Wednesday, April 20, 2011

To bilk- 1: to block the free development of, 2: to cheat out of something valuable, 3: to slip away from

Hi Folks, back again.

Since my last post I’ve had a few episodes with passengers that need to be discussed.

For the last few weeks there have been road works on a major South London traffic system called The Elephant & Castle. I first found out about them whilst doing a job from Clapham High Street all the way up to Clapton in the north. On that occasion I informed the passenger that it would be best to detour, he agreed and I started a series of lefts and rights, which even amazed me. I got him out of having to lose at least 30 minutes of his life by sitting in solid traffic. He was happy, I didn’t get stressed and all was well as we proceeded on our way. My efforts were rewarded at the destination with a nice tip on top of the already nice fare.
A few days later I picked up two ladies in Great Portland Street who asked to be taken to East Dulwich. Straight away my mind was calculating the route, which, inevitably, would take me through the Elephant again. Were the works still going on? Would it be as bad as the other day or even worse? Being a Twitter user and following loads of fellow cabbies I decided to tweet the question as I still had time to get an answer. As sometimes happens the answers never come back in time and as I approached London Road I could see it was still chaos down there. At that point I should have veered left into Borough Road and made my way via Harper, Old Kent, East Street, Albany Road etc. Instead I entered London Road with all the other traffic and stewed…..and stewed. The two girls in the back were chatting away oblivious to what lay ahead. It wasn’t until about 10 minutes later that they realised we hadn’t travelled very far that they started murmuring to each other. As we neared the bottom of London Road I took it upon myself to take the left into Newington Causeway. “Where are we going?” piped up one of them. “I’m gonna go down Harper Road and Old Kent Road” Says I. “The traffic there is a nightmare because of the road works”. “OK” she replies. Harper Road was clear as was Old Kent Road, East Street and Thurlow Road. As I took the right into Albany Road it came to a grinding halt. A completely different set of road works with temporary traffic lights thrown in for good measure. 15 minutes later and we’re still there and the stress is building. They are now whispering to each other, something along the lines of that I was taking them on a massive detour to get to where they would have already gotten to had I stayed at the elephant. I took the opportunity to butt in to their whisperings and the girl who’d piped up earlier took my butting in as her opportunity to start telling me it would have been quicker (and cheaper) to come via the Elephant and Walworth Road. I told myself not to lose my cool as it would be counter productive and we embarked on a very gentle exchange of words with her the more heated one. She seemed to totally not understand the fact that had we stayed at The Elephant we would still be there now and also failed to understand that it wasn’t me who’d placed these other road works here. You just can’t reason with some people. I eventually got through the road works and the remainder of the journey was effortless. Once you’ve had crossed words with a passenger there is a bad atmosphere until they get out. Eye contact is minimal or non-existent and then you wonder if they’re going to start up the argument at the destination, often looking for you to knock a few quid off the fare. The eye contact was non-existent but lucky for her she never asked for a discount, as she would have been sorely disappointed. I don’t like having my routes questioned as I feel I know best and on this occasion I did what any other cab driver would have done and I would do the same again tonight if I get a similar job.

Last Saturday was extremely busy. I took my money plus half again in 8 hours, something I haven’t done in quite a while. Most of the jobs were people going out to bars and clubs and later on those same people coming out of the bars and clubs much worse off than when they went in. It’s part and parcel of working nights that you pick up the drunks and have to put up with their antics. Sometimes you refuse to pick them up by locking the doors and driving away. Other times you pick them up, take a bit of abuse then throw them out. Sometimes you pick them up, take them all the way home then get abused and questioned about the route but you always get paid because no drunk leaves the cab without paying. I’ve locked them doors and driven like a madman, slamming on my brakes and throwing the passenger who refuses to pay about the cab, they generally always pay unless circumstances beyond my control dictate otherwise.
Like the time I was on my way home and an Australian guy flagged me down in Lisson Grove and asked for Earls Court. All the way there he was chatting to me about life in general, and was I a body builder (yeah right!!) and other such nonsense to make me think he was a good guy. He directed me down a dead end street called Mornington Avenue. It was a tight street and I had to keep to my right to let him get out on the left, effectively boxing myself in, which he obviously knew about. He exited the cab and ran up some stairs, which led on to West Cromwell Road and was gone as was my fare.
Then there were the two guys I picked up in Shirland Road who asked for Burnt Oak. Again, chatting all the way there even asking me for a light for their cigarettes. They led me down another dead end street behind some garages got out of the cab and legged it along with my £14 fare (about £30 in today’s money as that one happened around 1992.)
Another bilker I had hailed me down at Victoria. As he approached the cab he made a point of counting some money he had in his shirt pocket to show me he had some on him. He asked to be taken to an address in North Kensington where he would pop into a house then return to carry on the journey to St Charles Hospital. Needless to say he never returned having taken another route to avoid me seeing him. More lost money.

I’ve got better over the years spotting the potential bilkers (non payers) but occasionally get caught out. I’m only human after all.

Just a quick Chris update. After a few years driving his own Mercedes Vito Taxi he has decided to sell it and go back to renting. He is currently renting an old W registration TX1 from the same garage as me with a view to getting the garage owner to buy him a brand new TX4.
A few nights ago I was on the phone to him. I was ranking at Victoria Station and he was ranking at Quagalinos Restaurant in St James's. As his passenger came out of the restaurant he went to statr the engine and the battery was flat. As this is a family blog I won't write down what he said but the air turned blue and even the poor passenger felt his wrath after asking why Chris wouldn't be able to take him. Hearing all this on the phone I decided to pull off the rank at Victoria and make my way there. He had jump leads and after several attemps we managed to start the cab. Several warning lights were alight on the dashboard and it was obvious a major electrical problem was happening so he decided to call it a night and sort the problem the following day. He now has a replacement cab and managed a trouble-free shift with me last night. We stopped for some food in Ladbroke Grove then continued our shifts. After a sub-standard shift I finished £15 ahead of him but still £50 les than I would've liked. Let's see what happens tonight!

Take care out there.



John said...

I thought with the fact that you could lock people in until they pay that runners were a thing of the past for you lot.
Something in the back of your mind tells you when you have a runner.
Sometimes you get the same guy twice.
That can be fun, if he is smller than you.I get one a year on average.

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