Wonders of a technological age

In a provincial town like Abingdon - with an illustrious past, but which in the modern age is unremarkable - it seems like nothing much ever changes.

And almost without being noticed this week, a significant anniversary was marked in my taxi in time honoured fashion - by nothing out of the ordinary.

A customer came to my taxi yesterday lunchtime and asked me to take her to the nearest rail station. Prior to 1963, she could have been driven the short distance by taxi into central Abingdon, but these days, the situation is somewhat more complicated for travellers using the train to get to and from here.

It is further complicated by the present closure of Oxford rail station, of which my passenger was unaware. A short discussion and a 22-minute drive later, we arrived at Didcot, from where rail replacement buses are also operating, with barriers blocking the usual drop-off point. Having showed her the way into the station buildings past the unfamiliar environment created by the waiting coaches and barriers, I was swiftly on my way again.

Seven years ago, a customer from New Jersey was taken to Gloucester Green bus station, but being at the end of his trip, he had run out of pounds sterling and did not have enough to pay the fare.

 

However, he did have several currencies in his wallet and we negotiated over the remainder of the fare, using the then exchange rate, settling on a combination of pounds, United States and Canadian dollars. The latter I gladly accepted, in the hope of one day returning to that country. The United States dollars were subsequently used, in the great state of Washington, but I am yet to return to Canada, although I do still live in hope. By the time I get there again, the currency may well have passed out of use.

It was interesting also last week that an on-demand bus service was launched in Oxford, with the manager promoting the use of buses over taxis, partly on the basis of technology such as wifi and USB charging points offered on buses, but not in taxis.

The reality is that these facilities have been provided in my taxi for years, including charging leads which reach into the back, free wifi and online taxi location maps.

These days, you can also pay in my taxi on a contactless card terminal, using all popular card types, including Amex, Google Pay and Apple Pay, which enable a customer to pay using their mobile phone. One Abingdon man this week was the first of my customers ever to pay by holding his watch over the card reader.

These things are a wonder of the modern technological age and it is right and proper that small independent businesses run by sole proprietors, should offer the customer the choice of paying by them, if they want.

As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 11 July 2018

  1. GWR Abingdon Branch, 2006, as retrieved 10 July 2018