Shelley

Years in trade Eighteen

Most Notable Pick-ups Ralph Fiennes, Joss Stone, David Jason, Keith Flint

"I just shouted “F*ck off!” which he wasn’t expecting to come out of my mouth.

He didn’t say another word and rode off. He clearly thought he was choosing an easy target there."

What made you become a cab driver?

I became a cab driver after I was made redundant from job at BT. My daughter was 3 years old and my son was 18 months old at the time.

One day while I was feeding my son I saw a cab pull up and thought: “That’s something I could do, too!”. I decided to do it there and then.

What did the knowledge involve?

The knowledge took about 4.5 years. I spent a minimum of 2 hours a day studying.

You first make an enquiry in the carriage office. You’re then given a little blue book with about 400 journeys. It’s your job to drive around and familiarise yourself with these routes. You pretty much have to have a detailed map of London in your head.

The carriage office then gives you a map test where you have to fill out the road names. The further out of central London you get, the less important it becomes to know the smaller streets.

Would you say you enjoy your job?

I love it. I understand how things like Uber may affect many other drivers negatively but you have to look at the positive side of things. The job is fun, you get meet the funniest people; you learn something new every day.

I have some amazing taxi driver friends and we always look out for each other. It’s easy to build good friendships in the trade. I had someone tell me the other day that his daughter was looking to become a cab driver and whether I thought that was dangerous.

The only thing I was able to say was “Let her – she’s going to have a ball and experience something new every day. She will always come home after work with the most fascinating stories!”

How do you feel about minicab services like Uber?

Of course the situation is not ideal. What amazes me the most is that it doesn’t even pay off. The temptation to start is because it’s so easy to become an Uber driver.

Without the necessary training many Uber drivers over-rely on their sat navs but can’t think of solutions when suddenly there is a road closure. If you don’t know alternative routes, you’re stuck.

I have a sat nav installed too but quite often I look at the suggested route and just think “What? I wouldn’t go that way!” But there is no point in getting worked up about it. Cyclists annoy me more.

Joss Stone’s puppy threw up in the back of my taxi. I made her clean it up.

Have you ever had any verbal abuse because you’re a woman?

I was once in Haymarket and there was a cyclist riding slowly in the middle of the road. A bus and a taxi have driven around him on the outside lane, so I proceeded to do the same thing.

The cyclist came up to my window and decided scream at me while not saying a word to the bus driver and the male taxi driver who did the same in front of me. I just shouted “F*ck off!” which he wasn’t expecting to come out of my mouth.

He didn’t say another word and rode off. He clearly thought he was choosing an easy target there.

Who has it easier in the trade? Men or women?

The stories so far would make you think men would have it easier but there are a ton of benefits in being a woman.

I think some men feel a sense of relief when they get into my taxi.

I literally had someone thank me for the nice journey and how happy he was that he didn’t have to talk about football and politics for once.

Do you have any funny stories about your celebrity passengers?

Joss Stone was once in my taxi with her dog who was just a puppy. She asked to be taken to a recording studio and I was tempted to find out if she was a backing singer because I did not recognise her.

She was telling me about her dog not being used to car journeys and she apologised in advance if he got sick. I just told her I had some cleaning stuff in the back. But I kept on thinking to myself that I recognise her from somewhere. That evening I realised it was Joss Stone.

I met up with my friends and told them her dog threw up in my cab. They asked “What did you do?” I said “I made her clean it up!” Everyone was in disbelief! [Laughing]

Shelley

What about any unusual experiences with customers?

I once had a couple who were having sex in the back of my cab! I was quite new in the trade at the time and just didn’t know how to handle a situation like that.

The woman was sitting on top of the guy while he was facing forward. I took the cab around the corner and slammed on the brakes, the couple got out and the girl said “Lovely ride, driver. Thanks!” which I thought was pretty cheeky.

Later that evening I was out for dinner with my friends from the trade and told them the story and how I didn’t know what to do.

They looked at me and said “First thing you do is lower the mirror so you can have a good look at the couple. The next thing you do is keep slamming on the brakes.”, “Why? To stop them?”, “No, because they’ll give you a good tip!” For some people this is a big thing. They just want to do it everywhere: planes, trains and taxis.