One of the popular misconceptions about driving a taxi is that you are somehow rolling in it, due to it being one of the diminishing number of businesses which still trade predominantly in cash.
The facility for my customers to pay by card in my taxi has been offered for more than half of the years I have been in business in Abingdon. Not only that, but they can also pay by bank transfer and for known customers, by cheque. Up until a few years ago, I was also even able to offer this form of payment to strangers, but had to stop this when a fellow paying for his relative to travel from an Abingdon business to Didcot bounced a cheque on me. That was returned to me with a £4 charge added and he still owes me £23 to this day, although I have never seen him nor his relative since. Stealing from those who work so hard for what little they earn is one of the lowest things a human being can do.
Nothing is for free, of course, especially as a small business, where volume discounts for processing payments do not apply and it costs 68 pence to write a cheque and 30 pence to pay one into your business bank account.
Some forms of payment should really be discouraged, due to the cost of processing them through the bank, but I’ve always believed in freedom of choice for the customer and paid for the cost myself, without passing it on to them. If a good enough service is offered, it is mostly the case that the customer will more than cover the processing cost, with the generosity of their tips.
As I approach my ninth year driving a taxi in and around Abingdon - for something that was only supposed to last a few months, as a temporary measure - the standard questions remain unimaginatively the same.
Many customers’ opening conversational gambit is still to ask the question “been busy?” The standard response is now these days something along the lines of “not really, mate.” For I was advised some years ago not to give a truthful answer, just in case they are about to rob you. And there was at least one such incident in Abingdon, this past year of 2017.
As the bell at Saint Nicolas Church on Abingdon Market Place tolled twelve times in the first seconds of 2018, I looked up and saw that the clock face was not showing twelve at all, but five to two.
Above the west window is what is known colloquially as "the town clock", facing Abingdon Market Place. It has not kept time for several months and as I learned from a passer-by "it even has its own separately billed supply of electricity," different from the clock face which looks over Stert Street and which does still keep time. In some respects, this discord is symbolic of the collective leadership of Abingdon itself.