The last four months have seen the taxi trade rise to normal levels since the recession and now dip back down to what is traditionally the worst time of the year. Once again, Ramadam is upon us that means all the Muslim customers have left our shores for Mecca or elsewhere or simply in line with Ramadam just opted out of everyday life for the next month. It badly affected our trade last year and no doubt will do the same again this time round.
I have been working away as usual. I've been doing a combination of days and nights, whatever pays the bills. Night work still brings with it a varied range of passengers. From the rich and famous to the lowest of the low. The drunks have always been there in their droves and I have had my share the same as all other cabbies.
I recently did a job from Waterloo to Camberley in Surrey. She was very drunk and no sooner had we left Waterloo Station than she was fast asleep. I woke her before she became too comatose to wake and got her postcode from her and also asked if she had enough money on her to which she replied that she did. No problem then I thought to myself. A nice run out to Surrey, a passenger with enough money and a job that would probably go over £100. The journey was uneventful until I reached the last few turnings in Camberley. I called out to her to get her door number and nothing. As usual I had my mate Chris on the other end of the phone line and he was witnessing (albeit by telephone) the proceedings as they unfolded. I called out to her many many times at the top of my voice. Nothing. I got out and shook her by the arm. A slight stirring. I continued shaking her arm as she slowly came back to life. She turned out to be what I would refer to as a stroppy drunk. The more she awoke the more my shaking her was bothering her and she would say "alright alright" or "for fuck sake" but if I stopped she would just drift back off to sleep. The whole waking her up thing took at least fifteen minutes and all the time the meter was going up. All I wanted was my money and to be on my way. I tried various tactics to coax her back to reality and when I thought she was finally getting to grips with her surroundings she would lapse back. In my earpiece Chris was offering me suggestions. "You're a better man than me, I'd have lost it by now" he said and"call the old bill (police)".
The long and short of it was that she eventually realized that I needed paying and proceeded to look in her bag for the cash. No cash was present, even after I'd asked her back in Knightsbridge. No problem thought I, I’ll do it on a credit card. She'd be sure to have one of those. I asked her to give me her plastic and the two she offered up to me were no good. One was some sort of library card and one was a reward card. I was now getting seriously pissed off. We were outside her house, she had no money in the house but she wanted to go in anyway. I had my foot on the brake; the doors and windows locked and I was refusing to let her out saying that if she went in she would leave me sitting outside like a lemon whilst she went off to bed.
I decided to bluff it and tell her I was taking her to the police station. The fact that I was in the wilds of Surrey and didn't have a clue where it was never entered my head. I drove away from her house and stopped off at the top of her road and emphasized what I was about to do and she didn't seem bothered in the slightest. At this point I lost my cool somewhat and we descended into a slanging match. All those nice colourful words beginning in f and c were used by both her and me and although it was very cathartic it wasn't getting us anywhere. Then all of a sudden she said to me " well if you stop being an arsehole and take me back home my boyfriend will pay you". I thought "me, being an arsehole?” This was the first reference to there being any body else in her house but I suppose once someone is heavily drunk it always takes a while for them to get all their faculties back to normal. I drove back to the house and switched the engine off. Without asking I got out and opened the back door and snatched her briefcase and said I'd be holding on to that until I was paid. She went indoors and I could hear shouting and eventually (it was about 2am) a tired looking boyfriend emerged, apologised for his partners antics and climbed in announcing we had to go to a nearby cashpoint to get the money. Within five minutes I'd been paid, had returned the case and was on my way back to civilisation. This sort of thing goes on in London almost every night and if it isn't happening to me it's happening to one of my fellow cabbies. In fact Chris had a similar incident recently where he had to lock an American in the cab because he was refusing to pay, needless to say they all pay in the end. Come to think of it he also had a Fabio Capello lookalike who refused to pay and he took him round to Marylebone Nick where the police came out and made the guy pay by card.
My trusty TX4 is still rolling along but with a few injuries. I currently have two slow punctures which need air every third day. I can't be bothered to go up to the garage because there's only one mechanic up there and he's always too busy. I also have rumbling rear brakes, which make a terrible noise in slow traffic. I've been told that it is due to brake lining dust in the drums and the drums must be removed and the dust blown out. I'm off on my annual trip to Spain in a few weeks and when I return the cab they'll hopefully put all these things right.
Since my last post I have been on a weeks holiday to Chesil Beach in Dorset and also spent three days in Rock, Cornwall. I drove the cab down to Rock and it took me the best part of six hours to get there but it was quite a pleasant trip and very scenic. On the way back the cab started shaking on the M5 motorway and I pulled into the services and discovered a big bulge on the front off side wheel. The spare was a bit ropey so I put it on the back and put the back one on the front and made it back home safely. I also paid a visit to Elland Road, home of my beloved Leeds United, for their first game against Derby County last week but unfortunately we lost so we better learn fast if we want to get on in this league.
I've been on days this week and apart from a good Monday the rest of the week has been terrible. I barely paid my bills this time round.
So, today is Saturday and hopefully it will be busy so I'd better get out there and do a bit.