“178 Darley Road*, Randwick, please.” The meter started and the taxi pulled out onto the congested Sydney CBD street.
“What street is that off?” The cabbie’s inquiry was barely audible over the blare of talkback radio.
“So it’s not your house?”
“You’ve just picked me and my luggage up from a hotel. Do you think it’s likely that I’m a local?”
“That’s true, but no, it’s not my house. I’m not in the habit of paying for a hotel room a few kilometres from where I reside.”
“But you know how to get there, right?”
“No. Isn’t that your job? I tell you where I want to go and you take me there?”
“But you don’t know where you want to go.”
“I know exactly where: 178 Darley Road, Randwick.”
“Well, I don’t know it.”
“Well then, why don’t you use your sat nav?”
“Don’t have one.”
“Street directory of any kind?”
“Nothing. I use my memory.”
“But you don’t remember Darley Road.”
“There are a lot of streets in Sydney. I can’t know them all.”
“Hence the need for a sat nav or at least a street directory.”
“Most passengers know where they want to go.”
“As do I, 178 Darley …”
He brusquely cut me off. “You know what I mean. Can you ring someone and ask for directions?”
“You want me to ‘phone a friend’ to tell you where to go?”
I wish I’d said something witty about where I thought he could go at this point but I was too busy being incredulous.
“Yes,” he replied, sans irony.
“I don’t think that’s my responsibility.”
“Then I can’t take you there. You’ll have to get out.”
After being unceremoniously dumped on the side of the road, he charged me $6.05 to cover the booking fee, the flag fall and the 50m we’d travelled while arguing. I was speechless — a somewhat uncharted territory for me.
I reckon a GP consultation equivalent would be something like:
“What can I do for you?”
“My throat really hurts. I’d like something to ease the pain.”
“Have you got tonsillitis?”
“I don’t know.”
“Does it feel like tonsillitis?”
“I’ve never had tonsillitis.”
“Did you look in your mouth with a torch?”
“No, I thought that was your job.”
“I haven’t got a torch, an otoscope, or any other light source. I believe it’s the patients’ responsibility to diagnose, or at least examine, themselves. If they don’t know what’s wrong, how am I supposed to treat them?”
“Will you give me something for my throat?”
“Not without examination findings. Perhaps you’d like to ask a friend to take a look.”
“I’ll find another doctor, thanks.”
“That will be $60. You were booked for a standard consultation and I’m entitled to be compensated for my time.”
The first thing I asked the next cabbie was: “Have you got a sat nav?”
“Yes, but I don’t tend to need it.”
I beg to differ, given that halfway through the journey he pulled over, meter running, scrounged around under his seat for his battered street directory and spent a good five minutes looking up the address; and then on arriving at Darley Road slowed to a crawl, reading every house number aloud as we passed: 10, 12, 14 … right up to 178.
I arrived 20 minutes late and $36.05 poorer. So much for my decision to splurge on fast, hassle-free conveyance instead of public transport.
*street number changed to protect privacy.
First published in Australian Doctor on 9th May, 2013.