IT'S a very Irish thing that when faced with poor service we either grumble under our breath or make a joke out of it afterwards. Restaurants, department stores, tech support: ignore it or laugh about it.
So it often is with taxis. Everyone's got a store of hilarious and/or hair-raising tales of crazy cabbies and magical mystery tours of our lesser-travelled streets. But now, at least, we're about to get some redress – Minister of State Alan Kelly is doing it for us.
He has introduced a Taxi Regulation Bill, which includes lifetime bans for drivers with manslaughter, murder and rape convictions and shorter bans for lesser crimes.
Interestingly, those convicted of dangerous driving can reapply within three to five years, which seems strange. You'd imagine that dangerous driving would forever preclude someone from, well, driving other people around for a living.
The bill also introduces a penalty-points-style system of demerits for cabbies breaching regulations, which could lead to loss of licence: over-charging, taking the scenic route, unfit cars, too many passengers, etc.
The list is long but it's not exhaustive; there are as many annoyances and stresses in getting a taxi as there are taxis on the road. Here's my personal demerit list:
• Banging on about that celebrity you had in the car. It's cool that you got to meet someone famous, not so cool that you're now pulling the car over to proudly display the photos on your phone of some bling-bling Premiership footballer.
• Watching a DVD on a tiny player fixed to the dashboard. This really happened to someone; they told Twitter all about it, in real time. In mitigation, m'lud, the taxi was stuck in traffic – but it was still moving, if only inch by inch.
• Changing a CD while driving. We've all done it – I know I have – but the rest of us aren't professionally responsible for the safety of others.
• Blasting out the CD really loudly. Or some god-awful 'classic rock' radio station, which "only plays the songs you want to hear!" Eh, define "want to hear", please. To compound the crime, our driver sings along, out of tune, and finishes by insisting you agree that "they don't make music like that any more".
• Being racist. It's a bit of a cliche, the bigoted taxi driver, but you do come across them. The worst thing is, the more of a tree-hugging liberal you are, the more appalled you'll be ... and the less likely to do anything about it except sit there squirming in discomfort.
• Not knowing where the hell they're going. We've all had the slightly surreal experience of giving directions to a driver who clearly couldn't tell Cabra from the Grand Canal. "No, right here. Yes, back there. The turn-off you've just passed." This is even better fun if you're drunk. Though not so much fun if the driver is drunk as well.
• Asking where you're from and replying: "I think I was there once. There was a big gang of us." As if everywhere outside Dublin is as remote, inaccessible and potentially deadly as the Hindu Kush. (West Cork actually is, but that's another story.)
• Reversing at speed without using the mirrors. Or the back window. Or looking about them at all, really. And then blaring the horn at the "f**kin' b**tard" they nearly hit (and who was totally in the right).