The Undercovercabby

Don't walk away


The first cab I owned was an Austin FX4, it was dark green and I had been warned by everyone that it was going to be an unlucky cab. No one knew quite why but London cabbies are not short of an opinion or two. It smelt of fresh polish and that black paint garages used to apply to everything they could find underneath the body. It had a very basic turny knob radio under the top light and above my head, the speaker was in a plastic housing underneath the radio. There were no pre-set stations and so when I wanted to listen to something else I had to I had to turn the dial until I heard something familiar. My favourite programme was a late night agony aunt phone in show hosted by Anna Raeburn and a resident doctor, she didn’t mess about with niceties she got straight to the point with an abrupt approach towards her phone in guests, it was great night time radio. However, the reception in the City was appalling, the signal used to come and go randomly as I turned corners and crossed bridges. One night I was listening to a particularly graphic problem that an unfortunate listener had phoned in about, I can remember being very frustrated that I couldn’t hear properly, I had my fingers on the dial twiddling away try to improve the reception when two elderly ladies climbed in the back near the Bank Junction. They were happily chatting away in the back and my mind returned to that interesting problem that Anna was dealing with, I turned up the volume slowly and carefully and angled my head so that my left ear was as close to the speaker as possible without it being overheard in the back. The reception was awful but I could roughly follow what the poor man’s problem was. It seemed he had got his girlfriend pregnant before he had dumped her for another girl, she and her family had confronted him and now his life seemed to depend upon Anna’s advice. Well this was exactly what she loved, she tore into this man with gusto and was telling him exactly what she thought of him when the reception died. I was beside myself, I twiddled that dial and fiddled with the volume all the time keeping one eye on the ladies in the back to ensure they couldn’t hear. Well, driving in London requires full attention and so I had to abandon the radio as I approached a major junction and of course that was the exact moment that the signal suddenly improved and Anna’s voice boomed out into the cab and before I could get to the dial she had said ‘it’s your fault she’s pregnant you should have kept your penis in your pants’. The ‘penis’ word hung in the atmosphere like an elephant in the room, I sheepishly peeped at the rear view mirror I saw them both staring, open mouthed at the radio, I began to mumble my apologies and tried to explain the reception difficulties but they were definitely not amused and were not buying my apology either. I decided the best thing was to stop talking and to get them to their destination without any further embarrassment. I watched them clip clop off, their faces stiff with outrage at the awful language they’d heard in the back of my cab, as they turned the corner and disappeared from view I switched the radio back on and turned the volume up.

Can’t please them all

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