“Happy New Year!” my regular customer greeted me cheerfully, on our first airport run of 2019. We made our way to Heathrow in the dark and I was back in Oxfordshire again by 0700. Such is the ease with which it is possible to travel at that time of the morning, although I would not want to leave the county any later than 0600, due to the inevitable build up of traffic around the M25.
It is comforting to be able to resume some semblance of regularity, after the uncertainties of Christmas, when the regular rhythms of life are upset by bank holidays and a rare night of the year when there is an unprecedented demand.
New Year’s Eve brings out those who are licensed by the district council, but who are never otherwise seen plying for hire on the streets and taxi rank of Abingdon, leading to huge queues. But at least they are moving, unlike a typical Saturday night these days, when it would not be unusual for the time taken to get from the back of the rank to the front to be approaching two hours. Obviously, I am always carrying books, papers and electronic devices but it is nonetheless tedious.
This first week of 2019 also saw my second ‘Sleeper’, as they are referred to by seasoned taxi drivers, in only four days. Ordinarily, there are about two or three of them in an entire year. There is something about the temperature and rhythm of the car, especially on a relatively well maintained road surface like the A34, which sends some people who have had a lot to drink, off to sleep.
So it was in the early hours of Sunday morning, when a young man got into my taxi at the back of the Abingdon taxi rank and asked to go to Didcot, without specifying a street name. By the time we had reached the end of Ock Street, he was asleep and only responding to the usual conversational gambits, such as “have you had a good night, mate?” with grunts.
By the time we reached Broadway in Didcot, he was fast asleep and not responding at all to all the usual techniques of opening the windows to allow cold air in and repetition of “mate, we’re in Didcot, you have to wake up now.”
There was nothing else to be done other than to call the Police, who £10.23 of waiting time later, managed to rouse him. They asked him for the fare, he was given the change and I was on my way again.
Indubitably, this and other similar night time incidents cost money, in that the taxi cannot be utilised again whilst I am waiting for them to be resolved. Conversely, it is very rare to get any kind of trouble at all from those who are travelling with me on a regular basis, many of whom have become friends and because of whom I am grateful to have such a livelihood.