Stuart Murdoch on Cab Driving 1986-2000

A short story on how Stuart managed many years of study!

A story from the late 1980s

the cab I drove in the late 1980s

I have driven my fair share of shifts in a taxi around melbourne. Firstly as a wild and loose young man [18 months in my early 20's], then as a struggling uni student [5 years till my mid 30's]. now, as a recent mortgagee [40 +] I'm back in the cabs, albeit one day a week for as long as my next project needs the cash. I wish I had a buck for every taxi horror story I've heard at parties over the years. So consider this my advice to you; fair cab passengers of Melbourne town, and hopefully the world over, on how to enjoy your next cab ride.

  1. 1. Choose your cab and driver carefully. a dirty car is sure sign of several things: the guy in it does not really care about it, the driver may have been in it for 72 hours, non stop, business may be so bad that the driver can't justify 1/2 an hour off to wash it, avoid this car at all costs! this driver is lazy/overworked/stressed. if the driver is dirty as well, they are probably to stupid/inept to provide a decent service. besides, it won't smell too good in there!
  2. 2. Don't "ask" the driver, will they take you to destination x? Get in, state your destination and preferred route.
  3. 3. If a car is empty, sitting in a queue with others behind it, or cruising slowly down the street empty, don't ask "are you for hire?" Get in and state your destination and preferred route.
  4. 4. Once in the car, inspect it's interior. Does it have any of the following? Lacy tissue boxes, cute animal type decorations, fancy seat covers, mag wheels, or anything other than rubber floors and seats? if it does, then this car is likely being driven by the guy who owns it, take no prisoners, state your destination and preferred route. You are the customer, you have the right to ask them to turn down their top 10 euro-vision song contest tape, if it offends. If not, sing along [more on drunks in taxis later].
  5. 4.1 If the car has rubber seats, rubber floors and no fancy trimmings what so ever, this person does not own the taxi you are sitting in, [i'll assume it's clean after numbers 1 & 2]. Take no prisoners, get in, state your destination and preferred route.
  6. 4.2 If this car appears to be driven by someone who does not own it, choose your conversation carefully. Just because they are sitting in cab does not automatically, [not unlikely, just not automatically] make them stupid, [ although at the end of each my shifts I always feel that I was stupid for doing yet another] nor does it make them full time cabbies. Try and think of something other than the usual 6 questions as conversation starters. Take no prisoners, get in, state your destination and preferred route.
  7. 4.3. The usual 6 questions are:-
    How long have you been driving?
    How's business?
    Busy tonight/day? Do you like cab driving?
    What's your longest fare?
    Ever been robbed?
    Take no prisoners, get in, state your destination and preferred route
  8. 5. A quick scan of the cars interior may give you a hint to the drivers social skills and mental iq. use any clues you can see to initiate a meaningful conversation if you feel you need one. Otherwise, get in, state your destination and preferred route.
  9. 5.2. If you do resort to the usual 6 questions, "listen" to the way the driver responds, this will either lead you into a scintillating conversation for the next 10-15 minutes, [in my 15+ years of cab driving I can count these on one hand] or stone cold silence. Don't assume that all cabbies want to chat inanely for the length of the journey [remember this driver may have up to 30 or 40 fares for the shift] so take no prisoners, get in, state your destination and preferred route.
  10. 5.3. Conversely if *you* want total silence, then some sort of curt response should shut the driver up. if not, you failed points 1 or 2. Then get in, state your destination and preferred route.
  11. 5.4 Sitting in the back seat also alleviates this problem,  take no prisoners, get in, state your destination and preferred route.
  12. 6. *Before* taking off, check if the driver prefers cash or card. it will save time later on.
  13. 7. *Never* apologise for the length of your fare, short or long. any fare is better than none. What's more important is the time between fares, not the length of each. Get in, state your destination and preferred route.
  14. 7.1. Not all cabbies like going to the airport; it often means a long wait between fares. From a minimum of 40 minutes, up to 4 hours, none of which the driver is earning any money. Get in, state your destination and preferred route.
  15. 8. A little known fact is that in a 12 hour shift, only 3 of them may be spent with the meter on. Get in, state your destination and preferred route, don't complain about the price on the meter, [in Melbourne anyway, they are fixed by a governmentbody and they are "sealed"]. Remember, state your destination and preferred route.
  16. 9. Drivers drive either a single shift day/night or a "hungry" [essentially a double shift]. At the end of the shift the drivers wages are 50% of the total takings plus tips; this can mean a wage of between $5.00 and $20.00 per hour, so don't freak out as the meter hits 50 bucks or what ever; the driver may not get another fare for 2 hours, and may not have had a fare for 2 hours previous - you do the math! Get in, state your destination and preferred route.
  17. 9.1. The busiest day/night is friday
  18. 9.2. The busiest time any day is during "change over", between 2.00 and 3.00 usually pm. This is when all the day drivers are returning the cars to the depot for the night driver, and they probably won't want to go to the airport.
  19. 9.3. Any *event* on in town, especially in the evening, will make catching a cab even more difficult. Keep this in mind when planning a night out, try and be ready to go home before midnight, or before the event finishes, which ever comes first.
  20. 10. If you flag down your cab from a street corner, or are having trouble doing so, think about your destination. Put your self in a position, near a street corner that at least heads in the direction you want to go, then,  take no prisoners, get in, state your destination and preferred route.
  21. 11. Don't get into a taxi blind drunk.
  22. 11.1. Don't get into a taxi blind drunk, fall asleep, then accuse the driver of ripping you off.  If you're in the habit of falling asleep in taxis, get a big bright neon dog tag with clear instructions on how to take you home. If you can get in, state your destination and preferred route, if not sleep it off in the gutter or local lock up. We don't want you in our cabs.
  23. 12. Drivers have IDs for a reason. If for some reason you have a complaint, note either the driver number or the cab number, ring the local cab company first and try and resolve the dispute/complaint with them. If you are unhappy about their response, contact the government body responsible with all the necessary details.
  24. 13. Another little know fact is that cab drivers, in Melbourne anyway, can refuse a fare. So if you are dirty drunk or abusive, be prepared to be knocked back.
  25. 14. The only way the standard of service will improve is if people refuse shoddy service, and make the powers that be aware of this. Don't tip drivers who fail any levels of service you would normally expect, do not reward bad driving/poor service with any tips, not matter how small the tip.
  26. 14.1. Reward good driving and good service with good tips.
  27. 15. Have a new years eve party at your house; make it a slumber party. This is one shift i constantly hear horror stories about from both drivers and passengers; stay home! And no, I didn't drive this new years eve. Never have, never will!
  28. 16. My favourite tip is this: meters run on distance, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, freeways rarely run in straight lines, [Melbourne's airport freeway is a classic example]. Use freeways If you're in a hurry. Don't if you're broke!

So there you have it. don't forget that we cab drivers are humans with our own foibles. So may all your cab rides be clean, quiet and comfortable. And remember, get in, state your destination and preferred route.
*All money quotes are in aussie dollars.

This story origianlly appereared on waferbaby.com, my first 'social web experience'. It was written long before Uber and all the other disruprtors arrived to change the system. 


Last update? - 04/08/2020