New Years Eve, I wasn’t drinking so I took the car to the pub and spent a pleasant evening with a few friends there and because I was available to drive Jodie booked my Dads Taxi service to take her and a friend into Leeds for a night’s celebration in one of those things called a nightclub, I remember those from my own youthhood, they were expensive, glitzy, and didn’t have a dominoes board for you to borrow, and I walked home from them to save the taxi fare, if I’d asked my dad to take me and then collect me from there at 3am the next morning he’d still have been laughing at me now.
But the difference between my dad and me is that he had two boys, I have two girls and when your youngest one asks you to take her into the city and then collect her at 3am, a time that I had never actually seen before, then you don’t remind her that she’s 18 years old and should be doing these things for herself by now – you just do them, its what dads are for.
Taking her into Leeds at 9pm was bad enough, New Years Eve is the night when many drivers stay off the road but ALL the taxi drivers in the world come out, and taxi drivers in Leeds have a reputation of being, shall we say, carefree, with the Highway Code – ok lets say they are a fooking menace to other road users then.
I set my alarm for 2.40am but in the event didn’t need it as I got to watching “Silence of the Lambs” again and if there’s one film guaranteed to keep you awake then its that one, I once watched it on an overnight flight from Barbados, didn’t sleep a wink, watched the dawn break from 30,000 feet while pondering on the possibility of making a suit of clothing from purloined human skin and ate a hearty breakfast while Hannibal gnawed the face off a prison guard.
Set off just before 3am, its a 20 minute drive into the centre, passes the district known as Headingley, a place of many bars, at just before 3am on New Tears Eve that means place of many taxis and at just before 3am it is apparently the law that you have to tear up everything that you ever read or learned about driving and/or parking for as I now know every taxi comes complete with a licence to do what the fook you like where the fook you like it.
For instance if you need to turn around and head in the opposite direction – no sweat, just spin the wheel around, pull across three other lanes of traffic and off you go in the opposite direction, you’ve seen Starsky & Hutch do it, taxi drivers do it too, three of them did it right in front of me on New Years Eve, three on three separate occasions, and that was in the first two miles.
Need to park somewhere to pick up your passengers – no sweat, just stop, stop right where you are, middle of the road, alongside two other parked taxis, block the road completely, its ok, its nearly 3am and all the other road users are taxi drivers too so they don’t give a fook about you ignoring all the laws because they were just thinking of doing the same thing too.
And when I arrived at the night club it just got worse, by this time I’d joined the taxi drivers club, I drove up the bus lane and parked on double yellow lines, no indicating to anyone and that look on my face that says “What are you looking at”, I rang Jodie and told her to get outside quickly before I got nicked for parking in a bus lane on a double yellow line. I needn’t have worried, the bus lane was full of parked taxis and two ambulances who weren’t there on a call as such, just waiting in case they got a call and they could say to their control “oh I’ll go straight away, I’m parked right outside the place now…”
A young asian lad who was completely off his head on something was making his way down the line of taxis banging on the windows and generally being told to fook off by all the drivers, so off his face was he that he banged on my passenger side window – me in the bright yellow Peugeot 107, the least likely car to be a taxi ever on the road, well maybe a Smart car would beat the Peugeot 107 to the “least likely to be a taxi” award but it would be a close thing, I told him to fook off too, and he did, nice lad, totally off his face though, he hadn’t a clue what he was doing there, how he got there or what planet he was currently visiting.
The square in front of the nightclub was heaving with youths in various states of non-control, maybe a couple of hundred of them, the nightclub itself was a large converted gothic style church with an impressive flight of stairs leading up to the front door, 3am was obviously its closing time as hundreds of young revellers were spilling out, down the stairs and into the square where I and all the other hooligan taxi drivers were parked, fights were breaking out at random intervals, a fight started at the top of the stairs and a doorman picked up the two skinny kids by their hair and threw them down the stairs, they didn’t touch any of the steps until they reached the pavement – if either of those two are reading this now and wondering why they woke up the following day with a plaster cast on both arms and a neck brace to wear for the next six weeks then, well, you were chucked out of a club by a bouncer and you flew for almost as far as the Wright Brothers did on their first attempt.
I was starting to enjoy the show, its great being sober at 3am when the whole of the rest of the world is completely rat-arsed and pretending that they’ve had a really good time whereas in truth they are just starting to have the first of the self doubts of “oh god I wish I hadn’t drunk that last eight pints of lager now”
The road outside the nightclub is four lanes wide and was jam packed with taxis now, some of them were even pointing in the right direction but most were simply abandoned where they stopped or halfway through trying to do a 180 degree turn in the road and successfully blocking it – it was chaos, a world given over to taxi drivers, no buses and no other form of public transport available, I only saw one other car on the road that wasn’t a taxi on my way home and that was being driven very slowly by a woman who looked absolutely terrified – if you’ve ever seen videos of what the traffic looks like in Mumbai at major junctions then that is what Leeds looks like in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings, presumably there is some order to it but I couldn’t make out what the rules were.