Thinking allowed — 19 March 2009

You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?

So said Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver brilliantly played by Robert De Niro (arguably the greatest movie actor of his generation). But maybe we should look at another genre of film.

Have you nothing to do on a wet Sunday afternoon?

May I commend to you any Fred Astaire’s 1930 black and white movie? There on screen men are actually treating people with civility. Opening doors for women, allowing ladies to sit-down first and rising when a lady comes into the room. And wait for it – saying please and thank you.

As a sometime working cabbie I’m amazed at the number of people who can’t even stop talking on their mobile phone to give me their destination. They will then hold out their hand without even looking at you for their change, usually while still talking crap into their mobiles.

While on the roads the habitual use of the car horn makes London sound like downtown Cairo, and if you don’t pull away from the lights at amber some idiot behind will remind you that you are impeding his progress.

While some drivers think it is a badge of courage to block my cab from proceeding through a road junction when they are stuck in traffic at an intersection.

When you go to that temple of consumerism, Lakeside, have you noticed families, dressed in the regulation strip of their football team, will walk four abreast forcing you to move out of the way of their fat arses?

It gets no better in garages, while waiting in a queue, some idiot who cannot wait in line with the rest of you, will walk to the front and drop his (and it’s always his) money on the counter very un-English.

If I have the temerity to take a route in my cab not to my passengers’ liking I will get a rude rant of how I am “trying to rip them off by going the long way round”.

This is the dictionary’s definition of rudeness (also called impudence or effrontery):

The disrespect and failure to behave within the context of a society or a group of people’s social laws or etiquette. These laws have already unspokenly been established as the essential boundaries of normally accepted behaviour. To be unable or unwilling to align one’s behaviour with these laws known to the general population of what is socially acceptable would be considered being rude.

No it’s not; it is just being an oaf!!

Well this cabbie is trying to raise the bar for politeness, when asked rudely by someone:

“Do you know where Trafalgar Square is?”

I will reply in my most mannered way

“Yes I do, thank you very much” and drive off.

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Gibson

(3) Readers Comments

  1. I guess you’ve been to NYC “Whad’ya want?” and to Cairo where the horn sounds die down around 3.30am and start up again just before 5am!

    You got it spot on!

    Like I said Really enjoying your site.

    • Yes I’ve been to Egypt but given New York a miss

  2. I used to work in a bookshop. We assistants wore big badges with the name of the shop on them but people would still come up to me, stare theatrically at my badge, and ask “Do you work here?”

    I once replied “Only when the manager’s watching” and the customer left me in no doubt as to her displeasure.

    We British (or is it only the English?) do have this curious indirect way of asking for things. Rather than ask “What is the time, please?” we say “Do you have the time?” I once replied “I have the time if you have the inclination” but it didn’t go down at all well 😉

    For some reason, directly asking for something (a destination, the time, a book) is perceived of as rude or pushy. Much better to work up to it sideways.

    Perhaps next time someone asks “Do you know where Trafalgar Square is?” you should answer “Would you like me to call you a cab?”

What do you have to say for yourself?