Twenty punters I’ve tolerated

. . . and one that made it all worthwhile

Haley Forest wrote a scurrilous, if amusing piece for the Thrillist website about 15 cabs you’ve been definitely been in and argued that London’s cabbies are not always the lovable cockneys willing to go that ‘extra mile’ for the punter.

I feel that she might have been confusing the black cab with our nemesis private hire.

[A]s a the epitome of the perfect cabbie I want to set the record straight and show that at times it is not always my less than perfect colleagues who are at fault, and that according to my journal sometimes the passenger isn’t that shining example of humankind.

7 August 2009 I’m sitting in the back of my cab, cup of tea in my hand, eating a sandwich and reading a book. Two American cretins ask me if I’m available, sure I always look for punters from the back of my cab.

18 September 2009 Pick up two men the worst for wear, drop them off at King’s Cross. I give a receipt to be told that it’s blank. The idiot was looking on the back I had to turn it over to reassure him there was printing on it. God I despair of them sometimes!

2 November 2009 I was hailed by two Australians last night. They opened the door and without getting in, then proceeded to talk to their friends who had just hailed an illegal minicab on a mobile phone. The conversation ensued about the price and having established the rogue cab was cheaper than me they slammed the cab door shut without saying anything. What is it with these people from the Antipodes, have they no idea of manners or courtesy?

14 December, 2009 I’m really getting fed up with people wanting to eat in my cab. If that was not enough they invariably cannot locate their mouths and the food ends up lying on the back seat for the next passenger to find.

21 January 2010 “I must not ask stupid questions”. If that was his New Year’s resolution, the man who asked me where number 17 Queensbury Terrace has already broken his promise, for we were in Queensberry Terrace, as he stopped me to ask where exactly was number seventeen, as if I would know.

12 May 2010 Further proof that the paying public are stupid, while pulling up at a fashionable Notting Hill diner, my passenger thrusts a £20 notes through the partition, as if I can take it from him while I’m trying to park the cab. Later that evening I’m asked “Do you know the temperature?” My reply “It’s cold”.

24 August 2010 I swear my passengers are becoming more stupid. Today I’m asked to stop at a cash point, my fare gets back into the cab and we proceed down the road; after two minutes I’m asked “can you go back to the cash point, I’ve left the money hanging out of the machine, and it might be still there”. Needless to say it wasn’t.

27 September 2010 Two men get into the cab, one stating the destination in poor English, they then proceed to snog. On arrival at the place I thought they asked for they inform me that I have misheard their request. I ask them why they didn’t tell me we were going five miles in the wrong direction, to which I get the reply “I haven’t seen my boyfriend for a week and was greeting him”. I should add here they were over 40 years old, just grow up lads.

10 November 2010 How long should it take to pay by card? I’ve just spent 45 minutes, first the three proffered cards were rejected, and then the cash point wouldn’t cough up. He was eventually bailed out by his girlfriend.

26 January 2011 The cab trade in which the punter starts using the service without the means to pay must be unique; for who would say to a plumber I haven’t any money as he commences the work? Then after requesting we find cash point (they never want to pay by card in a cab) blame us for our inability to find one, or worse still decide they don’t like the cash point we stop outside.

3 June 2011 “Haitfield House, Sowth Wawlk” was the instruction when he got into the cab, and continued his conversation with a colleague about futures, options and takeovers with an accent of Received English which would have made Brian Sewell sound like Del Boy. South Walk? “I’m not sure where Hatfield House is”, I ask. My passenger informs me that it might be Stamford Street. “Oh! Southwark”, with a silent w.

12 October 2011 Called off the Langham Hotel rank (a 5 star no less) to be asked by the doorman if I could take his Japanese guest to a red light district “Soho is your best bet” I say in my best Mandarin, and show him a telephone box in said district with its ubiquitous adverts. Not understanding how girls have become hi-tech in offering their services he wanders off into the night.

7 July 2011 Tonight I was hailed as I drove through Eaton Square and shown a picture of a car park taken on an i-phone. Do I know where we have parked our car? The usual question and answer game ensured whereupon we were all agreed that it was under Kingston House opposite Hyde Park and we were proved right.

6 December 2011 Is it me? Why do people thrust the money through the small aperture of the partition with any small change wrapped in a banknote? The consequence of this action is that the coins drop unto the floor, lost forever in the Bermuda Triangle that is the driver’s compartment.

12 January 2012 At the front of the rank at King’s Cross, 3,000 yellow hire lights in line behind me, punter asks “are you available?”. Sigh!!!

10 January 2012 When you want West Central Street you don’t wait until you get to Clerkenwell before telling the driver that you have mumbled “West” Central Street.

4 February 2012 A very satisfying moment, at the front of a long queue of freezing people at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge are four snobby women with a dusting of snow on their expensive coats and each carrying a half full Champagne flute. “No sorry”, perplexed expressions all round on their cold faces. “No drinking”. Couple behind jump gratefully into cab – made my day!

6 November 2012 I had resolved to stop writing up my journal, and then some irascible old trout gets into the back. It’s 6 o’clock in the evening and she asks “Baker Street”, now if somebody says “London Bridge” I don’t drop them off half way across the River, I naturally assume they want the station. So after she has watched me head for Baker Street Station she waits until I stop outside the station to tell me she wants the Sherlock Holmes Hotel and then accuses me of being “A wrong’un”.

9 November 2012 Conversation overheard of woman on phone while on the way to Royal Hospital: “My friend got so drunk that she fell down the stairs and they think she has broken her neck”. Oh dear, these youngsters.

1 November 2013 Had my favourite punter in the cab, close to completing a 25-minute journey, while thrusting his i-phone at me, proclaims that I’ve “taken the wrong way”. I patiently point out that he is holding the map upside down and if I had taken his route we would be drowning in the Serpentine by now. The conversation ended at that point.

And to prove that all punters are not idiots/crooks/stupid I leave this final entry.

12 November 2009 Some peoples’ honesty I find truly humbling. An elderly woman when alighting my cab at Waterloo station gives me £1.30 she has found on the back seat. Maybe there is hope for Mankind in London . . . just don’t hold your breath.

Picture: Taxis on Oxford Street (sermoa/flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

2 thoughts on “Twenty punters I’ve tolerated”

  1. The equivalent for the shop assistant of the cabbie’s “Are you available?” is “Do you work here?” When I worked in the bookshop, I (and my colleagues) wore a big badge with the shop’s name on it. Didn’t matter: people still asked “Do you work here?”

    I think this is what the linguists call a gloss: it is a noise or phrase used to get the speech organs and brain working. People asking “Are you all right?” is the same thing. They don’t want to know if you are all right but simply to open the conversation.

    I got so fed up with “Do you work here?” that I started giving sarcastic answers. To one lady I replied “Only when the manager’s watching.” There was an ominous pause and a look of thunder. I seriously thought a complaint was going to be made about me to said manager but, fortunately the storm cloud passed. I was more careful after that.

    Humanity is flawed. We know this. We also know how difficult it is to be as tolerant of others as we would wish them to be of us.


    1. My other favourite dopey question is: “Where should I stand to hail a cab?”
      Err “Try on the pavement near the road”.


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