Street hail etiquette

[Y]ou can always tell the regulars; standing prominently by the side of the road, arm outstretched and – here’s the vital part – telling the driver BEFORE they get in the destination and as an aide-mémoire the approximate London area.

I’ve talked in the past to the person at the destination address via my fare’s phone; read the address from their mobile; but recently – courtesy of Steve Jobs – I was shown a photo on his
i-phone of the destination, that wasn’t on The Knowledge being given a selection of photographs and then trying to identify the location.

If the fare needs to return to his hotel, in past years that wasn’t a problem, each hotel had an individual character. At the Carlton Hotel (incidentally Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh was employed there to wash up) guests would be given their room key, and thoughtfully attached to it was a fob, the size of a butcher’s chopping block – but crucially the unique name of the hotel was impressed upon it.

Now most hotels are owned by a global brand and the plastic keys are emblazoned with say Holiday Inn and little else (apart from the one phone number you need to book worldwide), try taking non-English speaking tourists to the right hotel with that amount of information.

One lady recently showed me the telephone list from her room, clearly thinking it had the hotel’s address upon it. If I had only known which hotel I could have booked awake up call and ordered breakfast.

Americans renowned for ‘doing Europe in a fortnight’ just about know what city they are in – red buses, black cabs, hey this must be London.

Asked once by a group who had just made a trans-Atlantic crossing:

“Marriott please”

Which Marriott?

“Well, the London Marriott, we are in London aren’t we?”

There are at the time of writing, but not necessary of reading – hotels spring up like mushrooms – 13 Marriott hotels in London.

On pointing this out a rather entertaining, if unprofitable, question and answer ensued:

What can you see from the hotel’s entrance; is the traffic one-way; does it have flower pots opposite the door; what is the name of the doorman?

My all time favourite and this has happened on numerous occasions, a group will get in without so much as a glance at the driver. After a short period – presumably they think I can read minds like Darren Brown – I’m asked to drive on. “When you tell me the destination, I’ll get right on it.

One thought on “Street hail etiquette”

  1. I don’t use cabs in London very often so may be a little rusty on the etiquette. Some years ago I found myself in need of a cab to take me to Golders Green and saw one pull up to deposit its passengers. I ran over and asked, nervously, “Do you go to Golders Green?” (You can tell I use buses mostly…) Unfazed, the cabbie replied “I go anywhere you pay me to.” Sorted.

    The last time I needed a cab in a hurry, I signalled to three and was lucky with the last one. Why the other two didn’t stop I don’t know. Maybe they were too strongly attracted by the gravitational pull of the nearby King’s Cross and St Pancras stations to stop for a chance customer.

    When we go on courier runs, we find to easiest way to tell the cab driver the destination is to show him/her the address on the package. This worked well in Bilbao and Waterloo in Belgium too!

    On our last run to Nottingham, we piled into a cab in front of the station and told the driver the address. He replied that it was just across the road, a few minutes’ walk away! “Not worth taking a cab,” he said. Honest man.


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