There are few things in life that really get under my skin. Poverty, World Wars, Gail from Corrie - maybe, but very rarely will such misfortunes send me into unconsolable fits of rage (although saying that, Mrs Plaitt really can do my head in!). No, what really makes my blood boil and I mean to the point of a Britney-style breakdown except minus the shaved head and infamous umbrella attack, are rotton old mini-cab drivers. It's safe to say that me and my group of friends have had our not so fare share (get it!) of traumatic taxi rides. From broken down vehicles to flat tyres, taxi-driver tantrums to teenagers in tears, it's about time someone did something about the frankly shocking treatment of a worrying number of the country's mini-cabbers.
Here is one of my own and possibly most traumatic experiences courtesy of just one of Romford's finest selection of late-night cabbies.
The journey began like any other taxi-ride home from a night out in notoriously classy Essex hot-spot, Romford town, with three girls bundling themselves into the backseat of a 6 seater car, laughing and reminiscing over the evening's antics. The journey soon turned sour however at around 10 minutes into the trip when the the vehicle quickly began to show signs of a premature hangover. The car puffed and chugged across the eerie, deserted stretch of road, the cabbie insisting on driving at our new snail-like speed. It was only until the three of us managed to pull ourselves together from laughing at this poor guy's attempt at getting us home at 5mph and suggested he should pull over, did he eventually succumb to the 6 seater's fate. Having already listened to the advice of three slightly tipsy eighteen-year-olds by finally stopping the car, the man then turned to us and pondered...
"What do you think is wrong with it?"
Well if the car in which Britney attacked with an umbrella was a cabbie's then I have to say, I don't blame her because in that moment, I was mortified and had an umbrella been handy, I would have been inclined to do the same thing (I am of course joking!).
"Are you honestly asking us what's wrong with your car? Three young girls! Don't you taxi drivers go on crash courses for this kind of stuff?" I ask, "Like a First-Aid course but for your car?"
Surely they must do. A cab-man is responsible for the safety of their passengers and knowing what to do in the event of a break-down must surely be a requirement for passing the cabbie exam...I am assuming of course that they do indeed have to pass one. If what was to happen next was anything to go by, then I demand a recount for our bewildered driver.
After I kicked everyone out of the car, including the cab-man himself, proclaiming that going by what my dear mother always told me 'you should always get out and walk away from a broken-down vehicle', we then asked the driver if he would kindly call us another cab in order to pick us up and take us home, a request in which he would later refuse.
"Give me my money and I call you another cab," demanded the man.
"No, you call us a cab first and then we give you your money," I replied.
"You didn't even get us to our destination," hollered a friend.
It was nearing 3 o'Clock in the morning at this point and the initial hilarity of being stranded in the middle of nowhere was beginning to wear off. As the conversation continued to get heated, it was growing ever more obvious that the safety of three young girls was not at the top of this man's priority list, a sad fact common ground to the majority of my mini-cab experiences.
Worryingly, it is always about money with mini-cab drivers and not about getting their passengers to their destinations safely. Of course understandably I am sure they are sick to the stomach of a handful of drunken teenagers causing trouble in their vehicles but when did being young and having a bit of harmless fun, give people the right to rip you off? Sure we may be a little louder than the normal customer and yes, we may attempt to hit every high note of the Robbie William's classic 'Angels', but not all of us want to leg it away without paying or will throw up in the backseat. We don't want to have to have heated debates that last half an hour and usually end up with someone (i.e. me) in tears as we scramble our money together to prove that yes, as honest 22-year-olds we are planning to pay you before we've even made it a metre down the road.
Of course it is important not to tarnish all mini-cab drivers of Romford with the same brush and I have experienced a handful of lovely drivers who seem genuinely pleased to have people to talk to and actually wait outside each and every one of our houses to ensure we get home safely. Sadly, there just isn't enough of them like that and more often than not, I have no choice but to call upon my infamous albeit not very successful line of "I have a degree and yes I may be a bit drunk but I know when you're ripping us off" line. Sigh.
The truth of the matter is that I know it's not just me and my friends in Romford that get taken for a ride (literally!) by these cabbies who charge extortionate amounts of money to get vulnerable young people home safely just because they know that at 2 o'Clock in the morning, we want our beds and so we have no other choice but to pay it. And the abuse we suffer as a result of utilising their services...
"You said 3 drop-offs, not 4, you liars!" said one cab-man to us.
"I leave you on the side of the street!" says another.
Frankly, if a man can sleep at night knowing that they've left a young girl all alone on the side of the street then karma is going to come around and throw up all in the backseat of their car...a lot hopefully!
Well that's my rant over. Like I said, not many things in life truly rattle me but there is something about the sun going down and the mini-cabs coming out that sends me dizzy with rage. And as frustrating as it is, nothing is going to change and the majority of young people that just want to get home and go to bed, will always be punished. Like Britney, I'm going to go shave my head now.
Oh and if you're wondering how the broken-down car story ended, let me just say it results in three bare-foot girls legging it down a pitch black road, prancing behind street bollards at the mere sight of a car's headlights and one sorry phonecall to a friend's Mum who had to pull herself out of bed and save us. OK so maybe I am the type to leg it away from a cabman but only in life or death kind of cirumstances alright!