Nightwatch: Pull up to my bumper...
On a night out, it's up there with queuing for the ladies' toilets. The taxi ride home is an unavoidable pain in the ass. But is it getting better? Do you feel the same? I've had an unsettling number of incidents recently where a taxi driver has pressed his little meter gizmo at the end of a trip and said something like, "Seven-forty, love. Ah, let's leave that at seven". All the while, he's beaming at you like an urchin child who has come bearing the gift of a mud pie.
Since when have taxi drivers been rounding down their fares? It doesn't seem that long ago that the done thing was to suggest rounding up the fare to the nearest €2 coin. Hand over the exact change and you'd feel two searing pinpoints of burning rage reflected from the rear-view mirror. The 'stingy-cow' stare for what they perceived was a 'stingy cow' fare.
Have you not been listening? Do you not understand that the country -- the entire country -- has its hand in the taxi driver's pocket, in the pockets of his rickets-ridden children and that of his invalid mother? And the dog needs an operation. You heartless wagon.
There are clearly still some dinosaurs out there in the ranks. The ones who think parking across the entire breadth of O'Connell Street makes them the heirs to Padraig Pearse. The ones who perform a go-slow protest through the city at rush hour in the deluded notion that it will make us punters sympathetic to their cause.
I don't seem to be getting those guys and gals of late. I've been hopping into the nice, clean taxis of nice, polite folks who seem to have worked out what the letters PSV on their taxi licence stand for. So no enforced psychotherapy sessions. ("You know what your problem is? You're stressed out. You'd want to relax." Thanks for that. I feel much better. Keep the change.)
And no sessions with me in the role of the therapist, listening to the blow-by-blow account of the row they had last night with the missus. Yes, you were wrong to tell her what was what and, yes, I do blame you. No, I don't want to go by the quays. Stop picking your nose.
Hand on heart, I can say there was a time when I point-blank refused to use taxis. It came after a series of curious incidents -- all in the night-time -- where the drivers behaved like some shower of marauding pirates.
One had a road-rage tantrum that made Britney's umbrella attack on that paparazzo's SUV look mild by comparison. One referred to a passing taxi being driven by an African gentleman -- that was the presumption; he could have been from Cabra for all we knew -- as a "blacksie".
My personal favourite was the man who told me every reason why "culchies" should not be allowed to own property in Dublin -- and then asked what part of Tipperary I was from.
Sure wasn't his mother from there and wouldn't he recognise the accent anywhere.
There is only so much time in a day you can waste beating a path to the Carriage Office to make complaints. So I gave them up like sweeties at Lent, but with lowered blood pressure as the reward instead of a big chocolate egg.
Recently, though, I've been seduced by the new come-ons from Public Service Vehicles. They seem to want my business. One taxi passed me on Dame Street the other day with the words 'Email me at ... . day or night' written across the side door.
A few have bright flashing 'For hire' signs in the windscreen now, in case you missed the big yellow sign on the roof.
So I've decided to give the relationship another go. It's honeymoon days yet, but the signs have been healthy.
Good manners, nice small talk and, er, clean upholstery.
If things go on like this, you can most certainly pull up to my bumper, sir.