Some boroughs provide assistance with the cost of taxis to their blind residents. It gets people out and about and if you can’t use public transport it can be a lifeline. The idea is that the taxi comes to you rather than you having to find the taxi. Much like an Uber. I’ve never tried the Uber but given the alternatives, a light went on in my head and I thought I’d give it a go.
My current taxi hailing technique is to stand on the side of the road with my arm outstretched, sometimes for half an hour, in the vein hope that a taxi might come along and stop and transport me to a glittering party at the Ritz or late night shopping at Morrisons. It’s always a vein hope, not because I never get invitations to glittering parties at the Ritz or go late night shopping in Morrisons. I often go to Morrisons.
There will always be someone who positions themselves between me and the oncoming much longed for taxi. Now that really is the ultimate in queue jumping and the height of bad manners and I have no idea that it’s happening because I can neither see the taxi nor the queue jumper. They, on the other hand, have the advantage of being able to see exactly what they are doing.
Enter the Uber: What a marvelous arrangement for anyone who can’t see. A cab you call up and it finds you. No more aching shoulders from my impression of an unsuccessful hitch hiker, no more losing out to someone who knows what they are doing. I am finally in the game.
I loaded up the Uber app and learnt to navigate the site. There’s a lot to remember. Which blob does what, how to enter destinations and how to reply to texts. It all has to be memorised because I can’t readily see it. First time out and oh Lordy, they have made some changes to improve my experience of the site.
Now I have no idea what any of the blobs are and when I do get it to work there is the awful dawning that the way you know your Uber has arrived is by knowing what the car looks like and what it’s registration is. All is not lost though as you can talk to your driver. They’ll come and get you if you explain that you can’t see. At least, that’s the theory.
I don’t know how it happened but our driver ended up in Tavistock Square while we were in Leigh Street. He thoughtfully called to say that if we could make our way there he’d pick us up. My friend explained that we wouldn’t be able to do that because “we’re blind” and gave our precise location. “OK’ he said. Ten minutes elapsed and he called back to say he was still waiting. Well, that was a red rag and my companion snarled that being blind would make that tricky and that we were waiting for him. The driver said he didn’t see why being blind should make it a problem for us to find him and then my companion spoke very slowly. I won’t bother to repeat what he said but we had to start again.
Our second attempt ended up with a long enough wait between ordering the Uber and the driver cancelling the job, that we actually considered going out to lunch.
Nearly forty minutes later our third driver arrived within three minutes of pressing the button. He didn’t bat an eye lid about the very large guide dog. He wanted to know how long the training took. My companion said it took about eighteen months to two years to train a guide dog. “Not the dog,” said our driver. “How long does it take to train you?”