Sleepwalking my way through life: Late night/early morning paranoia



Late night/early morning paranoia

For the first time in months I find myself groggily awake at 6am. Damn. Might as well use the time effectively.

It happens to most people at some time in their lives – whether it’s down to a drunken night on the town or a sticky situation involving you to get from A to F in a short amount of time – you have to call a taxi. And if you’re me (which I sincerely hope you aren’t) then you have to call taxis a lot.

I usually have a specific local taxi company that happily carts me around my various destinations. More than once they have ensured that I caught the train on time and quite a lot more than once have they guaranteed that I arrived at work on the stroke of five. Their drivers are friendly; smiling and talkative when you enter the taxi. They retrieve lost items, let you keep the change on a fare or two, and always wish you a nice day. These are friendly taxi drivers. These are taxi drivers you can trust.

But what happens when you’re stuck in the middle of Glasgow at two in the morning? The rain is pouring, the wind is slicing and the happy voice on the other end of your phone is telling you that the nearest taxi is thirty minutes away. Do you huddle in a bus shelter? Do you go back into the bar and pass the time with a few drinks (ever conscious that the taxi could come early and just leave without you)?

Of course you don’t. You skulk round the darkest of corners and wait on the loneliest kerbs for that glowing little light coming down the road. The Hackney cabs.

They are very large, and very very comfortable (especially for me, with long legs), but this comes at quite a price. There are two types of Hackney drivers, both similar in appearance with a toothy, yellow grin and livid scars on bald heads/unshaven cheeks; ones that ask you for a straight payment upfront, usually the approximate amount a private hire taxi would charge, plus ten pounds; and there are ones that tell you about boundary charges and turn on their cash meters with small, shit-eating grin before announcing that, unfortunately (insert regretful look) that it’ll have to be the price on the meter plus a third on top of that.

The first type of driver I have no problem with, I pay him and he drives and I do not have a care in the world about the direction he takes, the second one is the one I have trouble with. I become suddenly aware of the route he’s taking. Every swerve, lane change, brake, and acceleration is noted and critically examined in my minds eye. I stare at the counter as the cost increases twenty pence by twenty pence and I silently mouth calculations whilst counting my fingers. Approximately eighty pence every sixty seconds, meaning an average thirty minute journey would cost twenty-eight pounds (two thousand, eight hundred pence, including the four hundred pence – four pounds – that the counter began on). A third of that would be just over nine pounds, which would make the grand total of thirty-seven pounds, which means oh crap I don’t have enough money.

And whilst I am silently counting and sorting out my money in my head I glance up at the counter, quickly doing a double take. Did that just go faster? Did that twenty pence add itself on faster than the twenty pence’s before it? Is the taxi driver trying to cheat me?

And through all the panic and all the desperation and all the misery I fail to realise that I am actually home. The light flicks on and the driver smiles his gravestone grin from behind the plexi-glass protection. Turns out I had miscalculated the rate and over estimated my fare by over ten pounds, meaning I had plenty of change to jingle in my pockets. I handed over the money, completely bewildered and aghast as he counted out the change. My perception of him was totally wrong; and the man who I covertly glared at, muttered at out of earshot, and overall called a glorified thief, was actually a good guy; a nice guy with no tricks up his sleeve.

I stepped out the Hackney and he drove off, leaving me outside my house in the dead of night with my change in my hand. With dismay, I looked at the coins in my hand and sifted through them with my free fingers before I gave an inward jump for joy. I was right all along, my fears were just and my thoughts exactly on the mark. He short changed me a fifty pence. Bastard.
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