A modern Debrett’s for Cabbies

Bertie Wooster awoke with a start from his afternoon nap. The copy of Horse and Hound which previously had been covering his eyes gravitated down his nose to land painfully in his lap. “Yes, Jeeves, what is it?”

Jeeves removed the pain inflicting magazine from his employer’s lap and replaced it with a cutting from that morning’s copy of The Times “I’m sorry to break into your afternoon labours, but one feels that Sir’s attention should be drawn to a recent publication which might provide some assistance to Square”.

“Who the duce is this Square fellow when he’s at home?” Bertie exclaimed.

“Square, you might recall is your chauffeur of some 20 years standing”, replied Jeeves and left His Master to read the following article:

Debrett’s that manual of all things appertaining to manners have tacked the subject of drivers and have come to the conclusion that white van man and cabbies when put behind a steering wheel are, how can I put it politely, downright rude.

It is hard to believe now, but once upon a time going for a drive was seen as something of a treat and in those days motorists would wave to each other and politely nod as other cars gently overtook them.

With road rage on the increase Debrett’s, the authority on etiquette, has published a new 48-page guide to courteous in-car behaviour, entitled Thoroughly Modern Motoring Manners it aims to re-acquaint drivers with the “right and proper way to behave behind the wheel”.

Among the advice for men is to not make clichéd jokes about female drivers (I’ll remember that when a lady is in the back) and respect all women behind the wheel, while both sexes are also advised to avoid too much perfume or cologne.

Debrett’s etiquette adviser Jo Bryant said: “We felt driving is an area where people forget their manners and display aggressive behaviour they wouldn’t show in their everyday lives.”

Among its pearls of wisdom are:

The chivalrous male driver will open the door for a female passenger and close it behind her. ‘He should offer to take her coat, check her seat is adjusted and be sure the temperature’s to her liking.’

Women should not apply make-up or preen themselves in the mirror, but should keep a pair of flats for driving instead of high heels. There’s also a step-by-step guide on how women should exit a vehicle and retain their dignity in a ‘ladylike’ fashion.

Clearly laying down ground rules all too often ignored by today’s celebrities, it advises: ‘Smooth down your skirt. Keeping your knees together, swivel your body and swing your legs outwards. Place one foot down, keeping your knees together. Dip your head and shoulders forward and slide and glide out of the car.’

Debrett’s insist that a true gentleman is never a backseat driver. The guide states: ‘She’s in the driving seat. A chivalrous passenger is as well-behaved and polite in the car as he is when he’s out and about.’

Transporting dogs is another area where etiquette is crucial and Debrett’s lays down strict guidelines for ensuring one’s pets do not impinge on other passengers. The book suggests dogs should be carried on blankets, in the foot wells or in the boot of an estate car. But if a dog is kept on the back seat the book warns: ‘Forcing a non-animal lover into close proximity with a drooling dog is the height of bad manners.’

One piece of advice appertaining to cabbies has to be: In order to be ‘the perfect host’; drivers are encouraged to choose only music that meets their passengers’ approval and are advised to ‘keep conversation light and refreshing’.

The book also makes it clear that courteous drivers will refrain from singing along to their favourite tunes unless they are a ‘karaoke pro.’

And the book warns: ‘“Blowing your horn is just rude. Remember the white van man whose inner gentleman has lost his way.’

The new guide offers advice on a range of topics as diverse as ‘chivalry’; ‘fragrance fundamentals’; ‘forecourt manners’; ‘passenger etiquette’; and finally teaching drivers the ‘right and proper way to behave behind the wheel’.

It encourages a return to the days when chivalry among male drivers was commonplace and provides advice on how to avoid a litany of embarrassing faux pas.

Priced at £5.99 I’ll have to keep a copy in my glove compartment.

A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 7th May 2010

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