Thursday, 3 April 2008

Why we do the knowledge

Quite a few customers ask if it's still worth doing the knowledge with new technical innovations like Sat-Nav. The answer is simply yes. I'm sure that people asked similar questions when the A-Z map of London was first published, but still, it's just another tool that we can add to assist us in the job.

Of course we occasionally make mistakes like when I misheard the passenger wanting to go from Victoria to Adeline Place. What she actually said was Adelaide Street. So having driven past her intended destination and then all the way back to just opposite Charing Cross, I offered her the ride for free. "Nonsense," she said. "I would have still paid you and given you a tip, here's a tenner for you!". I tried to refuse but she was insistent.

Sometimes you also hear of stories about passengers not paying but how about a mate of mine who took a rather drunk American to one of the Mayfair Men's club (Didn't these used to be strip joints a few years back?). With a whole £4.80 on the clock the passenger gave my mate two fivers and got out of the cab, not waiting for his change. On reaching the door of the club he suddenly turned back to the cab and said, "Hang on, I haven't paid you" and promptly gave the driver another fiver.

Anyway, back to sat-nav. Similar to the coach driver who took a coach load of school kids to Hampton Court, near Highbury corner, instead of to Henry VIII's palace, a mini-cab firm got it spectacularly wrong when trying to get to Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea play.

Yes, I think we still need the knowledge.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

And it's all gone quiet over there.

After another week off from doing weekdays I put some hours in over the weekend. I'd been told it had been quiet through the week so was hoping things would pick up for the weekend. Looks like a few people must have been away for the Easter weekend and the following week since Friday and Saturday was tumbleweed central.

First job on Friday was from Norton Folgate to the Bavarian beerhouse on City Road. From there it was Liverpool Street Station to the Barbican, dropping a lady there for a Jamaican film festival. Things did pick up after a little while but all the jobs were little short ones... especially when it started raining.

Was quite pleased with myself when i managed to "pull" a couple of points that I'd almost dismissed while on the knowledge as being insignificant. If I've learned anything, it's that customers will ask for everything from the biggest stations to the smallest bars and restaurants. Naturally we don't know them all. It would be impossible with so many closures, refurbs, takeovers etc. It's a really satisfying feeling when a customer says, "You probably won't know this but I need to go to The Builders Arms pub in Chelsea" and you reply, "the one on Britten Street?". I know some people treat us as just another taxi driver, but there are those who really do appreciate the hard work put into becoming a London taxi driver.

Friday faded out into a series of little jobs and I packed up at about midnight, knowing i was in for an early-ish start the following day.

I was going out to a quiz night (our team finished 2nd - if only they'd listened to me we could have won) on Saturday so figured I'd head into town to see what i could do during the day.

I arrived in town at about 9am, and managed to get all the way to Victoria Station before I got a job. A young family heading up to Lexham Gardens, just off the Cromwell Road. He pretty much ignored his wife for the whole journey until he finished his phone call with a whoop, saying how he'd just closed a massive deal and it was going to really pay well. I should have guessed.. heading to a big house in Kensington for someone who has just earned a big commission... yep, that's right... NO TIP!

Headed back into town and didn't get another job until I got to Covent Garden, a family going to Saint Pancras. From there I joined the St Pancras rank since the Kings Cross one was all the way back to Goods Way and took a job from there to the Cumberland Hotel.

I drove around for a bit and then decided it was time for lunch. Yes, three jobs in three hours. The afternoon was slightly better having joined a load of other cabbies in a rain-dance to see if it would bring in some more work, but by 4pm I'd had enough and headed for the A2 and home.

Thankfully, Sunday was much better, with lots of people returning from holidays, so it was hit the stations and go from there. I didn't manage to get anything out to the new West London Suitcase depot, or Terminal 5 as it is more commonly known. The only really short jobs were one from Paddington to North Audley Street, and another lady who needed to go from Regency Street to the Sainsbury's market on Wilton Road, via the Blockbuster Video shop on Warwick Way. First job of the day though was from Whitechapel High Street to the Melia White House hotel. Think I upset them by NOT picking them up at the traffic island they were standing on, but they still gave me a 20p tip.

All in all Sunday raised my spirits after the quiet Saturday, and I headed for home safe in the knowledge that I'd at least already covered my rent for the week and that the rest is just for me and the tax man.

Real world jobs for the knowledge boys and girls

Russell Square to The Loop Bar W1
Kings Cross Station to Wilton Road
Paddington Station to Luckhurst Gardens