Help me, here, folks. Am I the only one on the planet who actively dislikes going in taxis?
Just to be clear, I have never been attacked in one. I’ve had a few run-ins, mostly abroad, but these tended to be rows over the fare rather than my dignity or safety. So I don’t have a traumatic memory of them. But I won’t go in one unless it’s a) very, very late at night, and b) I’m in the back of beyond, c) I’m very tired, and d) there’s no remotely convenient night bus.
Yes, I said night bus. Two little words that send a chill up many spines. The very idea of the night bus gives many people the vapours. (Ditto charity shops.) Not me, though. I’ve been an avid night bus user for years. I’ve waited for them in all states of inebriation and at all times of night, even in areas where I should probably not have been sitting around on my own, and where the stop itself was barely more than a stick in the ground. But I got home for a quid, or 1.50, or whatever it was back then. I’m less of a night owl than I was, but I still take them whenever possible. I know, there can be puke about, and unwelcome diatribes, and bad behaviour, but that has not stopped me unless the situation looked positively dangerous.
And I can’t stand being sat in a car with a guy making inane conversation. ‘Are you married?’ etc, or listening to strange rants. Lots of cab drivers don’t do this, of course, but I find it actively unenjoyable. Introvert, I guess.
And it costs a fortune. I think of all the fun I could have for the 20 or 30 quid it’ll cost me to get home, and the bus wins nearly every time. And then there’s making sure you don’t get ripped off, or driven half way round the houses with the meter on.
I paid the ‘young woman tax’ quite a few times. I remember, years ago, I was going home to Earl’s Court from the West End, when the driver claimed there was a massive traffic jam round Hyde Park corner, (which there wasn’t), enforcing a vast detour, which was followed by a lecture on places in London I might like to visit, starting with the ‘lake at Ongar’. Baffled, I asked him why he was telling me these things, explaining that I had been living in London for several years by then. ‘Oh, I thought you was on holiday here,’ he replied, embarrassed. No idea whether to be flattered or insulted by that, though I’m often told I sound American or Australian, so perhaps that was it.
Another time, stuck in a traffic jam, I had to listen to an increasingly lurid description of the ritualistic torture of a donkey in Spain, enacted by getting more and more people to sit on it until it collapsed and died. Stuck in traffic and with a work appointment to get to, I could not escape.
Then there was the time that a couple of us went from Bayswater to Holloway and had to direct the guy all the way there, road by road, turning by turning, in detail from a large A-Z. When we got there, however, he demanded a tip. ‘You’ve had your tip!’ We shouted, ‘We’ve shown you how to get from Bayswater to Holloway!’ Those were drunken days. More recently, coming back from hospital a few years ago, the guy had a GPS and I still had to direct him, turning by turning, while heavily under the influence of a general anaesthetic and wondering whether I was going to throw up.
When I was growing up in the countryside, going in a cab seemed a slightly glamorous thing to do, especially as the distances covered tended to be long, and therefore expensive, and because if you didn’t have a car already, you were buggered for transport, with the three buses a day (or less). So perhaps they just seem decadent. And there’s the slightly naff idea of the pampered princess who ‘just lives in taxis.’
And I almost never call them when I’m going out either. I’ve gone out for the evening on public transport in many forms of costume and makeup. It just never occurs to me to call one.
Maybe it’s because my childhood memories of car journeys, especially long ones, as a child, are very fraught. The smell of the seats. The whine of the windscreen wipers in the rain. The screaming rows, and the uncomfortable questionings on the motorway, again with no escape. It may just be that I don’t like going in cars at all.