True Stories: Freedom ride: A cheap and cheerful way to get home

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The Independent Online
I paused by the pay phone. It was nearly 11pm and we had just got to the coffee stage of a birthday dinner in Knightsbridge. I considered my options to get home: Tube or taxi.

Mentally I worked out my route via the Underground. I got as far as two changes, a hike across Padding-ton station and the spectre of an obligatory leering drunk on a deserted platform, before I gave up.

Taxi firms' cards were stuck haphazardly into the back of the pay phone in front of me. A black cab, perhaps?

They are supposedly safer than one of those minicab drivers who knows a great shortcut through dark, suspicious streets. But the thought of sitting, bleary eyed, while the red digits on the meter increased alarmingly at every traffic light somehow deterred me.

So I called Freedom Cabs, London's only gay taxi firm.

The woman who answered the telephone knew exactly where the restaurant was and promised to have a driver there in 10 minutes.

He was. I insisted that I should see my two friends home safely, and when they realised I had put them at the mercy of a gay driver they raised their eyebrows prettily.

Our driver was charming, made sure that we knew his driver number in case of complaints, offered us mints and kept up a steady stream of gossip. He was not fazed by the circuitous route and even insisted on waiting outside until my friends had got inside their doors.

Nearing NW6, I realised I had no milk or cigarettes at home. But my driver did not mind stopping (and didn't charge extra either) and asked me if I could get him a couple of cans of Pepsi while I was at it.

The moment of reckoning. Freedom Cabs charge pounds 1 per mile and, even with the detours, Knightsbridge to Queens Park was only pounds 8.50. That's much, much cheaper than a black cab, with good gossip and mints thrown in.

I am now handing out Freedom's distinctive rainbow business cards to all my female friends and, although they employ mostly gay and lesbian drivers, my cousin found one who wasn't and managed to flirt all the way home last week.

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