Taxis are often an iconic part of the cityscape - London’s black cabs, New York’s yellow taxis, and Bangkok’s death-defying tuk-tuks - and, in addition to their power to transport you from A to B when you’re wearing heels / have forgotten your umbrella, I love taxis ability to surprise. Sometimes for the better – New York taxis have very bouncy back seats, and they’re really cheap (far cheaper that Edinburgh taxis – but that’s a rant about the city of Edinburgh council I won’t go into now) and sometimes for the worse – I’m always a little disappointed when I hail a ‘traditional Black cab’ only to be faced with a boxy glorified van. Yes – more of those first world problems, but I’m not a fan of the new style black cabs. Give me a ‘dangerous’ door that opens in reverse over a slow-motion automatic door any day (I could walk quicker than those bloody doors open).
It’s the drivers that really make the journey though. Believe me I’ve met plenty of the traditional grumpy ignoramus types who are only out to wheedle as much money as possible out of you. The better half and I took a cab from the airport to our hotel in Vegas without a single word from the driver – not even a grunt. And if I had a pound for every time a classic cranky Edinburgh taxi driver (don’t mention the trams!) has tried to take me the longest route possible in a city I’ve lived in for 15 years, only to be totally affronted by the ‘accusation’… and god forbid you attempt to open the aforementioned ridiculous automatic doors yourself. Cue huffing, puffing and loosely disguised expletives. But, to be fair, they do have to deal with the general public all day (and – even worse - all night), and if that were me there would probably be blood.
I love an anti-stereotype, and I’m happy to say I have also met some truly lovely drivers. Going right back to when this country girl (bog-hopper, culchie, teuchter – call me what you like) started going out in the ‘big city’ and the drivers of sky cabs would put up with the caterwauling of a carload of drunken* teenage girls as we attempted, by way of our ‘harmonies’, to get a few pounds knocked off the fare. God bless them. Not only did they refrain from ejecting us from their car for crimes against eardrums, they actually gave us a discount – and greeted us with great aplomb the following week when we clambered into their car for another verse of California Dreamin’ (with seconds… oh dear).
More recently, arriving at Edinburgh airport at ungodly o’clock off a delayed flight, I was mightily cheered to discover myself on board the karma taxi. I gave the girl next to me in the queue a ‘lift’ because her house was on my way, which led to a chat with the driver about good deeds. He's a big believer in karma and every day he gives a free fare to someone he thinks either needs or deserves it. Like the old lady who’d decided to splash out on a taxi home from the bingo, rather than the bus, after a little win. He refused to take any money off her and told her to treat herself to tea and cake the next day instead. A most excellent anti-stereotype.
Taxi drivers, at least the ones who’ve managed to keep their sense of humour, also have great stories, particularly the guys at Bristol airport. Last week one driver was telling me about another passenger who was threatening to sue the holiday company after his annual family holiday in Spain (yep, you guessed it – same place every year). They’d broken out and tried First Choice after 10 years on the trot with Thomas Cook (wild!) They went to the same hotel, the rep was fine, the flight was better. ‘So what was the problem?’ asked the driver. It was too hot. ’32 degrees every day!’ apparently. And how was that the fault of said First Choice? Well the average monthly temperature in their brochure said 28 degrees. The mind boggles.
*All very legal, I hasten to add. *ahem*