I'm doing a show called 'The Complainers' at the moment, in which I help wreak revenge on people and things that the general public have grumbled about. Oh, how I wish I had been "working" on my irregular commute into London from the Cotswolds the other morning. I had to take an early train in, as I was filming at 10 o'clock in Brentford. The train journey was OK, despite my being forced to use the world's most expensive stretch of railway. There was a brief delay after Swindon the train driver said that it was due to "sheep on the line". Everybody laughed except for the annoying man who was talking really loudly on his CrackBerry to a man called "Steve" about a meeting the annoying man had had with a man called "Dave". There was absolutely no point to this conversation but we all had to share it as the man, seemingly unaware that his mobile transmitted sound, bellowed away.
Arriving at London Paddington I rushed to a ridiculous taxi queue of probably 300 people. I took a deep breath and joined the end. The rail authorities had come up with a wizard wheeze to speed the queue up. Two men in dayglo yellow walked up and down the line asking us whether we wanted to share a cab? If we did you were split up into destination areas City, Soho, etc and given a coloured card. With this you could walk to the front of the queue and wait for the next cab. Because these shared rides give cabbies a guaranteed 30 quid all the cabs were queuing up for the shared rides and not a single one was interested in the 200 people who wanted their own cab.
It was typical a system that didn't work at all but nobody was going to change it and everybody got really pissed off in that awkward British way where they mutter and hiss but don't actually say anything.
After a staggering hour and 10 minutes I got a taxi. I got in and we drove about 200 yards. "Where are we off to, guv'?" enquired the tattooed Cockney driver. "Brentford, TW18," I replied. "I'll get a clearer address on the way."
The cabbie stopped the cab suddenly: "Do I look like a bleeding postman? I need an address, not a postcode." I enquired as to whether he could just get on his way to Brentford and I would get an address on the phone? "I don't like your attitude, get out of my cab NOW." I refused, telling him that I'd just queued up for an hour and 10 minutes and wasn't about to do it again. He turned the engine off and said that he wasn't going anywhere. I told him that it was illegal for him to refuse to take me to Brentford I wasn't sure of my grounds legally but we were both now drawing our respective lines in the sand. We sat in silence for a good 15 minutes until he finally cracked.
"I'm taking you to the Old Bill." He snapped the automatic lock on the door on and started off towards town, away from wherever Brentford was.
I told him that this was tantamount to kidnap but he ignored me. I looked around and found a complaints number on the side door. I rang the number and got the usual 10 minutes of automated nonsense before I spoke to a semi-human.
"Hello, customer service."
"Hello, I'm in a black cab and he won't take me to Brentford and now he's kidnapped me."
"I'm afraid we need all complaints in writing sir."
"In writing? I'm in the cab right now, I'M BEING KIDNAPPED, what part of that don't you understand?"
"Let me speak to my manager sir, please hold..."
I waited, listening to Phil Collins as my mobile prison rolled onwards. Finally...
"Hello, sir. I've spoken to my manager and he says that yes, we do need a complaint in writing."
I hung up and tapped on the glass screen.
"I give up. Let me out here."
The cab stopped, the door was opened and I got out. Neither of us was looking at each other. The cabbie started driving off, and I aimed a childish kick at the back of the cab. My foot hit metal. The metal won. No dent on his car, but I think I've broken my toe.
I made it to Brentford two and a half hours late. Time to emigrate, methinks.