For my 19th birthday on a Saturday night in December, my two girlfriends, Rosanne and Melissa, decided to venture downtown St. Catharines for a night on the town. We had gotten a ride there from another friend who was on her way home and had decided not to join us. Every bar and club was packed, full of students and young adults having a great time and most likely avoiding the insanity of exams. Anyway, the point is I had a great time and before I knew it, it was nearing 2 a.m. My friends and I decided to leave the bar a little before 2 to avoid the rush to find a cab. Unfortunately, our plan didn’t work.
As we ventured outside and up and down St. Paul St., there was not a taxi in sight. Melissa then called a cab company and the dispatcher said to stay where we were and there would be one right away. Twenty minutes went by and no taxi. By then last call had came and went and people were beginning to flood the sidewalks. Around me I could hear other people wondering where to find a cab and how to get home. A few cabs drove by with patrons already inside and people looking for rides began to run into the streets trying to make the cab drivers stop, nearly causing several accidents which could have turned into an ugly scene. Police cars began to be seen much more frequently than modes of transportation I would have liked to be brought home in.
Finally, after 2:30 a.m. in the morning, not properly dressed to face the freezing cold weather, I was beginning to get frustrated and wishing that one of us had driven. A few groups of people around us started talking about walking a small distance to see if we could catch a cab further away from the main drag. Thinking that was a good idea and at the very least I’d walk in the direction of my house, we began. I live in Thorold so the thought of walking all the way home was not in the least bit appealing. It was almost 3:30 a.m. when we were about halfway home and stopped at an Avondale to try calling another cab company. They told us that they were one hour behind schedule and that we should look for another way home. At this point we were so cold we could barely feel our legs.
So as my last resort, I did what I never wanted to do and lowered my independent ego. I called my parents to come and pick us up. I felt foolish but they were really good about it and everything worked out. I was finally able to go home and sleep.
What did I learn from this experience and why am I writing this article? I began to understand why people get frustrated that they cannot go out, have a good time and be sure that they will have a safe way home. One of two things will result from cab companies not being properly staffed on busy nights: people will choose not to places in which they cannot safely walk home from; or two, which is the likelier outcome, people will drive themselves so they know they have a way home, end up drinking and drive home intoxicated. For a community that discourages drunk driving and pays our law enforcement to set up RIDE checks, something needs to be done to make our cab companies hold up their end of the bargain and increase their staff. It is no wonder why underground taxi services stay in business. It’s a shame they don’t run until 2 a.m.