Driving a Hackney Cab in London can be a surprisingly pedestrian job at times.
London may well have the reputation of being a city that doesn’t stop.
Filled with power walking businessmen with their heads down, furiously pacing to their next appointments.
Rammed with shuffling tourists, confusedly snapping photos of Costas. Packed with strangely dressed young people, all desperately attempting to stand out of the crowd of their contemporaries, all hopelessly dressed in the same uniform. But, when you’ve driven cabs in this town for as long as I have, all the people with their hustle and bustle become simply part of the background noise.
Unlike the hoards of Uber drivers that have flooded the streets, with their GPS systems and ‘cashless’ systems, I stick to the old ways. The street names and corners that I have seen almost every day of my life are burned on to my retinas. With each week and month, shops can be closed and buildings can be razed, but the streets remain the same.
My memory is a living creature. Dense, tunnelling tentacles that wind through the recesses of my mind; they run through my arms, out of my fingers and onto the wheel – taking my passenger and I onward to our destination. At times it can be an almost automatic experience, transcendent even.
“Bond Street to St. Pauls? No problem son, get you there in a jiffy.”
“Paddington to the Zoo? Weather not good enough to walk? Just an egg yoke mate, there before you know it.”
Of course, every now and again, you get a curve ball thrown at you. The quiet ease with which you drive is interrupted by an angry fare. You’re perhaps accosted by a particularly drunk crowd of kids. Or you’re simply given an almost impossible challenge.
I usually try and avoid driving through rush hour. The fares may well be in abundance, but the roads can often make progress a little stilted. This day was an odd one though, I’d already driven through the night, ferrying students back and forth from a remote house party. I’d made a packet already, but now the hunger for more cash had gripped me. My hands had been firmly gripped to the wheel for hours and they weren’t ready to release me from the road – not yet.
A flash of red caught my eye, as I idled past Euston Station. The door flew open and a blast of a rich smelling perfume filled the cab.
“London City Airport – I need to be there in half an hour, can you do it?”
At 8:30am, the streets are clogged with vehicles. Eager tourists are already spilling onto the roads and students are heading to class – it’s rare that I’m given such a challenge, but feeling as hot as I am, I simply nod and let my memory fly into action.
The fare and I both know that there’s car parking at London City Airport (found here). She could have woken up maybe an hour earlier and driven herself there. Instead of rushing and trying her luck for an experienced cab driver, she could have eased her expensive saloon into a pre-booked car parking space and sauntered into the airport with ease. A little preparation goes a long way. But, this lady was from money. She got where she needed to be at breakneck speed or not at all. Her immaculate beauty came at a price – punctuality.
Luckily for her, she flagged an experienced cab driver who was reaching the pinnacle of 10 hour hot streak.