My special guest today is Colette Caddle. Apart from being a well known Irish author, her other talents include drinking excessive amounts of tea and being a professional colour-coder of her larder. She also has a rather odd obsession with taxis. So read on and enjoy.
Cabbie! Taxi Please!
Taxi drivers are the same the world over; I say this from experience.
There have been times when I’ve climbed into a cab in a good mood to be met with frosty sullenness and, as a result, got out at the other end of the journey feeling dejected. I have met pessimists with a dark and cynical opinion on almost every topic and tried to paint the brighter side of the picture for them but to no avail. And on the occasions when I didn’t want to talk because I was down, sad or preoccupied, I’ve met the garrulous, cheerful, chatty type. I would try to discourage conversation by staring out of the window or pretending to read, but the driver usually carried on regardless. Sometimes I’d unwittingly be drawn out of my dark mood and I’d get out of the car feeling better than when I got in.
Taxi drivers have frequently irritated me, often infuriated me, from time to time made me feel sad and thankfully very rarely, scared the hell out of me. But for the most part, they’ve made me laugh and they’ve nearly always made me stop and think.
I’ll never forget the Dubliner who told me how he and his girlfriend had got ‘caught out’ at just seventeen He had panicked at the thought of becoming a father so young and been tempted to run out on his girlfriend. He didn’t and twenty-three years later, he considered his son his best friend and his children his greatest achievement.
I met one big and rather intimidating man who boasted about how he’d dealt with difficult clients in the past. Alarmed and afraid, I commiserated, smiled nervously and gave him an extra-large tip.
Then there was the quiet but very determined Londoner who had decided to change his life and was working gruelling hours so that he could afford the fee to train as a pilot in the US – I was lost in admiration.
I remember the time I met a middle-aged cab driver in New York who excitedly told me about the property he was buying in Thailand and how he would relocate there as soon as his pocket allowed, now he made me smile.
And I still shiver at the memory of the skeletal, vacant-eyed boy who drove fast and recklessly as he told me how his in-laws were trying to press him into the family business of drug-dealing. He ran out of petrol when we were still a mile from home. I helped him push his car off the road, pressed money into his hand and stumbled off down the dark country lane feeling lucky to be alive.
I have met drivers who have chosen their occupation because the flexible hours allowed them to care for a child, a sick spouse or an elderly parent. I have met people who have abandoned careers in search of a more independent or less pressured lifestyle. I have met readers, writers, artists, actors, professionals and intellects but, most of all, I have met a plethora of comedians, students of life, who recount their observations to their customers with style and charm.
My most recent experience of taxi drivers was on a family holiday in Spain. It hadn’t been our best day as we had gone exploring, hadn’t found what we were looking for and ended up a long way from home, feeling grumpy, hot and tired. When the taxi pulled over and I gave him our address he looked at me with incredulous delight. We had our seatbelts on and he was pulling into traffic before I realised there was no air-conditioning; could the day possibly get worse? Well, yes, as seconds later his hands-free phone rang and despite my limited pigeon Spanish, it was clear from his tone that our driver was telling someone of his good fortune in picking up lost tourists who were either very rich, very dumb and quite possibly, both. But when he hung up he turned to us with a disarming smile and filled us in on the conversation. It turned out the caller had been his wife, furious as he was late for a family occasion. When he told her, however, of where he was taking us and the size of the fare he would be coming home with, she was delighted and assured him that they would wait for him.
His candour was refreshing and his happiness, infectious. Soon the tension started to ease from my family as he told us about his home, his family, his brother’s taxi firm and his beloved wife. All the while he smiled, occasionally teasing the children and making them laugh – a feat that, given their mood when they got into the car, was nothing short of a miracle. As we neared our hotel I asked this charismatic man if he was a full-time taxi driver.
‘No, no,’ he told us, ‘during the day I work as a clown, visiting children in hospitals and hospices.’
Taxi drivers are the same the world over; I say this from experience. Some are happy, some are sad; some are interesting and some boring; some are angry and pessimistic while others are determined to look on the brighter side of life. And, happily there are some, just like my Spanish friend, who make the world a brighter and better place.
Find out more about Colette: