A tale of two….taxi drivers? And here’s where the story begins. I land at O’Hare, get to baggage claim. A customer service rep from Delta helped me get my bags and walked with me to the taxi stand. And that’s where things got weird.
The taxi attendant asked me if I needed an accessible cab. I said no. He said ok, take the next one, and waved me down the line. Me and the Delta rep headed to the next taxi. I rolled up, pulled open the door and started getting ready to get in.
The driver jumped out and asked the guy from Delta, “Is that her wheelchair?” I responded, “Yes, it is my char.” He then responded, “You need a wheelchair van.” I replied, “No I don’t.” He said, “Yes you do.” I repeated, “No I don’t. I can get in any cab.”
He said, “I’m not taking the wheelchair.'” I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. I said, “What?”, thinking surely I must have misheard him. He repeated it. No mistaking the words. The taxi stand attendant, the rep, and me look at him. Look at each other. The attendant says, “You have to take her. She said she doesn’t need a wheelchair cab, she can take any cab she wants.”
The driver again said he would not take me. “I will not put your chair in my car,” he said. “That’s why they have a wheelchair van.”
I said to him, “You know what you’re doing is illegal, right?” He said, “I don’t care.” Plain as day. “I don’t care.”
I said, “You know I’m going to file a complaint against you.” He said (wait for it), “Go ahead. I don’t care.”
It did not matter what any of us said to this guy. He did not budge. Even when security was called. Same answer. No. Flat. Out. No. Finally, the taxi attendant yelled at him, “You refused her. Get outta here! Now!”
I haven’t been this upset since I can’t remember when. I was so angry, I wanted to swear, to scream, to hit something. I did none of those things. Instead, I feared up. And I got in another cab.
And this guy could not have been more different than Mr. Jerk who refused to take me. He put my bags in the car. Put my chair in the car. Asked me what route I wanted him to take. He was friendly and polite and kind. He talked about his family, where he was from in India. How long he’d been here, how much he liked Chicago. He got me to my house. He got my chair out. He got my bags out. He carried my bags to the door for me. He wished me a nice weekend, and was on his way home to enjoy his weekend with his family.
I am so grateful that second driver came along. He didn’t devalue me, or diminish me. He treated me with courtesy and kindness. And he made sure I got home safely. Doing his job. And doing it well.