It can all change instantly

A few months ago, I was asked what my biggest ever flagged-down fare had been At that time, it was a hard enough question to answer; I couldn’t remember.

Delays are currently plentiful around Abingdon and its surrounding villages, due to numerous manifestations of temporary traffic lights, especially problematic on routes to and from south to north Abingdon.  It is almost as if various utility companies and public authorities are using their budgets on roadworks, before the end of the financial year, next month.

Together with works linking the hundreds of new houses being built on estates to the south of Abingdon with utilities, it makes journeys crossing the Thames or Ock rivers especially tedious and prolongs the morning rush hour, lessening earning potential.

On Thursday morning, the heralded snow came rolling in and trains started to be cancelled. A call came for a passenger who wanted a taxi from Didcot Parkway rail station to Gloucester Green bus station in Oxford.

As I joined the excessively long queue on the main road in Drayton, this potentially lucrative job was slipping away from me.  Sure enough, five minutes from Didcot station, as I reached the outskirts of Milton Park, the customer cancelled, wasting 42 minutes of my time on the round trip.

They would instead catch a taxi from the rank at Didcot station, which is in South Oxfordshire, with its tariff unregulated by the district council, set by the operator themselves and very likely costing them more than if they had got into my taxi. Fed up, I returned to Abingdon.

All morning I waited, until a person couriering a valuable cargo flagged me down, wanting to catch a flight to Ireland. A kindly and jovial soul, he had not slept for thirty hours and had been travelling for all of that time, facing cancellations at each leg of his journey, due to the weather.

“Southampton Airport, please,” he proclaimed, asking if I take cards in my taxi. Fortunately for me, I have done for more than five years.

We set off on the A34, only to reach south of Newbury, where he said “Southampton Airport’s closed because of the snow. Can we now go to Southend, please?”

Somewhere past Reading on the M4, he laid his hand on my left shoulder and changed the destination yet again. His personal assistant had source pd a flight out of Heathrow first thing on a Friday.

It was not quite the dizzy heights of Southend-on-Sea, but at £183, therein lies the story of my biggest flagged-down fare.

We are all on a journey and we all have a story to tell. I am privileged to share some of  those journeys and hear those stories.

That is one of the glories of taxi driving: the prospect that it can all change in an instant from a bad day to a good one.

As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 07 March 2018

View a map of the last one thousand Destinations and the furthest ever fares, by distance