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

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Broker / Purchaser

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Manager - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative online car purc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Greece debt crisis: Trouble is, if you help the Greeks, everyone will want the same favours

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
A memorial dedicated to the 52 people that were killed during the 7/7 terror attacks in London is cleaned in London's Hyde Park  

7/7 bombings: We cannot opt out of this fight, hoping that if we hide terrorism will leave us alone

Liz Kendall
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate