That time costs money is one of those clichés which is literally true, in the taxi business.
In the Vale of White Horse district, waiting time (when already hired) is charged at 23 pence per minute. A half hour wait would cost £6.90, which is not that great an amount, to offset the inconvenience and loss of income when a customer needs extra time to get ready for their night out, or for some other reason.
If a customer suddenly fancies a kebab or a burger on the way home, and requests an unplanned stop at a 24-hour fast food restaurant, it can have a devastating effect on a busy Saturday night. This is because bookings are scheduled one after the other, making them all run late, with the risk of the subsequent customers not using the service again.
But some things are more important than money.
A dishevelled-looking young man approached me recently, the last taxi left in an otherwise empty and quiet town centre. There had been trouble earlier on in the evening, so I already had the doors locked and opened the window about three quarters of the way, to speak with him. It transpired he did not want a taxi at all, but was seeking directions to what he called the Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, to where he had been walking throughout the night.
Something intangible about his demeanour and the look in his eyes moved me, as did the fact that he had been honest from the start of our conversation that he did not have any money. As he turned to walk away, I offered him a lift, because it would otherwise probably have taken him the rest of the night to walk all the way to Headington.
At times, he was crying in my taxi, as he related the story of how he had come to be walking the streets of Abingdon at gone 2am with no idea where he was going, nor how to get there, nor even what the time was, since his mobile's battery had ran out of power.
It became clear that he had already been walking for about five hours, after receiving a call that his loved one was very seriously ill and that he should come to the hospital as soon as possible.
Somewhere on the Berkshire Downs past Wantage, he had been picked up by the police and given a lift to Abingdon but they had been called away on another urgent matter and he made his way to the town centre on foot again.
When we reached our eventual destination – which turned out to be the Churchill Hospital and not the John Radcliffe – he asked if he could hug me and thanked me profusely, saying that nobody had ever done anything like that for him before.
"Good luck, mate," I said to him, hoping that he did make it in time.
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 05 September 2019
- Vale of White Horse District Council, Maximum fares for hackney carriages from 20 January 2014 (PDF, 78.9 Kb), retrieved 04 September 2018