Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Unlucky Chris

Seeing as my mate Chris aka Titanic can’t be bothered to blog at the moment I asked his permission to let you all know what’s been happening in his working life of late.

He generally works the same hours as me and picks up the same variety of nice people, arseholes and scumbags. We’ll stop for a coffee and a bite to eat on most nights depending on where we are at any given time.

On the Saturday just gone we stopped for a coffee and a slice of cake at the Subway on Tottenham Court Road. We sat outside a busy pub where there was plenty to see and talk about and after about half an hour we went back to work. I trapped almost immediately, a job down to Battersea. He trapped a nice ride down to Hammersmith. After 30 minutes and a few jobs later my phone rang and a frantic Chris asked me if I’d found his moneybag, which he’d left on the back seat of my cab containing his nights takings. I wasn’t carrying anybody at that moment so I was able to pull over and investigate further. The bag wasn’t there. “It’s long gone mate” was how I broke the news to him. There was nothing I could do but to listen to the emissions of pain and rage coming from my phone as Chris vented his anger and frustration finally terminating the call to decide his next step. The guy I had picked up after our coffee break must’ve found it and thought it was his lucky night and decided to keep it. The road he had initially given as his destination, Inworth Street (no number otherwise I would have printed that too you robbing bastard) was changed to Battersea Park Road where he got out so as not to lead me to his front door. The bag also contained Chris’s Taxi License and would need reporting as stolen at a suitable Police station. I gave Chris all the information mentioned above and after dropping a job in the vicinity he parked up and went looking through a few bins just in case the guy had thrown the bag away after removing the cash (£150). He’s clinging to a last thread of hope that the guy will have an attack of conscience and at least send him the license back in the post but we’ve both decided not to hold our breaths.

As if that misfortune wasn’t enough the following day his cab broke down on the M1.
He was driving along and the cab started shuddering and vibrating. He pulled well over to the left and rang the breakdown and after 40 minutes they came and towed him to his garage. It turned out to be a collapsed wheel bearing which has now been repaired. His cab is now off the road as it’s due for its annual overhaul so he’s using his brother’s cab for the next week.

Chris's cab on the breakdown wagon

Since my last post I have been grafting away taking two steps forward and three steps back and getting nowhere fast. Three weeks behind with the you-know-what but that should be sorted by Wednesday.

I’m flicking through my notes to see what, if anything of interest, I can tell you.

8.4.08. I picked up the singer, Bjork, for the second time. I took her and a friend to the Odeon in Camden Town.

That same shift I also picked up a fare from Victoria Station and took him to the east side of London Fields. This is a park in Hackney and at 2.30am in the morning looks and feels a completely different place than by day. As we arrived at a deserted location in Martello Street there were a few undesirables hanging about and I suggested I drop my fare a bit further down the street but he seemed to know the area and that it would be OK so he got out there and I drove away. I hate that area of town.

9.4.08. I received a £120 fine in the post for being caught in the Kidbroke Park bus lane at 1.30 in the morning a few months earlier. Does anyone know if a bus lane fine starts at £120 or should it start at £60? The garage must’ve forwarded my name and I’m wondering if they overlooked it as the desk in the office is always in a mess. I couldn’t ring and ask as I owed them the rent. That always works against me and one day I’m gonna put it right. Yeah right!!

Bang to rights

Thursday 10.4.08. Having just been to the bank in St John’s Wood, I was driving back home, half asleep, when I drove into the side of a BMW on the famous Abbey Road Zebra Crossing. We pulled ahead of the crossing and the two occupants jumped out to inspect the damage, which luckily for me, turned out to be a few minor scuffs on the rear bumper. They decided it wasn’t worth pursuing and left it at that.

Sunday 13.4.08. Started at 6.30pm and after 5 jobs decided to stop for dinner. I rang my favourite Chinese Take-away in Battersea Park Road and ordered my usual Satay Chicken and rice but also asked them to add a handful of cashews to it. When I arrived at the shop the chef started arguing with the order-taker in Chinese waving his hands in my direction. She (the order-taker) gave as good as she got and finally turned to me and asked me to confirm that I’d asked for the extra cashews to be added. I’ve been having the same dish for the last few years and the chef seemed to not be able to accept that I could change the order to add an extra handful of cashew nuts. He needed to hear me confirm it and still didn’t feel it was right but reluctantly fried off a handful of cashews and added them to the already-cooked Satay chicken. I’ve been back a few times since and he is now OK with it, or at least I hope so and he’s not adding an ingredient or two of his own, if you get my drift.

Tuesday 15.4.08. There is a famous pub in Mayfair called “I am the only running footman”. Weird name for a pub but that’s the name it’s gone by since I’ve been a cab driver for 18 years and was probably it’s name for a long time before that too. It’s on the Corner of Charles Street and Hays Mews. I must have passed it a few thousand times but never actually got asked for it by name. Today a lady asked for it by name and I was mentally aware that it was the first time ever I’d been asked for it. I just thought I’d share that one with you all.

Later on in this same shift the doorman of the Holiday Inn Regents Park flagged me. He was out in Great Portland Street looking for two cabs and I was the second one. I put my meter on and drove round to the hotel to wait for the passengers. The first cab got his passengers and drove off. I sat there until I had £10 on the meter. There was no one in sight, even the doorman had disappeared. I got out and went in search. There were two different employees behind the counter in reception but all I got from them was “it’s nothing to do with us”. As stated in another post this sort of thing happens occasionally and different cabbies handle it in different ways. As there was no one to shout at I had to drive away empty-handed with £12 on the meter making a mental note not to be “had-over” ever again.

Wednesday 16.4.08. Only did half a shift as that tired feeling washed over me after 8 jobs. I bought a can of Red Bull as it is supposed to “give you wings” but after half an hour I was worse than ever and flew home.

Being a diabetic, I had my annual eye screening this week and was told that my blood pressure was too high. Since seeing my doctor I have had an ECG and a blood test and am awaiting the results which I should get this coming Friday.

I would describe myself as normal looking. Not rugged or tough-looking but not the opposite either. If someone like me flagged my cab down I would stop for them, especially if they had five carrier bags of shopping from Sainsbury’s. Yet this old codger was driving along Kilburn High Road at a snails pace, with his “Hire” light on, looked me in the eye and then roared off. What’s all that about? Karma for all the people I’ve done similar to? Maybe his gut instinct told him I might be trouble, who knows? I waited for another cab to come by but none did so I had to walk the half mile home with these five loaded carrier bags of shopping cutting into my hands.

Sunday 20.4.08. I did a job from Paddington Station to Huntsworth Mews. I ask fellow cabbies to run it in their head. Right out of the station, round into Sussex Gardens, straight through to Marylebone Road, left into Gloucester Place set down on the left. Simple. Yet the passenger starts accusing me of ripping him off, saying it was £1.60 more than the last time. As he had already handed me a £20 note and was waiting for the change, I decided that I couldn’t be arsed to explain why and decided tell him that he was talking out of his arse and that he was talking crap. He asked why he would need to talk crap and talk out of his arse and I told him he must’ve had a bad day and was looking for an argument. We had a bit of an exchange of ideas by which time I’d given him his change and told him to “jog on”. He’d probably previously done the journey by day on rate 1.

Yesterday, Monday, started off with a trip to the Public Carriage Office to renew my Taxi Drivers Licence or Bill as we call it, for the seventh time in 18 years. £285 is what I had to pay and will now have to drive around with a cover note until the new one is issued. The last time it took almost 6 months, as there were problems with the CRB check.

From the PCO I had to drive in search of the new Super Mario game for the Wii game system. My son, Michael, was with me and we drove all over the place until finally obtaining a copy at John Lewis’s in Oxford Street.

I started my shift with a meal at the Royal Oak. Chris was also there and we never drove over to Paddington until 9pm, which is pretty late if you’re hoping for a decent night. Needless to say I struggled to earn £140 after some really desperate jobs and went home deflated at 2am.

It’s now 5pm on Tuesday and I plan to be out much earlier tonight, as I must get my cab paid tomorrow.

Catch you later.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Continuing Women Problems

I don’t know if it’s just me but I seem to have been experiencing more job related hassles than I’d care to wish on anyone. Since the last post I’ve had another bad credit card, my iPaq died on me and I also had a slagging match with another woman. Welcome to my world.

My immediate concern is to pay three weeks cab rent (yes, that old chestnut rears it’s head again) by tomorrow before it becomes four weeks on Monday. The letter all drivers at the garage we’re given a few weeks ago obviously hasn’t had the desired effect as we’re all still paying the rents as late as ever. I was at one particular garage in the 90’s where if you hadn’t paid by the due day, Monday, the owner would ridicule you in front of whoever was in the office at the time. This gave you two options. You either ridiculed him back and told him where he could shove his cab or you paid on time. It worked for me for a time but I eventually left there and went to my present garage where my piss-taking, unfortunately, knows no bounds.

The credit card problem followed the night after the one I had in my last post. This one was much shorter but the same problem arose where the PDA returned a rejection message to which I assumed (what do they say about assumption?) that the problem was at Xeta HQ. I let her walk away with 7.80 on the “hickory” and after speaking with someone at Xeta realised I wasn’t getting my money for this job. That’s definitely the last one I do for a while. I’ve refused three or four since.

My iPaq 5550, which operates my satnav and my AtoZ mapping software let me down this week. For those of you familiar with PDA’s, the screen, as it gets older, needs re-aligning with the tool provided. I’d already re-aligned the screen a few times in the last few months so it was obviously on its way out. It finally refused to realign so I had no option but to buy a new one off ebay. This arrived a few days ago and I’m back up and running now.

The Slagging Match
I was sitting on South Kensington rank messing about with the faulty PDA. I looked up and the front cab drove off empty leaving me with a drunk mess of a lady. She could barely speak she was that drunk. I’m not going to drag this one out but after three different destinations we ended up in Barnes. The meter showed £20.20. She only had £10. OK so we’ll drive to the nearest cashpoint and get the rest methinks. That’s all the money she had and wasn’t able to get anymore from anywhere. She had this like-it-or-lump-it attitude that finally started me off. Before I did I rang my daughter and told her what was about to happen. She put her phone on loudspeaker which added another half a dozen listeners as there was a gathering at my house for the recent Wrestlemania live screening.

Me: So, you haven’t got any money?
Her: Nope
Me: You’re rat-arsed right?
Her: Yep, I’m rat-arsed.
Me: So you can spend all your money on drink but when it comes to paying the cab driver it’s tough shit then is it?
Her: (silent)
Me: People like you make me sick. I’ve got kids to feed and bills to pay…
At this point she switched to hysterical mode and started screaming and ranting that she also had kids and that she worked 12 hours a day for little money blah blah blah.

Me: So why are you getting a cab if you can’t pay? I’m driving you to the police station.
More screams and hysterics and her mobile phone came flying through the partition.
Her: Take my fucking phone I don’t want it.
Me: I don’t fucking want it either (throwing it back at her).

We were both ranting at the top of our voices and the audience back at home were laughing their heads off. I knew I wasn’t going to get any more money out of her so told her to just get out. She remained sat there still ranting. Barnes is an extremely posh area and our shouts and screams were now beginning to alert the locals. Heads were appearing at windows and curtains were twitching. I got out and walked round to the kerb side, opened the door and told her to hop-it. As she got out she squared up to me. She must’ve weighed all of 7 stones, half my weight and only came up to my chin. I said something like “what, d’you think I’m gonna fight with you? Get yer arse home you stupid bitch” and got back in the cab and drove off. Again, more grief from yet another woman. Why is it only the women?

I finally made it to the cab garage on Friday. Again, nothing was said but it’s just as well I went, as I had to collect an appointment card for the annual tariff increase on Sunday. A tariff increase, to me, only means earning what I need that little bit quicker and getting back home to my creature comforts. I noticed the difference on the Sunday night when I did a run from Waterloo Station to Shepherds Bush. There was not a drop of traffic on the roads and the meter went up to £25.40, an increase of about 2 to 3 pounds.

I’ve just dropped my son off at college and have taken my cab through the wash at the garage in Willesden Lane. It’s gleaming at the moment, something it hasn’t been for a few weeks. All ready for tonights shift.
Check back soon