For the taxi driver who works on their own, inside a saloon car and especially those of us who pick up random passengers off the streets at night, there is a natural level of wariness of the travelling public, which is necessary for effective self preservation and protection.
This is especially true of calls to pick up people being released from custody at Abingdon Police Station, usually from the fast food restaurant, which is directly opposite. An off duty police officer traveling in my taxi recently told me they have “state of the art” custody facilities and that people are brought to Abingdon from a long way away, within the Thames Valley.
That would be borne out by the distances travelled on recent fares from there. They are attractive jobs, because more money can be earned in a single journey because of unfortunate circumstances, than from an entire day waiting around on the taxi rank in Abingdon, for £6 jobs from the local supermarkets and doctors' surgeries.
Proper taxi driving is unpredictable by its very nature. It is principally why I continue to work in the industry, though it is not especially lucrative. Thus it was I set off trepidatiously a few weeks ago to a field in the middle of nowhere, somewhere past the Berkshire / Hampshire county border, in totally unfamiliar territory, down a track, past a village of which I had not even previously heard its name. Yet after half a century living in Oxfordshire, I pride myself on knowing the location of every civil parish in Vale of White Horse and how to get there from Abingdon, as well as a huge number of destinations further afield.
Because of the nature of why passengers are taken to the police station in the first instance, the instinctive sense of wariness is enhanced, that the job could be somehow troublesome, in a manner in which it is not from the little old lady passengers. In discussion with another taxi driver recently, I did make the point that a release from custody job is hardly likely to give trouble of the nature of not paying, because their identity and location would have been verified at the police station.
Showing respect to passengers is crucial, especially when they do not deserve it. In reality, a stranger is rarely wanting to visit harm upon the taxi driver, but we always remember those times people have robbed us, made homophobic, racist or otherwise offensive remarks or incurred the soiling charge.
It is counter intuitive to my own natural instinct to believe the best in people and to trust them – until they prove otherwise.
But seven years experience of night time taxi driving has shown me that it is the normal looking sons of the English middle classes who are the ones of whom I need to be wary and not the rough looking, eccentric and weird people, nor even those released from police custody.