This morning I have been thinking about the issue of the taxi, the cab, the taxi-cab.
I really felt like it was worth my time, so I didn’t leave it alone, even though at first I couldn’t figure out any solutions.
There are two reasons the taxi situation is very important.
First, the taxi driver is so often the very first person that a visitor to a place really meets. The impression of the entire city is so often formed based on that one person. We cannot, as citizens of any good city, allow our taxi fleet to be anything other than top-notch and worthy. The taxi driver is a representative of the city arguably far more than any city councillor.
Second, the taxi-driver needs to be nothing short of a hero. I’m entirely serious. He’s the one that citizens need when things are going quite wrong. Their own car has failed or is stuck on the side of a road, or the date has needed to end suddenly but it’s gone badly, or they’ve been stranded by some ‘friends’ or they drank more than expected and are trying to do the honourable thing instead of drinking and driving. Or your car needs a boost or you’re late for work or late for a meeting. Stressful situations. No laughing matter. We’ve all been in situations something like these. They are all situations where you need a hero, someone who actually cares, who won’t take advantage of you, and who will get you out of a jam, fast.
So I’ve got an idea.
It stands for Queen’s Coachman.
I was daydreaming that each place could set up a teeny governing body, composed of a very fair group. This group shouldn’t make any money, but should truly love the city and the people who are in it. How about if you found some sharp senior citizens from a local senior citizens’ residence, those people who remember a time of higher standards of courtesy and respect? Let them be the judges. Ask them to be ruthless. Show us who is best. Use pure merit, not connections and such.
I suppose each place would have different qualifications, but let me offer these few suggestions.
1. To qualify for a designation as a Q.C., you would need to be very fluent in English. Skin-colour doesn’t matter obviously, but you must be able to speak clearly and understandably in the language of Her Royal Highness. (Q.C. is designed with the English-speaking passenger in mind – other bloggers are free to daydream in their language of choice; this one’s the only one I can do.)
2. To qualify for a designation as a Q.C., you would need to be strong and fast enough to spring into action. Courtesy sometimes has quite a short window of opportunity. Blink and you miss it. When a Q.C. pulls up to the duplex of a mother balancing a baby in the one arm and two pieces of luggage in the other, he doesn’t yawn and stretch his legs – he pops open the trunk and relieves her of the luggage weighing her down. And he’ll open the door. And close it. And smile.
3. To qualify for a designation as Q.C., you would need to know the city like the back of your hand. GPS is allowed, but you should know how to use it. You would never take the longer routes just to increase the fare on your meter. As a matter of fact, the best thing would be for you to be able to state, prior to the drive, the exact cost of the journey. Or, if you arrive after being arranged by the dispatcher, you would charge precisely the amount stated in advance by that dispatcher.
4. To qualify for designation as a Q.C., you would obviously keep the interior of your vehicle really quite uncluttered and clean. Don’t obsess, but just think about it as a way to welcome your passengers properly.
5. To qualify, you would operate your vehicle without any plexiglass between you and those that you drive. What’s the point of that stuff? Is it to protect the driver from me, or to protect me from the driver? It’s icky.
6. To qualify, you would know how to drive in such a way that your passengers are able to entirely relax. If you’re the type of driver who likes to swerve at the last second or lurch from a stop, you won’t make the cut. That’s show-offy and is the kind of driving that’s All About You – you’d be disqualified. The seniors on the panel would peer at you during the test drive and say to themselves, “Have you lost your mind?” You’ve got to know how to get people to their destinations like a pro. Calmly yet efficiently and securely. No muttering at other drivers, no interesting hand gestures or words. (You’re not blogging, after all.) People are counting on you, in the same way that they count on the pilots flying passengers across the Pacific or the way that people counted on the captains who directed the boats across the Atlantic. In short, they are putting their lives into your hands. Don’t play Mr. Titanic.
7. To qualify, you’d know how to be a decent listener and speaker. You don’t spend the entire drive listening to some radio station that you think is cool. Give your passengers some quiet. They need to think, and to relax. How do you know they like your kind of jive? They probably don’t. They just want you to drive. They want to arrive all in one piece, on time and refreshed. Give them your ear, if they want to talk. Give them quiet if they want to rest. Give them words, if they want a tour. The point is, you’re there to serve. You’re a Queen’s Coachman. Best of the best.
Something like that.
[Oh, how I wish I knew the name of that one London cab driver! I’d mention him here. Do you remember me? Are you a blog reader? I asked you if you knew about Chesterton. You gave me a tour when I had an unexpected layover in London. From the airport, we flew around town – stopping hilariously at all the notable spots – bags left in your cabbie topped with a sign. I sigh. Can’t remember your name. But hello! Wish you were here. You could show new recruits how to be a Q.C.]
So the way it would work, I imagine, would be that when you’d phone the dispatcher, you could ask for a Q.C. The dispatcher, who is hopefully capable and competent and caring [and better than 90% of those who work for that Boston Cab Company] would agree, and would not charge more to send you one of them. After a while, the taxi companies would want to have a lot of Q.C.s among their employees. Bragging rights. Better service.
These Q.C.s would be in high demand and could expect a higher wage. The wage, I imagine, could be quite handsome indeed, and good enough to support a beautiful wife and a family of seven.