This article was first published in 2013 when the facts occurred. I only reviewed the layout later on.
London is a city that will always surprise you, even if you’re visiting for the million time. The only problem is, not all the surprises are good ones.
Don’t ever make the mistake to be so naïve and think that since you’re a seasoned, hard-core traveler, you’ve seen them all.
I was just back from an 8-month adventurous trip in South East Asia. I had scorpions crawling on my bed, I slept on a bus floor, I was robbed in my sleep, and I’ve been an illegal immigrant in Thailand for one month.
I lived in London for six years without a single accident. What could go wrong this time?
SO WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT?
How a simple taxi ride turned into a scene from the movie “Taxi Driver,” where the charming De Niro was replaced by a total Psyco, an idiotic man who should have run his imaginary taxi in a mental institution?!
If you want to know the details, here we go!
It was midnight on a normal Wednesday night in London: my flight was delayed when I arrived at the Tube station in Stratford. I wanted to take the Underground but, tired and cold, I decided to go for a taxi instead.
I had the address, the postal code and my friend’s telephone number written on my diary, just in case. I also looked at the map before the departure and wrote down the directions to get to my destination.
The map showed clearly that from point A to point B, it was a maximum of 5/8 minutes ride. We were in Zone 2. For those not familiar with London transports, Zone 2 is quite central. In addition to this, the Stratford area has been renovated for the Olympic games, and it’s now very easy to navigate.
MEET ROBERT DE NIRO STUPID BROTHER
I approached the soon-to-be psycho in his taxi and showed him the address, explaining that I knew the place was quite close, but I just wanted to play it safe, being so late at night.
“No problem” I know that area. Let me see the post code”. I showed him all the details, but he couldn’t locate the place with his crappy mobile (first sign of warning here: no proper navigator).
But hey, the guy is a taxi driver. He does this every day and night, and his job is to know his way around, right? he re-assured me that even if he couldn’t locate it on the mobile, he’d figured it out.
I immediately warned him: “look, I only have 23£ on me. Would this be enough?” I knew it was MORE than enough as I had taken many taxis before, and the distance to cover was ridiculous. He let me in the car, and off we went.
Second warning sign: at some point I heard him cursing badly at a car that was passing too close to his. Ah well, I thought, the guy clearly didn’t go to Oxford here. Then again: another cursing. He was quite nervous for no apparent reason.
GETTING LOST AND THE MADNESS
Now let’s make a brief recap here:
- He is a Taxi driver, so he should know his way around.
- If a Taxi driver doesn’t know his way around, he uses the map, or even better, the navigator.
- If a Taxi driver is not sure he can take you where you want to go, he’ll tell you beforehand. I had drivers who refused to let me in because they didn’t know where the place was.
- I gave him the address and post code (usually more than enough info for a driver) and my diary with a STEP BY STEP route, including the name of the roads and where he had to turn.
I bet you already know the rest of the story by now. HE GOT COMPLETELY LOST. He was wandering around, furiously asking for my diary now and then.
I gave several worried looks at the man, but mostly at the taxi meter as it quickly reached the amount of money I had on me.
I told him, “look, we are lost; I have no idea how you can’t find your way here. I have two mobiles; one has a Thai sim card with no credit. The second one, my UK sim card, is not working for some reason (Murphy’s law!). Can I kindly make a two seconds call with your mobile so my friend can call you back and help you out?
His reply: “THIS IS GONNA COST YOU AT LEAST 2£”. I said, “WHAT”? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? CALLING A UK NUMBER FOR 1 SECOND, AND YOU WANT ME TO PAY 2 POUNDS?!
I had no doubts about the man’s idiocy, but I still didn’t get that he was a total psycho too. I had no choice. It was late at night, my two mobile phones were not working, and I had no internet connection. CRAP.
Anyhow. He finally let me call, and my friend gave him further indications. He thought he finally understood the route and start wandering around again. Nope, the only neuron he had left on his brain was on strike. He got LOST again.
I was speechless. I couldn’t believe it. I tried to keep calm, and I always replied nicely to him. Getting angry at him wouldn’t have helped the situation at that stage.
YOU CAN’T HIDE YOUR REAL NATURE FOR TOO LONG: THE KIDNAPPING
At some point, he furiously stopped the car, cursed for a while (as if it were my fault that he couldn’t locate the place), and rang my friend to get a callback.
I took his phone and my friend, and I decided to meet at the tube station (which is 2 minute walk from her house), so you can imagine this man’s idiocy getting lost around a tube station. He finally took me in front of it, and I thought this stupid ride was over.
Not quite. The scary part was just about to start!
I gave him my 23£, and the taxi meter was at 28£. I told him several times that I just had 23£. None the less, he started cursing and screaming at me, locked the doors and started driving away from the tube.
I wasn’t even scared at that point, I knew he was a psycho, but I was so furious that I started screaming back at him, asking him to stop the car and let me out. He wasn’t even listening to me and continued his crazy ride, cursing and screaming.
I was in total shock, so I started banging at his window, threatening him to stop the car. This lasted around 5 minutes. The five longest minutes of my life.
He stopped the vehicle in a very dark, small, dead-ended street, insulting me in every possible way. He wanted the fricking 5£ difference, as I didn’t warn him that I only had a fixed amount on me. I wanted it to be over and remembered I had some euros left.
The price difference was ridiculous, and it was also its fault for taking so long. He had the guts to ask me for 20 euros for the difference.
The “conversation” that followed after his absurd request was a bloody fight with him and me shouting at each other. I said he must be kidding me as I know the exchange rate for 5£ difference is not even 10 euros.
I saw that he unlocked the doors (not sure why and I honestly don’t want to know at this point), I threw 10 euros at him, and I quickly opened the doors whilst he was already moving the car again.
I managed to drag out my 15kg bag without any consequences, and I found myself in shock in a dark alley with no one in sight. GREAT!
Luckily, during his crazy ride away from the tube, I tried to memorize some of the roads he took, and In about 15 minutes, trying to run with my bloody heavy bag, I was back at the tube station. My friend was there waiting for me, quite worried.
If I think about it now, I guess I’ve been lucky that it ended this way. I didn’t realize the danger of being on a dark dead-end road in a car with a psyco. I was just furious at how he was treating me and didn’t consider what could have happened if he’d got even more angry. What can I add to this: