Into The Teenies We Go
Sunday January 24th 2010, 2:44 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

And lo the snows receded
And day was not day at all
Nor was it night
It was the colour of modern cars
A spectrum of gray and black
The great windows
On both the north and south wings of my house
Were recovered in dust and grime
But I donned my armour
And jutted my jaw
And climbed into the pilots seat

The first job was from the office
Two foreign walkers
About to hit the South Downs Way
But needing to taxi away the boring city bit
So I took them up to Devil’s Dyke
As always I got out to take in the vast scape from the viewpoint
A glimmer caught my eye from the west
Two large new lakes had appeared
Several weeks of rain
Followed by two foot of snow and more rain
Had created a new habitat

I managed to snap up a punter on the way back in
Always a bonus
The man was a promoter for unlicensed boxing
And appeared to carry the air of a man in the money
I pitched in with a modicum of interest
But I was never going to turn up at one of these events
To watch amateur sport
You need to have a vested interest
Because it is most likely to be pants
Professional sport is often pants
His next event though was going to be big
Lots of people there
Then he gave me the time that it finished
Indicating that I should rank up there at that time for some work
My mind seasoned his comments with a pinch of salt
And I dropped him off opposite the brothel

There are many cabbies that would have followed his lead
And made a note
But here I have to invoke Spencer Dials Theory of Displacement
Which states
When there is a major event going on in the city
Completely ignore it
As lots of the independent cabs head for the action
So creating condensed competition
Often waiting tiresome periods
For fares that are just up the road to the station
Instead carry on doing your normal routine
And watch yourself busy with their displacement

During the Labour party conference last year
Drivers flocked to the seafront at conference chuck out time
I happened to be dropping there
So I decided to join in
The rank by the side of the centre was full
So by some tacit understanding
The queue continued at the night club rank on the other side of the road
But drivers coming in from the seafront didn’t know this
And were dodging into fresh spaces appearing at the back of the main rank
This lead to cabbies waving and shouting from across the road
But because of the noise of the traffic
They were becoming more frantic and angry
After twenty minutes of chin on palm on steering wheel
I got to the front
And had to get out the ramps for wheelchair access
That was going to the station….£3-60

Back in the seventies when I was a kid
I used to dream of flying aircraft
Or even better
On one occasion I found two large pieces of white cardboard
And set about with felt tips and a ruler
To draw my own control panels
I deliberated for the whole day
Over the function of each switch or button
I was thinking of the bridges on Star Trek and Blakes Seven
I needed a guided tour
There were too many blank buttons on my console

Though romp on thirty years
And look at todays computers
From a visual gadget point of view
From my mindframe of the future
They are a big disappointment
It’s just a typewriter and a telly
No brightly lit coloured buttons and sliders
Just a mouse and a little arrow
What a let down!
And all the other modern technology
Has been miniaturised so much
That they are just fiddly and annoying
And the whole modern kaboodle
Is riddled with glitches and faults
The Sat Nav
Though it is a great little instrument
One cannot wholly rely on it
And as a cab driver
It is a tad compromising
Later on this day I found myself burdened with the task
Of transporting some of Brighton City Council’s VIP’s
Including the leader of the city
To somewhere deep into London
A city where I am at the mercy of the Sat Nav
The day before
Knowing this was about to happen
I dashed to the accessory shop
And bought a new lead
This morning I plugged it in…fine
But no it wasn’t fine
It charged the device
But the Sat Nav seemed to think that it was receiving info from a computer
And would only display a picture of a computer tower
So I had to set off to London running the thing on its battery
Which lasts for around an hour
So I am farting around
Switching off
Plugging in
More memorizing
Whilst the VIP’s postured with each other in the back
Never concise
Never to the point
Council political styling of the modern world
Little of use
Lots of shit
Very Important People
Guided by a Very Impotent Sat Nav

At the last of the day
Three Russians got in
They wanted to go well out of town to a village west of Pulborough
I punched it in to the Sat Nav
Which had a teaspoon of power left
So I switched it off til I got near
As I approached the last main crossroad I turned it on
It told me to go straight across
I soured slightly thinking that the better way would have been right
Taking me through the town
I shrugged
It must be a cool short cut
But the way ahead was dark and narrow
And became gradually rougher and rocky
Where was the turn off?
The Russians had stopped chatting
And were all staring at me
Aha at last the right hand turn appeared
It was a clearing leading to what looked like another lane
But it was too dark to see it properly
So I had to turn the van into the clearing to see it
The headlights revealed a classic corker
It was an odd meeting of two pieces of rising land
Leaving what looked like a 15 foot earthquake crevice
Full of zigzagging scrub trees growing diagonally out of the walls
I repressed a laugh
And gave the Russians a pinched apology
The Sat Nav was then replaced with the Russian daughter
Who finished off the job

On the whole though
My job does reflect back to me
That button pushing console world
Unlike the cars of the seventies
With their rudimentary direct toggle switches
My taxi of today has enough buttons
To create the feeling of a space shuttle
I must do several thousand button pushes every day
And I am involved in a big tactical fight
It makes me…Spencer Dial…a Taxi Pilot

Snow Patrol
Sunday January 10th 2010, 9:02 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

There is nothing like beholding inexperience on a city wide scale
And so it started on the Thursday night
As the gooey eyed folk of Brighton
Looked from their windows
And marvelled at the swirling snowstorm
Laying a heavy white shagpile
The winter wonderland had arrived for a second time in a year
But it wasn’t the same as last time

At seven in the morning I looked in on Junior
He was awake
He said he’d not slept properly because he was thinking about snow
I told him that it hadn’t happened
Go back to sleep
It was ten o clock before he decided to check the sky
Kicking us both into action

I took him to the park
Deciding at the last minute to go in the cab
I was pretty impressed how it gripped and carved it’s way through the snow
Front wheel drive with a heavy front end was key to it’s success
The park was a winter wonderland
Sledges; skis; snowmen; snowballs
But I wasn’t drawn to the fun in the snow
I was pondering how well the cab worked in the snow
There would be an abundance of work
And the day would be full of challenging situations
I almost adopted a heroic stance
With one foot on a rock
Yes I could be ‘Snow Hero’…taxi rescue
Though it would be more like ‘Snow Mercenary’
As soon as Mrs Dial turned up I was off

I quickly worked out that the main roads were do-able
The side roads were fine on the flat
Where there were hills
And bear in mind that Brighton a sits in a steep sided valley…rutted with hills
It seemed the cab was good to go up them
But I had to work out a way to exit onto a main road
Because I didn’t fancy going down them

I sent a text to my mate Jonatron
“Transits rock in the snow”
However his transit had already been caught out
A builder…too much stuff in the back
He had been driving past one of the steepest down roads in town
As he passed it’s corner
He had been captured by it’s gravity
And dragged into a side slide
Stopping precariously near the top
He dare not move it…though it was blocking the road
When he looked up a large scaffolding truck was waiting
The driver was threatening to knock him out of the way if he didn’t move
It was the first sniff of some of the public stupidity about to come

At the half way point of the day
I had completely lost my GPS connection to the office
So I was manually taking the work from the screen
They didn’t know where I was…but it didn’t matter
It gave me more freedom
And by this time the cab had become more of a community bus
Though a mercenary community bus
I was stopping to pick people up
Sometimes with others already in the back
But nobody cared
Everyone seemed willing to chip in to help out
They would be sat in the back divvying money between them
To divide the fare
It all worked out great
The final fare of the first day of snow
Was to the mental hospital on the outskirts
It was booked on account for one nurse
There was no sign of the nurse when I got there
Two departing patients with a large trolley of stuff
Descended on me
They had been waiting for a cab for 40 minutes
Then two other nurses came running up
They had been at the bus stop for ages
No cabs…no buses…they had given up standing there
They were all babbling at once
I held up my hands for them to stop
“Look people just let me try and find this nurse…and I’ll take you all”
I couldn’t find the nurse
But the cab was full
Off on a winding route of bus drops all the way across the city
Endless chatter lead by one of the patients
Nurses…both of them laughing
A satisfying end to a lively day

The next day I was out of the door with gusto
Like a trooper eager for combat
A mercenary trooper of course
And the whole day ran a similar course
The main roads were now pretty clear
The side roads were now packed flat with hard snow or ice
But they were for the most part rough
Which meant it was still safe to go uphill with a bit of grip
With over a day under my belt
I had mastered the techniques required
And the strategy of the route
As darkness fell on the second day
I was carrying six passengers across a usual cut through
“Oh no don’t go this way” said one
“You’ll never get up the hill” said another
“Our engineers have given up on this hill” said another
Before they could finish warning me
With a dose of correct speed
And grumbling high gear
I was already at the top

Day 3 was a different affair
I left Dial HQ with brimming confidence in myself and the Transit
The first job was at the street opposite
Take a girl to one of the hilliest parts of town…Hanover
I decided to go in level by using the main roads up the side
I turned in and passed the police station
And noticed pretty quickly that the streets looked different
The rough packed snow and ice had changed
Unknown to me
It had rained during the night
Smoothing the thick ice to a shiny gloss finish
And the morning sun had left a sweaty layer on top
I turned into Sussex Street hill
For only a few seconds
Before the wheels spun
And I went into a 5 metre backwards diagonal slide
Fortunately back onto a patch of cleared road near the bottom
As I looked across the streets ahead
They would have been impassable anyway
Abandoned vehicles were pointing in every direction

Without heeding that warning
Thinking it was isolated
I entered the top of Clifton Hill passing the old hospital
I realised straight away that the whole hill had become teflon glass
But I was already too far in to back out
I was heading for the downhill section very slowly
At the first level left turn
I applied 3rd gear and a whisper of gas
Now I was tilting slightly to the right
In danger of sliding into the gutter
Up ahead was an Ocado delivery van
The driver sweating teacakes
Trying to free his vehicle with a spade
I tiptoed past him gently turning left back up the hill
My delicate momentum gradually took me back out on the main road
I stopped…took stock
And decided not to do any more side roads
I was very lucky to be still in business

Brighton was well and truly caught out
In February the snow fell like this for the first time in twenty years
This was the second snow that had landed and stayed inside the same year
But what marked this out as different
Was that overnight it had rained on top of the ice
And water running down the ice packed hills
Had smoothed away the roughness
And turned it into Megateflon
I would have doubted that 4×4’s could have climbed some of these hills

To spice up the danger
Almost all of the pedestrians were now walking on the roads
Because the paths had become too dangerous to walk on
On a pick-up at the hospital
A nurse told me that the A+E was over-run with broken bones
No old people
They had stayed put
It was all young people
Later in the day one of our radio operators
Was carried off to hospital with a broken hip

It had become clear to at least all the cabbies
That only the main roads were free to travel on
But some of the public just didn’t get it
You could feel the build up of impatience around the city
Many people started to blame the Council
It was their fault that the side roads were treacherous
As I stopped at the top of one street
Folks were busy up and down
Clearing the paths outside their houses
This was all very well
But surely the way forward for the council at least
Would be to have a representative
They would call on each street
Until they found a volunteer
Who could take charge of their road
The main instruction being
To raise a crew with spades
To clear two tracks all the way down each street
So that emergency vehicles and gritters
Could access each road
And of course
They themselves would be able to get their cars free
I am fairly sure that in some Euro countries this is an obligation

As I was now restricting my access to many roads
Passengers began to challenge me
On a few occaisions came a batch of emotional blackmail
Together with some expert knowledge of the current conditions
I stopped at the bottom of one street
And walked up the short bendy hill to find the house
He came out before I got there
And instructed me to come up in the cab
I refused and told him to go down to the cab
Then we became locked in an argument
Where he was blackmailing me 
With the fact that his uncle was down syndrome
And couldn’t walk across this stuff
During this duel
He quoted the fact that a London style cab had just been up there
I started laughing
I knew that there were no London cabs running
Because most of them had been abandoned
Ungainly tubs with rear wheel drive
The guy then offered me more money to try to get up
I looked at the cab
And reckoned I would get maybe 20 feet before I spun
Then I could slide gently back onto the main road
So I made it look like I was trying
And spun to a stop just where I thought
The family…pleased that I had tried (demonstrated)
Spilled out of their house
The uncle did struggle but made it in the end 

Shortly after this
I dropped a couple at the top of a long slope
“Go down the bottom can yer” she said
“No” said I
“How do you expect me to carry my baby down there?”
I had gone beyond giving explanations and just stood my ground
Again they cited the example of that excellent snow vehicle ‘the london cab’
I sighed and waited
Until they paid me and got out

One last job from the ranks
A large family filled the back
I took them to the dangerous high-point
Where Jonatron had abandoned his van
We stopped at the very top
Once they were out and off walking down the hill
I stood there for a moment
Breathing in the sharp air
I felt in tune with this weather
It wakes the senses
Crisp and fresh
To take in the diffused silence
Lots of small meditations at every stop

A car horn snapped me out of it
They wanted me to move the cab so they could get down the hill
I ignored them and climbed back in to do a bit of unfinished paperwork
They decided to drive around me
Rolling slowly across the edge of the hill
Then the car stopped
The confident dapper guy in his camel hair coat got out and walked around the other side
Whilst his blonde wife shuffled across the seats
I stopped what I was doing
This was going to be entertaining
He took control…or so he thought
The Saab gently drifted sideways
As he started to fight with the wheel
Somehow he managed to point it towards the first side street
And it beached itself outside the corner shop
Where the fools left it