their life in my day…

looks better than an a-z

As a cab driver well, as this cab driver anyway, you start off each day wondering quite what your day will have in store for you.  On particularly anxious days, you might wonder if there will be any work at all.  Perhaps London has suffered a 28 Days Later style exodus or that people have just suddenly stopped taking cabs altogether.  You might start your day with a few displacement activities, dressed up as essential pre-work tasks; fill up with diesel, have a large Americano from Cafe Nero, that kind of thing.  But at some point you have to point the cab in the direction of town and wonder at which point you will get that FJOTD (First Job Of The Day) and quite where the Taxi Gods are going to send you today. Will that first hand up be a flyer?  Or will it be Clapham Junction to West London Magistrates Court?  Luck plays a big part of course, but I am a great believer in Cabbie Karma and that if you do the little ‘uns, the good ones will eventually come your way.  And with all that in mind, I decided to fully record the jobs I did one day last week from FJOTD to LJOTD, to try and give myself (and indirectly you folks) a better understanding of the kind of flow you can get into and a little insight into the people that come into my life every day.  So on this particular day, having travelled in from deepest SW17 with no sign of a job (pretty typical these days) I was north of the river heading for Sloane Sq before;

  1. FJOTD – Lower Sloane Street to Seymour Walk, SW10 (1.7 miles).  Easy first job, no worry about route, just a quick check exactly where Seymour Walk is.  Then a slightly tricky reversing manoeuvre passed an Ocado van and I was back on Fulham Road heading east and not long before;
  2. Fulham Road (junction with Cranley Gardens) to Saatchi Gallery (1.5 miles, but only coz Kings Road was solid and I went Oakley Street and around the back) .  Man and his 2 sons were standing at a bus stop, so I had that moment when you aren’t sure if they are trying to stop you or the bus behind you, but in they got and off to the Saatchi Gallery for a bit of culture and lunch.
  3. Sloane Street to Kensington Church Street (2.3 miles via Harvey Nichols and a close encounter with 2 fire engines).  Nice Italian man wants to go to an antique shop but first must “rescue” his wife from Harvey Nichols.  Which all sounds easy enough, but when 2 fire engines suddenly appear on the scene, the already slow traffic at the north end of Sloane Street becomes stationary and rescue of wife is a little more tricky than than expected.  But eventually we find her and they are safely delivered to the north end of Kensington High St.  And before they get out a man in a rush appears at the window to go from….
  4. Kensington Church Street to Kensington Court (0.7 miles).  Now some of you may be asking why this gentleman would make such a short journey.  He was middle aged, seemed capable of walking his own way there if needs be and wasn’t a mentalist.  Turns out his office had a power cut and he was going to a mates office to send an urgent fax.  Fax??  Do people still send fax’s?  So a quick u-turn and a right out of Kensington Court and it’s nearly all the way down to Hyde Park Corner before the next hand goes up…
  5. Knightsbridge (west of the Mandarin Oriental) to Piccadilly (junction of St Jamess’ Street) (0.9 miles).  No idea why this gent needed my services, as he got out before his stated destination (Fortnum & Mason’s) and walked off towards Mayfair.  But if enough shorts jobs come along one after the other, who cares?
  6. Selfridges (Duke St rank) to Euston (1.6 miles).  So no joy in St Jamess’ or Mayfair before finally settling on the rank at the side of Selfridges that, if you can squeeze onto it (only room for 3 cabs), is always good for work during opening hours.  Didn’t have to wait too long until 2 ladies what lunch emerged needing to get to Euston.  What with their scouse accents and too tight facelifts it was quite difficult to understand where they were headed but after an initial furrowed brow from yours truly, Euston it was.
  7. Euston to Hallam Street (1.0 miles).  There’s a pattern emerging here isn’t there?  Only one job so far over 2 miles & that wasn’t exactly a roader.  But this man was late for a meeting, was extremely nice and gave a decent tip.  My patience was being tested, but not too badly.
  8. King’s Cross Station to Highbury Grove (3.1 miles).  Ooh, based on my previous jobs, heading to King’s Cross paid off.  A job over 3 miles and into double figures £ wise, things are looking up.
  9. Selfridges (Duke St rank) to South Quay Station, E14 (8.8 miles).  As I said, things were looking up.  No job between Highbury Grove and getting back to Selfridges, but I had stopped for a coffee and to stretch my legs.  And after a 10 minute wait at Selfridges 2 young Japanese ladies ask for South Quay.  Just about able to not spill my coffee all over myself in the excitement, I check that they mean South Quay on the Isle of Dogs, and off we go.
  10. Bank Street rank, E14 to West Hampstead (12.0 miles).  Now Canary Wharf is a funny place all in all, in general as well as for cabbies.  Once a goldmine (especially if you were on a radio circuit) the work that you get “on the wharf” (or “on the Island”) is a real mixed bag.  And generally a pretty cruddy kind of bag and many drivers won’t even bother stopping there and just head straight back to the City.  But, in my experience anyway, as the City isn’t a lot better these days, so I tend to stay on the Island even if it’s just to make use of the facilities and a have a break.  So I got on the rank at Bank St (when I tell you it’s opposite the old Leman Brothers building, you might get the irony of that) and patiently waited my turn.  Lot’s of people approached the rank with a variety of freight (luggage/bags) which almost certainly means a City Airport (alright job but wrong way) or if the “freight” is a Waitrose or M&S carrier bag they almost certainly are a “local” down the Westferry Road.  So on point, I have 2 people approaching the rank, one with “freight”, one without.  The chap without gets to me first and asks if I’d mind taking him to West Hampstead.  Luckily my coffee was long gone by this point as I may well have choked on it.  But my decision to stay put and not wait too much diesel looking for that next job paid off big time, and within an hour (and a visit to cashpoint) I was heading back towards town with a spring in my step.
  11. West Hampstead to Springfield Lane (1.2 miles).  Nice to see a hand go out so quickly after dropping someone off.  Not so good when after your punter says Springfield Lane Kilburn, you head off in completely the wrong direction, then manage to go speeding past the turning he is telling you to turn left into.  Still, he seemed happy enough.
  12. Maida Vale to Fellows Road, NW3 (2.2 miles).  Another short hop before another hand goes up, this time just down Maida Vale towards the junction with St John’s Wood Road.  Bit of a rude bugger, clearly running very late for something or other, but it’s only a short journey to the Chalk Farm end of Fellows Road, and I’m off again hunting for a job, hoping to keep my good run going.
  13. Chalk Farm Road to Praed Street (4.1 miles).  And my good run did keep going.  Couple that had clearly had a long day shopping (and arguing) desperate to take the weight off their feet and get back to their hotel in Paddington.  So from a slow start my day was getting better & better.
  14. Paddington Station to Crowne Plaza Shoreditch (5.4 miles).  Bit of a queue of cabs on the bridge at Paddington, but all seemed to be moving so I joined the back and was soon picking up a couple of Japanese businessmen going to Shoreditch.  Nice job, easy route down Marylebone /Euston Road etc.. and over “the hump” to Shoreditch High Street.  A continuation of what is turning into a really great run of jobs.
  15. Liverpool Street Station to Crowne Plaza Shoreditch (0.7 miles).  What are the chances of that, eh?  Straight back to the Crowne Plaza and back to the local jobs.  But I’d seen a man on the other side of Shoreditch High Street be ignored by all the cabs heading south & he was still there when I’d dropped off.  So I turned round for him and off we went again…..
  16. Shoreditch High Street to Southgate Road (1.7 miles).  Nice chap and slightly narked by all the cabs that had ignored him before I turned up.  But no wait between jobs is fine by me and it made the previous job seem a bit better.  By now it’s about 8:30pm and we are heading for the quiet time between 9 & 10 and I get all the way back to Mayfair with no sign of a job.  So I had to the new discovery (for Tweeting cabbies anyway) of the rank at Quaglino’s.
  17. Quaglino’s to Goring Hotel (1.2 miles).  Not a great job, but didn’t have to wait to long and then completely transformed by events at the other end of the journey.
  18. LJOTD – Goring Hotel to Hilton Heathrow (T4) (16.1 miles).  Not normally a place I ever pick up The Goring unless, like on this occasion, you have a group of people milling about looking for cabs and the doorman getting himself in a right state trying to sort them out.  A cab in front is filling up and then 3 men come to me with one getting in the back.  “Heathrow OK driver?” in a thick German accent.  “No problem” of couse, but then another man is at the window asking how much it will be, will I do a FP so that he can pay for his colleague up front?  Quickly deciding that this will be a great LJOTD and wanting to make sure I don’t lose the job I agree a price of £50 and the man duly pays up front and get’s a couple of blank receipts for his trouble.

And so ended my day, a day that can truly be described as a day of two halves.  The early, daytime, local jobs gradually building up into better and better jobs and finishing in grandstand style with a flyer.  Job done.

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7 thoughts on “their life in my day…

  1. Pingback: We are the City » onionbagblog

  2. Absolutely wonderful.

    Nice to see you blogging again, and thanks for the fascinating post. I hung on every word.

    I know it might seem run-of-the-mill to you, but for those of us who are desk bound, it really is very interesting to get a glimpse into how cabbies spend their days.

    Thanks again.

      • Thanks for the comment, always appreciate anyone making the effort. And you’re right, the main reason I re-joined the Labour Party was to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. So to not reflect that on my blog would be a bit daft, will make sure it doesn’t become a lecture though….,

  3. Awesome stuff – thanks for posting. Would love to see a bit more like this, if you fancy keeping track of it!

    Out of interest, what is a reasonable / decent tip for a fare? Do you work on the basis of percentages or on the basis of how far away the fare is from a round number (£10, £20) etc.? Have always wondered what counts as decent!

    • Rich – thanks for the kind words (and tweets yesterday), as I’m sure you know from your blogging it’s always nice to get some positive feedback. And yes, I will endeavour to do the same kind of post in the not to distant future, perhaps with a slightly different spin to it.

      As for tipping, I know it’s something that a lot of punters aren’t quite sure what to do about. I always think that you should just pay what you think is a fair price for the journey, with what’s on the meter as the minimum. Even before I did the knowledge, when I took a cab I would think what I would be happy to pay for the trip. So if I was happy to pay £20 to get home and the meter went to £16 I’d happily pay the £20, even up to £19.80 I’d pay the £20! I think the only thing that really gets on drivers nerves is waiting for 20p or 40p change from £10 or £20, particularly if a receipt is asked for. Or if the journey really is a short one (less than a fiver) and people pay with a £20 note and want all the change! Not sure I’ve actually answered your question there, but hope it helps….lol

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