The Small World of London...
Updated: Nov 1, 2021
The weirdest part of driving a taxi is the element of luck that is essential to this job. Just because I am actively looking for a job, scouring the streets and actually trying, has no measurable impact on whether I find a job. I could be driving for 2 minutes, I could be driving empty for 1 hour, there is no rhyme or reason. Some days it feels like every taxi driver other than yourself has a job on, “is the hire light working?”, “is the whole world laughing at me because I can’t find a passenger?”
Conversely, if I stop, pull over and enjoy a coffee for a couple of minutes, I could get a job as soon as I pull away. Or maybe someone may spot me as I’m stopped and eating. It’s just being in the right place at the right time.
It’s here that we get into the butterfly affect of cab driving. I love thinking about decisions and choices taken in life that stray you into another area. Well with taxi driving one job that takes you out of the centre of town, may put you in an area you would never go, but as a result there’s a distinct lack of cabs, bouncing you onto another job back into central. I love the kind of conversations or good passengers you can get, and to think that that conversation may not have happened if you were one light sequence behind, as it would have gone to another driver.
It’s that spontaneity, combined with the never constant flux of the city that keeps it exciting.
In fact, despite all of these wild variables, I have had the same customer twice. And on plenty of occasions.
The most common type of same customer is the regular commute, i.e. when I lived in Highgate and I dabbled in a 8-5 schedule of working, it wouldn’t be uncommon to pick up the same person from the village via a taxi app, where they electronically hail a taxi. It just shows that despite the fact how I feel spontaneous and working for myself, you naturally fall into patterns and grooves, as does the commuting public (even if they are able to work flexibly or turn up to the office late).
Another frequent job where I drive in via Hampstead is a school run, taking a parent to pick up their child, dropping them off. I would maybe stopping for a quick bite, do a couple of jobs, only for the previous passenger to hail me down again some half hour later with a child by their side.
I understand it on the outer extremities of the map, similar times across the week, less available cabs, it’s like participating in a regional lottery without many entrants.
But to get the same passenger twice in central, a day apart… now that’s weird.
One Monday approx 3pm I picked up a lady on Sloane Avenue, going to Crouch Hill. Nothing out of the ordinary there, she hailed via an app.
The next day, approximately 4pm, the same lady hails me down on the street as I drive past. It’s an incredibly popular haunt for cabbies, so the chances of this occurrence happening 2 days in a row is baffling.
If anyone wants to try and calculate it. My guess is that there were potentially 16000 taxis licensed in London at that point in time. Only a smaller percentage of those would be working, say 9000. I would estimate that Sloane Avenue probably has a flow of 40 cabs either direction across the minute.
I’ve had plenty more, and in fact across the course of my almost 4 years of taxi driving I’ve probably had even more that I haven’t clocked. Unfortunately I’m the more recognisable individual so I have to take their lead when they say “Oh did you pick me up such and such date”. My mind usually goes blank and I can barely remember what I had for breakfast (I opt for the same standard of 2 poached eggs on a single slice of toast to ensure I can always answer this question).
I can’t quite remember where I read it. But the occurrences of a “small world” instance are approximately once a month. You’ll bump into an old friend in a random location, have a familiar acquaintance brought up in conversation from a complete strange, or have a complete chance of fate.
Small world ‘ey?