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Taxis - Confessions of a Night-Shift Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver - Lady Taxi Driver
I was alady taxi driver for 18 years, on the night shift. What fun!
OK this is a dangerous job for a woman, but first and foremost, I only ever worked on a black cab taxi in which driver security in inbuilt.
To those of you reading here, a black cab is your typical ‘London taxi’, a hansom cab. Most cities in Britain insist on their taxis being this type of carriage.
The best security they ever brought out for taxi drivers in the 18 years I drove them, was the ‘locking doors’. I put my foot on the footbrake, and the doors in the back could not be opened.
You might wonder why that should be necessary in a taxi. Well, it was once commonplace for people to open the doors and run!
Carbodies, the people who make the London-type taxi, took on board the problems experienced by taxi drivers, and brought out a central locking system that could be independently operated by thetaxi driver.
As a required inbuilt security, these doors could always be opened from the outside (in case of accident, it is vital that external people could open the doors to drag passengers to safety if need be.
The new taxis foiled the ‘runners’, but eventually they got ‘fly’ to it, especially once mobile phones became commonplace.
It only happened to me once; these guys got me to drive them home; they phoned ahead to a friend of theirs; they directed me down a one-way street at the end of the journey; their ‘friend’ met them at the end of the road. He opened the door from the outside, and they all scarpered!
How sad! Honestly, taxi drivers provide a service. How else do you get home from the dancing at 3am? Buses stop running at 2am by the latest, and it’s a long walk, especially on a rainy windy cold night.
So guys, don’t mess around with the taxi drivers. They honestly only want to get you home and get a pay for it at the end of the day.
A queue of taxis waiting at the Forge rank, Glasgow
Taxi Driver - Non-paying Children
I 'd been a taxi driver for two weeks or so when I picked up two young lads – less than 12 years old –from the city centre. They gave me a realistic story about how their mothers had let them go to town alone only with the stipulation that they took a taxi home (a bus is a fraction of the cost). One of them was so insistent his mother wanted him to take a taxi, not a bus. She had given them an extra £5 just to pay the taxi. He even showed it to me, but declined to give it me, up front. I was only a newbie taxi driver but I should have listened to the advice from more experienced taxi drivers, if you’re not sure you’ll get paid, ask for the fare in advance.
But I was thinking of my own kids, thinking about how I’d give them extra money for a taxi, if I’d allowed them to go into town, which I wouldn’t have allowed anyway, but faced with these children, mother instincts took over. So the wee guy showed reluctance to hand it over; maybe his mother said something like ‘don’t let it out of your sight’ or whatever. Yeah, I’d have done that.
So I understood his reluctance, and took them on faith, as we normally carry passengers. Nearly everyone pays at the end of their journey, not before the taxi actually gets them to where they want to go.
We got to their street, I stopped where instructed, and they opened the doors and ran off laughing.
What was disturbing was that the people, mostly adults, in the street, laughed too. I tried asking one or two of them for help, but they just laughed louder. They use taxis all the time.You'd think they'd want to help a taxi driver.
I’m glad they thought it funny. Not.
For the next 18 years, I never trusted people from that area.
Taxi Driver - Adult Non-Payers
In fact, I had no problems at all with that particular area, until about a year before I left. I picked up two young (maybe early 30’s) men (might have been the same ones from all those years before).
They asked to go to the same street. When I got there, they calmly announced they were not paying, and would I open the door before they felt the need to kill me. I opened the doors, and they walked.
Glasgow is a very diverse city. People throughout the world might think it’s a poor city. Indeed it is not. It has areas of extreme poverty, and areas of extreme wealth. And poor people who live in areas of extreme wealth, and vice versa.
Not everybody uses a taxi during the day, when there is a wealth of buses, but nighttime tells a different story. There are late night buses, but most people can’t be bothered/are too drunk/ or choose not to wait for these buses for whatever reason.
Taxi fares should be part of your considered costs for a night out. If you can’t afford one, for God’s sake, don’t take one.
All taxis have meters, showing your cost continually during the journey. If you can’t pay, or can only pay to a certain point, tell the taxi driver. He/she isn’t a mind reader and can’t possibly know that you are not in a position to pay.
I have, many times, gladly taken someone in my taxi to their destination, without pay, because they have been honest with me, upfront, or sometimes even on course during the journey.
As a taxi driver, I will take whatever they have, even if it doesn’t cover the fare.
There have been occasions when I have gone out of way next day to visit this person again because they insisted on giving me something much more valuable to them than a mere taxi fare, to exchange it for the cost of the original journey. They got home safely, thanks to me. They didn’t have the money to pay, next day they do.
Taxi Driver - Gold Ring
Taxi Driver - The Gold Ring
Once, I accepted a gold wedding ring, actually twice, but that’s another story. I was quite new in the taxi driving game at the time, and gave her a written receipt for the ‘yellow coloured band’, which was the description we always used when I was nursing in hospitals. This is because nurses/hospital staff/taxi drivers etc are not jewellers and we cannot say a gold ring, even when it hallmarked, is actually gold, so it makes sense.
Next day I went to her house, and exchanged the ‘yellow coloured band’ for hard cash. Got them to sign for it.
Day after, I had a call from the Taxi Enforcement Unit, saying that this woman had accused me,the taxi driver, of theft of her gold ring.
I had the paperwork to clear my name and I heard no more about it, but from that day, I never signed for anything. Nothing in writing is always best, when it’s your word, and your livelihood, against another who you do not know, and have no idea who they are, their mental health, their personal circumstances etc. You don’t know that any more than the Taxi Enforcement Unit do, but when there is doubt, it is your livelihood that is going to be in doubt, not theirs.
This is something every taxi driver has to be aware of.
I did, many years later, accept a gold ringfrom another client who never told me he was short of cash until I got him home to the outskirts of the city, and waited in my taxi about 15 minutes for him to return with the cash from his multi-storey house.
He never returned, I kept that ring for years – a plain gold band – hoping he would somehow find me, but he never did, and now, after several house moves, it’s missing anyway.
Taxi Driver - Kebab Shop
Taxi Driver - The Kebab Shop Man
Another non-payer that remember vividly, was at Christmas/New year time of year. It was so busy; I drove my taxi through the city centre with my light off choosing who I wanted to pick up. I saw this young girl, who seemed to be alone, and stopped for her.
As I stopped, someone else opened the offside door and climbed in. There were three of them. The girl I stopped for opened the nearside door then backed off. I tried to tell her I had stopped for her but she was given short shrift by my new passengers, and she never heard me. I tried to say to them I had not stopped for them, but they ignored me and shouted where they wanted to go over my protestations.
Two guys, one girl. The girl must have been pissed off by them for whatever reason as she climbed out of the taxi at the next traffic lights.
That left me with two guys. One told me to go to a certain kebab shop halfway to where he really wanted to go. I explained that because all the taxis were really busy I could take them to the kebab shop, but I couldn’t wait. One of the guys was extremely vocal and insisted he was a solicitor and that if I didn’t take them to the kebab shop and wait and them he would see to it that I never drove a taxi again.
I felt sorry for his pal who was obviously embarrassed by this outburst, but stood my ground. Kebab shop, or home.
Kebab shop, and wait, this guy demanded again.
How about Police shop, I suggested to him.
Red rag to a bull. His mother was something or other in the city; I said that’s all very well but I’m sure she’d be reasonable about this. Everyone everywhere wanted a taxi at this time. It wasn’t fair to expect a taxi to wait at a kebab shop, when other people wanted to get home. Also, at that time I did not allow people with a carryout kebab in my taxi because I had to clean up after them at the end of the night, which was no longer an easy job when they had switched plastic matting for carpets. How stupid. Comfort is one thing. Just more work for the taxi driver!
Anyway, in the end it was the poor policeman who’d been quite happy filling out forms all evening who had to sort this out. He did ask me would I not consider taking them to the kebab shop, but I was adamant. The kebab shop was something like 50 yards from the police station!
I did eventually get paid. This guy started screaming about having to pay for waiting time, as he watched the meter going up another 20p. The policeman who attended us talked me into taking 40p waiting time off the taxi fare.
All was well that ended well, but one thing I will always remember is that this little prick suggested to me at one point that if his mother was driving my taxi, and he’d asked her to wait for him while he visited a whore-house, she would damned well wait, because he was paying.
He’s probably in the Cabinet now. Prick!
Taxi Driver on Amazon
Taxi Driver - Other Taxi Drivers
Other taxi drivers were brilliant. I loved being part of a ‘team’, even though we all worked our taxis individually. I didn’t always have a radio, when I did it was to listen for other taxi drivers in trouble, and go to their assistance if at all possible.
The other taxi drivers did that for me; it was reciprocal. You might wonder why a woman would want to go to assist a male colleague getting assaulted. OK I admit it, I was an ambulance chaser! No really I think all taxi drivers are. I remember one night the controller gave a general announcement to stay away from a particular street, where a particularly nasty accident occurred, where a man’s head had been flattened by the double decker bus he had chosen to walk in front of. As I made my way to this street, I was overtaken by many of my colleagues!
Anyway, my input where they had problems is that purely and simply, women are damned good at calming situations, me included. That is why I had had less problems overall than the male taxi drivers. But sometimes their problems weren’t with male passengers, but female. Women, especially drunk Glasgow bitches, have been known to shout ‘rape’ when it is completely unjustified.
I know a male taxi driver, who spent 4 hours in jail after just such an accusation, who was only released when his accuser’s 8 year old daughter admitted to a policewoman that her mum had told her to say that the taxi driver demanded sex when she couldn’t pay the fare.
He was lucky it was only 4 hours!
The present political climate would jail you long before they have proof of guilt ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ at the merest suggestion of intent.
So, yeah, it’s been happening for years; some women demand a cheap taxi fare only because they are women, and have the power to deprive the taxi driver of his living – and let’s face is, most taxi drivers have mortgages, wives, families. Sometimes it must be easier for them to say “OK, I’ll accept 20% less than the meter price” just to get them to bugger off.
Just occasionally though, they would call for help. Now if all the male taxi drivers turned up, the woman could still go ahead with her complaint, but when a woman taxi driver appeared, well don’t forget, absolutely no-one drink-drives when their livelihood depends on it, so this woman taxi driver is completely sober and has her eyes awake and is sympathetic right away to the ‘victim’ – it’s a sisterhood thing! – and I ask has the taxi driver touched her, gently, you understand, and then she bursts into tears and tells you how her husband has left her/beaten her up /whatever, and the story comes out about how she, in her drunken state, poured her heart out to the taxi driver and she may have suggested to him that a bit more comfort was on offer, or him to her, but it was never going to happen and at the end the journey the taxi driver asked for the fare and all Hell breaks loose.
Easily sorted, without calling the police. Calm her down, pay the fare, tomorrow is another day.
Taxi Driver in a London Taxi
Taxis on Amazon
Taxi Driver - No Boundary Charge
One night, I was finishing up. I was in the West End of the city, returning home to the East end from what I presumed to be my last fare. The streets were dead. It was almost morning.
I was flagged down by someone, a young man in his twenties, who asked how much to go to a certain part of Bearsden, an area outwith the city. I said £15, he said he only had a tenner. OK, I agreed, it was late, my last of the night, he could have the fare for £10.
I‘d taken him half way home, in fact I was in Bearsden at the time, when he suddenly asked if he owed £4.30.
No, I said, you owe me ten pounds.
He insisted that my meter read 4.30. I explained that that was the time, my meter was shut off.
He wanted to know why my meter was shut off. Errr....because you agreed to pay me £10 in advance...why run the meter when I know what I am getting paid?
No, he was insistent at this point, he was only going to pay what was on the meter, and he wasn’t going to pay a boundary charge.
He wasn’t being charged a boundary charge. Boundary charges are meter plus a third for those living close to the city boundary and meter plus a half for those further out.
I’d wanted £15 to take him home. £10 was OK, and anyway he’d agreed to it.
But no he got on his high horse, and said he wasn’t going to pay me anything if I didn’t, right at that minute, put the meter on. I reckon from where I was at that time, to where he wanted to go, would read maybe another £5 so I’d only have got paid £5 for a £15 job!
I was tired. It was late. I was already way outside my home area. And this guy was creepy. University educated, and couldn’t even remember what he’d agreed to 10 minutes previously?
I did a u-turn, and started heading back towards the city centre.
Where are you going? was his cry. I told me we were headed for Maryhill Police Station, the first we’d get to in Glasgow. But as it turned out, as we approached the station on Maryhill Road he got really cheeky with me, promising me all sorts of bad things would happen to me because his father knew everyone on Maryhill Police. Oh well, city centre police here we come.
So I didn’t slow down as we passed Maryhill Police Station. He protested by slapping the reinforced plastic screen that separated him from me n the taxi. Big mistake. I stood on the brakes.
When normal services were resumed, he plaintively accused me of breaking his nose. In fact his actual words were “fucking taxi driver bitch from Hell, you broke my dose/nose”
He made such a fuss about how I broke his nose, which is quite possibly true , because back seat passengers in a taxi do tend to suffer terribly when they are thrown into the reinforced plastic partitions that separate them from the taxi driver, when the taxi driver has to brake suddenly to avoid a small dog or a child. That is why is it is important to wear the provided seatbelts.
I got a little scared as we approached the city centre. Some police are brilliant; others less so. What if they all ganged up on me?
It was always a possibility, especially when my irate passenger was from the suburbs and claimed to have good contacts.
So being the good person I am, I took him to a regular taxi rank. It was completely my prerogative to walk up the line of taxis and tell them he was a nonpayer, no? Anyway, he was looking at £20 to get home from there, not 10. His problem. He should have thought about that when he was offered it.
That guy, this many years later, is probably a leading politician now.
He seemed to sweet and so lost when I first met him.
Taxi Driver moving taxi
Taxi Driver - Tips
Taxi Driver - Tipping
Like I’ve said before, taxi drivers work for money, and what they ask is normally read on the meter. A tip is nice, but not compulsory.
I said before, Glasgow is a diverse city of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. There is some sort of perverse theory working on the people of Glasgow – the poorest feel the need to leave the taxi driver a tip, and the richest almost never.
On several occasions, I have taken poor people home in my taxi, and been paid with an abject apology for not having enough for a tip – people who have turned their wallets inside out looking for an extra coin and not finding one. It’s embarrassing when they do that, but at the same time I am immensely proud of them.
It makes up for all the times I have taken obviously rich people home only to get exactly what the meter read – even more annoying when I have dropped the taxi ’boundary charge’ for people outwith the city. Most of the rich people live outwith the city, some of them ‘only just’ and my God do they take advantage?
The government taxes taxi drivers on a ’presumed tip’. Not tipping us is unfair. Don’t tip, by all means, when the service is less than satisfactory, but I was always polite to customers, and always took them home by the shortest route, and still some miserable bastards would not tip.
I shouldn’t complain. Many people didn’t even pay!