I never blurt out my problems to hairdressers. The traditional model of behaviour, I thought, was that hairdressers listen to you talk and commiserate as they snip. I listen to them talk usually. One mention of the fact that I’m a nurse and I hear all about their own health issues, their problem drinker of a father or their aunt with cancer. I don’t mind this at all. I can share my problems on here and there’s no smell of nasty perming lotion and just the sound of my fingers tapping on the keyboard. I’m always glad to help out if I can offer consolation or reassurance, as long as I’ve not just left work and am listened out.
The same thing happens with taxi drivers, well, most taxi drivers. Some tell me far worse stuff than about their uncle’s tumour. One whiff of the fact I’m a nurse and a brief mention of the fact I’m a specialist nurse in palliative care and it’s away with the sagas for the full journey. It passes the time. I just nod and do my empathy faces.
There was a taxi driver who used to pick me up often who I couldn’t bear to listen to. He was a little rotund man who was originally from India. My heart would sink every time he pulled up outside my house. The problem with him was that he had the most unusual way of speaking.
“Hey, sonny boy! How you doing? It’s a cool for cats funky day.”
I would look down at my feet and grunt.
“It’s a groovy day! Hot hot hot! Good to go! Spicy! I was only saying to my cool cat of a son, who’s a brainy box, my boy. Yes, a brainy box! I said son, you may be rich and jingly jangly but you got to enjoy the life. You dig me Daddio?”
His chatter was relentless, peppered with inane questions that you couldn’t avoid answering. I’d try all manner of tricks to stop him talking. I answered only in monosyllables and kept my tone flat. This failed. I grunted instead of speaking. This failed. I stared pointedly out of the window. Of course, this failed too. He didn’t recognise non-verbal cues.
One particular day, I could take no more. As ever, his patter was accompanied by wild gesticulations, clicks of his fingers and loud shouts. My nerves were shot to pieces. I had to resort to abruptness and came up with a masterful solution, asking him to please not talk and on future occasions could he maintain absolute silence at all times when driving me anywhere. It worked. Harsh, but it spared my sanity. I suspect it wasn’t his fault. The man was over excitable and had clearly learned English from 1970s porn films and episodes of “Shaft”.
I upset a teenage taxi driver one day too. I got in the front of the cab, told him where I was going and before I’d even buckled my seat belt, roared off at about 70 miles per hour. He then dialled a number on his mobile phone and proceeded to talk loudly to his friend. As the car swerved relentlessly across lanes of traffic and he persisted in exhibiting his lack of skill at driving one handed, I got madder and madder. Of course, I took the polite option of shouting “Put the fucking phone down, you maniac.” It was a matter of life and death. I really don’t want to die a la Princess Di but in a shabbier car with a Magic Tree air freshener. Not for me.
He put the phone down. I offered him a tip which wasn’t cash but a piece of advice “Drive me like that again and I’ll report you to the police.” He wasn’t overly impressed.
Another thing I hate is when taxi drivers don’t know the way. Arriving in Nottingham once I stepped into a hansom cab and before I could speak, the driver pulled away, sending me reeling onto my hands and knees in the back. Then he proceeded to ask for directions where to go. Now, as a nurse, I don’t go and see patients and ask them what drugs I should give them or what dressing to use, so I don’t expect a taxi driver to not know a route. Bette Davis once said that the thing that irritated her most (a lot of things irritated her) was people who didn’t know how to do their jobs. Hear hear.
I told him I had no idea where I was going (my dander was up, I did know really) and he suggested I find him a post code. I suggested he found his own post code as he was the one driving the taxi. He suggested I ring ahead to my friend to ask her how to get there. I suggested he turn back around and take me back to the station free of charge and deposit me in a taxi with a driver who knew what the fuck he was doing. He found the way.
My final tale of taxi horror is a more salacious one. A few years back, when I still drank, I stumbled out of the local gay club at around 2am, a little tipsy and flagged down a passing cab. The driver was chatty and friendly, a youngish bloke of perhaps 30, a little plain. I was in the back behind the glass screen and safely buckled in when halfway home he asked me if I minded him asking me a personal question. I stupidly said it was fine. You can be too open.
“So, are you gay? You came out of the gay club.”
I affirmed this.
“So, in the gay club do men, like, cop off? Do they touch each other and get blow jobs and stuff?”
I confirmed that indeed that might well happen in private from time to time given enough alcohol.
“So, have you ever been to bed with two men at once.”
I answered that of course I had, who hadn’t? He became bolder.
“Have you ever had a cock rammed up your arse whilst your cock was ramming another man up the arsehole?” he asked breathlessly.
“Hang on! Can I ask you a question? Do you really think it’s safe to drive a cab whilst masturbating? Because I don’t! Now put your hands on the bloody wheel, put your cock away and drive me home. Naturally I got him to drop m off a few streets away. I didn’t want him knowing where I lived. It might have been a different story had he not been so plain. I might have issues with taxi drivers but as a single boy, I certainly wasn’t proud. He didn’t get a tip either.