Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Creatures of the night

Since my wife was working from home (albeit she was actually off sick with a bad back and should have been taking it easy) on Monday, I decided to head out in the evening to see if I could make a few quid. I'd been told that Monday night's are normally quiet, but I had quite a good run. Whether this was because some cabbies are staying at home to watch the European Championships or not, I don't know, but i was busy from the time I got into Canary Wharf til the time I got home in the early hours.



As I was approaching the rank at North Colonnade, I noticed two cabs. A passenger with some suitcases was talking to the driver of the second cab who pulled off the rank, forward about 40 yards, and then waited for the passenger to catch him up. he then got into the cab and they drove off. I pulled onto the rank and the driver on point got out of his cab.



"Did you see that b***ard do that? He nicked the job off me. Did you get his number?" Sadly I didn't so we had to let that one go, but there seems to be a lot of that sort of thing going on now. We understand that we all need the work when we can get it, but if people start taking jobs off the ranks while others are queuing, or cutting other drivers up just to nick a job off their toes, then there's a possibility that we lose any sort of etiquette between drivers.



After about 5 minutes we both got jobs at the same time and I was on my way to the Mayfair Hotel on Stratton Street in W1. Traffic along the Highway and East Smithfield was quite bad so the fare eventually ended up at just over £30. The customer was a young American student who was fairly good about the traffic. At least we managed to have a good chat about his favourite sport... Rugby! Top bloke.



I picked up almost immediately in Berkeley Street, a gent who wanted to go to Waterloo. Everything heading towards Piccadilly Circus was rammed so he was happy for me to take him up towards Hyde Park Corner and down past Buckingham Palace, quite a pleasant journey for a hot summer's evening.



There were no other cabs at Waterloo, so I picked up straight off the rank, two Geordie Lasses who had been to see the Paul O' Grady Show wanting to go to Kings Cross. Straight onto the pick up rank from there and took a couple via the Royal Scot Travelodge to the Carling Academy at Islington.



A short spell without a job and I picked up in Theobald's Road, heading down to Christies in South Kensington. Straight onto the South Ken rank and picked up an old boy wanting to go to the Chelsea Arts Club in Old Church Street. He insisted on telling me the route he wanted which confused the snot out of me and I nearly missed the turn into Neville / Selwood Terrace. We got the destination, but with cars parked on both sides of the road I had to drive past to set him down without blocking the road for the traffic behind me. Before I got a chance to stop the old boy was screaming and shouting at me that I'd gone past, so I explained that I didn't want to block the road. don't think he was too happy about having to walk that extra 20 yards or so, since he gave me a whole 5p tip on top of the £3.80 fare. I left it for the road sweeper.



I decided to head back up Kings Road to see if there were any shoppers on their way home, but picked up a couple on their way to Le Caprice restaurant in Arlington Street. The fare came to £8.80, he gave me a tenner and said "Make it £9.50."

I picked up fairly quickly in Piccadilly outside the Academy of Arts and headed off to Charing Cross Station. Just before we reached the circus the passenger handed me a set of keys and said he'd found them on the floor. Since it's not far back to Le Caprice I decided to see if they belonged to my last fare. Luckily, I recognised them as I walked in, and the grateful gent handed me a nice crisp 20 for my trouble. So much easier doing things that way rather than handing them into a police station and having the customer spend a couple of hundred quid at a locksmith's.

The rest of the night just muddled along with only a short stop for a sandwich and a cuppa at Great Suffolk Street. Into Rate 3 and a job from Liverpool Street to St Mary's road in Peckham / Nunhead nearly had me heading for home since I was that side of town, but I thought I'd give it a little while longer. Managed to get all the way to Strand before picking up again, three Japanese who wanted three different drop off in the North Ealing area. Well away from the direction I really wanted to be in, but a job's a job. After being shown round the back streets of Ealing after the first drop off on Queens Drive, I eventually made the final drop off just past Ealing Broadway station and headed off towards town £45 better off.

A job on the way back from Shepherd's bush Green to the 606 club helped things in the right direction. One of the passengers was in a wheelchair, and I was surprised to hear that he's had cabbies tell him that they couldn't take him because they'd have to get the ramps out... a job that takes no more than a couple of minutes at each end. Had a good chat about music and was invited to name drop if I ever wanted to get into the 606 club for a gig. Might just do that.

I decided to head back across town and ended up at London Bridge Station, hoping for someone who may have missed their train into Kent. After a wait of about 30 minutes I got a job. The passenger got in and asked for Peckham.

"Whereabouts in Peckham?".
"I don't know. Get me to the station and I'll show you. Do you speak French?"

Oh no! I've got a passenger going to somewhere in Peckham, who doesn't know the address, who doesn't speak English, and may not have any money. Even worse, as we get to Peckham Rye Station he tries to direct me through the no entry signs, so we're off of the route he knows, having probably only travelled it by bus. My 20-something year old O level French came in a little useful and I find out here's visiting a friend "en vacances". By now, we're in a badly lit street heading towards Nunhead, so I stop and try some more bumbling French. "Qu'est-ce que c'est, le nom de la rue que vous desiree?"

It must have worked since he got onto the phone and asked someone and eventually gave me "Wood Vale". Great, at last a destination. By now, I've already tucked notes in various hidey holes in the cab, fully expecting to get to the estate on Wood Vale and having a weapon pulled on me. I shouldn't be so paranoid, the passenger showed me exactly where he wanted to go and I dropped him off at the door he wanted, and we went our separate ways, him tired and late in a strange town, and me trying to remember where I'd hidden the money.

Hope I manage to find it when I take the cab back on Friday. It may be my last fling with the firm I'm with since having been with them less than two weeks, I've had two cabs that have had things wrong with them, the latest being that the replacement cab has some sort of fault that drains the battery (possibly and alternator problem, possibly the battery itself). But it's a pain in the backside when you need to get somewhere and the bloody thing doesn't start only 12 hours after doing a 10 hours shift. Thank God it didn't fail on me in Ealing. That's a long walk home.

The alternative is that the vehicle gets recovered back to Bethnal Green, and I've then got to find my way back to Medway from there at 1 o'clock in the morning. It would have to be a cab, and I know I wouldn't have been happy having to pay out a fare for that particular journey.

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Jack Benny used to make out as part of his act that he was the world's worst miser. In reality he was a very generous tipper, it was said probably because he really didn't want it said that in real life he was mean and miserable.

I always spend the last part of the journey trying to estimate the likely fare and a 10% tip and then how best to pay this talk about stressful ;o) I really can't see the point of getting change back from a tenner for £8.80 - what's anyone going to do with 50p, FCOL?

But given the trouble I go to to avoid being seen as a Jack Benny perhaps it's no wonder that cabbies always seem cheefl and helpful :o)

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