Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Free, plus a cab charge

So much for my free screening of Shaun the Sheep Movie actually being free.

The latest movie I'm reviewing for, whose title sounds like something Borat would say, had an unexpected surcharge when I had to take a taxi to get to the Sunday morning screening, due to public transit being all screwed up by both a charity run and a festival. It's not a weekend day in Melbourne if there's not a charity run and a festival.

If I were just seeing the movie for my own purposes, I would have of course skipped it. But since I both had to review it, and wanted to make my four-year-old son happy, a taxi it was.

We knew we were taking matters a bit too lightly when we left with only an hour and ten minutes to get to the 10:30 showing. Not only was this a theater I had never been to -- the Village Cinemas in South Yarra -- but it was also an area of town I didn't know. In fact, by 9 a.m. I was only just barely figuring out how to get there by tram. We'd have to switch trams, and the journey was predicted to take us 47 minutes, according to the handy dandy trip planner provided by the public transit website.

The website also warned us of possible delays and route changes due to a festival, but at this point I didn't have time to worry about that. We had to get moving.

The 55 tram arrived at 9:33 as expected. No issues there. Well, there was one issue. Instead of reading Domain Interchange as its ultimate terminus, the tram read "Flinders Street." And instead of reading 55 as its route number, it read 55a. Something was amiss, but again, it was too far along to do anything differently at that point.

When the tram dumped us well short of Domain Interchange at about 10 of 10, and I didn't know where to go to get the second tram, I knew we were in trouble.

So I hoisted my son up on my shoulders in order to gain faster mobility, and continued south.

We crossed the Yarra River, at which point we saw the run that was bisecting the city this morning. It was so densely packed at the point we wanted to cross that we actually had to risk colliding with a runner in order to get through. Fortunately, he corrected his course to avoid the father frantically crossing traffic with a child on his shoulders.

As I plunged into the area of the city called Southbank, and noted that streets were closed off this way and that, and it was creeping up on 10 a.m., I started trying to hail a cab. The third one I tried could take us, but it was pointed in the wrong direction, and coming up on another thicket of closed off streets.

When he finally got himself turned around, making a few semi-intelligible protestations about the likelihood of getting anywhere in this traffic, we were stuck in a slow-moving procession of cars, about three of which seemed to be getting through each time the light changed. My son started to look at me and his eyes seemed to question whether we would make the movie on time. Then, so did his mouth.

I reassured him that we would. Probably.

However, we almost certainly wouldn't have had the cab driver not made a command decision that turned out to be extremely fortuitous. Disliking the devil he knew, he chose to radically change his route, a gamble that could have been disastrous. Instead, we started moving quickly along thoroughfares that were not quite so choked with cars. A mere 10 minutes later I could tell that we were only blocks away, and indeed, we were disgorged with eight minutes to spare before the movie started.

I didn't realize until we were almost there that coming by cab involved an additional hazard beyond the mere financial. See, my son sometimes gets car sick. And with the way the cab was swerving and stopping short to make the 10:30 deadline of which I'd already advised him, we could have had a whole different mess, a literal mess, on our hands. My son reminded me of his potential for car sickness when we were, thankfully, only a block or two away from the cinema. He told me somewhat uncertainly that his stomach felt hungry, not sick. Fortunately, that's all it was. I gave him some mango slices not long after we got out of the cab.

You don't usually tip cabbies in Australia, but I was so pleased with this one's on-time delivery that I found a $2 coin to give him -- and would have dug out a second one except that I couldn't find one in a timely fashion.

So yeah, it cost $23 rather tan the mere $3.76 it should have cost for my son's round trip tram fare (I was on a weekly pass, so my costs were more abstract). But we got there. And hey, that's still cheaper, a lot cheaper, than it would have cost if we'd both been paying for our movie tickets.

Of course, the movie didn't actually start until nearly 11, a reality I realized as soon as we got to the lobby and saw that it was bursting with other children, none of whom had obviously been let in yet. Oh, did I mention that this was a special free family event? So everyone was getting free tickets. Mine were just arranged by the studio specifically for me to review the movie, rather than won through some web raffle or whatever the case may have been for the others.

We also got free popcorn and water upon entering the theater. Unfortunately, that was not effectively advertised, so I'd already purchased a water and M&M's that somehow came out to a whopping $11.70.

So yeah, free is never really free. But when the movie ends up being a charming family entertainment from one of the world's most reliable purveyors of charming family entertainment, Aardman Animation, you can't complain too much about any additional costs incurred along the way.

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