Saturday, December 05, 2009


The true test is when things go wrong.

I had determined that I wanted to go to the Christmas party in my power chair. I wanted complete independence and flexibility. Joe and I don't go to many social events so I wanted to maximize the experience. I got up early the day before to call WheelTrans to make sure that I booked the bus because my chair simply wouldn't fit in any of their other options. I spoke with a fellow who was efficient, or so it seemed, and I hung up victorious. He had assured me, twice, we had seats on the bus there and back.

Arriving at work that day, I immediately went to the WheelTrans site to check, online, the trips. Sure enough they were there but an error had been made. We were on the bus back but on the van there. I was crushed. I had been so careful. So I called WheelTrans, spoke with a woman who assured me that it would get straightened out, asked me to wait for a couple of hours. By bedtime, the trip status had not changed. It looked like we'd be canceling the trip and taking my manual chair. However, by morning, we were on the bus.

Great, nice work WheelTrans.

We are dressed up and head down to the lobby about ten minutes early and find that the bus is waiting. Not only that, it's one of the fabled new buses. I'd head about them from the drivers but had never seen one before. The driver showed off several of the new features, clearly proud of the bus. But, once strapped in, the driver got off the bus, pushed a button and we felt the bus list to the left. A few more tries and the listing got worse. All said and done, the bus was out of commission, he called in for another bus to come and get us. We had been scheduled to arrive at 6 and it was now nearly 6. Great.

Joe and I sat in the lobby of the apartment building trying to decide if we were waiting or driving. As we were discussing giving up the new bus, which was an old bus, arrived. The driver, full of humour, got us on and got us going. He assured us we'd only be about a half hour late. On the way there he gets a call to turn around and come back and pick up someone else stranded way far south of where we were. He spoke respectfully to the dispatcher asking the dispatcher about me and the inconvenience that I'd already experienced. The dispatcher, grudgingly, said, 'Oh, carry on.'

Great, nice work WheelTrans driver guy.

The driver expained as we drove that he was the 'extra' (he used a term I don't remember) on that evening and his job was to pick up people stranded because of mechanical problems and scheduling shifts. That WheelTrans anticipates that it's going to need some flexibility to deal with the fact that life never runs smoothly. The guy driving the bus is the perfect choice for the job, not only is he unflappable, he carries himself with the perfect mix of compassion, humour and 'let's just fix it' attitude. We get where we are going early enough not to be late.

The drive home was completely unremarkable and we got home when promised and with ease. It happened that we had the same driver who had taken us out. He said that our pick up had been shuffled all night and he ended up being the guy getting us. When we got home he apologized for the mess up and I told him, truthfully, that I was impressed. From the outset the trip had been dogged with problems and that everyone worked to make the problems go away and tried to ensure quality service. A person's determination for quality service is invisible on days when things simply go right. But when things go wrong, that's when you see 'the belly of the beast' and it looked like it needed a good scratch.

So here it is WheelTrans ... from me to you ... Thanks. I was truly thankful that my needs mattered, that you went the extra mile, that I got to go somewhere fun as independant as I could be. Some would complain that mistakes happened or that problems occurred. Well, I know that in the real world, reservationists make mistakes and buses break down. I'm just glad that in the real world, when problems happen, they are followed by solutions.

Scratch, Scratch.


Kris S. said...

When I read the title of your entry, I was afraid you'd not been able to make the work party. So glad that wasn't the case! Hope you and Joe had a delightful evening.

Kristin said...

I am truly impressed. Not many groups have enough foresight to plan for mistakes and breakdowns. Wow!

Heather said...

Was the evening with Joe and Henry everything that you'd hoped for?
I love when my Percy (powerchair) can come along. Know exactly where you're coming from :-)

ORION said...

Glad everything worked out!
A great party is worth everything...