Capital courtesies

Have you ever stood waiting for a cab to have it pass you by? Assuming you weren’t hanging from a lamppost with a kebab in your free hand, it might be that the driver was being courteous to his colleague behind.

A curious courtesy in the trade is that if you’re let out into a moving stream of traffic by another cab, should a job materialise, you ignore the punter allowing the courteous cabbie behind to pick up the job.

Probably unique for London are a number of other quirky courtesies.

[S]tanding on the right of an escalator allowing others to pass on one’s left is well known. Apparently it derives from the original at Earl’s Court station. Unlike today one couldn’t walk off the moving stairs, rather users were shunted off to one side by a diagonal partition, while the moving stairs disappeared under the partition. By standing on the right allowed for the right foot first so standing on the right made sense. Also those fewer travellers on the left who chose to walk could join fellow travellers on the right easier when preparing to alight.

Recently I’ve noticed that some considerate drivers will sound their horn just as the traffic lights turn, reminding the driver in front of the need to accelerate away the moment the light show red/amber. I first observed this courtesy, that of sounding one’s horn at the slightest opportunity when I was travelling in the Middle East.

Now London drivers are, through the medium of sound, telling fellow road users to go first. Those same drivers are want to inform pedestrians of the need to transverse pedestrian crossings swiftly, or risk being run over by the impatient driver.

Now I don’t expect to be thanked by every punter who alights from my cab, a simple tip suffices; and I’ve never seen anyone expressing gratitude to a train driver when safety reaching their destination.

So why do passengers thank bus drivers as they disembark? The first mention of gratitude at the beginning of their shift might be heart warming, but after a few hundred ”Thank You Driver” it could become tiresome.

It has also occurred to me that the Perspex partition between the driver and passenger might be to stop grateful passengers vigorously shaking the driver’s hand on the his achievement at stopping at the correct bus stop.

2 thoughts on “Capital courtesies”

  1. With regard to thanking bus drivers but not train or cab drivers, I suggest that it has to do with the relative interpersonal dynamics of the different modes of travel.

    Train drivers are invisible to train passengers and what is out of sight is out of mind. Train travel is far more impersonal than the other two modes. London cab drivers, in my experience, are a surly lot from whom you are lucky to get a single word, let alone a smile or a thank you.

    Bus travel is greatly different. Many bus passengers travel the same route at the same time day after day. They get to know the drivers and the drivers get to know them. This is particularly true of the single-deck hopper buses that connect out-of-the way districts. There is a driver of the 214 who always toots his horn and waves to us if he sees us in the street, whether or not we have just ridden on his bus. Thanking such amiable persons for a safe and comfortable ride seems a natural thing to do.


    1. As an infrequent bus traveller I’ve found it rather quaint in this day and age that bus passengers still take time to thank the driver. Should you have occasion to get in my cab you can be sure of a “good day” and a thanks when alighting. Thank you for your comment.


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