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Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Gypsy Cab Ride

By Granny Annie of Fools Rush In

The year was 1999. The scheduled time had arrived for my journey to Dallas, Texas. The purpose was to attend a two-week banking school on the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus.

My Southwest Airlines flight was scheduled to arrive at Love Field in time to taxi the eight miles to SMU campus, arriving before 10:00 PM. Our enrollment literature cautioned the students not to arrive after midnight or the dormitory would be closed.

Thankfully, Ron was in my life at the time and had insisted that I MapQuest the route from the airport to the university and carry the map with me. That seemed a little crazy since a cab driver would get me there. It was only eight miles, but I carried the map anyway.

It was a lovely evening in June when my flight arrived in Texas well before 10:00. The taxi area was busy and cab drivers were scurrying to assist and claim incoming travelers. A friendly gentleman grabbed my luggage and asked, “Where to?”

I gave him my destination as he smiled and assured me his cab would get me there. He placed my luggage in the vehicle and assisted me into the cab. That was when I realized this English-speaking fellow was NOT going to be my driver. Instead the non-English-speaking young man in the driver’s seat would be transporting me to the SMU campus. The helper had spoken to the man and my assumption was the driver knew my destination. Before inquiry or protest could be made, we were off.

“SMU nice!” the smiling driver said to me. That single phrase was oft repeated during the first 15 minutes of our drive accompanied by lots of head nodding. We should have arrived or been near the campus by that time. I could see nothing that said SMU. Finally the obviously lost driver turned to me and said, “SMU hos-pee-tal right?”

“No, a college campus. Un-i-ver-sity” I slowly enunciated to the driver.

“Where is?” he smiled and inquired.

“What!” I responded feeling faint.

“Where is?” he repeated.

“Call your company and ask.” I instructed while acting like I was holding a microphone in front of my mouth and pretending to talk.

Then he added with the same big grin, “No ra-d-e-o.”

Oh My God! “Just let me out. I will call another cab.”

“I take. I take.” He insisted. “Where SMU?”

At this moment he pulled into a cul-de-sac on a dead end, totally dark street, stopped the van and turned to look at me over the seat. His wide smile flashed at me as he repeated, “Where SMU?”

Concerned, I glanced around to plan a quick exit from the vehicle. Concern turned to fear as awareness crept in. I was in the back of a minivan and had no immediate exit unless I moved forward. Fear turned to panic. I dug out my cell phone but I could not get any service. This was in the day of huge, heavy, bulky cell phones that made miracle calls if signals were ever obtained while roaming.

I peered into the dark area expecting to see a group of bandits come charging toward the van. I expected the driver to pull a knife any moment. I wanted to throw up but instead, I reached in my purse and got out the map.

“Here” I said, and handed the paper to the driver.

This foreign speaking gentleman looked at the map as if he was viewing his first grade reader. He ran his finger along the lines and he seemed to recognize some of the street names and numbers and finally exclaimed, “SMU….we go.” At least we were leaving this dark area. My breathing came a little more easily.

We drove and drove and I demanded several times to be let out at a convenience store to call another cab. Smiling Joe Blow just kept on driving and repeating, “I take, I take”. It was now almost 11:30. Our eight-mile drive had lasted well over an hour and we weren’t there yet. I was totally helpless.

Suddenly it was clear we were on the campus of SMU. Oh bountiful relief. Now to locate the dormitory. I could see it, but we could not find the street going to the building.

I had recently stopped smoking so the desire for a cigarette at this time was great. I was also about to pee my pants. The nicotine fit and the bladder pressure mixed with fear and anger was about to do me in.

We turned into a parking lot that looked like it was right behind the dorm. It was a few minutes until midnight. “Stop. Let me out!” I screamed. The driver understood. He stopped, got out, opened my door and set out my luggage.

Believe it or not, I handed him $10. That was what the projected cab price had been on the map. I shouldn’t have paid the guy at all, but I was happy to be alive. It must have been something like the Stockholm syndrome. I was grateful to him for not having murdered me.

I juggled my luggage across the bumpy sidewalk. It was much further to the dorm than I had anticipated. The sound of a clock striking midnight nearly burst my eardrums. Leaving my luggage at the bottom of the steps to the dorm, I sprinted up to the dark double doors and peered into a dark lobby. The doors were locked. Please keep in mind that I was 52-year-old when I was doing all this.

An adjacent building still had their lights on. Leaving my luggage again, I rushed to that dormitory and could see a friendly face in their lighted lobby. I rang the buzzer and the girl spoke through the intercom to ask what I needed. Practically in tears, my plight was disclosed to this young student and she buzzed me in. It only took her a few minutes to call my assigned dorm and make arrangements for someone to let me in, verify my reservations and lead me to my room.

Safe and secure, I first visited the bathroom then settled in this cozy college dorm room and collapsed. Realizing I needed to call Ron and let him know I had finally arrived, I tried the cell phone again. No service. I looked for the room phone. No telephone in the room. Room phones were disconnected for the summer months. I remembered pay phones I had passed going to the dorm, but they were outside and if I went out, I would not be able to get back in.

Spinning around in the dorm room, moving from one corner to the other, I could not get a signal. It dawned on me to try my laptop by plugging the line into the phone jack. I searched for a local AOL phone number and I was connected. Ron responded almost immediately to my email. He was anxious and frustrated because he had been worried, but he understood that we were doing well to have even this brief email exchange and he was assured that I was safe.

Whether I passed out or fell asleep, my final plans in my waking moments were to contact the airport first thing in the morning and discuss this horrible ordeal and lodge a formal complaint. I would let them know about this gypsy cab mess.

The next day I awakened to my roommates arriving, to registration starting, to concern about the school outline for the next two weeks.

The airport was never contacted. This is the first complete re-telling of that harrowing event in my life almost nine years ago. I dreamed about it last night for the first time in ages. Something inside me needed to tell about it.

I won’t bother to tell about the experience I had returning home on Southwest Airlines as the flights stacked up and they started drawing numbers for the people who would get to leave in vacant spaces on other flights.

What was the final irony of this? It took me over ten hours total to go to and from Dallas on direct flights that would have totaled two hours. I easily could have driven to and from Dallas in ten hours and avoided all the mental distress and physical pain.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I've had a few awful experiences with cab drivers who were clueless as to how to get me to where I was going, but none took as long as yours.
What a nightmare!! I can see why you dreamed about this.
Your Stockholm Syndrome line really cracked me up!
I enjoyed reading this. I guess I find joy in the misery of others.

Well done, Ann.

Why didn't you contact them? They should have been told about it, for sure. I would have been frantic after 20 minutes in the cab.

I agree.......a horrible experience. We have taken to driving or taking the train.

I'm glad you finally wrote this story. I had a stressful event I'd harbored for many years. As a lifestory writer, I felt I needed to get the story written before I could tackle anything else. I did and when I shared it with all who were connected and/or concerned, there was jubalation.

Having let it out, if you can step away from it and take another look, you may see it as somewhat amusing as a story and not just an experience. A rewrite from that perspective may make for a great story.

I don't mean to sound like an instructor, but your story was so pictorial it penetrated my imagination.

Thanks everyone for your kind comments. Herm, you suggestions were great. It is nice to meet you and Mage and always great to see my pals Judy and Jamie Dawn. This was my first submission to the Elder Storytelling Place and we have to thank Ronni Bennett for making this possible.

Because I was out of town when your story was published I missed writing a comment until now.

I had similar mishaps, but they were in a foreign country. It is so frightening to be alone and feel helpless. I'm glad you had a happy ending.

My friend says that the bad experiences one has on a trip are the things we talk about when we come home. At least this episode gave you material for a great story.

That was really a wonderful story and you tell it so well...you had me biting my nails there! Tell us more......

Thank you Darlene and Matty for your encouraging comments. I may try posting another story.

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