Get Your Philosophy Right
For those of you on the Knowledge I urge you to continue. And when you get your badge, remind yourself every day what it means to you. We need to always keep in mind where we came from and where we are going – literally.
I first gained my badge in 1988, aged 26. I lost my motivation when the recession of the early ‘90s took grip, and eventually decided to pursue another career. I thought the grass was greener on the other side, but was wrong. In moments of weakness I would consider a return to the cab trade, but it took a handful of years to really accept the fact that I wanted my freedom back. While in a so-called professional career I maintained a strong affection for the trade, and for the mystique surrounding it: the drivers, the Knowledge, the curious Policies and Procedures of the old PCO. The erroneous bale of hay rule. And of course, the cabs themselves. I first savoured the mystique of the FX4 as a child, riding home after shopping with my parents in Romford. It was exotic and luxurious – the cab I mean, not Romford. In the 1970s, a cab was still very much a throwback to a war-time vehicle. A big black beetle with a wonderful feeling of space and solidity. I loved the creaks and squeaks, and I still do – modern cabs still thankfully have this built in. There was the glass partition that created the feeling of riding in a limousine; and the huge mechanical meter that audibly ticked over the 5p increments that we could only really afford on special occasions.
I expect you’ve heard recently that your cab is now an icon? Possibly an over-used claim, but it’s true. Glance over at the souvenir shop and you’ll see the postcards and fridge magnets: there’s your iconic working vehicle right there next to the Routemaster! Be proud of it. Be proud of what you do, and what you’ve achieved – or what you are working to achieve. Remind yourself constantly of the pain you went through to get your badge: the wet days on a moped; the frustration of learning a run, then forgetting it a week later; and the many tense appearances where you’d leave the examiner’s room not even remembering your own name. You thought those days would never end, but one glorious day, they did end. They ended because you stuck at it while others fell by the wayside.
Nothing will give you as much freedom as driving a cab. I was able to make money while at university, and I currently have a second job. In my day job I meet others who want to be cab drivers. They are from all walks of life, but the one thing they have in common is dissatisfaction with their current job – if they are lucky to have one. Apart from professional drivers, I see policemen, firemen, teachers, immigration officers, City workers, people in IT, people in management positions, and others who already run a business which isn’t going anywhere. It is only now I really appreciate the hard lives that some people have, and the lack of control they have in what they do. Many people toil for long hours and low pay in poor working conditions. Our passengers are often more fortunate, and we don’t usually notice the others. Driving to work through Northampton at 5.15 I see men waiting in the cold at bus stops. There are no buses at this time; they are waiting to be picked up for warehouse work. The heater in my cab is just kicking in and I feel fortunate as I drive past on my way to London. At King’s Cross I see blokes standing in freezing puddles digging holes, people emptying bins, and people shovelling tar from a lorry onto a wheelbarrow. In Farringdon Street recently, I observed a builder buy a sandwich from a grim-looking cafe at 7am. He didn’t have a nice office to relax in so he ate his breakfast from a paper bag sat at a bus stop. Surely better to be in the relative comfort of your cab, with the heater on, listening to the radio?
Driving a cab is not such a bad job. It’s good honest work, with immediate rewards. Just switch your light on and away you go. But please work on your philosophy. You will have good days, and you will have bad days. You are running your own business and you will have to accept that. It is ultimately down to your own attitude and philosophy how content you are. Look around you. There are worse jobs you could be doing, and when you finish you probably won’t be crammed on to a tube train. Enjoy your freedom, revel in the mystique, and stay happy.
Oh, did I say what my second job was? I’m a Knowledge Examiner. Be Lucky.