In the twilight zone between Christmas and New Year, on Saturday night I waited for one hour and fifty-two minutes, to get from the back to the front of the queue of taxis waiting to get on to the rank in Abingdon town centre.
The queue to get on the queue was stretching all the way back along High Street and past the old chemist shop, closed for more than two years now. Exacerbated as it is by the culture of selfish parking with impunity in this area, as I reached the front of the queue and turned the corner into The Square, every driver there is jostling for space cheek by jowl with the takeaway food delivery drivers. Parking on and across pavements, with no thought for the consequences, is common here.
The night time economy has contracted so much in Abingdon that especially at this time of year, it is at the point where it is impossible to make a living off a rank which is more than five times oversubscribed.
Some drivers will wait in the road by the Market Place kebab van, their hazard lights blinking away. And still others will wait in a nearby bus stop, like ghosts of the taxi trade of old, half on and half off the pavement, in a layby which has not been used as a taxi rank for years.
Without income from their school contracts, drivers materialise as if work is going to magically appear from nowhere, to join the ever increasing and barely moving line.
After waiting for nearly two hours, two customers came to my taxi for the new hotel on Marcham Road, just over the minimum fare distance of one mile. So I rounded the fare down to £5 for them, bid them a goodnight and carried on home, via the nearby A34.
This was not my shortest ever fare, however, which was 134 yards from the car park of Stert Street surgery to the front door of Waitrose, nor even the next shortest, when somebody hired me to go 176 yards from the front of the Abingdon taxi rank to The Brewery Tap pub. Abingdon is not that big, though and most fares in the town are between the £5 and £10 mark.
In both instances, we could see the destination from the pick-up point, but I take them all regardless of distance, only ever turning down a fare with reasonable excuse, such as a threat to safety or the passenger being not fit for travel due to excessive consumption of alcohol, or they might be indulging in homophobic or racist abuse. Having to turn someone away is mercifully rare, however, perhaps only four or five times each year.
Every taxi driver who works off taxi ranks or is plying for hire on the streets knows that you have to be always on your guard against the worst excesses of the travelling public.
That has never changed, in all these years.
Happy New Year.