COLUMN: October 27, 2016

A taxi driver
IT WAS one of those evenings during which everything went wrong at the worst possible time, and yet we still managed to bring out a newspaper.

Not that readers would have been able to tell, for newspaper production staff are like ducks – we are calm and unruffled on the top half, but covered in water and lichen on the bottom half, and we quack and taste great on a pancake.

Anyway, battered and bruised and covered in hoi sin sauce, I staggered away from my office into the night, half an hour later than usual. This probably does not sound excessive to you people who work a nine to five day, but to somebody who works my hours it can only mean one thing – I had missed The Bus Window.

I had three choices: go back into the office and sleep under my desk, walk four and a half miles through a number of what the charitable would call “up and coming” areas, or hail a taxi.

And so I traipsed through the city centre in search of transport, shivering, Medium Coat flapping behind me in the wind. Younger men were wandering about me in shirt sleeves, but I no longer have anything to prove, nor the ability to prove it. I shall say it loud, I’m nesh and I’m proud.

After about 10 minutes, an orange light appeared in the distance and moved towards me. Could it be…? It was! It was a taxi. I felt like a shipwreck victim sighting land.

I had to wait till it got closer, though, otherwise I would have looked to passers-by like a madman frantically waving at ghosts. I know that I have to work on my cab hailing technique, but I have been trying for 40-odd years to learn how to whistle with my index fingers in my mouth and it still sounds as if I’m blowing into a glass to clean it.

The cab got closer and closer… Just a couple more seconds and I would be able to hail it… And then the driver turned off the main road and down a side street. I raged at the injustice of it all. How on earth could he possibly have not seen me in the dark in my dark grey suit and dark grey coat and black scarf?!

I chased after the cab. Perhaps it would lead me to more cabs. I didn’t know, I am a bus man.

But there was nothing. I continued to walk, and there, stopped at some traffic lights, was a cab with its orange light on. I took no chances. I waved my arm for all it was worth. A passing jumbo jet pilot would have been able to see my signal.

The taxi driver indicated. He had seen me! Better than that, my weird hailing motion had not put him off. And then, just as the lights started to change, a couple appeared – a man and a woman. They, like me, had clearly been searching for some time for a taxi. But, unlike me, they had clearly been spending some time carousing in several bars.

They started running towards the taxi, but the driver had already committed himself to stopping for me, and he moved off, driving away from them.

Now, put yourself in the couple’s place. They had hailed a taxi, which had its light on. They had got within inches of the door, and the taxi had moved away, towards another person. Imagine their sense of injustice at being gazumped.
I do not have to imagine it. I witnessed it. The man let out a bellow of rage and charged towards the taxi like a rhino as I struggled to open the door.

I stumbled inside the cab and slammed the door shut as the angry carouser banged on the window. “Get out of my [expletive deleted] taxi,” he suggested forcefully.

His face, squashed up with rage, pressed up against the window and I made a sort of shrugging gesture as if to say, “I am sorry, my friend, but your quarrel is not with me, it is with the ways of the taxi.”

“You [expletive deleted],” he said, as he banged again on the window, as the taxi drove off.

I do not want you to think I am a coward, but I had had a long and difficult day in work and I really did not want to end it in a brawl with an angry drunk. Especially as I wasn’t even on a bus.