Loving cars goes with the territory in this job, but even the staunchest advocate of the motor car must admit that it can’t do everything. Flying is still a bit of an issue, the complexities of automated driving are still being ironed out and zero emissions have only just arrived. But there are more important goals yet to be achieved, namely when is someone going to invent a car that will drive you home from the pub?
Not that I wish to see a particular trade disappear and those without cars will still need their services, but I can’t help but feel nothing but cold towards the taxi. On the very rare occasion when I want to spend an evening imbibing the odd glass of red with a few friends, I’m left with either the terrors of the night bus or handing over more money than I’ve spent in the previous four hours to a taxi driver.
I don’t know the exact pence per mile charge, but I do know that a very short journey will cost you at least £6, anything taking longer than half an hour will invariably be £15 or more and if you want to go more than 20 miles you’d better start saving now. And yet this very expensive journey (especially considering you can hire a car for a whole day for around £20) is more than likely to result in a mixture of fear, tedium and nausea.
Black cabs, especially in London, do display a level of professionalism a good step up from your average minicabber, but that doesn’t prevent either of them from displaying a degree of entitlement to the road that would make the Queen feel uncomfortable. Don’t expect to be let out in front of one, but also expect a full-on visual and verbal assault should you not panic-brake in order to let them into a gap that wasn’t there in the first place.
I do a lot of miles – more than 25,000 last year – and I’ve had some extra training too, which I’m eternally thankful for and has saved my bacon on numerous occasions. But I would be surprised if your minicabber has done more than learnt how to pull a U-turn without signalling or changing out of fourth gear. Given that we’re paying for a service, is it too much to expect a little professionalism in return.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of being chauffeur-driven then you’ll know all about how a professional driver can look after their passenger and ease the stress of a journey. And it’s nothing to do with having the door held open for you: any chauffeur worth their salt will do their best to use smooth steering and braking inputs, gradual acceleration and a complete absence of kamikaze overtaking manoeuvres, all with the aim of making the journey a pleasure.
I’m not expecting fleets of taxis all with suited and booted drivers standing in neat rows, but for a journey that costs five times the equivalent bus fare it would be nice to have even a tenth of the courtesy.
By Matt Joy