There is no sick pay for the self-employed taxi driver. When it is necessary to take time off, whether planned, or unplanned due to illness, there is no real choice other than to try to make up lost income by working extra hours.
So it was I found myself having to work late one Saturday night recently. After a week of illness, when I had fulfilled my pre-booked fares, but had needed to spend time resting, there was no choice other than to work all night, until after four o’clock in the morning.
Just after two o’clock, I had rounded the corner from High Street onto The Square in Abingdon, when a brawl erupted on the pavement, next to the old chip shop. It had spilled out into the road to the side of my taxi, but fortunately I was able to reverse up, out of the way of the melee.
Often, these sudden flare ups in the town centre will dissipate of their own accord, so it can be difficult to know where the point is to call for further assistance, if at all. But this one had escalated into actual violence, with pushing and shoving and human beings on the ground. By this stage, six to seven minutes into the incident, the Police had arrived and I had been called away, by a customer who had telephoned for a taxi.
In the early hours of another Sunday morning at the end of March, the last pub in town had closed at two o’clock and as is the usual practice, people hang around in the town centre for some time, talking with their friends.
Quality of passengers in the middle of the night can be very poor. At 0327, a taxi pulled up alongside the rank. The driver had picked up two passengers and a third party, who had agreed to share a taxi, but when the two passengers got to their destination, it was revealed that they did not have money to pay.
So the driver returned them to the town centre, where he had picked them up. However, they refused to get out of his taxi, whereupon a stand-off, lasting nineteen minutes developed. Police had been called, but did not attend and it was only resolved by a third party shouting at them to get out of the taxi
They were refused travel in my taxi, but just went further down the rank, until they found somebody who was not aware of what had happened and was desperate enough for the fare, to take them.
These incidents were once a weekly occurrence, but are now mercifully less common, since the demise of Abingdon’s last remaining night club at Easter 2012. But they do show that the night taxi driver has continually to be on their guard against the vicissitudes of the drunken travelling public and those who would otherwise visit harm upon us when we are going about our lawful business in the middle of the night.