True Gripes: Whisper who dares: Has taxi chatter vanished forever

Share
Related Topics
Where have all the chatty cabbies gone? Illusions I have held since childhood of rabbiting hackney carriage drivers from Ealing Studios films have been shattered because they are simply not talking any more.

They are the fount of all knowledge and the source of some damn good yarns, but trying even to get the time of day out of them now is impossible. Long gone is the time when passengers would feel obliged to gasp with amazement as they listened to the cavalcade of stars whose backsides had graced the seats upon which they sat.

Now you're asking him who he's had in the back of his cab lately just to break the silence and the 'them and us feeling it inevitably creates.

I have been suffering silent journeys since Christmas and a recent trip confirmed my worst fears. My day had been long and hot and with a searing headache and the rail strike half-way through one of its 24-hour stints, I afforded myself the luxury of hailing a cab. No sooner had I stepped in than the protective glass screen was slammed shut.

I had been in mid sentence, but a reply came not from the driver but from the Rolling Stones crooning Honky Tonk Woman from a stereo riding shotgun in the front.

OK, I thought. If you don't want to talk, that's fine, and besides I love the Stones. I stretched my legs and fell into a newspaper. But as the sweat began to form and roll I realised just how hot it was and reached to open the window; to my horror it was locked. I knocked on the glass but by this time Mick and the boys were in full swing and my driver was lighting a fag and admiring the girl in the sports car alongside him.

All the macabre Luis Bunuel films I had seen flashed before my eyes. I would be ignored until I expired with heat stroke and then driven to a secret west London warehouse where the bodies of hundreds of talkative victims had been dumped, still lying in taxis with their newspapers strewn about.

But at journey's end, as I slid damply from the back seat and fumbled for the fare, my driver smiled and wished me a pleasant evening - hardly the sadistic cabbie I thought had been at the wheel.

So why the lack of communication? Why the silence? There's nothing I like more than a good bitch about life. Politicians, celebrities, the weather - they're all fair game. I always thought cabbies were great for that, always ready with an argument and a strong opinion.

What has happened to the likes of the cab driver who told TS Eliot that he'd confounded the great mind of Bertrand Russell, the philospher ('And I said to him, now Lord Russell, I said, what's life all about then? And you know, he couldn't tell me.')?

It's all come as quite a shock, so bring back the chat; bring back the boasting cabbies; bring back motorised conversation.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam