Londoners, it would seem, have certain behaviours when it comes to entering a cab, when I last wrote about cab etiquette it was mainly as a guide for visitors.
Londoners sitting alone in the back of the cab seem to feel an innate awkwardness, much as you might experience if stuck in a lift with a stranger. For the driver his dilemma is how to respond: a curt yes or more nuanced reply.
[T]he conversation that ensues nearly always follows a limited number of questions which the punter feels compelled to ask of the driver, even though the answer is already known.
The problem for the driver here is two-fold: if he answers in the affirmative the punter might be weighing up the opportunity of mugging him; conversely if he says its quiet the passenger queries the reason why it took so long to catch a cab, or thinks the cabbie just wants to moan and soon the conversation will turn to the short comings of the current Government/England manager/or London’s Mayor.
What time are you on ‘til?
Many cabbies work the more lucrative evening shift, so the punter probably feels a degree of sympathy as he clocked off work at 5.00. The supplementary inquiry “can you pick me up” at a time and place to get me home. Like we are going to drive half-way across London to help you get the last train home.
Where do you live? Or live far?
Why on earth should that be a topic of conversation with a stranger unless, of course, you want a lift home – see previous inquiry.
What chance is there of me getting a cab?
How long have you been a cabbie?
This is a frequent and one of the most curious. Tell the punter that you are a butterboy and the assumption will be you’ll take the wrong route, or not know the destination (on the contrary, just after qualifying your head is buzzing with miscellaneous knowledge). Saying you’re an old hand will infer a superior status, and therefore in need of taking down a peg or two should the opportunity arise.
Can you go a bit faster?
Or, my train leaves at: fill in any time in the next 10 minutes. The problem is out of your driver’s hands. He didn’t dig up every road in the capital; build bike lanes; or populate London’s congested roads with empty Uber drivers.
Can you stop a minute?
Warning bells should ring with this question. Does the punter want to throw up and is too polite to puke over the back seat; take a leak and in need of a convenient alley; or do a runner . . .