When talking about ‘silly season’, the taxi industry generally refers to the period between the beginning of October the start of January. For the average night worker this can mean entering 92 days of hell, with very little respite.
To be fair to the general public, it wasn’t so long ago that the whole of the UK was under a two-year restraining order, so it’s not surprising that the population may go a bit wild. With this in mind, how do taxi drivers protect themselves when dealing with a loud, rowdy and unpredictable public? The simple answer is dialogue.
The two worst things that a taxi driver can do is fail to lock their front doors and get out of their cab. Yet some taxi drivers seem to forget the dangers and do exactly what they shouldn’t do. When this happens all hell can break loose.
Stay in the cab
Being a taxi driver of a certain vintage means I’ve experienced many things, sometimes repeatedly. One of those experiences is being proposed. Being a happily married man with a modicum of common sense I’ve always refused the drunken, amorous advances of any passenger silly enough to try it on. Disregarding the fact that I value my marriage (and my teeth), it is the most unprofessional thing that a taxi driver can do. As a public service, we are there to serve and protect the public, therefore taking advantage of a drunk customer is not something we should ever do.
When a drunk customer comes on to a hapless taxi driver, it’s generally not because they think that the driver is George Clooney. More often than not you are the last chance saloon for somebody who probably has no clue as to what they are doing and is going to wildly regret their actions the following morning. It’s a fool’s game. It’s also one which can cost you your license and possibly your liberty. The way to avoid ruin is to politely refuse, stay in your taxi and, if necessary, switch the video or voice record facility on your phone on, just in case.
We’ve all been there, the aggressive, drunk passenger who decides that they aren’t going to pay up. Unfortunately, as we approach Christmas, this sort of behavior becomes more prevalent. It’s at this point I start to teach the more experienced driver how to suck eggs, while educating the butter-boy. Please, for goodness sake, DO NOT GET OUT OF YOUR TAXI.
The moment you exit your car to try and obtain payment, you leave yourself wide open to both accusation and assault. Tackling a drunk passenger is not going to get the fare paid. Instead, try to find out their address, don’t get aggressive towards them, glean as much information as possible. Once they’ve left the cab either make a police report online or in person at a police station (assuming that you can find one open). As I have said in previous editions of The Nightwatchman, bilking is a criminal offense and not a civil one. Therefore, always insist on the police pursuing the offender. It may not be the worst crime in the world but you are entitled to be paid.
The biggest pain in the neck that any taxi driver has to deal with is somebody who cannot hold their alcohol. Throwing up in the taxi is, quite frankly, vile. Being drunk really isn’t an excuse, however, deal with it we must. Always carry a couple of carrier bags and a towel. When trying to soak up vomit, cat litter can also be quite useful (although carrying that in the taxi is ridiculous). There are a couple of 24-hour car wash centers dotted around that will clean the taxi for you. The American Car Wash on Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, and the Car Wash on Chambers Street, near Tower Bridge, will both get you on your way swiftly. It isn’t cheap though, but losing an hour’s work and paying £30 is better than losing your entire night’s income.
Keep the doors locked
Finally, one of the easiest things to overlook are your front doors, especially if you drive a TXe. Locking those front doors could quite conceivably save your life and is the simplest thing in the world to do. In this day and age it pays dividends to trust nobody, so keep yourself locked in and valuables in the boot.