Thursday, August 30, 2007

His Royal Badness

I had a ticket to see Prince at the O2 with my daughter on Tuesday but decided to work instead. I gave the ticket to her cousin and took them both over there. I did a few hours work and then went back south to pick them up. Traffic was amazingly light as most of the crowd opted for the Underground. The queue for North Greenwich Station was mental. By all accounts it was a great concert and my daughter said she was literally feet away from him at the front. She’s so obsessed with him now that we have to go out later today and buy some “Prince stuff”. God help me.


On the road

The O2 at night

My friend of many years, Chris of Titanic Struggles, has decided he wants to try nights for a while. He likes the fact that you can fly around London without traffic and claims that the money earned is “money for old rope”. Wait till he’s had a few pukers and losers without money, he’ll be back on days in a flash. We were in constant contact tonight via comms link, that’s a mobile phone to you lot. He had a decent night all things considered and his takings were twenty percent better than mine considering we did similar hours.

I started around an hour and a half after him and finished an hour after he had finished. It took me a while to get going after my first job from Paddington Station and I knew it wasn’t going to be a great night, well it was only Wednesday.

I was on the rank at Victoria when a guy started walking down the line. “Click” went my central locking. He wasn’t too steady on his feet, infact he looked rat-arsed drunk. He got to my window and asked if I took Credit Cards. I did, but I wanted to know a little bit more before I agreed to take him. He wanted to go to Twickenham in South West London and he’d give me a nice big tip. A forty-pound job I thought, plus possibly a fiver tip, what the hell? “Yeah jump in mate”. He started complaining about why all cabs don’t accept Credit Cards and I had to explain that as we were all freelancers and that it wasn’t obligatory to subscribe to radio circuits that only about twenty percent of London Taxis had the necessary equipment to process Credit Cards. I don’t think he gave a shit for my explanation and proceeded to nod off. The ride was uneventful until he awoke at the St. Margaret’s Roundabout and told me to turn after the Stoop. He then said something that always gets my back up. “Was that me or you that just farted”. I knew it wasn’t me because I’d decided a few years back to never fart with passengers in the cab as they (the farts) invariably end up traveling backwards. “Well you should know if you just farted mate” I said indignantly “but I’m fucking sure it wasn’t me,” I continued. He then went off on a rant saying who’s ever the fart belonged to must have had Chicken Curry (definitely not me as I had steak). He’d probably farted in his sleep and woke up engulfed in the fumes. I should have thrown a match in and ignited the fumes then we’d have known who the culprit was. He then started directing me to his road and after a few turns we arrived. Out comes the American Express Corporate Card. The equipment I use to process credit cards is the XDA II Pocket PC that is also my Xeta terminal for work. Everything has to be entered manually and then authorized by the control room. The only down side is that credit card jobs can only be processed at the end of the journey so by the time a problem arises it often to late to do anything about it. The first attempt came back “Invalid Card” as did the second. Having never had a card declined since being with Xeta I’d almost given him the card back and let him walk off. I had to tell him “Sorry mate the cards no good”. “It’s a business card, I use it all the time mate,” he answered back. “Well I’ve tried it twice and it’s not having it, you’ll have to pay cash”. I started getting annoyed at his body language and was preparing to spring (yes, me, spring) out of the cab and punch his lights out. He produced a personal card from his wallet and I had difficulty in reading the worn numbers to manually enter them but eventually managed to enter them. I gave him the receipt to sign and he entered a £5 tip which made me feel a bit of a dick for getting annoyed at him but I made a mental note to not accept credit rides from drunk arseholes unless I can get the money up front or somehow verify their cards first. (I think I could’ve done it over the phone but never thought I’d need to.

As I was driving back in to town this message came up on my terminal and brought home to me the dangers of going about one's business.

Sobering Message

On the way back in to town I passed by Hammersmith and trapped a job out to Popes Lane in Gunnersbury. For some reason I started driving like a maniac and had the Asian guy outside his front door within a few minutes. He passed a twenty through the partition and said “you’re an amazing driver” to which I thanked him for his kind words.

The work had dried up by now and I had to drive all the way back to Victoria before I got my next fare. After a twenty-minute wait I ended up with a short hop to Vauxhall Bridge. Back at Victoria and another twenty minute wait for a marginally better job to Kennington. As I was pulling away from that one a guy hailed me in Kennington park Road and asked for Canonbury Grove. He was drunk or high or something and was soon out for the count. It took several loud shouts from me to rouse him and a few more minutes for him to realize what planet he was on but he eventually paid up and gave me a decent tip as well. I was now ready to go home but kept my light on all the way through the Angel, Pentonville Road, Kings Cross and Euston Road.

It was desperately quiet and there wasn’t a hand in sight. Oh well, tomorrow should be a good day.

12 Days to go.

Check back soon

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The London Nose

I got a call from a cabby mate of mine. He wanted to test my knowledge, as he does from time to time, and he had a very obscure point to test me on. There are many, many adornments, anomalies and protrusions situated on buildings all over the capital such as “the policemans hook” or Hitlers dog or the one he asked me about, the London nose, which, until highlighted by somebody else, are almost impossible to find out about. As ever, I am always intrigued when something like this is brought to my attention and I will have to verify it with my own eyes the first chance I get. I checked Wikipedia and found that they had a short paragraph on the nose in their “Admiralty Arch” section, and I quote: “An infamous feature of Admiralty Arch is its "nose". On the inside wall of the northernmost arch there is a small protrusion the size and shape of a human nose. There is little or no public information as to why it is there. The nose is at a height of about seven feet, and would sit at waist high for anyone riding through the arch on a horse. Tradition holds that it is Napoleon's nose. It was to be rubbed by anyone riding through the arch.” I have since passed through the Arch and witnessed this nose for myself but am yet to rub it, so I can now use it in my repertoire of places of interest when I’m chatting to a passenger. I have yet to witness the Policeman’s Hook (St. Martin’s Lane area) or Hitlers Dog (Location unknown to me), and probably a hundred other curiously interesting things around town.

After my trip to Manchester last week the cab has really been misbehaving. The gearbox has been leaking constantly and several large puddles of fluid have formed on my drive. The engine has been emitting serious amounts of black smoke and I have had several cabbies and motorists pull up next to me to tell me what I already know. A sign of how bad things are with the gear box really hit home when I picked up four large men on one particular night and struggled to climb Muswell Hill. I ended up putting the cab into first gear and praying it would make it. By the Friday just gone I’d had enough and drove to my garage. £400 rent was owed and I had to overdraw the money from a cashpoint as I never had it on me. The owner was in the office as I arrived and I told him my problem expecting some sort of bullshit. He got a mechanic straight onto it and the mechanic took it for a road test to see what he was dealing with. When he came back he said to me “D’you want the good news or the bad news?” “Go on” I said. “The smoke problem I can sort out but the gearbox is fucked. I found bits of clutch in the fluid”. “Lovely” I joked. The owner was standing there hearing this too and started muttering something about a thousand pounds under his breath. It was decided to make an appointment for the gearbox to be overhauled at a garage in East London and they would call me with the exact time and date, probably next Wednesday. Here’s hoping they can put things right for once and for all.

As my holiday draws ever nearer the urgency to work harder increases, but it still isn’t at the critical stage as I still go home all to easily. Now that the football season has started I find my self staying in to watch games when I should be out. The last ten days will probably see me “wake up” and get my finger out.

Friday night was, as expected, extremely busy. I found myself working in and around north London. I would get all the way in only to trap a job back out to places like The Angel, Stamford Hill and even did one as far as Woodford.

This weekend is the Notting Hill Carnival and preparations were well under way this evening for Europe's biggest street party. Many streets are closed off during this time and traffic is always chaotic. I will try and avoid the area if at all possible.

Hopefully there’ll be something a bit more “meaty” to blog about in a few days so I’ll leave you all with that to look forward too.
16 days to go.
Check back soon.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Uncle Joe

I went on a road trip to Manchester yesterday with my daughter, my sister and my niece.
My uncle, Joe Silmon, who lives there, was celebrating his 70th birthday and family members from all parts of the country converged on his flat in the Longsight area of the city. He has been a jazz musician most of his life and is quite well known in the North West and although I’m not a jazz lover I did enjoy the two hour set he played with his band mates. After an early start and an evening of celebration I then had to drive for another four hours back to London and never hit the pillow until 5am this Sunday morning.

Joe Silmon

These last few weeks have seen me working away as normal trying to get money together for my forthcoming holiday in Spain.

Whilst sitting on the South Kensington rank recently an elderly lady slowly approached me and asked to be taken to the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital on the Fulham Road. As the rank is positioned in the middle of the road there is no kerb so it is harder for some people to climb into the cab. This lady was having some trouble and I offered to give her a hand, which she accepted. I got in to the back through the other door and suggested that I pull her in but she said it would be easier if I got behind her and pushed her up by her backside. Reluctant to do this, I checked with her that it was ok to “touch her there” to which she consented. Nothing for it but to place my hands on her mushy butt-cheeks and give her a gentle shove. The seat of her leggings were soaking wet and as I turned away I had a sniff to make sure it wasn’t piss. Well, wouldn’t anyone? I couldn’t decide whether it was piss or whether she’d been sitting on a wet bench somewhere but as soon as I got back in my seat I took a couple of wet-wipes and washed my hands. Her exit from the cab was much easier and she gave me a two-pound tip. Once away from there I pulled over and wiped the seat with some McDonald's tissues and sprayed a bit of air freshener and nobody was any the wiser.

It’s Thursday night and I’m number two on the rank at Victoria. An enormous bloke accompanied by a little old lady approach the front cab. The guy has to bend down to speak to the driver. The driver then shakes his head and roars off. I’m next. “How much to Highbury mate?” he says to me. “About twenty to twenty five” I reply. This guy is massive and he has an enormous belly. His T-shirt has ridden up over his belly and he made no attempt to pull it back down. He looks in-bred and above all like a complete loser. The old dear with him looks like she’s had a hard life but keeps quiet. My Spidey-sense says “No, don’t do it”. My mouth says “OK mate jump in” but my brain is saying “don’t be a cunt, drive off like the other bloke did”. And off we go. All the way there this guy is telling this women to “shut the fuck up” and calling her a “stupid bitch”. From what I could gather they are looking for something in one of their bags, perhaps keys, maybe money. Anyway, we arrive at one of the side streets next to the old Arsenal stadium. He gets out leaving her to deal with the money. The meter reads £23.40. She places a hand full of shrapnel into my cupped hands and I start to count. There were eight pound coins, four Euros and a few cents. “There’s not enough here love” I tell her. “That’s all I have,” she replies in a near to tears voice. I just knew they were going to be trouble. For all I knew the guy at Victoria probably had them in his cab before. “I’ll see if there’s any money inside,” suggested the old girl. I knew there wouldn’t be so taking a small amount of pity on her I said to her “D’you know what? Just go, OK?” And then as if she’d been expecting me to say that she said, “Thank you, may the Lord bless you and bring you good luck” I couldn’t help but think it was a tried and tested way of them getting home for under a tenner but as long as it only happens once or twice a year I can live with that.

It’s now almost eight in the evening and I’m off to work.

23 days left until my holiday.
Check back soon.

Friday, August 03, 2007

It's Too Hot Man!!!

After all the rain in the last few weeks the weather has now done an about face. I’ve had to do a few early turns this week and the heat and brightness have been unbearable.

I haven’t had much time to blog in the last few weeks as I’ve been otherwise engaged earning a living and running a household.

My daughter is now back from San Diego and the peace at home has now been shattered.

All of a sudden she’s in to Prince and wants to go see him in concert at the O2 in a few weeks. Her Nan has booked the tickets and she wants me to take her on the night. More loss of earnings!

I’ve spent the last few weeks ferrying different people too and from Luton and Gatwick Airports. I’m due to collect my niece and her friend from summer camp tomorrow and take her friend to Luton Airport for a flight back to Malaga in Spain. My niece is staying an extra week and then she too will need to be taken to Luton Airport.

I paid my £800 cab rent last week and by Monday £400 will be owed again.

I gave the mechanic at the garage a list of faults to be getting on with and was pleased with the results of his labour. An annoying rattle from somewhere at the back was stopped and that burning gear oil smell also seems to have gone. Don’t get me wrong it’s still a heap of shit but it will do for now.

I’ve been doing some nice rides on Xeta these last few weeks. Most of them are LUL (London Underground Limited) rides which only pay 75% of the meter but most of the ones I’ve done have paid over forty pounds. The last one I did on Wednesday night was a 7 hander starting at Knightsbridge and picking up and dropping of at various destinations and ending up in Cockfosters in North London.

I worked two shifts yesterday and did all cash work as for some reason I missed out on the account work. There was plenty of street work and my main pick up area was Victoria.

In spite of all the troubles we’ve had in the last month there are still plenty of tourists in town. Whilst sitting in the traffic in Oxford Street yesterday an Australian lady jumped in and asked if I accepted credit cards. Thinking she was going on a road trip I said yes and she named her destination as Harvey Nicholls. She then proceeded to complain to someone on her phone that she had left her credit card at home and that she was on a major shopping spree and how the hell was she going to be able to shop without her card as she had no money and no means of getting any. I’m thinking to myself how the hell is she gonna pay me never mind her shopping. She then started talking to me about it so I took the opportunity to ask her how I was getting my money. Apparently, she had a corporate card on her but her personal credit card was on the table at home and she was in town to shop for a forthcoming wedding. Without her own card she would just have to window shop – only a woman could do that. The fare was £6.60 and that’s all I got.

An American lady called me a “wanker” the other night because I wouldn’t take her and her pals to Oakwood for £40. I thought the price would be nearer to £50 and when I told them that they surrounded the cab and got all argumentative and hostile on me. I said “if you’re going to quibble for £10 then forget it” and started driving off, which is when that lovely world was issued to me. I get insults hurled at me on a regular basis, it’s just one of the delights of being a cabby.

I’m writing this on my break. I’ve already done four hours work and have come home to cool down before the Friday night madness. I’ll see if I can steer clear of any trouble tonight!
38 days to go.
Check back soon.