from late to mate

From home to the office this morning.

My cab arrives 25 minutes late. Worried that I might be angry, my driver starts on the offensive.

“Sorry I’m late, but it’s done me no favours either. Since I’ve taken on this job, I’ve spent 30 minutes in traffic when I could have been making money, you see I can only put £4 on the clock for a call out. The traffic’s had me right over.”

I nod, try to sound reassuring and generally listen to him letting off steam, until he realises I’m pretty sanguine about it.

“I was getting ready you see, thinking you might come out going ‘where you been’ and what have you. I would’ve turned round and gone ‘sorry I’m not taking you anywhere’.

We talk a little about why he took on my job in the first place when he was so far away and the problems of knowing which jobs to say yes to, before going on to discus how come I live in South London but work in North London. He’s a born and bred North Londoner and doesn’t get on with South London at all. He knows exactly where our office is because it’s on his home turf, and goes on to tell me about the different places he’s lived in the area. After a pause he says “I had a giggle to myself when I saw the name Spinach [the name of my company] come up”. Which leads us to chatting about what it is that I do.

He’s now worried that I’m going to be in trouble for being late, but cheers up when I tell him I’ve a finite amount of work to get done before going on a skiing holiday tomorrow and it shouldn’t be a problem. The driver seems genuinely excited for me, exclaiming “Super!”, “Fantastic!” and “No wonder you’re so laidback about things”.

He tells me his son Harry is going skiing with the school at Easter. It’s costing them a fair bit, but he doesn’t mind ‘cos he know’s the lad will love it. He does worry that he might enjoy it a bit too much and “get caught up in an avalanche or something”. I do my best to sound reassuring.

During a pause, he’s clearly thinking about his lost earnings this morning as he brings it back up. We agree that January is rubbish financially, and he lists off some of the outgoings that are bothering him. He and his wife have are taking a couple of friends out for dinner at the weekend, which is going to cost them a pretty penny.

They’re going to the Wolseley, so I tell him about my friend’s pre-Christmas meal at the Wolseley surrounded by male celebrities (Jason Donovan, David Gest, Salmon Rushdie and Don Johnson were all dining). He laughs “Well there you go, I suppose come Saturday I’ll be the star turn there!”

As we get close to our destination, he starts pointing out places that have relevance to him. The pub that used to be a Lyon’s Tea House (not that he remembers it, his dad used to tell him”, the market stall he worked on when he was 14, the house where his parents used to live.

Once we’re at the office he says “there you go, my little spinach. Have a good day and a great holiday, mind how you go” leaving me with a grin on my face.

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