Overlong school holidays are one of the banes of the life of the provincial small town taxi driver, who with the desultory level of night time business in Abingdon these days, is dependent upon the regularity of contract income for her or his livelihood. Before they have even properly begun, we are already wishing that the school holidays are over.
Starting today, as each school breaks up for the Summer holidays more and more taxis try to cram on to the Ock Street taxi rank – the only viable rank in the whole of Abingdon town centre - in a vain attempt to try and replace the seasonal drop in income. It’s like the taxi version of Waiting for Godot, as we wait for passengers who will never arrive. Habits of abstemiousness ingrained in the travelling public during the long years of recession take years to change. But we wait anyway. And wait.
Even in term time, more than half of the time spent on shift, is spent waiting. Amidst the unremitting boredom of the dog days of summer, it is a lovely thing when friends, often with their children or their dogs in tow, stop by the taxi rank on Ock Street and the inevitable queue to get on it, in The Square, for a real world chat. Not being one for the classic English response “fine, mustn’t grumble” when asked “how are you?”, but rather giving an honest and considered response. I do value these encounters.
Some opportunities do exist for the creative use of this waiting time: there is bountiful reading material in my taxi, alongside the mandatory first aid kit, spare bulbs, fire extinguisher and other items required by the terms of my licence. Though always on call, waiting for the device to beep to indicate that there is another job, it would always be preferable to come to work, do some actual work for eight hours and then go home again.
Not even one day into this year’s six weeks long summer holidays and already a supermarket in Kidlington is advertising ‘Back to School’ goods, an Abingdon hotel has a large banner visible from Marcham Road encouraging us to book for Christmas and one local Co-op is selling Christmas branded sweets – in July, during the hottest days of the year!
Being a prolific user of Twitter and recording pretty much everything which happens in and observed from my taxi these last six years has its uses and this is one of those. A ‘Twitter Advanced Search’ – available on desktop only – shows the first observed promotion of Christmas by an Abingdon based business was in August of last year. It really does seem to be getting earlier and earlier, as each year passes.
Rushing through the year like this does not give enough time for the fullest observance and cognizance of each season. As my favourite Old Testament writer says ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens’