Monday, October 22, 2007
My Xeta system failed over the weekend and I was unable to do any work on it. The external GPS receiver cacked out so the PDA had no way of knowing what area I was in. I rang the technicians at Station Road in Tufnell Park but they obviously don’t work the weekends. I left a message on the answer phone and was woken up at 9am this morning by them with instructions on how to reset the GPS. I had to get in behind the glove box and pull a fuse out, wait a few minutes and replace the fuse. The GPS reset itself with ridiculous ease. It’s easy when you know how! Had I known this on Friday night I could have done some work on it. Still, I’ll know for next time. It also saves me a trip over there today and gives me a few more hours in bed.
I made it to the cab garage last Friday. It’s always painful parting with cab rent on a weekly basis so multiply that by three and imagine the agony I was in. I never hung about for any banter as I had stuff to do. One thing I did find out was that the camera that flashed me on Mile End Road (I was caught at 36mph in a 30 zone), whilst I was dealing with a female passenger who thought I’d missed her turning, did actually have film in it and that I am now (or will soon be) the proud owner of twelve penalty points and an impending 3 to 6 month driving ban. Lovely!! I’m still waiting for the paper work for the one that flashed me outside Holloway Womens Prison and until that arrives I am still on six points. I’ll try and string it out for a few months and hopefully some of my earlier points will have expired. One of the guys at the garage told me that in any case I probably wouldn’t receive a ban but I would be required to attend some sort of driving course. I should still contact my trade organisation, The LTDA (Licensed Taxi Drivers Association) as they offer free legal help to all members and could possibly save me a lot of grief.
Since I got my new Nokia n95 phone I have been using one of those bluetooth in-the-ear handsfree thingys that I despise (Motorola H700 £40 in the carphone Warehouse). It’s quite a sensitive bit of equipment and the main button, which is multi-functional, often depresses whilst the item is in my pocket, sending all sorts of commands to the phone. The thing it does the most is to activate the voice dialling, which then waits for you to speak. It interprets external noises and taxi vibrations as commands and then searches the phone for likely candidates. If you’re not paying attention you could go through the whole phone book and never know. Working mainly at night, the phone has been calling various people who have been answering from their beds, probably cursing me and then hanging up, all without my knowledge. I know for a fact that I did call my nephew’s phone in Mallorca at 2 in the morning as I saw the call in the log. (Sorry if I woke you guys up). So what I was leading up to was that I purchased another bluetooth from eBay, which works in a different way, and have now been waiting for several weeks. The seller has informed me that the delay is due to the recent postal strike but I have received other goods purchased much later. I think another message to him is now due. Another problem I have been having with the device is that it chafes the top of my ear so I have been removing it and storing it in the part of the cab door used to pull it shut. On several occasions whilst getting in and out of the cab it has fallen, without my knowledge, out of it’s space and either under my seat or out of the cab altogether and into the road. So I was sitting in outside Kebab Kid in New Kings Road last night (or early this morning at 12.30am) eating a large chicken shawarma and taramasalata and pondering my life when my phone rang. I automatically reached for the handsfree device in the door and found the space empty. I had moved the cab from outside the shop to a few yards away and automatically turned to look at where I had been parked. It was dark but I could just make out a dark bump on the tarmac and knew it was my bluetooth and if it hadn’t already been flattened by the cars on this busy road it soon would be. I jumped out of the cab with my kebab in hand and raced back the few yard to retrieve the device. By some miracle it was untouched. I think part of me was hoping that it had been flattened as I just haven’t been able to take to it and eagerly await the arrival of my new and better one from ebay.
(At this point my electric ran out and I thought I’d lost all that is written above. Phew!! Thank God for Windows XP. Win 98 would have wiped the lot)
On the work front, all is well. It’s simply a matter of getting in to the cab and driving away. Sometimes after dinner I go upstairs for a nap and never want to surface for work. A few days this week I have instructed the kids to nag me out to work and they have duly obliged. From 8pm onwards I get shouted at and insulted by them (all with my consent) until I eventually get up. Once out of the door there’s no problem but a few times I have been nagged from 8pm to 10pm and those two hours make a big difference in the takings.
On Saturday night England’s rugby team lost the World Cup Final to South Africa. I managed to sleep the whole way through it and never started work till 10pm. The centre of town was awash with jubilant South Africans and it was one of the most profitable four hours I’ve ever done. The last job of that particular night found me driving homewards through Camden Town. My light was off and I was just hoping for someone to approach me at the traffic lights and ask to go my way. A big built Aussie guy with a Ben Sherman short-sleeved shirt (I knew this as my son has an identical one) approached me and asked if I would take him to Shepherds Bush. It’s sort of over my way so I agreed but he wanted a price.
Him: How much you looking for mate?
Me: As much as I can get.
Him: I reckon twenty-five quid’ll do it.
It would probably go nearer to thirty but as I was finishing I didn’t mind.
Me: Ok mate but I want the money up front.
I’m getting good at asking for the money up front. For years I wouldn’t ask for it and some journeys have ended with the passengers doing a runner.
Him: Ok but I want to stop at a petrol station to get some phone credit so will that cover it?
Off we went. I found a garage in Wellington Road and he jumped out and joined the queue. He was one of these guys who can start a conversation with anyone. There were a couple of blonde chicks in the line ordering all sorts of food items and the attendant was running backwards and forwards getting all their stuff. The guy started talking to them and soon had them in fits of laughter. The whole process took much longer than anticipated and I was getting irate at being kept waiting on a fixed price. The guy was now talking to anyone and everyone and messing about with the six-packs of Evian water on the forecourt. In the end I honked the horn and shouted “Come on!!” “Keep your hair on mate” he said as he got back in the cab. “There’s no need to take the piss mate we’re on a fixed price here not the meter,” I growled. We were on our way again and he recharged his phone with the credit and proceeded to ring everyone he knew to talk about the rugby. From what I could hear he had wanted England to win, which I though unusual. The Aussies must have a bigger rivalry with the South Africans. He talked all the way to the Bush and had me drop him outside Belushi’s on the Green. I had put the meter on in Camden and it now read £36 so he’d gotten a bargain ride home. I must remember not to do that in future.
Check Back Soon
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I’ve just been getting on with getting on with it these last few weeks. I’ve worked most nights since my last post and have just about caught up with everything that went to crap because of my holiday.
On the home front I have been trying to trap a mouse that recently shit the life out of me as it ran past my legs one night. Them fuckers really know how to hide. Anyway I set a fresh trap with a nice chunk of English Cheddar and guess what? I caught it. I took some photos for posterity and will just leave it so that anyone who wants to see them can click HERE and HERE and HERE. If you’re squeamish then don’t click.
My son Danny drove up to Birmingham in the Midlands with his cousins and a friend today to watch Monday Night WWE Raw. They were queuing in the line when Hacksaw Jim Duggan and a few others casually strolled past them prompting a reaction from the crowd.
I recently downloaded the last nine episodes of the Sopranos and have already watched five of them. The series has become quite dark now as it draws to an end and I know that some major players die soon, I’ll probably know who by tonight.
I hate rugby but I’ll be watching on Saturday night as England take on South Africa in the final of the Rugby World Cup in Paris. We are the current holders having won it four years ago thanks to our talisman Jonny Wilkinson who is also doing the business this time around.
I took the cab in to have the exhaust repaired the day after it snapped. The rent was due but I told them that I wasn’t able to earn it on account of the said problem and it was agreed I could go in the next day to pay the £200. That was on the 3rd of October and I haven’t been there since. I now owe £600 and have been screening all my phonecalls. What a way to live. I should have it all by end of duty on Tuesday night (tonight) and will be able to show my face on Wednesday.
My mate Chris finally got fitted for Xeta last Friday and has enjoyed a job home every night. He too likes to do the London Underground work and so far has finished his shift with jobs out to Carpenders Park, Harrow & Wealdstone and tonight finished with a job to Northolt.
I started my shift at 7.30 tonight and worked for seven straight hours. I had to fill up in the garage at Sainsbury’s at Ladbroke Grove as over the last few days part of Maida Vale has been closed off due to repairs after a burst water main.
I ended up at Notting Hill Gate and my first job took me down to Clapham North. After five more jobs I dropped off at Onslow Gardens and went to the Gloucester Road Starbucks for a Triple Venti Latte and a slice of Rocky Road. I drove round to the South Kensington Rank to consume my coffee and cake and who should pull in behind me but Old Titanic himself. We had a few moments together messing about with our PDA’s trying to get a lock on a wireless signal but could only manage to get the Pelham Hotel Homepage which is totally unexciting. Seconds later and I was off again, this time with two Scottish Lasses to the City Inn Hotel in John Islip Street, Westminster. As I pulled away after dropping them off the doorman from Shepherd’s Restaurant was out in the road looking for a cab. Five people got in and I took them down to The Goose pub in Clapham Park Road to continue their drinking binge. I made it all the way back to Victoria Station before I got another job and this time I was off to Whipps Cross in North East London. I was on the phone to Chris and we were discussing which would be the best way to do the journey. I opted for the Embankment, Angel, Dalston Lane, Lee Bridge Road to Whipps Cross while he said he would have driven along the Embankment all the way to the A12 and the Green Man Roundabout. No wonder I call him “Sad Route Bill” sometimes. I did ten more decent jobs after that one and decided to call it a night. As I was driving from Hyde Park Corner into Park Lane I saw a group of people with luggage waving at me. There were six of them each with a case and hand luggage. They asked if I could take six people and I told them it would be a tight squeeze. I managed to get all six people and all six cases plus their hand luggage into the cab and there wasn’t a cubic millimetre of space left as we crawled away from the pick up, the cab groaning and protesting until it had picked up speed. I took them to a hotel in Sussex Gardens and as I arrived a few of the local working girls looked curiously on. I drove round to Paddington Station but it was devoid of any work as it was already quite late. Even Caroline had gone home!! (I got out of the cab and had a chat with her a few nights ago so that’s how I now know her name)
Check back soon.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
It’s been almost two weeks since I returned from Spain and I still haven’t really got back into the swing of it yet. I’ve had four or five half days, maybe even quarter days off and financially it’s starting to hurt.
My football team’s fantastic start to the season has also affected me by way of keeping me in until 10pm during the week on nights when we play and the game is broadcast via their website. Still, it’s a small sacrifice to see the boys doing so well, long may it continue.
I’ve had a few decent rides both cash and account. A guy asked me to take him to a destination near Brighton but when I quoted what I thought would be a fair price he shook his head and ran off. I was doing “bird” on the rank at Canary Wharf one day last week when my Xeta terminal offered me a job. Being in “Going Home” mode I was able to view the destination where normally you wouldn’t know where you were going until accepting the job. Instead of a name there was a postcode. Destination was DA17 and pickup was North Greenwich Station right next to the O2 Millenium Dome (pictured in a previous post). You only get 30 seconds to accept or decline and then the job goes to the next cab. Not having familiarized myself fully with all the suburban postcodes I never had a clue where DA17 could possibly be and got it excitedly in to my head that DA was the code for Datchet near Windsor. A very nice ride to a very nice part of the country. The bleeper was counting down the seconds and I knew I only had seconds left to make my mind up. I hit the ACCEPT button and started scrolling through the job details. Chris was on the phone to me at the time and we were running through all the possibilities of where I would be heading. All of a sudden my heart sank, as the written destination appeared further down the page. So much for Datchet. The destination was Belvedere in Kent, completely the opposite direction to where I wanted to go and I had to drive a good few miles to the pickup. The DA stood for Dartford. I pulled off the rank at Canary Wharf and made my way towards the Blackwall Tunnel. There was some sort of night works going on (when is there never?) and the traffic was backed up. I’d started with 40 minutes to get to the destination and had just about used them all up by the time I arrived at North Greenwich. The meter can only show £4 by the booked time so for 35 minutes I wasn’t earning any money. To cut a long story short the passenger wasn’t there as she was en route in another taxi. After a few calls backwards and forwards she arrived forty minutes late and I got her to Belvedere safely but then found myself dead in the water with no chance of a fare back to town. I made a mental note to write down all the relevant postcodes and have them handy the next time my terminal throws me a job with only the postcode.
I could possibly be out of a job in the next few weeks. Having recently received another three points on my license making it 9 now I have been taking extra care to watch my speed and not to jump red light. But whilst working last night a passenger complaining that I had missed her turning distracted me. Because I was dealing with the complaint I wasn’t watching my speed. I had picked her up in Commercial Road and was told to take her to Bow Quarter, a gated community in East London. Whilst driving along Mile End Road she suddenly pipes up. I was talking to Chris at the time so I missed her first words. She started flapping so I opened the partition and said “What’s up?” “You’ve missed the turning,” she informs me. We were still about a mile from her destination so I started cajoling her.
Me: “Are you sure about that?”
Her: “yes, you’ve driven past it”
Me: “I don’t think so”
Her: “Yes look I wanted that road there”
Me: “You want Bow Quarter right?
Me: “Well we haven’t even gone past Mile End Station yet”
A quizzical look came over her as she tried ascertaining through her intoxicated haze just where the hell she was. Realizing she’d made a mistake she let me get on with my job and said no more, not even sorry. With my mind on thinking of something more to say I was brought back to the present with a FLASH followed by another FLASH. “Fuck it” I hissed into the phone to Chris who’d heard the whole conversation. “It’s all over, I just got double-flashed again” “Sad” he sympathized with me. We’ll just have to wait and see.
With each shift I get a bit more into the swing. I bought a Nokia N95 on ebay yesterday and paid with Paypal. That basically means I have three to four days to find the money so with that in mind I started nice and early this evening. I needed diesel so I drove over to Sainsbury’s in Ladbroke Grove to put £20 worth in the tank. From there I made it all the way to Kensington Church Street before I trapped my first job down to Flood Street in Chelsea. I nice little flurry of jobs ensued after that. Six jobs back to back bringing me nicely up to mealtime at the Royal Oak Taxi Center with Chris. I had my usual, a nice plate of Spaghetti Bolognese and a bowl of Parmesan Cheese. I’ve always loved lot’s of Parmesan on my pasta and have been known to carry my own personal supply just in case some of these establishments don’t have any, and many don’t, which I think is sacrilege.
Once fed and watered we both drove down to Paddington Station to queue for our next job. For the last few months there has been a lady who sits at the head of the rank on a little ledge. If you’re unlucky enough to catch her eye she’ll tell you her whole life story or whatever she’s been doing on any particular day. I got caught for the first time quite a few months ago and had to endure a 15 minute ear bashing as there were no passengers. Now I always keep my window shut and look the other way while she desperately tries to get my attention. She’s there almost every night. Does anybody know what her story is?
There’s also a new guy there who seems to be there at all hours. Chris and me have named him “James Brown” on account of his snazzy attire. He directs the passengers to the appropriate taxi when the marshals have finished work at 10pm. He was there a few nights ago and I sneaked a picture of him with his shoes off rubbing his feet.
She was also there and I took one of "her" on her phone. We’ll have to think up a suitable name for her too.(Since found out she's called Caroline.)
The last job (I hadn’t planned on it being the last job) of the night found me on the Wilton Road feeder rank to Victoria Station. My old mate the beggar was there. I hadn’t seen him for a few weeks and nearly never recognized him as he had a new coat. He must be doing OK. As per usual he avoided me and went to the cab behind who also ignored him. After 5 minutes I was on point and a middle aged American and two ladies walked up to me.
Him: We wanna go to 67 Belgrave Road, The Sydney Hotel. It’s just around the corner and shouldn’t be much.
Me: OK (wincing at the shittiness of the job and turning the meter on)
Him: (Having opened the cab door and seen the meter on the £2.20 flagfall) £2.20? Why is it £2.20? Why not zero?
Me: Because it’s £2.20
Him: But why?
Me: Are we gonna have an argument about it? If the hotel is just around the corner why don’t you walk?
Him: I just might do that.
Me: Well it’s no skin off my nose mate.
Him: Yeah well I still wanna know why it’s £2.20 and not zero.
Me: Is it zero when you get into a cab in New York or is there a minimum?
Him: Yeah it’s zero.
Me: Bollocks is it. It’s at least $1.40 (am I right anyone?)
I did some more explaining and he slammed the door and I could see him talking to the cab behind.
Another guy approached me and asked for a road in Peckham. For me it was still another shit job but as I was on the point of the rank it was a job that can’t be refused. As I drove out of the station and crossed in to Vauxhall Bridge Road I thought I could hear something scraping under the cab. Not completely sure it was my cab and not one of the other vehicles around me I continued. After all the surrounding cars had driven ahead I could still hear it so knew I had a problem. I continued on my way and managed to get the guy to his house. Once clear I pulled over and had a look under the cab and my worst fears were confirmed. The exhaust had snapped and was hanging down scraping on the road. It always happens when you’re miles from home doesn’t it? Nothing for it but to get under the cab and try to separate the broken bit . I had a few tools in the boot and also a can of WD40 lubricant, which I sprayed all over the rubber bungs. It came away with a little effort and I put it in the back of the cab and made my way home.
Just when I was getting into my shift that goes and happens, what a bummer. So now I will be forced to go to the garage tomorrow and get it fixed. There’s no way I’m paying the £200 rent that’s due and hopefully some sort of re-imbursement for my lost nights work will be forthcoming. But I won’t hold my breath ay?
Check back soon.