a dispatcher makes an error, the driver loses money.
I pull up to an apartment house and call the phone number, and miraculously it’s the right number.
‘Your cab’s out front.’
‘Be right there,’ a lady says.
In a few minutes she comes wheeling down the sidewalk on a motorized wheelchair. Her legs are all shriveled up, she’s obviously been this way since birth.
‘Why’d they send a car?’ she says. ‘I need a wheelchair van.’
‘They screwed up.’
‘They always do this!’
‘I know. Let me call them.’
I call the dispatch number and get put on hold for 9 minutes. Me and the lady in the wheelchair just kind of look at each other and roll our eyes. Finally, I get a girl on the phone.
‘What can I do for you, cab 1812?’
‘This customer needs a wheelchair van.’
‘She needs a van?’
‘She needs a WHEELCHAIR van.’
‘Well,’ she snickers, ‘same thing.’
‘No it’s not, we have regular vans and we have wheelchair vans.’
‘She’s never ordered a wheelchair van before, what’s the problem?’
‘She’s right here in front of me, and she’s in a wheelchair and she needs a wheelchair van.’
‘Is it a foldable wheelchair? Can’t you just put it in the trunk?’
‘No need to get snippy, sir. I can see that she’s taken cabs 4 times this month, never a wheelchair van. Ask her.
‘Have you been taking wheelchair vans or regular cars this month?’ I ask the lady, already knowing the answer.
‘I have never taken a regular car, I need a WHEELCHAIR VAN!’
‘She cannot use anything but a wheelchair van, your information is wrong,’ I say to the dispatcher.
‘It’s all right here on the screen, sir. Ask her where she’s going.’
‘What? What’s that got to do with it? Here, talk to her yourself.’
I hand the phone to the lady in the wheelchair. She puts the phone to her ear and then says, ‘Hello? OK, then why did he give the phone to me?’
She hands the phone back to me.
‘I don’t want to talk to her, sir!’ dispatcher says. ‘I can’t send her a wheelchair van. She needs to call her insurance or something. Ask her if she has insurance.’
‘O my God! Look, take me off this call! What do you think I’m supposed to do about it?’
‘No need to raise your voice, sir. OK, I’m cancelling you off the call. I’m breaking protocol now, you know. According to the rules you have expressed an interest in this call and if you do not perform the call after making contact with the customer you can be suspended for 30 minutes.’
‘BUT I CANNOT TRANSPORT THE CUSTOMER SHE NEEDS A WHEELCHAIR VAN.’
‘So you say. People lie, sir. Have a good day.’
She hangs up and takes me off the call. The whole thing has wasted 40 minutes of my time which I will never be compensated for.
‘What about me?’ the lady in the wheelchair says.
‘Sorry, I guess you’re gonna have to call and try again.’
‘Fuck!’ she says. ‘Pardon my French.’
‘It’s OK,’ I say.
‘At least it isn’t raining,’ she says.
Mather Schneider is a 46 year old cab driver who divides his time between Tucson, Arizona and Mexico. He has three books available on Amazon, He Took A Cab, The Small Hearts of Ants and Drought Resistant Strain. He has another book due out late this year.