Four taxis and a wedding

Gary Barling
My friends were getting married in Melbourne and my girlfriend and I were invited. The wedding was great but we had many problems with multipurpose taxis. The first didn't come. The second was late. But the third was the worst. The driver took us to the wrong house which was another bridal couple's barbecue. It was like suddenly being taken to another world. The people were friendly but not my friends. After getting to the right barbecue, at the end of the night the taxi agency didn't want to pick us up. It was a strange day which I can now laugh about.
Posted by: 
Gary Barling on 13/07/2012
A close up of a groom placing a ring on a bride's finger.
wedding ring

My friends were getting married.

Nice day for a white wedding as one Idol from the 80s would sing. My friends' wedding on a sunny morning in March was probably all that. Although for my girlfriend and I, it could have been better. That's what happens when you are dependent on Melbourne's problematic, wait for it, multipurpose taxi system.

Taxi one, the no-show

A wheelchair accessible taxi had been booked to take us to the 11am ceremony. I had allowed for it being up to 45 minutes late. When it reached that time I got nervous. Wheelchair users know this feeling well. You call the taxi company and get the it's on its way line. It could be on its way from Melbourne airport while you're waiting, as we were, in the south-eastern suburbs.

Fortunately with some strong muscles, someone else's, I can transfer into a regular taxi. After a skilful transfer that would send an occupational therapist running for the sick bag, we were gone.

Taxi two, late again

The reception in the afternoon was at the same venue as the ceremony. The bride looked beautiful, the groom was dashing, the conversation was festive and the grog was flowing. And didn't the bridesmaids look lovely? All good things must come to an end though. The beer ran out.

Another multipurpose taxi was an half-hour late to pick us up. We got back to the hotel and intended on having a rest before going to a barbecue in the backyard of the couple's new home in the evening. Another taxi was booked but time was now less of an issue.

Taxi three, not my taxi

I was surprised when the multipurpose taxi arrived less than five minutes after the reserved time. The driver neither confirmed my name or the destination. He dismissed our questioning about our destination and relied on his GPS. I'm not from Melbourne so I had no idea where he was going anyway.

Upon arriving at the house, the people were happy to take me through and down a step to the pergola area where a barbecue was happening. I knew no more than a dozen people, but why did the smiling faces not seem familiar? It was becoming confusing and my girlfriend's face revealed similar discomfort.

Then the bride, still in her dress, turned revealing someone I did not know. I grappled with the first answer that came to mind, that the taxi had somehow sped through a gateway to a parallel universe where everything was similar but different. The more likely answer followed, which was that we had been dropped off like gatecrashers at someone else's wedding.

Outside the garage there were people drinking beers. They were both humoured and sympathetic to our tale of woe. One offered me a drink of water. I asked for a beer. I couldn't dismiss the parallel universe theory. The people were like our friends, just a little older. There wasn't another taxi available for a long time so I called a driving friend to pick us up.

Taxi four, to the bitter end

In a nearby suburb at our real friends' house the mood was similarly lively. I was asked to retell the story many times.

The day's events had been tiring and we called a taxi for the hotel. Things then became even more absurd. Multipurpose central booking refused to accept us as customers basically because the wrong taxi had taken us from the hotel that afternoon. After arguing our case and another hour wait, a taxi finally came. We were, for want of better words, frustrated.

Well, at least I can look back and laugh at it now. Normally I would be the first to laugh long and loud, but it was happening to me damn it.

The Taxi Industry Inquiry draft report Customers first: Service, Safety, Choice was released on 31 May 2012.

Readers comments (5)

My God, I can't describe how many similar experiences I have had! You can't get anyone to do a short distance, if you want to go somewhere that is only 30 minutes away you give yourself nearly 2 hours for a booking time, and forget about weekends. And there was only an inquiry after able-bodied people started having serious issues with taxis. Even more ridiculous? I heard someone talking about the taxi inquiry on the radio the other day, about the possible sharing of maxi taxis by various passengers on the weekend, and the commentator said, "Well it's not like people in wheelchairs will be wanting a maxi taxi at 2 in the morning will they?" #facepalm

And how many enquiries does it take for something effective to happen. I know there have been several, including one by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission about 12 years ago, in which I made a detailed submission. It really turns you off taking part in such enquiries. I've also complained to the Victorian Taxi Directorate on two particularly bad incidents. I never got a response for either or was even convinced that something would be done. Again, you wonder what's the point complaining?

I have complained on a number of occasions, and nothing. I know one friend of mine went along to an enquiry and the main guy who was supposed to be giving a submission didn't turn up because, wait for it... His taxi was late! I mean seriously, what is it going to take? Once I even waited nearly 3 hours for a taxi because no one wanted to drive me from Wantirna to Blackburn. But by the time you get home you are too exhausted to complain...

It is an appalling state of affairs. The whole complaint process, as your latest comment points out, is absolutely farcical. As I don't live in Melbourne, I probably can't even fathom how frustrating it is for people like you. But based on the several times a year I have to be in Melbourne, I can't believe how many poor incidents I have with taxis. I forgot to add that complaints almost invariably have to be in writing (every time you have problems with something this almost always occurs) one extra bit of work to really make your voice be heard. It's so disappointing how governments and the community at large can let this go without worry. Does it have to be the case of someone being critically injured or having some sort of serious trouble because of a later or sloppy taxi driver before things are taken seriously. Really?

Next time Gary Barling, why not consider hiring a wheelchair accessible vehicle for this type of event where you require multiple taxis. This will give you and your girlfriend the freedom to move around Melbourne as and when you please. There is also an airport drop-off and pick-up service for vehicles.
Check out the website for operating depot locations, vehicle types and conditions. You can make your booking reservations online but be early to avoid disappointment.

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