Kingston to home last Wednesday
I’m running late and I’ve kept my driver waiting. As I get in the cab, I catch him finishing a sneaky smoke. This puts him flustered and apologetic, he knows he shouldn’t be smoking in the cab, but it’s a time-killing habit he finds hard to break. It’s a hard-wired association, if he’s hanging around he automatically lights up.
He used to be in the building trade, in the days when you could smoke on site. So for him any kind of DIY or manual labour is also associated with smoking. At the weekend he was doing some painting at home and although he didn’t smoke, it felt wrong not to have a fag in his mouth.
He asks me what I’ve been working on and I tell him confectionery – sweets, chocolate that kind of thing. He says “Ahh, now if you’re talking about addictions, that’s just another one. My wife is completely addicted to chocolate. I think most women are”. He can take or leave the sweet stuff but his wife is a fiend for it.
“Chewing gum’s a different matter. I can go through packets of it in the cab. I have gum after a cigarette, or instead of a cigarette. It’s probably a nervous thing, or a concentration thing”
He tells me about the time he tried to give up smoking. He went on the patches and lasted about 4 weeks. The problem was he found himself getting angry and irritable and that’s not a good thing when you’re a cab driver. You need to be able to keep your cool, no matter what. As a night driver, it’s not the traffic that’s an issue, it’s the people in the back of a cab. Particularly those that have had a few.
He goes on to regale me with some of his worst drunken-passenger experiences. From there we start musing over the different effects of booze. He feels that some people just have a nasty streak in them that is brought out by alcohol. We chat about people we know who are lovely when sober but dreadful drunk. He tells me that that he finds the floppy drunks the scariest because it’s horrible to see people so out of it.