There appears to be an epidemic in modern-day life amongst people who try to take advantage of a given situation when the advantage being taken is not necessarily in everybody’s interest. The adverse result is that this kind of situation has a knock-on effect to people who have nothing to do with the situation in the first place.
Take, for example, the London Underground tube drivers who decided to go on strike (yet again!) this week. Usually, one would expect this to last for 24 hours. Unusually, this particular strike was planned for three days. No-one knows why the RMT union chose to strike, but it fell conveniently after a Bank Holiday weekend (as usual), timetabled around a rare period of sunny weather.
As a struggling writer, I work at home, so tube strikes affect me slightly less than your average man-on-the-street. Strictly speaking, this isn’t entirely accurate. It would be more truthful for me to say that, as a struggling writer, I attempt to work at home, fail dismally, so head out for some ‘me time’ and end up squeezing myself onto the only operational tube train in London along with everyone else. On reaching my destination, I try to work again, fail dismally again, and realise that I squeezed myself onto the only operational tube train in London for absolutely no reason. Thus, by the time I’ve got home I’m more fed up than I was before I left.
Tube strikes are a gold mine to some, and this includes taxi firms who see it as an opportunity to overcharge passengers in a way that the tube and rail companies haven’t dreamed of yet. The other day, Pink asked me to book her a cab to Stansted Airport from where she was flying to Majorca on a business trip with her boss, Jackson Muldoon. A relatively simple operation, I felt, but, being a struggling writer who tends to struggle with everything, it turned into a much more complicated saga.
The person who answered the phone at the taxi firm said that he would have to charge me a rate of fare-and-a-half ‘because of the tube strike’. I informed him that Pink’s trip had nothing to do with the tube strike as none of the lines actually went to Stansted Airport, but he just said it was the way things go and he had to make a living as much as the next man. I said that the next man probably wasn’t going to use his taxi firm either and promptly hung up to try somewhere else. But after several more phone calls to firms which either wanted to charge double fare or couldn’t accommodate Pink’s journey at all, I had no choice but to call back the Taxi Guy and grovel to him, much to his satisfaction.
The next morning, I helped Pink pack her suitcase while she put on her make-up. While I was doing so, the ‘phone rang. It was the Taxi Guy who said that ‘due to overwhelming demand’ he’d had to increase the rate to double-fare and did I still require a taxi. I protested at great length and asked him where he expected me to find a cheaper alternative half an hour before the pick-up time. But he just said that things were now ‘less flexible’ than they were when we’d spoken the day before and gave the speech about making a living again, so I had no choice but to concede. Forty-five minutes later, Pink was in a panic as the taxi still hadn’t arrived and told me that it was all my fault. I rang the Taxi Guy and he said that it would be at the flat in five minutes, and twenty minutes later it eventually turned up.
Pink told me to take her three suitcases downstairs, and when I carried them out to the taxi I was shocked to find that it was full of Swedish people, all of whom had several suitcases of their own. The taxi driver said there was no way he could fit all three in the car, but maybe he could squeeze in one. I questioned him about why my taxi was full of Swedish people and he just shrugged, saying that there was a tube strike and people had to make compromises. I repeated the whole rigmarole of how Stansted Airport was not on a tube line, but the taxi driver just shrugged again and told me to ‘blame the unions’.
At this point, Pink arrived and informed me that Jackson Muldoon was on his way to pick her up in his chauffeur-driven car, so she wouldn’t be needing the taxi after all. She apologised to the taxi driver who said that he’d have to charge his double-fare regardless, so Pink turned to me and ordered me to pay him. It is not wise to argue with Pink when she is in this kind of mood, so I just obeyed.
After I’d waved cheerio to the Swedish people, kissed Pink goodbye, and caught a glimpse of Jackson Muldoon through is tinted windows, I went back upstairs to attempt some writing. Naturally, I failed, so I was pleased to hear on the radio that the tube strike had been suspended after 24 hours and everything was back to normal. That is until next week, when the RMT union will decide whether they feel like another three days off - annoyingly coinciding with Pink’s return.