Firstly on Sunday just gone I was luckily coming to the end of my shift when my brake pedal went all floppy. When I tried to move off it felt like the brakes were on. I came to the conclusion, with my limited experience of cars and all things mechanical, that my brakes had seized up. What else could it be? I was in East Putney quite a few miles from home and I thought to myself “It’s 2am, I’ve earned my money, I just want to get home. Do I call the AA or do I welly the fuck out of the engine and get it home?” I did the latter and by the time I got home the wheel hubs were all but glowing red. The smell of burning brake shoes was unbelievable. I pulled a hubcap off (which was soft and bendy by this time) and threw a bit of my Evian water on the wheel and it hissed like when you test an iron before ironing a shirt. There was no more to be done that night and I went to bed. In the morning I did the same and wellied it all the way to my cab garage. No one suspected anything when I rolled on to the forecourt and the cab stopped without me applying the brakes. I saw Jim the genial Irishman and told him I had a problem with the brakes (an understatement!!) and could someone check them for me. He got in the cab to move it and when it didn’t move and a puzzled look came over his face I lost control and burst out laughing as I often do when giving the game away. He got out and said something along the lines of “what the fucks happened here then?” and went round to one of the front wheels to touch them. When he felt the heat that was coming off them I cracked up again and I think he knew it was a bit more major than just a “problem with the brakes” he called over to one of the mechanics and said “get the marshmallows out” while warming his hands on the heat that was coming off the wheel. With the fun over it was discovered that the master cylinder had seized and a new one would have to be ordered. They gave me a loaner cab and told me to come back before close of business.
I left the garage and went to work. After two jobs I got a call from my son saying that my in-laws had had a spot of bother with their car and could I go to their aid. When I found them in Hampstead their two offside tyres were flat. Apparently my father in law had been distracted and hit a traffic island, the two tyres burst on impact. To cut a long story short we put the spare on one and left the front of the car jacked up while we took the two wheels to Kwikfit in Cricklewood to be replaced at a cost of £200, that is a lot of money for two tyres.
I dropped them back and put the two wheels back on for them and although I was smothered in shit and grease I went back to work but couldn’t really get into it so went back to the garage to wait for my cab. When I finally got out to work there was a funny squeaking noise coming from the wheels plus a loud screech when braking. If Waterloo bridge had had direct access to the river I would have drove the cab and myself into the River Thames, that’s how pissed off I was. I rang my brother in law (Supermechanic) for advice. He said the best thing to do was to drive it on a motorway with the handbrake fully up. I drove straight over to the Westway and belted along at top speed with the hand brake on. I went up and down it about four times until finally it seemed the problem was OK. The new brakes smelt terrible but I think that finally solved the problem. It only squeaked a few times tonight and nowhere near as loud as yesterday.
As I was finishing my shift tonight my brother Johnny rang for advice on jump-starting a friends car. He said he had the leads on the right way but there was a massive spark coming from the battery when he tried to connect the final lead. He was trying to do it whilst on the phone to me and as the sparks flew I heard him scream like an old tart a few times. I thought he must have had the leads on the wrong terminals but he assured me he never. I told him to be more assertive when connecting the final lead and eventually he got it on and the car started.
My shift tonight was really busy again. Nothing spectacular to report. One of the jobs that stood out was when I picked up an American Mother and Son from the Raft at Victoria and took them to Chiswick. On the way the mother said to me “this is gonna sound stupid but do you know if there’s anywhere in London where we can get a Burrito?” I said there was nothing stupid about that and that there was a Mexican place right next to where they were going to which the son shouted out “Alright!!” the way that the yanks do. We were chatting away famously and I was pointing out places of interest along the way and generally being my usual helpful self. As we approached their destination I started to inform them that the restaurant would come into view in a few seconds. I swear I could hear the son licking his lips in anticipation at the feast he was about to experience. As we passed the restaurant my heart sank, as it was no longer a Nacho’s Mexican Restaurant but a French Est Est Est. Well, the son’s face was a picture of despair and the mother started consoling him. Can food mean that much to some people? I guess it can. Anyway, I informed them that further down the road they would find many more places to eat and probably even another Mexican or three but their bubble had been burst and they didn’t sound so sure of me anymore. Waddyagonna do?
I stopped for a Kebab Kid tonight, as I hadn’t had one for ages. They always make their own chips there but had a sign up saying something like “The season for homemade chips is over for now and we are using frozen chips. Please accept our apologies for this” That’s bullshit. If you can get potatoes in the shops you can make homemade chips. Next they’ll be using ready-made Doner Kebab meat like all the inferior Kebab shops and the institution we all know and love will be gone forever. The above phrase “Can food mean that much to some people? I guess it can.” makes a bit more sense now.
One of the last jobs I did tonight was a couple I picked up in Kings Road. They were both drunk as skunks and could hardly string two words together. “Quizarow” is where they wanted to go. “Never heard of it,” says me, berating myself for having stopped to pick them up. “Quizarow” the chap said again and then added “Over Chelsea Bridge”. The penny dropped. He wanted Queenstown Road. They spent the entire journey talking to each other in a unique drunken language that only they could understand. When I got to Queenstown Rd I slowed down so as not to fly past their house and they managed to tell me when to stop at the right place. The next few minutes would have been comical if I was in a good mood and not in a hurry to get home. The fare was £9.60 and because I have a sign that says “£5 Notes and £1 Coins Always Needed Thanks” in my partition window they decided to try and get the exact money for me. They took forever. At one point I told them to just give me a £10 note and I would give them change but they insisted on getting the right money. They finally gave me the right money and started getting out of the cab. The lady mustn’t have secured her handbag because I heard the crash of money hitting the road and the pavement followed by her shouting “Fuck Fuck Fuck” over and over. They left the back door open as they scuttled about picking up the fallen money so I jumped out and slammed it shut making a mental note(for the thousandth time) to avoid drunks in future.
One of my favourite bridges across the Thames is Albert Bridge. It crosses from Chelsea to Battersea and is probably the one I cross the most in a shift. There is a 2 ton weight limit on it and a few years ago they tried to stop cabs using it as they said they weighed more than 2 tons. That attempt was thwarted by our trade organizations but I've heard it may be happening again. The newer TXI's and II's are probably heavier than the Fairways that I'm driving at present and may get banned first. (Before any London Cabbies pipe up I heard it in the cab garage so it's probably bollocks)
Sunburst over Albert Bridge