When I got into a fake London black cab

Last week I got myself in a ‘bad taxi’ situation. It was the most frightening taxi journey of my life.

It was 11pm in Brixton and I couldn’t be bothered to get two tubes and a bus home. I saw that orange light in the distance and it was done.

When I shut the door – I got an instant bad vibe from the driver – he was weirdly unresponsive and unfriendly, told me I must direct him. I realised there were no certifications inside or out, it was a grey people carrier with a meter, the driver clearly did not have the ‘knowledge’…and I wasn’t even sure if it was a legal taxi.

He drove in a totally different direction from the route I requested.  After 15 minutes and as we got further away from where I knew, manically weaving through a housing estate, I started to totally panic in complete silence in the back . I asked  to confirm the route – he barely responded. A second time –  I got a sarcastic ‘yes’. (Ok – so maybe at this point he was finding me a little irritating, but  it was probably clear to him he was making me nervous and I was looking for reassurance he wasn’t insane, just like any sister, mother, friend, partner of his might). I was mentally drafting a (now, hilarious to think of)  all-grouper SOS text when we turned onto Clapham South and I felt like a total idiot for doubting him and the route. I asked him to stop for money – my plan was to just get out there  – but the cash point was out of order so feeling guilty and stupid I got back in. That was not my smartest moment.

It took about 10 seconds before he started yelling. Apocalypse style. For totally wasting time… I should have left the entire journey to him…the route…all the decisions…where to stop for cash…not got involved….because of me we’d come miles out of his way..I was to shut up (I’d barely said anything ). I’m not one to back down from an argument- but his tirade was so completely mental  that I  quietly apologised.

When we got near my home- I asked him to stop . I handed him his twenty quid (yes TWENTY QUID). I could have left it and walked away…but instead I  told him I’d felt  intimidated in his taxi and he shouldn’t do that to passengers, especially women traveling on their own, late at night. He argued he wasn’t rude. I told him it was ‘feedback’. He asked me if he could give me some feedback. I told him no. He could just f*ck off. I know how silly I sound recounting this; but that was my little bit of power back after feeling very small  in the back of his taxi. It also happened to be International Women’s Day (so I did a little Beyonce style hair flick in my head whilst walking away).

When I write it down it sounds a bit lame. Nothing (thank god) happened. Some people would say I over-reacted, dramatised, that it was all in my head, I scared myself. Maybe I was never in danger. Maybe it was a totally legit taxi, everyone has the odd bad taxi journey for all the good out there, that’s the risk we take.

Maybe all that’s true. But I wanted to write about it because I know how I felt. It was a unique kind of chill I’ve never had in a London taxi before. I’m a taxi junkie – have been since I moved to London. I bloody love them – the feeling of relief when you get in, the great chats you can have with the drivers, the way its like a kind of personal tour of London. I used to take them after working late or weekends away when I needed to remember why I moved here. Over the years I must have smashed an unthinkable amount of my salary on chauffeured journeys for all manner of excuses – too far to walk, too hard to get to, too tired, too many bags  – but most of the time the real, (and slightly embarrassing reason) is because its late and I’m on my own and I’d just feel so much safer…But I’ll think twice now and trust my instincts next time I ask a total stranger to drive me home.

I’ve since asked a couple of London cabbies what their verdict on my story was and they have all been pretty adamant  my taxi sounded dodgy and ‘I’d been done’. Most of the drivers I spoke to felt the most revealing sign was the driver’s attitude – black cab drivers are never intimidating and I’d agree –  the drivers I’ve had have always mostly been lovely.  I still can’t believe how naive I’d been – I genuinely thought the ‘yellow light’ was a sign of a totally legitimate black cab you could hail off the street, but I was clearly wrong.

In case anyone wants advice on staying safe with London taxis/travel see advice from Cabwise and Met Police. And here are some good mini-cab companies you can pre-book:

Stay safe x


2 thoughts on “When I got into a fake London black cab

  1. Pingback: Eat me London | How's London

  2. Pingback: Five nights in Dubrovnik | How's London

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