Uneasy Sits the Passenger

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I am a very occasional taxi user.  The taxi journeys that I do take are largely limited to holiday transfers when my usual reserve has been left at home, and drunken solo journeys home when all constraint has been buried under a polystyrene tray filled with chips and gravy.  If I go anywhere beyond walking distance I will generally drive myself or be chauffeured by my wife.  We take ill-tempered turns at being teetotal for the evening.  There is no rancour between us on the silent, sighing journey home, just a latent brooding antipathy that lingers deep into the following day.

Unfamiliarity, though, always leads to uncertainty and, in this particular instance, a sea of taxi dilemmas.  From the start I am havering.  If I am en-taxi with my wife, I join her in the back of the cab, but if I am alone is it good form to join the driver in the front, or is it taboo?  I do not know.  I know that when you are alone in a taxi conversation must be made with the driver, and hollering over their shoulder is not always easy.  Realising that he/she is replying whilst staring fixedly into the rear-view mirror is a little discomforting.  And anyway, what should I say?  How do I stop myself from asking, ‘So, what time did you start?’  ‘Are you working all night?’  ‘What time do you finish?’  If I am drunk I struggle to sound sober, if I am sober I struggle to sound coherent.  I would like to have something that resembles, at least, an adult conversation with the person beside me; to not be the person that asks neither about health, family or enjoyment, but questions only the length of a working day.  ‘So, what did you do before you started driving taxis for a living?’ is usually what finds its way out of my gibbering mouth.  ‘What’s your favourite car?’  ‘Would you sooner be a polar bear or a penguin?’

I once travelled home from a boozy meal with two friends, both of whom left the taxi before me.  I was the most sober of the three of us – possibly of the four of us – and was in the front seat alongside what I quickly realised was a very odd lady driver indeed.  She patted my leg.  ‘I know a quick way to your village,’ she said making a sound, I swear, like someone drinking Chianti and eating fava beans.  ‘I know these country roads like the back of my hand.’   I noticed she was wearing gloves.  ‘I know all the shortcuts, I found them on a Top Secret Ministry of Defence map,’ she continued before speeding into what turned out to be the not-very-long drive to somebody’s front door.  ‘Ah,’ she said ‘I think this must be new.’  She reversed unsteadily, and I jumped out to help nurse her back onto the road.  It transpired that her maps were, in fact, a 1930’s pencil sketch of the nearby airfield made by her grandfather who ‘laid the runway’ and besides, she didn’t normally work in the evening, because her night vision was not what it used to be.  She generally stayed in town these days.  ‘It’s lighter.  Normally I just go from pub to pub.’  I guided her to my home, best I could, getting us onto lit main roads at the earliest possible opportunity.  When we arrived outside my house, she thanked me and I gave her the fare plus a tip, although I couldn’t help but think that she should have been tipping me.  I couldn’t help worrying whether she would find her own way back to town.  Perhaps I should have gone with her…

And the tip.  I always tip a taxi driver – even though it sometimes seems embarrassing to do so – but my daughters never do, arguing that nobody ever tips them for doing their jobs.  ‘Keep the change’ is such an easy option, but sometimes the change is just too much and you have to wait for the driver to carry out the over-elaborate hunt for seven pounds in five pence coins, before you can count fifty pence back into the still open palm whilst he/she sighs cheese and onion crisps into your face.

It is never until you get to your front door that you realise that your keys are in your coat pocket on the back seat of the cab along with your phone, the photograph of the driver’s ID and the name of the company you have used, and you wish that you’d come home two hours earlier whilst your wife was still awake enough to drive you, knowing that you would have no worries at all about whether you should speak to the driver or not.

Almost certainly not.


18 thoughts on “Uneasy Sits the Passenger

  1. Questions I have often asked myself! I have had some interesting taxi rides including one where the vehicle broke down on a busy freeway, miles from anywhere helpful. I believe I was on the way to an assignation with no means of communicating….oh the stress of having a love life….

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  2. I can’t remember the last time I used a taxi. Give me a minute.

    I think it must have been when the children were young and I didn’t have a driving licence. Probably, but that it would have been an emergency or something. Back then I was always too skint to afford anything but walking or a bus. It amazes me to think how much a pram or buggy could take of children and shopping. Sometimes a small child would balance on the front floppy footrest, looking back at me pushing the whole bally lot up a hill. Stopping and starting, stopping and starting again… a bit like how the pony was with the cart in Stromness going up Helihole Road. Such a willing little pony, the cart full of shopping and kids. https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@58.959909,-3.3022324,3a,75y,336.89h,82.28t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s63CutW4xI8i0f9qyCyVBqg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192
    Oh wait, I remember a taxi journey, but not when. 🚗 The person started smoking and I asked them to stop, they didn’t and I loudly said “STOP THE CAR NOW!”, got out and walked briskly away. Can’t remember why I was in a taxi or where it was…
    I’ve done a lot more miles hitchhiking back in the day though, but that’d be a book full of memories!

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      1. Well… here’s one:
        There was this time I was in a lorry in France. I had my bag near my feet and started to fall asleep. I was half awake and noticed the lorry was off the motorway and pulling into the side of a very small road. Well, I opened the door, as I grabbed my bag and was away across a field like a jackrabbit with a fire right behind it. No idea where I was, but somehow made my way to where I was going via a train with nuns in the opposite seat, because it was when some Brit’ football hooligans had made my accent a dangerous attribute.

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      2. You know, there’s good and bad in all walks of life, good and bad in us all, nuns can be funny or seriously not. Still, I felt a modicum of safety sat there. Thing is, I’d just had the mother of all nasty spitting feathers by the ticket man for the train from behind the glass. I was like “Do I look like a football hooligan?” (I look anything but a 1980’s football hooligan and back then even more so). Still, he must have been incensed to be so rude and probably regretted being so angry at me.

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    1. Sorry, on some sites when I drop a link it just shows up as a link but I have been on a couple where it blows up into a full-size shortcut which wasn’t my intention at all. And now, as I think on it, taxi-driver tipping isn’t at all like cow-tipping although in some cases it should be.

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  3. I don’t really converse with drivers just because it’s so incredibly uncomfortable. If they say something I answer but I don’t really try to have a proper conversation. And I always tip too. Much easier then the “keep the change” thing since tips are more accurate amounts.

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