Monday, August 3, 2009

Paratransit Blues

The moment I realized my mistake I called the Reservation Department of Accesslink, New Jersey's paratransit system.

"Good morning," I said. "I'm calling because I made an error in the address I gave when I requested a ride yesterday." (I am nothing if not polite) I accidently inverted the numbers. The address is NOT 527 Valley Road. It's actually 572 Valley Road.

"ID number."

"Excuse me?"

Your identification number."

I rattled it off. The woman on the other end of the line paused for about thirty seconds.

"Katrinkia?" She said, rendering my name unrecognizable.

"That's me. Can you change the address so I can be dropped off the at the right address today."

"No." She didn't even hesitate, this monotone reservationist.

"Excuse me?"

"Once the address is in the computer , we can't change it."

"But I'm not scheduled for a pick up for another two hours." This seemed to me plenty of time to change the address in the computer and inform the driver who was supposed to pick me up. How long could it take? Maybe a minute. Not even.

'No,' said the reservationist.

"What am I supposed to do?

Again, not a pause. She said, "You can be dropped off at 527 Valley Road, or you can cancel the ride. If you cancel now, that constitutes a No Show.

I'll get a No Show? You mean like a penalty?"

"Yes," she said. She sighed. She was getting impatient or bored maybe.

"I was off by two numbers and I realized my mistake. You are absolutely unwilling to change 2 numbers in the computer?"

The reservationist sighed a bigger sigh. "Once the numbers are in the computer, they cannot be changed."

"Fine, " I said. "Thank you very much."

She hung up.

Once I was tied down in the van, I explained my dilemma to the driver.

The driver said, "I was told to take you to 527 Valley Road. 527. I put the address in the GPS. 527."

I didn't bother to explain again. She could deliver me to 527.

I paid my two dollar fare. We drove.

From my house, it takes about 15 minutes to get to my desired destination. I was going to Starbucks. Starbucks: my office, my writing place, my oasis of strong coffee. This was only my second time out of the house since being discharged from Kessler Rehab, I wanted my goddamn iced grande no whip mocha. Even the wrong address wasn't going to stop me.

As we approached the neighbourhood, we started looking at the numbers.

"I see, 525 Valley Road," the driver said. It was an auto body shop. "I see 526..." An apartment complex. "I see 529 Valley Road," An enormous Supermarket with adjoining parking lot. "There ain't no 527 Valley Road."

She was right. No 527 in sight.

"You see that building over there?" I pointed a block to my left. "That's a Starbucks. I can't make to Starbucks on my own no problem. Just let me out here."

"I'm supposed to take you to to 527 Valley Road," she said.

"That address doesn't exist."

"I know!" The driver stopped herself from shouting.

"It was my mistake. I called it in. Just drop me off here." I could almost smell the coffee.

The driver called the reservationist. "There ain't no 527 Valley Road, she said."

Now the reservationist paused. She took her time. She said, "There is no 527 Valley Road?"

"Not that I see," the driver said.

"Not on either side of the street?"

"Nuh huh," said the driver.

Silence. We waited. I cursed all paratransit systems around the world. I get cranky without my triple shot iced mocha.

"Bring the client home. Have her pay the fare again and bring her home."

Neither the driver nor the reservationist could see my shaking fist.

"Don't think I won't register a complaint!" I hollered. To hell with politeness.

"Uh huh" said the driver as she turned the van around.

Back at home, at the appointed hour I called the Reservation department of the Accesslink paratransit system in New Jersey.

"I said, "I'd like to request a ride for tomorrow afternoon. I'd like to go to 572 Valley Road."

It was a different reservationist. "One moment please, " she said and put me on hold.

She was back in 15 seconds. The reservationist said, "I see the address in our computer as 527 Valley Road. Are you sure you don't want to go to 527 Valley Road?"

I took a deep breath."Yes, I said. "I'm sure."


  1. Dear Katinka, I just read Paratransit Blues. Loved it!

    I know this is not going to sound politically correct. Imagine when we get Gov't run healthcare.

    " But Doctor, It not my testicle that needs to be removed. It was my tonsiles.

    Doctor: " It says here testicles. Is it the right or left?"

    You get the drift. Thanks Steve T

  2. Thank you for such a frustrating but enjoyably written story. I guess the part that surprises me is a) you get to make reservations a day in advance - we need 3 days and b) you get to talk to real people, we have to speak into a recording device.

    But yes, they would not let you out - because you could not be an equal human being with equal thoughts or desires as them; they gave you the special protective service they would not accept themselves and more importantly LIABILITY - do no action which might bring that dread word upon thyself is the medical credo!