are not all right-wing, they are not all boring and they are
not all linked to organised crime. Taxi drivers are sound.
These fine men and women have to put up with us, the public,
often drunk and desperate. They endure the same mind-numbing
patter from us in journey after journey: patiently telling
us what time they started, what time they’ll finish
and whether they are getting a turn. They know stuff we don’t:
like traffic light timings and short-cuts and where to buy
spirits after midnight. And they see things we rarely see,
such as humans enjoying kebabs and drunk women waving their
Taxi drivers work long, long hours too, hanging around hoping
for fares while risking their very sanity by over-exposure
to football phone-ins. Some, yes, can get too informal. In
one journey, my driver called me chief, boss and, ultimately,
my man. Recognising this as psychological warfare in the battle
for alpha male primacy, I gave him a sizeable tip and left
the car having called him squire. Word got out, I reckon,
because it hasn’t happened to me since.
When it’s late and wet and windy and every bus apologises
for being not in service, there is no better sight than a
black hack with a yellow light, come to ferry you home. Even
the fankle with the inertia reel seatbelt is okay, right then.
One day, I will ask a driver the question which has confounded
us all for years: why are there names written in gold leaf
on the bodywork? Lore has it that these are the names of the
driver’s family members, while others suggest they are
regular hires. I suspect a culture of mutual respect and that
those golden names are just famous taxi drivers from the past.