“Bunter gets the job done” I’ve always said that to myself so, apart from being very pleased to acquire a position as relief taxi driver with the Matterly Taxi services, I thought of it as a good chance to see a bit of London. My sense of direction is not among my noted abilities, but who cares about that when Sylvia Satnav is there to guide you.
The motor, a Vauxhall Expresso two litre with overhead cams and enough room in the boot to accommodate an elephant and was more than up to the job. By good fortune, through pressure of work or whatever, they didn’t ask to see the actual motor but just the name, model and age, which suited me because, honesty begs me tell you, the old girl does not look her best in daylight, and Victoria, my other half, normally sits in the front passenger seat and may have imparted a certain “ parfum de chien” to the car’s interior, but then a wise man never comments on a ladies perfume other than to praise it.
All thoughts and anxieties were laid to rest, and with Victoria safely at home watching Wimbledon, I drove towards the airport to collect my first fare. They were a Mr and Mrs Crouch, and I had a small board with their names on it so they would know I was their ride. They were an American couple apparently, and I was to take them to some place in Ruislip which is over there if you know what I mean, and drop them off at their hotel.
Everything went smoothly if you ignore the raised eyebrow s at the state of the car. Luggage revelling in the generous trunk I believe they call it, I got them seated in the back of the car, got the post code off them and entered it into Sylvia Satnav’s keyboard. I watched as the screen flickered briefly and then it went blank, in that permanent way which says, “Thank you for a nice life but I am now retiring.”
In a crisis, stay utterly calm; that’s my advice; that is the Mackintosh way, so I drove out of the airport as if I knew where I was going in a roughly southerly direction or it may have been westerly. I’m not a geography guru so all this north, south stuff is a bit over my head but I was sure the fates would throw up some sign saying “Ruislip” and guide me and my fares safely toward their destination.
After about twenty minutes, an American accent located somewhere in the rear of the car asked me if I was sure this was the way to Ruislip so to settle him I said “All roads lead to Rome, and Ruislip as well, I’ll be bound” which met with no response. About ten minutes later, he asked again, “Where are we” and the voice was clearly a bit edgier. “Time will tell old boy, time will tell” I told him, and I examined all road signs with vigorous concentration looking for the magic word “Ruislip.”
It did not appear, “Hammersmith Bridge” Yes…. “Earls Court” certainly, “Hyde Park Corner” without a doubt, and a central landmark which I am sure my clients would enjoy the chance to observe at no extra cost, and an excellent place to get your bearings I understand.
“Stop the car, let us out now” said the American voice, and it seems Hyde Park Corner had failed to entrance our visitors, despite its famous arch and a decent dose of London’s green parkland. “Let us out,” the voice lacked friendliness but was clear and direct. I stopped the car and they were outside it before I could move to open their door. My American chum seemed to be on the phone to my company and was saying, “Who is this idiot you’ve sent to collect us from the airport. We are at Hyde Park Corner”
There was a pause and the American said, “Your boss wants to talk to you” He placed the phone to my ear just in time for me to hear my boss say “Your fired” and then the line went dead. My clients, is that the term, removed the luggage from the boot and were hailing a black cab at the side of the road. I walked up to them and said, as one must do in the circumstances, “No charge of course. No charge at all”
“Get lost” said my American chum. “That may not be difficult” I replied.