Tuesday, 13 November 2007

It's good to be back

Happy New Year everyone.

Sorry to those of you who regularly visit hoping to see an update. What with being back out on the road and still having to find time to fit in all the usual domestic chores and a couple of gigs with the band it's been a bit of a struggle to put pen-to-paper (or fingers-to-keyboard or whatever the modern equivalent is).

I've now been in the job for just over a couple of months, and happily, I'm still enjoying it. It's nice to get a feel for which areas to work at which times of day, and much more fun if you can figure which parts of London are particularly crammed and avoid them. That said, some customers still insist on telling you the route they want to take, even if you inform them that the route they want will leave them sitting in traffic for at least 20 minutes while the good folk of the City set out barriers and seating for the Lord Mayor's show. I did warn you! Two bridges would have definitely been the route for that one, even on a day when several tons of metal were being placed in the kerbs of Bank Junction.

The day of the Lord Mayor's show was a complete nightmare traffic-wise. With the city closed to traffic from London Bridge to Waterloo, every vehicle was seemingly forced in the Cabbie badlands of "Sarf o' the River". I did manage to pick up a job from Strand to the City Inn Westminster that evening. Sometimes people don't chat, sometimes they do, but this couple chatted all the way through the traffic, explaining how they had taken part in the parade itself, the gentleman being one of the Aldermen of the City of London. I was encouraged by him to join the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers. I'm not entirely sure what benefits I'd get from the organisation, but the trip to DisneyLand Paris for sick and underprivileged children sounds like something I'd like to get involved in at some stage.

I've managed to work a couple of long Saturdays over the last month, and have found it to be much more enjoyable than weekday working. This is possibly because people are generally out for shopping, theatre, or days out, rather than the business people who seem to be a lot more stressed.

Theatre trips are generally quite short, but with the passenger in a good mood, makes for some great conversation. A nice ice-breaker for the conversation is to ask the passenger if they are going to see the show or if they are starring in it. Most people will have a laugh at this and explain that they couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, or comment that they'd only be used to empty the theatre at the end of the show. However, Cabbie Tourettes is a dangerous thing. One mother and daughter asked to go to the Victoria Apollo. "You watching or starring?" asks a chirpy cabbie, before realising that the show at the Apollo is "Wicked" the story of the witches of Oz. Too late, I've already started saying it and nothing's stopping me. Luckily they saw the funny and idiotic side of this particular cabbie and had a laugh.

Had a nasty incident a couple of weeks ago. 4 drunken girls wanting to go from a pub to a nightclub. As we're heading to the destination a guy stepped out from between two cars to flag a cab coming in the opposite direction. Luckily I managed to miss him with deft use of the emergency stop. Unluckily two of the passengers weren't wearing seat belts and ended up in a heap on the floor of the cab, one of them saying she'd hit her face on something. Fortunately she wasn't too badly hurt and we continued on to the destination.

It's surprising how many people don't wear seat belts in the back of a taxi (I would say 8 out of 10 don't), despite the law and a sticker in the back saying that they should make use of them. I don't know whether it's the comfort factor of being in a London Cab, but the incident above shows why you should. In a saloon car you've got a seat and a headrest in front of you to stop you flying forward. In a cab you would fly through 6 feet of clear air before hitting either the rear facing passenger, or the plastic partition.

I've now got into the habit of ensuring that any children are strapped in, so at least they will be a bit safer. The adults are then using their own judgement as to whether they then wear a belt.

I managed to get a few days off over the Christmas period, only working the weekends to cover the costs of the cab rental and fuel. The weekend between Christmas and New Year was quiet. (Over an hour in a 7 cab rank at Euston on the Friday night using up too much valuable rate 3 time - luckily got a job up to Muswell Hill to make it almost worthwhile. The cabbie on point at one stage was asked to go to the Ibis Euston, a job which he refused on the basis that 90 minutes on a rank for a job that is no more than 200 yards wouldn't have been the best for his bank balance or his patience.

New Years Day was fun, with everything at Rate 3 and £4 extra per journey. Quieter than normal but had a nice job to finish the day. Picked up at Harrods just after closing time. A nice Kuwaiti couple who needed to go to the Sheraton Park Tower Hotel, a journey of no more than a few hundred yards, but they wanted to go on a tour of the sights first. So a nice tour down to Parliament, along the Embankment to The Tower of London and Tower Bridge, back along through Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, then Piccadilly Circus, through Soho to Oxford Street to see the lights, then back down Park Lane and on to their hotel. Managed to get in all the bits they wanted to see and throw in a few bits of useless information about the buildings and the streets in the process, all thanks to stuff I'd learned while on The Knowledge and from a couple of books I received as Christmas gifts. ("The London Compendium" by Ed Glinert and "London Street Names" by John Wittich) - another book well worth a look, and completely non-taxi or knowledge related is "The Bumper Book of Bunny Suicides" by Andy Riley.. twisted, sick and eye-wateringly funny.

School holidays are nearly over and it'll soon be time to get back out in the cab for my first kipper season. If it really does get as quiet as people say it will then I may well find myself putting in a few more hours to try to cover my costs. Oh well, weekends are more fun than weekdays.

btw, my New Year's resolution is to try to update this blog a bit more often. :)


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