In a small English provincial town like Abingdon - which is unremarkable and pretty for the most part, but has seen better economic days – more than half the time a taxi driver is on shift, is spent waiting around, for short frenetic periods of activity.
We have had a good day, if more time is spent moving, rather than being still. On a recent Friday night shift, I was moving for 3 hours 13 minutes, but stopped for 6 hours 23 minutes. Over this time, I carried 23 people and 1 dog over 10 fares – hardly enough of an income, on which to make a living and below the national minimum wage, that night.
There was a time before the recession when turnover per taxi was double what it is now, but that is no more: business is pretty much dependent upon term time contract work. It is cyclical around many people's monthly pay day and also dependent upon events such as football being shown on big screens at those local pubs which still remain open and also upon the weather. Once it was possible to make a living from working weekday nights in Abingdon, but now, I sit around like Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for passengers who never arrive
Unlike Oxford, in the Vale of White Horse, there is no limit on the number of Hackney Carriage licences which are issued. Every weekend night, two by two, more and more taxis try to cram into a small and over crowded town centre, to supplement whatever it is they are doing in the day with additional income. It makes it all the more difficult for those of us attempting to earn our livelihood by providing a full time service to the people of Abingdon.
Some drivers you never see on the taxi rank, except for the rare occasion these days when it is busy on a Friday and Saturday night. Instead, they wait around at home, for their telephone to ring. Others, like me, will be waiting around on the taxi rank in Abingdon town centre, or parked up somewhere and adjourned to a local coffee shop or pub, to do administration work, or writing.
It has been necessary to become expert at micro management of money: moving it around to get the best ISA rate and ensuring that there is enough cash to survive, during the dog days of the summer holidays and other school breaks.
Although the roads around Abingdon and Oxford are much clearer, the level of business drops by around 30 to 40% during school holiday time and some days, the takings might amount to only £30.
As someone without children of my own, I never envisaged I'd be in the situation where in my middle age, my working life would be ruled by school holidays, but thus it is and I can't wait for the unremitting tedium of the overlong Easter school holidays to be over.