To semi-paraphrase Forest Gump’s mum, 'Cabbing is like a box of chocolates. You never know who you’re gonna get.' Sure, you meet the odd obnoxious so-and-so, but for every David Mellor there’ll always be a passenger sticking their arm out to restore your faith in humanity. My favourite riders tend to fall into the following groups:
From those who break into song to the brash New Yorker who insisted on buying me a steak dinner in Crawley, there are some real characters out there. Must be something in the Thames water. One woman described how she once drove her Mini through the Ritz arches at 5am, just for kicks. Admit it, you’d love to do that too.
© Robert Lordan
I don’t know whether to be flattered or baffled at the faith people invest in my driving. I’ve done A&E jobs, accommodated film crews and transported a Stradivarius violin to Heathrow. My most precious fare of all, though? Taking a mother and her newborn baby home for the first time - it's the stuff good memories are made of.
3. Those who were there
History is sometimes just a whisker away in the back of my cab. WWII veterans, Whitehouse insiders, Berlin Wall smashers. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet them all. And have they got tales to tell? You bet.
4. Life tippers
Some people I meet have undergone great hardship in their lives but are confident enough to share their experiences with great modesty. On a few special occasions these one-to-ones have even been accompanied by gifts. Such as the young woman in remission from cancer who stopped at a bakery to buy me a cupcake. Or the Cambodian banknote presented to me by a gentleman who’d survived the horrors of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.
Feeling cynical about the Smoke? There’s a cure: spend time with a sightseer. Their eagerness is infectious and testament to London’s brilliance. As an added bonus there’s great fun to be had with their sweetly naive misinterpretations of London’s place names. ‘Piccadilly Circle’ or the ‘Eye of London’, anyone?