Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blacklisted

Tomorrow morning, Wayne and I are off for a short trip to Matsumoto in Nagano. As it's a short trip, we're lucky that we don't have much luggage and will be able to do the 30 minute walk to the station with our bags (one backpack and my camera bag). You see, I'm pretty sure we've been blacklisted by the cab company in town....

The first time I ordered a taxi to pick us up was a year ago (to the date actually) when we were going to Nagano to go snowboarding. Being a smallish town, I didn't book in advance but thought I would call with plenty of time to spare. I had however forgotten that it is bonenkai (end of year, or as some say.... forget-the-year) parties.

The guy at the taxi dispatch told me the wait would be about 20 minutes. After 40 minutes I was really beginning to worry. I called the company again, and they told me the taxi had come to our place already. I assured him they hadn't so he said they would be there soon. Another five, then ten, then fifteen minutes went by. I had called the company one hour before we needed to leave and now there was five minutes left. We had an expensive overnight bus booked and needed to get the train to get there in time.

Luckily, our neighbour arrived home and offered to take us to the station. I ran up to our apartment and rang the cab company to cancel the cab. The dispatch guy was now surprised that we hadn't been picked up yet, but promised me, a car would be there in ten minutes, I told him that we really had to leave now and insisted on cancelling the order.

Our snowboards and Christmas present laden bag was loaded into our neighbours BMW, we ran up the stairs to the station, just made the train, then ran from the train station and just made it to the bus.

The next time I ordered a cab, it was in the middle of the day with no warning. I was told a taxi would be by in five minutes. After 20 I rang the company. The conversation went something like this (though in Japanese...)

"Hi, I ordered a taxi 20 minutes ago and it hasn't arrived yet. This is Melanie from .. (insert address here...)"

"Ah Melanie-sama. No, you've been picked up already."

"No, I haven't. I'm still waiting."

"No, you were picked up about 15 minutes ago."

"No, I can assure you, I wasn't. I'm still here waiting outside the front of my apartment. A taxi came down the next road about 15 minutes ago and picked someone else up, but it wasn't me."

"No, he picked you up. He said he picked up a foreigner. You've already been picked up."

(Now, I have to say at this point, that the person who was picked up in the next street was Japanese, and that chances of the taxi driver having picked up another foreigner is very slim - there are few of us that live in my town)

"No, honestly, I haven't. That's why I'm calling. Maybe someone else took my taxi. Could you please send another one?"

"No, no-one would have taken your taxi. He picked you up. You don't need another one, you've already been picked up."

"No, really I haven't. I've been waiting out the front the whole time and I'm still here. Could you please send another one?"

"Oh, OK, if you're sure you haven't already been picked up."

Another taxi came around and picked me up five minutes later.

The next time we needed a taxi was when we were going to Vietnam in summer. Early in the evening before, I once again called the company. Again in Japanese, it went something like this...

"Hi, I want to reserve a taxi for tomorrow morning."

"Yes, address? Time?"

"It's (... insert address..) for 6.30am."

"No, we're all booked up." Was the reply barked at me. No apologies. Just a direct "Muri" (impossible).

"Oh, well how about 7am?"

"Muri."

"Umm... how about 6am?"

"Muri."

"5.30?"

"Muri."

Mmmm... Personally, I find it hard to believe that on a normal workday, all the taxis have been booked out between 5.30 to 7am. I was panicked and called a friend who came to our rescue. He very kindly offered to get up at 6am on the first day of his holidays to drive us to the station.

There are two companies in town, so I do have to get the number for the other. In the meantime, I'm glad that we can walk to the station tomorrow!

5 comments:

Cluey said...

Oh dear! Hee hee!

Enjoy your holidays Mel, and Merry Xmas to you and your hubby :o)
You are missing a humid and a bit rainy one here in Brisneyland so far...

Happy holidays!

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

Thanks Cluey! I hope you have a wonderful one too! Hey, it's great you're getting some rain, I hope some is landing in the dams!

By the way... I've missed your blogging....

lina said...

you got me intrigued on the mystery of the missing cab.

Merry Christmas to you!

Contamination said...

I'm not surprised by that attitude of companies.
What you should do is get a native Japanese friend to make the call for you immediately afterwards, record the call and then file yourself a discrimination lawsuit.

I'm sure Debito would be all for it!

Merry Christmas Btw.

french panic said...

This post made me laugh! My sister has been living in Japan (off & on) for the past 12 or so years... this sounds EXACTLY like the kind of thing that happens to her way too often....