Sunday, November 26, 2006

I got a club!

The rain is lashing down outside and the bucket catching the drips from the skylight is slowly filling up. I’ve reported this problem to the landlords but they always send out cowboys to patch it up. Once it dries out I’ll try and fix it myself with a roll of flashband and a blowtorch.

Yesterdays rain was a big help with the work. I started early to make up for not working on Friday night as I was just too fed up to care. The morning fares are so different to the night ones. I even managed to trap a fare out to Heathrow, first one for weeks. They were catching a British Airways flight from Terminal 4 to Seattle, Washington. I had to go into their house in Onslow Gardens, South Kensington to bring out their luggage and as per usual when I over-exert myself I thought my ticker was gonna give out. Why must people opt for oversized luggage? The journey to the airport was practically traffic-free but about one mile onto the M4 the skies darkened and the rain pelted down so fast that my two female passengers started shrieking “Oh my God!!!” and asked me to slow down and even to pull over. I re-assured them it would be OK. I had to slow down to a crawl anyway as the whole motorway had done the same. The squall lasted about ten minutes then, as often happens, the skies cleared and the sun appeared. It provided conversation for the remainder of the trip. We arrived at the Terminal 4 drop off and I scooted round to get them a trolley and put their humungous luggage on it. The fare was £49 exactly so a fifty would be an obvious amount to hand over if not fifty five? I got two twenties, a five, three pound coins and two fifty pence pieces. Tight C….

We have various gentleman’s clubs dotted around town that pay a commission to the driver for bringing them customers. Some of the pay outs start at a fiver, those clubs are widely avoided. Then there are some that pay huge amounts, like £50 per head. Whilst finishing work one night last week I decided to duck down Walton Street in Chelsea to see if I could add to my measly night’s takings. A couple of guys had just come out of the Art Bar and flagged me down. They were both well hammered and one of them came to my window and asked “we want to go somewhere dark” I said “dark as in the lighting or dark as in sexual?” “yeah, sexual” he replied. Kerching!!! It doesn’t happen often but it’s nice when it does. It makes you wonder how much these places charge the customers if they can afford to give the cabbies so much commission. I once took a four hander to the New Georgian Club in Mayfair and the lady came out after they’d paid the entrance fee and gave me £110. With that in mind then no guesses as to where my first stop was gonna be. As I pulled up out side the club the lady appeared and I directed one of the guys to go and speak with her. After a few moments he got back in the cab and said “that place is no good, we want somewhere darker”. Now I know where places are situated but not being a sexual deviant I have no idea what goes on inside. What were these guys looking for? Some sort of torture club? Do they even exist? At this point I was thinking that the “easy money” I was about to earn wasn’t gonna happen at all. The next club on my mental list was the Kabaret Club in New Bond Street just a few blocks away. I pulled up here and they both got out and entered the club. Not having taken anyone here in years I didn’t know what the protocol was and some of the doormen con you out of the money by saying stuff like “they’ve pre-booked” or “they’re meeting a party inside” which I knew would be bullshit as these two didn’t have a clue and I had chosen this club. I waited patiently outside and could see the doorman inside the front door looking over at me and then back at someone inside behind the reception desk. One of the two passengers I’d taken there then walked out and paid me the fare. £11.80 (no tip). He then walked away from the club and my heart sank. I watched him approach a cash machine and I thought “yes, it’s all good”. He got some money out and walked back to the club. I made sure I faked being on my phone as he looked at me. I didn’t want to arouse suspicion. After what seemed ages a pretty blonde came out of the club with one of those big golf umbrellas (it was still raining) and tapped on my window. “here’s £60 but you have to give the doorman £10” She’d already included two twenties and two tens to facilitate me giving her the ten for the doorman so I handed it over and thanked her and drove off homeward bound. £50 plus the £11.80 fare wasn’t bad for a twenty minute fare.

As my body clock is set to days I’m just off out now. With the rain and it being a Sunday it should be a very profitable shift. Catch you later.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I hate writing titles......

as I can never think or decide on what best to say, so today you're getting this.
I’ve spent the last week driving my daughter to school and meeting her somewhere for the journey home. My two sons are job hunting without much success and Christmas draws ever nearer. My football team is at the lowest position it’s ever been in its history and even a new manager can’t seem to change the losing trend. The years are definitely coming and going much faster and the worlds problems seem to grow and grow. Where will it all end? All I know is that there doesn’t seem to be much time for fun and laughter lately. All I seem to do is work and work. It’s all quite depressing. I have managed to watch a bit of TV though so it’s not all bad. I managed to get copies of Lost - Season 3 Episodes 1 to 6 which were great and also Ricky Gervaise’s Extras which is a must see.

However hard I try, I just can’t help picking up nutters. I’d just dropped a fare off in Holland Park when a stunning blonde walked over to me whilst I was waiting at a red light. It was raining pretty hard and she had on a white blouse/top. As she reached the cab she turned her back towards me and her back made contact with the cab and she started talking in a seductive way and rubbing her back up and down the side of the cab. I can be quite lazy when it comes to washing the cab and as I mostly work nights the dirt doesn’t show up. Add pouring rain to a dirty cab and chuck in a white blouse and you have a right old mess. The whole of the back of her blouse was now grey to black. I don’t think she was aware of that and I certainly wasn’t going to tell her. She was asking me if I fancied running her out to West Ealing and could we agree on a price by shaking hands. She also had a few other stipulations such as would it be ok to smoke, again, we shook on it. She also wanted to be able to talk to me en route; once again, she insisted we shake on it. Get the picture? A nutter. My first instinct was to drive off but I’m a sucker for a pretty girl and she was extremely pretty. She got in and started talking and smoking straight away. It was mostly bullshit but she did let slip that she was PA to a top billionaire who shall remain nameless. I asked her if she did what she said she did why she would need to negotiate a price to which she answered that she was careful with her money and that she’d worked her arse off to get where she was blah blah blah. All of a sudden she changed her demeanor and started calling me rude and impertinent or words to that effect and I thought “what did I say?” The best way to handle these people is to completely ignore them and that’s what I did. She decided to lie down on the back seat and I thought “Oh no you don’t”. I called to her to give me her address including door number. She refused to answer me. No problem, I simply pulled over and told her to get out. She started protesting. I asked her again for her address. Isn’t it crazy how a job can deteriorate into this sort of bullshit just because a person has a few drinks in them? I eventually got a street name and a number and proceeded to the destination whilst she slept it off. Outside her house I had to raise my voice a few times before she woke. She opened the door and got out and started walking to her front door. I called her back and asked for my money and it took a few seconds for her brain to click in to gear. “How much is it?” she asked. “How much did we shake on?” says me. A distant look changed into a knowing one and she suddenly remembered the handshake and started rooting through her overcrowded handbag for my money. We’d agreed on £26. The figure had started at £30 and we’d gone downwards pound by pound until I refused to go any lower. She produced a twenty and carried on rummaging for the rest. She handed me her keys and a small makeup bag to hold while she dug deeper. She suddenly announces that there’s no more money and that I’d have to settle for the twenty. Really? I told her we’d shaken on it and that she was going back on it. She was adamant that there was no more money. I told her “no money, no keys” as I closed her bunch of keys in my fist, “possession is nine tenths of the law” springing to mind. “Give me back my fucking keys” she shouted “or I’ll call the police”. “Why don’t you do just that, I guarantee you they’ll be on my side and I’ll get my money”. “I haven’t got any more fucking money on me” she screamed getting a little hysterical now. I told her to calm down and have another look in her bag. She passed the bag through the window and screamed “here, you have a look” All I could see in the bag was crap, crap and more crap. Why must women have so much crap in their bags? I persevered and found a ten Euro note. That would be good enough. I shoved the bag back at her, put the makeup bag on top and finally handed over the keys telling her to get her drunk useless arse indoors before someone mistook her for a prostitute and roared off leaving her standing there with a stupid look on her face. Oh the joys of working nights.

The two weeks cab rent were due on Monday but I’ll be going to the garage later on today to settle the bill. I was told by a cabby pal of mine that his friend was renting his cab from a particular garage and that the owner had TXI’s for rent at a very reasonable price. He gave me the number and advised me to give the guy a call. There was no answer so I left a message. Nobody returned my call so I forgot about it. It turns out that my call had been received but that the owner was reluctant to hire any more cabs to drivers recommended by my pals pal as someone else he’d recommended had recently gone missing owing at least £2000. Mystery solved.

I will drop a fare any where they want but will seldom pick up a fare if I’m out of my element unless the job is going back into my area. On Saturday I dropped a couple in Balham, South London and was turning round to head back to town when five people caught me at the traffic light and asked for a runaround in that area. I told them I wasn’t overly familiar with South London and they said they’d direct me so I thought “Fuck it, it’s money”. We stopped at a few places where they picked up some booze and soft drinks. From the look of it they’d already had a skin full but the night was young and they sounded in the mood for a night of heavy partying. The party was to be held at the destination, Gleneagle Road in Streatham. I had an idea where it was and was also following the instructions on my satnav. One of the passengers then told me to turn in a completely different way, throwing me. I asked if he knew a short cut as my original route was the most direct and he said he did. One of the women then piped up in an incredibly posh English accent “Oh darling, are you sure you know a short cut?” to which the guy said he did. We ended up in a tight alleyway-type dirt track with trees and plants scraping the side of the cab. Had it been my own cab I would’ve refused as I wouldn’t have fancied scratches all down the sides. Next, the posh one pipes up again “Oh this is so exciting, we’re off-roading” producing roars of laughter from the other passengers. It was indeed a short cut and with in a few seconds we had pulled up outside their house on Gleneagle Road. They paid me well and I kept the “For Hire” light off until I got back to civilization.
(Was gonna post pics but Blogger playing up)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Losers, Nice Girls and Horrible People

My daughter recently got set upon by four girls whilst traveling home from school on the bus. They asked her for her phone but she’s learnt from the last time this happened and told them she had been “jacked” by someone else recently. They said a few nasty things to her and generally terrorized her all in plain view of other passengers who sat idly by and did nothing to help. As she went to get off the bus the four girls got off at the same stop. My daughter stepped back on the bus and went a few stops ahead where she then got off and rang me in tears to come and pick her up. Luckily I was nearby and not miles away as would normally be the case. As a result I now have to take her in to school every morning as she’s scared she might see the girls again. It a pain in the arse as it disrupts my sleep and the Harrow Road has road works on it at the moment which has caused severe traffic problems all week but I’d hate for her to get jumped because I couldn’t be bothered. I also have to watch out for her in the evenings but that only involves watching her get off the bus across the road from our house. There's some horrible people out there.

My cab rent is always due on a Monday but rarely gets paid on that day. Lately I have taken to paying two weeks at a time and use the Friday Saturday and Sunday of the second week to get the £360 together. Last weekend my front brakes started scraping and grinding and I knew I wouldn’t get through the weekend. Rather than not use the cab and lose those days because my garage was closed until Monday I decided to change the brake pads my self. I rang my brother in law to see if he had the pads I needed and he did. I would normally leave a job like that to him but I thought it was about time I attempted stuff like that my self. I met him in town and got the brake pads from him and drove straight back home. I’m not geared up for major mechanical work but I only needed the jack, the wheel brace and a screwdriver and had the brakes changed in under 30 minutes. I was quite chuffed with myself for having done this for the first time on a cab and took the cab out for a road test just to make sure. They worked perfectly and bought me more time to earn the two weeks cab money I need for this coming Monday.

As I was driving along Fortess Road in Kentish Town the other night a cabby coming the other way signaled me to slow down. He told me that there were a bunch of losers on my side of the road and two nice girls on the opposite side. I thanked him and cast my eyes back on the road ahead. A hundred yards ahead I could see a bunch of guys jumping up and down and waiving at me frantically on the left and the two nice girls frantically waiving at me on the right. It’s a funny thing how one person’s interpretation can be seen in a completely different way by someone else. As I neared the “three losers” my instinct told me that they weren’t losers at all and just three guys who wanted a cab. I decided to stop for them much to the chagrin of the two nice girls. As I pulled up level with them I could see that one of them was none other than Gary Crowley a well known BBC Radio and TV presenter. The other two looked like “somebodies” but I couldn’t place them. They’d just been to see Paul Weller in concert at the Forum in Highgate Road. Crowley asked me if I liked Paul Weller and I had to admit to knowing a couple of his songs but was no great fan. They were going to Soho Square so I concentrated on getting them there safely whilst they got up to all sorts of antics in the back. The final few streets on the approach to Soho Square have long term road works installed but any cabby worth his salt should know how to navigate around them. That’s exactly what I did and this brought a complimentary comment from Crowley. “Cabbie, you are “the business” mate, I’d have gone all round the houses” They all got out and shook my hand in turn and gave me 30% on top of the fare. Not bad for three “losers”.

I was clicking away with my camera phone yesterday when I bumped into the car I was photographing. If you’re going to bump into a car it may as well be the best!! The driver didn’t even get out. Probably thought it was a car jacking or something! Well it could happen!!


Friday, November 10, 2006

Some People

Well, I’ve been furiously clicking away with the new camera phone and can’t really decide if any of the photos are worth posting at all. I’m sure someone will like some and others not so I’ll put a few in as this post develops.

To answer a few of the comments from the last post now.

Anonymous said...
You should never sold your tx2.

I had to sell it for my sanity. Some people are cut out to be Mushers (owner drivers) and some are more suited to being Journeymen (renters). You have to be good with money or have someone to help you out. Neither of the above two apply to me. It’s so much more uncomplicated renting, you pay your rent and the garage has all the stress. I know I’ll eventually end up with a decent cab but I have to moan about the one I have until that day comes.

onzon said...
Some great stories here, only found your site yesterday. If you hear anything about the new TX4 in your travels, please let us all know.

The new TX4 is available to buy now. I have only seen one on the road and apart from a few design changes, looks identical to the TXI and II. It will take a good few months for any horror stories to materialize but I’m sure they will. I was talking to the owner of my garage and he said he’s going to wait at least a year before he buys any because by then any problems they have will have been ironed out. I’ll try an get a picture of one on the road although you could probably Google TX4 and get a picture.

Anonymous said...
Why do taxi drivers rent their cabs for (180 -200 plus per week) Surely it would be cheaper to buy a brand new one and finance it. 30k loan is cheaper then 200 a week. What are the extra cost you have to consider when you buy your own cab.

I refer this commenter to the answer I gave the other anonymous person above.
The extra costs include the servicing, the annual overhaul, and the tyres and basically anything that isn’t covered by the warranty during the first three years. After the warranty expires it’s all fun and games as spare parts are grossly overpriced and taxi garages can’t wait to shaft you.

Whilst out working today I was in the right hand lane waiting to turn from Marylebone Road into Baker Street. There were a few cabs in front of me and one of the cabbies recognized a pal of his and got out to have a chat while the light was red.
The thing with that junction is that you only get a few seconds before the light changes so it can take three or four light changes to get through. This guy got out three times and caused us all to wait twice as long. By the third time everyone started honking at him causing him to give everyone a two-fingered salute.

They’ve installed a monitor on Wilton Road taxi rank so that cabs can see if the main rank on Victoria Station has room. They’ve done this because they’ve removed another portion of the rank because it used to interfere with the workings of the bus stop. It’s causing all sorts of problems because during busy periods cabs get stuck on the wrong side of the road and other cabs, possibly unaware of this new system, drive straight on to the main rank. I’ve already witnessed a couple of “scream-ups” between cabbies. The resident beggar has also relocated to this side of the road but, as ever, I carry on blanking him.

I had a 3 hander job tonight that involved taking two people home, collecting their babysitter, taking her home with the other passenger still in the cab and finally dropping him at his home. They’d obviously had an enjoyable night out and ate and drank plenty. The conversation amongst them was jovial and intelligent. Whilst the couple got out at the first address to go and get their baby sitter the remaining passenger transformed into an obnoxious arsehole and started slagging them off in extremely colourful language. When the baby sitter got in the cab he reverted back to mister nice guy and was completely charming to her. As we arrived at her address he offered her some advice “watch out for the n*****s” he said to her. She hurried into her house and then he launched into a racist tirade that, quite frankly, I’m embarrassed to repeat on here. But it went along the lines of how he used to be in the National Front Party and how he still donates to them and how he hates all races and indeed religions apart from his own. For all he knew I could have belonged to one of the things he was ranting about and if he can so readily give vent to his prejudices to a complete stranger it’s a wonder he’s still walking or living. Some people!

It’s always a good idea to have a brolly handy when stopping to go to the bank or get a coffee. I recently parked up on a rank in Baker Street, paid a few bills and went to grab a coffee. Whilst in there the heavens opened I had to wait a good fifteen minutes before the torrential downpour stopped. A few days later someone left me a present….

Here are a few random photos that I've taken. What impresses me most is the quality of the shot.

A cluttered workspace

Marylebone Road

My cab parked in Battersea

The Raft (Victoria, Gatwick Express)

The Raft sans passengers!!

My new satnav

Victoria Plaza

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Not enough hours in the day.

I try to post at least once a week these days but I seem to have overdone it. I haven't died and I haven't given up the fight I just ain't had time to sit here and do this.

I am still waiting for a decent cab and the one I'm driving is falling apart. I ask every time I'm in the garage and always get the same answer that I'm next on the list.

I recently upgraded my satnav to one that is pocket-pc based. I had an ipaq that my brother Joe kindly let me have after my Palm was stolen and I always meant to get the software for it but just never got round to it. So recently I bought the Tomtom Navigator 5 software from eBay and also a Bluetooth gps unit and it all works fine. One gripe I have is that the maps of the Docklands and Canary Wharf are out of date. I bought what I thought were the latest maps from the Tomtom site but they turned out to be the same ones that came with TTN5 so, always needing to have the latest stuff, I went back onto eBay and came across a seller who was selling Tomtom 6 for £30 on "Buy it now". I bought it immediately thinking I would be up to date in a few days. Next I get an email from eBay saying that the listing has been removed because there was some funny business going on and they advised me not to go ahead with the purchase! Problem is I've already paid the guy. I emailed him with my concern and he's assured me the software will be sent as promised so hopefully I might have it installed in the cab over the next few days. I'll let you know the outcome.

I almost picked up Rod Stewart and his latest “lurve” recently but missed them as the cab in front of me got there first. They were coming out of a designer shop on Sloane Street in posh Chelsea and were immediately swamped by paparazzi. Just as well really as “The London cabby” ain’t ready to grace the pages of the world’s glamour mags just yet!!

Sometime last week I picked up three guys from La Famiglia restaurant in Kings Road and dropped them at various places. The last one was American and looked quite distinguished and rich and I couldn’t help but think I’d seen him possibly on TV somewhere. Once the other two got out he started talking to me about my job and was interested in how much I make and what I pay for the cab. He was telling me how the New York cabbies have it really tough and have to work all the hours under the sun just to break even. I told him I’d picked up a NYC cabbie a few months back (I forgot to mention it in my posts) who said the same thing and he informed me that he himself had once been a New York cabbie. I asked if he still did it, half knowing that he didn’t, and he had a little titter to himself and said not anymore. I caught his name when they were all talking as Jonathan so wondered if anyone out there that knows of a 50 to 60 year old Jonathan who was once a New York cabbie who has made good and is possibly on TV or in the public eye.

I picked up a nutter (nut job, fruit loop) yesterday. A mad woman who started ranting at me because three cabbies before me had drove off almost taking her hand with them as she tried to get in. I felt like doing the same but was in need of money so decided to see this one through to its conclusion. First of all she directed me to stop outside WH Smiths on Notting Hill Gate while she ran in to look for a friend of hers. I told her that it wasn’t possible to stop let alone wait where she wanted me to and that I’d have to stop a little further away. She started screaming at me and called me a useless bastard and opened the door and stormed off into the shop leaving her handbag and various carrier bags on the back seat and the door wide open. I knew she had a screw loose and never took offence at the insults; I’ve been called a lot worse things in my time. I jumped out and shut the door and pulled forward a touch so that the buses could get round me. Had there been no bags in the back I would probably have driven away but obviously had to wait for the mad bitch to come back with her buddy. It was rush hour and it seemed like every bus in London was coming round the corner. They all honked at me as I was blocking the approach to their bus stop. At this point a traffic warden decided to make himself busy and asked me to move off. I’d had enough. I got out, opened the back door and took the woman’s stuff out and threw it at the warden’s feet. I told him that when a crazy looking lady in a black and white checked coat came back to this spot he should give her her stuff back. I got back into the cab and drove off and noticed that the warden was also walking away from the bundle on the pavement. On reflection I was probably out of order but the stresses and strains of trying to do your job when so much is against you can sometimes cause you make such rash decisions. I’d like to think she was on her way back to the cab and managed to pick up her stuff before someone stole it but I’ll never know now.

I received my new Sony Ericsson K800i mobile phone this morning. It has a 3 mega pixel camera and I intend to use it to start posting more pics as you’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted any recently. I should have another post for you in a few days.

Sony Ericsson K800