After last week and my intention of making sure people had the right money, I went out at the weekend and had more people without the proper means to pay.
The question now is how to sort this out? Do i ask for money at the beginning of the journey? Do I ask for something from them like their phone until they pay me? Do i report them to the police? Do I barter and make them wash the cab?
The threat of London tube workers going on strike might strike fear into the hearts of a lot of Londoners but i think cabbies will love it (apart from the extra traffic on the road of course). Problems on the line from Hammersmith proved fruitful for me last week, picking up two "flyers" from the rank at Hammersmith Broadway. However, like my job to Stansted one of the journeys proved to be interesting.
Halfway along the M4 to Heathrow I hear the passenger asking "Is it far?". With the meter already reading around £25 I can guess what's coming next! "I only have £22, will you take a credit card". Having already told him it was going to be around £40 CASH when I picked him up, he knew what answer I was going to give.
I figured that since he had a credit card he'd be able to get some money out a machine, so pulled into Heston Services. He ran in, and a couple of minutes later, ran out again. "No good", so I take him to the petrol station at the services where there is a cashpoint machine. He runs in, speaks to the shop assistants and then runs out again. "No good!". I pointed out that he didn't even attempt to use the cash machine, to which he replies that he doesn't know his PIN number. How exactly was he going to pay me, or anyone else with a credit card in these days of chip and PIN?
"OK sir, we seem to have a problem. Is Hammersmith OK for you instead of Heathrow?"
"What, wait, let me see if i have any other cash! Will you take Euros?"
"OK, how much have you got?"
"I have hundreds"
"Good, Heathrow it is then"
On arrival at Heathrow he proudly produces a 100 Euro note for a £44 fare (waiting time at the services).
"I'll have to give you change in pounds since I don't have any Euros", to which the passenger says "keep the change, I'm late for my check-in now". Nice! I'll have to wait for my next trip to Europe before I find out whether I've been given a moody note, but it looks real enough to me... not that I'd know.
Another job (and one for the Knowledge boys here). I pick up on the South side of Pall Mall on the corner of Waterloo Place.
"Stanhope Gardens please"
"No, up by the big Homebase on Green Lanes"
Not a road I knew, but I know where the Superstore was so off we go. At this point of the evening Piccadilly was jammed and Shaftesbury Avenue was a nightmare because of the Chinese New Year celebrations so I ask if it's OK to head up through Camden and straight up the Seven Sisters Road to avoid the traffic in the West End... No problem.
Luckily, as I get to Portland Place I hear about the fire at the Hawley Arms pub in Camden Town so have a bit of time to divert and take a more southerly route up, again with the customer's permission.
As we approach the destination, having heard stories of the high class wedding they'd just been to, and how the suit, shirt and shoes the passenger was wearing would have cost me something like a dozen weeks of cab rental, they ask me to stop at a cashpoint. Luckily there's one at the end of the road hey live in, so I stop there and wait. He jumps back in and we drive the 200 yards or so to the house.
"£28.80 please sir"
"Sorry, we've only got £24.40"
"Hang on, you've just been to the cashpoint"
"I only got £20 out"
"But there was already more than that on the clock"
"OK, no worries, you can get into your house and get the cash from there"
"Oh, we don't keep cash in the house"
"What? Not even a fiver?"
Exasperated I bid them a not so fond farewell. I sit and sort the change into my dispenser and then turn round to check nobody has left anything in the back of the cab. They had! No, not an expensive Armani suit, or Jimmy Choo shoes, but loads of sweet wrappers, all over the floor and seat. Nice to know there are some really classy people in town! Of course, knowing where they lived I didn't need to take their property to a police station and returned it promptly to their home address.
I would just like to point out to all the knowledge boys and girls out there, that it's not all bad. The large majority of customers give you no grief whatsoever, most of the lines are second nature to you, and the hours are so flexible they could appear at a circus as a contorionist act.
You do also get a few odd moments. While ranked up on Pancras Road for Kings Cross, a woman in a 4x4 pulls up alongside me and asks if the road is 2-way. I explain that it's taxis and cycles southbound, and that there was a CCTV camera car watching for people entering from Goods Way. She then tells me that she'd come up from Euston Road and done a U-turn, so it must be OK. I then tell her she'll have to cross a set of double white lines and drive against oncoming traffic if she wants to go all the way back down, at which point she starts berating me about there being no signs saying it's taxis only and nothing saying one way only. I figure that whatever I answer I had given her she'd have continued on her way down to Euston Road anyway, so why ask in the first place. Maybe it was so that she could say that a taxi-driver had told her it was OK to do so. Or maybe she just wanted an argument. She didn't get one but the drivers around me all found it highly amusing that I hadn't put any signs up to let her know what was happening with the traffic.
Off out tonight for a long night-shift, and hoping that there aren't too many heaver drinkers around, and that everybody's got the right money. I can't be doing with any more of them.
Oh, and well done to my mate Paul who got his badge last Friday and has finally found his way out onto the road in a cab. Enjoy it mate.