Avoid holiday heartache

It never fails over the Yule season: A solemn-looking police officer shows up at someone’s door during the early morning hours. Looking at the reflection of pain in the officer’s eyes, one’s stomach ties up in a knot.

It never fails over the Yule season: A solemn-looking police officer shows up at someone’s door during the early morning hours. Looking at the reflection of pain in the officer’s eyes, one’s stomach ties up in a knot.

Then the crushing blow: “I am so sorry, but a member of your family has perished in an automobile crash. Is there somebody we can call to comfort you?”

Worse yet, the driver at fault was drunk.

Despite a Canada-wide campaign every holiday season condemning drunk driving, killers blitzed to the gills get behind the wheel.

To that end, there’s a group of unsung heroes on our streets during the Yule season who have likely saved many lives, yet seldom get the recognition. It’s the cab drivers.

Working over the festive season, when times are better spent with family and friends, is a tremendous sacrifice on their part, keeping revellers out of harm’s way of causing an accident.

But the work has its downside — dealing with thoughtless customers slowing up the rides.

In an Advocate story published on Monday, Ron Arnott, a driver for Red Deer’s Alberta Gold’s fleet of cabs, asked the public to show some respect for others.

Among the chief complaints fielded by customers has been long waits for a ride home. More often than not, the logjam is created by partiers who call a cab, then fail to honour that call.

New Year’s Eve is particularly troublesome.

Arnott, a 10-year-driver with Alberta Gold, said he’s tired of it. Cabbies go to addresses where the customer has found an alternative ride home but failed to cancel the ride.

“Every cab driver will have one call where there is nobody there,” he said, estimating upwards of 80 cab drivers will be in service in Red Deer on New Year’s Eve.

Arnott is asking revellers to cancel rides they don’t intend to take so drivers can go onto the next call and ease up the bottleneck.

In other cases, partiers are having such a good time they fail to watch for the dispatched cab. “If a cab driver was to knock on every single door, some people wouldn’t get a cab for the whole evening,” said Arnott.

Also confounding the tie-ups are partiers at drinking establishments. Cab companies can receive 20 to 30 calls from each establishment. The customers who want a ride are encouraged to monitor parking lot entrances where the cab will be parked.

It is prudent that customers follow this advice for their safety, believe it or not.

Fights have broken out among revellers clambering for a ride, further aggravating a cab company’s job to get on with the show.

“Drivers just pull up and whoever is ready to go, we’ll pick up,” said Arnott.

Then there’s the inevitable customers so hammered they can’t remember their names or addresses. The cabbies will refuse transportation. “All cabbies speak English, not drunkenese,” Arnott chuckled.

And the logjam builds up.

There’s always a haunting possibility that lengthy waits for a cab will frustrate some drunk revellers, who ultimately choose to drive their own vehicles home.

They are courting disaster.

For the sake of safety for others on the road this Yule season, heed Arnott’s plea — be responsible when calling a cab. We don’t want police visiting a home with the heart-breaking task of informing someone they have just lost a loved one at the hands of a drunk driver.

Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.

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