A Bully Good Time With English Cabs

EDITOR'S NOTE: Bull Garlington may be the funniest author you've never heard of. His new memoir, "The Full English: A Chicago Family's Trip on a Bus Through the U.K. — With Beans," relates his family's adventures in Great Britain, where he "drags his family from London, through Edinburgh, to Dublin haunted by a daily breakfast of beans and menaced by his evil librarian nemesis, Mildred."

Garlington is a former award-winning columnist for Chicago Parent magazine and the author of additional books, including "The Beat Cop's Guide to Chicago Eats" and "Death by Children: I Had Kids So You Don't Have To!" The latter title was named 2013 Humor Book of the Year by IndieFab.

Below is an excerpt from "The Full English," which is available on Amazon.

— Ken Raymond, Book Editor

My love for British cabbies

We regrouped with our crew. I tried to talk to my mother about the London Eye, but I couldn't hear what she was saying because my stomach was screaming something about starving to death, which was ridiculous because if my stomach had simply read the itinerary it would have known we were scheduled for lunch across town in Chelsea. ...

(My wife) checked the London Eye off her form and said to me: “Alright, Captain Naptastic. Get us a cab,” and my stomach was suddenly silent on this unprecedented occasion as my wife doesn't allow me to cab.

Any more.

Because I am known to cab. Growing up in rural Florida I couldn't imagine taking a cab. That was something people did in movies. But when we moved to Chicago and I realized how many movies had been made there and I realized it was a big city and when I saw all the yellow cabs I thought to myself: finally, I can quit walking. Since then I have relied on cabs for even the shortest trips in the city, and I have been disappointed every single time.

In order to get a cabdriver's license in Chicago, you have to meet the very highest standards of standing erect and having at least one good eye. Knowing your way around the city, speaking at least some of the language, being able to pilot an automobile, these are details one need not concern one's self with. One only needs to be sure one is always on the phone. Always.

I once tried to take a cab from a coffee shop on Michigan Avenue by the Bean around the corner to the Berghoff because my uncle Dave was visiting and I could pretend he had bad knees (I have bad knees). It was a one and a half block ride. You could practically see the Berghoff from the cab.

Me: Berghoff.

Cabbie: Eh?

Me: Please take us to the Berghoff.

Cabbie: Is museum?

Me: It's — are you serious? It's the oldest restaurant in the city.

Cabbie: Is many restaurants, pal.

Me: IT'S A FAMOUS TOURIST ATTRACTION! I CAN SEE IT FROM HERE!

This is my constant problem with Chicago cabbies: they are wildly inconsistent, generally rude, won't get your bags half the time, and always on the phone. Always.

Contrast that with my first experience with a London cab.

I hail a cab, and it pulls over so that I am even with the door I am going to enter through. I literally reached out my hand and opened the door without moving an inch. The cabbie got out and loaded the luggage for my entire family into the trunk. Then he showed me how to unfold the extra seat, made sure I was comfortable and asked me where we'd like to go.

Then he took us there.

That sounds anti-climactic but allow me to elaborate:

He did not use his phone, not once. He did not spend five minutes asking us questions about where we were going. He did not enter it into a computer. He did not smoke. His cab was immaculate and comfortable. The windows worked and the cab did not smell like an old refrigerator in a cigar shop. No TV played inane infomercials into our face. We were never jostled or thrown against the door. He arrived promptly, helped us out, mentioned something specifically historical about our destination address, unloaded our bags, accepted his pay, GAVE ME CHANGE and disappeared. Like a ninja.

This happened every time we cabbed. Every time. No matter where we were in the U.K., our cab experience was exactly the same: perfectly free of incident and slightly charming.

I learned there's a reason why London cabs are great — it's a career. It takes as long to become a taxi driver in London as it does to become an ophthalmologist in America. London taxi drivers spend as long as seven years studying the Knowledge, one of the hardest professional tests on earth.

The Knowledge has been compared to studying for the bar, to becoming a physicist, to becoming a doctor.

In order to pass the Knowledge, a candidate for a cab license faces a panel of experts who call out 50 random drives through London. They give the candidate a starting point and a destination. The candidate must tell them the best route, turn for turn, from memory. While they are reciting the route, they may be interrupted with questions about certain intersections, buildings, and addresses and their historic significance, which the candidate must know. These are called points, as in points of interest, and this is part of the seven-year process. A London cabbie has to carry the entire city's circulatory system in his head and the deep history of every linear inch.

If you visit London, keep an eye out for guys on scooters with a notebook and maybe a camera who look like they're taking a survey. That's a candidate studying some point of interest, some detail of note, to deepen their ability to pass the Knowledge.

Passing allows them to operate a Black Cab. They're their own boss. British government statistics report the average income of a Black Cab driver at £23,000 or $32,500. But a Reddit thread contains comments from Londoners who live in a neighborhood where the homes cost $700,000 or more, and a Black Cab driver lives there. Another commenter mention(s) attending a private school in London with the kids of a Black Cab driver.

Of course, you can easily replicate the experience of a terrible Chicago cab by taking a London Metrocab, which does not test its drivers in the Knowledge nor does it require them to maintain their cars to such high standards. In order to not get sued by Metrocab, I must admit I only took one and for a short distance but I am obligated to my readers to tell them that halfway through the trip all the doors fell off and the tires exploded and we all had to get out and carry it the rest of the way.

Related to this story

Show more >0
You might also be interested in...

Source : http://newsok.com/article/5556164

A Bully good time with English cabs