Bewitched and Swindled!

The clock struck 4:00 pm. The motor driven chariot I had booked online for my transportation to the Australian Society of Author’s socialising ball had failed to arrive on time. There was no message from the charioteer, as was the norm, requesting me to be ready for pick up. For some weird reason I had anticipated this impending disaster. Despite having made changes to the pick-up address in the morning to avoid any confusions due to absence from work, the lateness had to occur. My repeated efforts to find out the cause for the delay or confusion or to book a new cab fell on the deaf ears of the deliberately unwilling and hearing impaired. It seemed like a certain unhappy witch had claimed my mobile device as she interrupted my every attempt to establish contact out of spite. Call it manipulation, the art of cunningness or deception, the unwilling charioteer showed outside my door with reluctance written all over his visage but not before I had contacted another chariot service. Remember it was motor driven.

Forty-five minutes elapsed. A maxi chariot was drawn outside my castle. The charioteer though emphatic about nineteen minutes wait was true to his words. I heaved a sigh of relief as the door slid open and I lugged my backpack on to the passenger’s seat before I sank into it. Little did I know what fate had instore for me. Understanding my desperate need to reach the venue on time, he asked me if I preferred the quicker route without much traffic. If I had known that my response in the affirmative would cost me, I would have been in favour of the shortest route with traffic. After what seemed an endless drive through the comparatively less frequented route, which was through all the motorways I knew – the M4, M7, M5, M2 etc. I reached ten minutes before the Colin Simpson Memorial Lecture to be delivered by the famous Benjamin Law. Shock paralysed me when the charioteer uttered the fare which was twenty dollars short of $200. I pointed out that it was double the fare that the taxi fare calculator had displayed. A few minutes before the cab screeched to a halt before 100 Harris Street, Pyrmont, Sydney he had offered to pick me up after the lecture and I had readily consented to the arrangement without any further thought. I felt reassured when the charioteer or the cab driver as is the modern-day title stated that the return journey would not be as expensive.

As I walked through Dexus building into WeWork, the aura and décor of the place appealed to me. I walked through a fully lit pathway into the lecture area designated for its cosiness and yet aesthetic charm. I sat a second to catch my breath and made my way to the dining area where writers could help themselves to free food and wine. I grabbed a few items that I fancied and returned to my seat. I had the opportunity to strike small conversations with a few writers who were excited about their current work or just finished projects. After a few initial formalities by the recently elected CEO of ASA, Juliet Rogers, the memorial lecture was delivered by Benjamin Law. Appearances are deceptive proved true in his case. He commenced his lecture with references to his family, assimilation, Australian lifestyle etc and delved into stories and their significance to humanity and throughout his sense of humour, his passion for the topic and tongue in cheek style were evident. His lecture was not only thought-provoking in its own unique ways but had also touched upon certain undeniable truths such as “When a writer is born the family dies” etc. and his finish with a willingness to listen to our stories now that he had shared his fetched him a deafening applause. I suppose my reader would have no difficulty in comprehending which part of my story has to do with bewitchment.

As the lecture had finished before the specified time, I buzzed the cab driver and he assured me that he would arrive in 15 minutes to rescue the damsel in distress if she was in such a situation. Amidst minimum conversation, we travelled in silence through the familiar route once again. I could not help staring at the metre, unusually green and hung next to his rear-view mirror, as it was moving at an incredible space. With every deliberate flutter of my eyelids, the meter went up by ten cents and even when the vehicle was waiting for the traffic lights to turn from red to green. Sometimes, I did not have to bat my eyelids. The metre was racing and contrary to the assurance given when he dropped me off, the fare was another twenty dollars short of $200. My heart was sinking in disappointment as the cab driver raced through the longest route in history, at least that was what I felt. I paid the fare in dismay with an expressionless face. I felt swindled and tricked into believing that one cabbie was better than the other when they could have been long term friends or siblings. Call it ironical or not, the cabbie’s request for a certain medicine usually prescribed for fever confirmed that he regarded me as a good Samaritan. Should I give significance to the luxuries that money can buy a second time?

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