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.