Bad Travel Experiences

John Robbins, author of " Debugging Microsoft® .NET 2.0 Applications ", " Debugging Applications for Microsoft® .NET and Microsoft Windows® " and "Debugging Applications" has blogged about what has to be one of the worst taxi experiences you can imagine. All I can think is it's luck he used to be a Green Beret!

By the way, I'd recommend reading all those books if you do any debugging. Lots of excellent information and debug stories to learn from. The most recent book has about 100 pages on debugging with WinDBG and SOS alone. I definitely learned a lot from it and I've been debugging with WinDBG for about 10 years now.

As to my bad travel experiences, one comes to mind, fortunately not in the same league of "badness" as John experienced.

My taxi hell

It involved a taxi, not in China (I actually had some of my best and most memorable travel experiences in China) but in Manchester England. I used to live close to Manchester airport and fly quite a lot up to Aberdeen in Scotland for a week at a time. In fact I lived so close to the airport that I fell foul of the £10 minimum fare rule that existed but I came to accept that. One Friday evening I arrived back at the airport, tired after a long week and hopped into the first taxi ("cab") at the front of the line of cabs that were waiting. Now airport taxis in the UK are a bit funny. There are the ones that are licensed to queue up at the airport and accept a fare from anyone that jumps in. Those are the "black cabs". All other taxis must be pre-booked with the taxi company and you arrange for them to meet you. The black cabs tend to work out about twice the price of the pre-booked variety (unlike most countries where it seems there is a ready supply of cheap taxis just waiting at the airport). So there is often a long queue of black cabs and the drivers would sometimes sit there in this long queue waiting for a fare. But when they finally get one it can be quite lucrative - sometimes they will get a businessman going to another town, for example Manchester to Liverpool, and they might make a decent amount of money out of it say £150 or something. So I guess they were none too pleased when they got little old me wanting to go just round the corner. All that queuing only to get some guy who was only going to earn them the £10 minimum fare.

Off we went, through the evening traffic jam and eventually got to the private roadway leading up to the place I was renting a room in. The roadway was a little neglected and potholed so made for a bit of a bumpy ride. As we started up it the driver, (who seemed to be in a bit of a grumpy mood anyway), turned to me and said "if this gets any bumpier I won't be able to take you all the way". In my tired state, before I really thought deeply about what I was saying, I made a comment to the effect that given I was already being forced to pay more than the distance actually justified because of the minimum fare policy it was a bit unreasonable that I should be dropped off before even getting to my destination.

Anyway, I can no longer remember the precise details of the conversation but this guy flipped. I hadn't been rude but my comment had clearly pushed him over the edge. British black cabs are robust,expensive purpose built vehicles and one of their features is locking doors controlled by the driver as a safety feature to prevent the doors being opened when the taxi is in motion. This driver proceeded to put these to good use to imprison me in his taxi while he drove me back to the airport (at this point we were about 100 yards from where he was taking me).  I quickly offered to pay him the agreed fare of £10 (I don't believe I ever implied that I would not) and just get out there and then but he wasn't having any of it. He kept the doors locked and berated me for the next 20 minutes or so, swearing at me, accusing me of being a non payer etc etc, all the way back to the airport. He then dropped me off and dutifully joined the back of the taxi queue again and proceeded to tell all the other drivers the story and that I was a non-payer and should not be picked up (which wasn't true, I'd have liked nothing more than to give him the money and get out of his taxi). At that point, I went inside and phoned another taxi company and waited for them to come and pick me up. I was so taken aback at the time by the experience that I completely forgot to take the license number of the taxi, so I couldn't complain about him even if I had wanted to.

Oh well, you live and learn.