Thinking allowed — 02 April 2010

The only means of communication I will be allowed soon is via CabbieBlog if John Mason, Transport for London’s head of taxi regulation, get his way. The London official has said we may be required to take courses on how to remain quiet while transporting passengers, for among the potential course subjects for improved customer service would be how to recognize when a passenger would enjoy a quiet cab ride or how to transport disabled passengers.

Have you ever heard anything so preposterous, a London cabbie talking to his customers?

Apparently under the new test, we will not only have to memorise the routes of up to 25,000 different roads in the capital, along with places of interest, important buildings, and other assorted miscellanea, but now we must also show we can suppress the desire to lecture our passenger about politics (well, Labour’s shortcomings), the England midfield or the day we picked up whatsisname from East Enders.

This might seem the modern way, but has Mr Mason considered London tradition, the prospect of the silent cabbie, what next are we going to have to go south of the river?

Mason acknowledges that London’s famed cab drivers have earned a reputation as outspoken and entertaining individuals; he has said “There is always room for improvement.” Going on he said, “It’s a world-renowned service, the drivers are always perceived to be some of the great characters you come across in London, perhaps it is good sometimes to keep your mouth shut if you sense vibes from the customer that perhaps they are having a bad day.”

He also feels that London cabbies need training to interact with the disabled, and to show how out of touch he is, I had a blind man and his dog in the cab recently. When reaching his destination, locking up the cab and helping him into the building via the few steps, a process which took two minutes, my customer said to me “You won’t get a ticket for helping me will you?”

So much for John Mason’s additional mandatory courses to improve taxi services, maybe he should talk to London’s councils so when we do provide that extra service we, and our customers are not expecting a parking ticket.

“It is good sometimes to keep your mouth shut”, I couldn’t have put it better myself Mr. Mason, or was it April first yesterday?

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(6) Readers Comments

  1. Hi David,

    I’m a photographer and am looking to shoot some images in a black cab, and I remembered seeing your blog a while back so I thought I’d ask you if you’d be interested! I’d be willing to pay for your time, it will take approximately 2 hours. I am hoping to shoot this around the 12th/13th April, and so what I thought was we could do it during whenever you might have your lunch break. Basically, it will involve you meeting us somewhere in Central London, parking and enjoying some free food on your lunch break and getting paid for your time, whilst we simply take some portraits in and around your cab.

    If you’re interested, please let me know, or if you know anyone who might be up for it please forward this to them!


    Jeff Hahn

    • Jeff

      I try to remain anonymous with my blog; you will notice there isn’t a recognisable picture of me anywhere on this site. The closest likeness of me is on this post, even the signature at the foot of each post is a pseudonym.

      The point being is that I try to make the general observations from a cabbie’s perspective as opposed to personal comments (failing miserably, it has to be said on some of my more pejorative topics).

      I can direct you to our association; The London Taxi Drivers Association at:
      who can put you in touch with Steve McNamara, the working face of London cabbies.

      Having appeared on many television programmes and news slots, he may not look like George Clooney, but personifies the archetypical working cabbie.

      Thanks for you positive comments about CabbieBlog and if you need further information you can contact me via the About pages here on CabbieBlog.

      Checked out your site hi-bye

      And I congratulate you on the standard of photojournalism you have posted there.


  2. All this legislation on this, legislation on that is going too far if you ask me. What’s next? Measuring how much we poop?

    • Give them time Jacqui, give them time

  3. As the saying goes, every story has two sides, in this case the cabbie’s and the passenger’s.

    On our courier runs to different cities, Tigger and I have enjoyed some good chats with cab drivers who have told us fascinating things about their town and interesting places to visit. Sometimes we have had less comfortable rides with ranting or whingeing drivers or with taciturn chaps who only answer with a grunt.

    Cab drivers, despite their special skills, are only human, like the rest of us. They are capable of good humour and exceptional kindness but also of being grumpy or of misreading the situation. Just like the rest of us.

    Unlike, say, office workers or shop assistants, cabbies work alone. They have no boss or supervisor to say “You were indiscreet and embarrassed that customer” or perhaps “You could have been a bit more amiable and helpful”. Cabbies therefore need greater than average tact and human understanding. Some undoubtedly have it (I’ve met a few) but no one’s perfect and we can all learn from our mistakes. Some don’t, of course…

    I’m not saying John Mason is right or wrong. He’s only human too and has a right to his opinion just as the rest of us have a right to agree or disagree with it. Either way, I doubt whether cabbies, as I know them, will take any notice. Next time I get into your cab, if I feel like talking I’ll say “How’s it going, then?” but if I have my nose firmly in my book then leave me to it… 🙂

    • If you have your nose in a book, I’ll take the hint . . . honest

What do you have to say for yourself?