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Talk me some Knowledge


We took the train into London for a guitar gig tonight, which was nice. We treated ourselves to a cab from Victoria Station, which was very nice. A cab here is an expensive treat.

The black cabs of London are famous. Only licensed black cabs (which aren’t always black, but are always blocky square things — notably Fairways) may legally pick up passengers in the street in London (notice boards encourage you to narc on cheaters). And getting a license here is more difficult than in any other city in the world. Drivers are required to have an intimate familiarity with roads throughout the city and be able to route around traffic hotspots on the fly. This is called The Knowledge. Google it! A driver will typically study for several years before he first attempts the oral exam, and it usually takes it a dozen tries before he aces it.

The Knowledge has been a requirement since the hackney cabs of the middle 19th Century. Seems a little superfluous in the GPS era, but the cabs are clean spacious and have cool stuff like TVs and credit card swiper dinguses. And, traditionally, talkative drivers. Ours chattered through an intercom at us about the difficulty of making a living where rich people prefer their own drivers. London is a real class envy sort of town.


No, the Colgate ad is not a Photoshop job.

Anyhoo, it’s almost 2 in the am here and I’m on the sleepy side of a bottle of fizz. Still haven’t got the wifi going. Tomorrow we head for the coast, so now for a sammich and bed and better luck with that tomorrow.


Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: May 16, 2007, 8:44 pm

So, your cab was christianed “The Spirit of New India”? Fancy! I call my Rav4 “Le Papillon du Lorenz”.

Comment from Daniel Pennant
Time: May 17, 2007, 1:45 am

London is a beautiful city and it is my hometown, if you come to visit it you will find that you were in the heaven. Maybe before your coming you can find many kownledge about it on EbonyFriends.com, so welcome to London.

Comment from Leeuwenhoek
Time: May 17, 2007, 6:42 am

All Cab drivers have “The knowlage” lol. Its part of the job.
It will never be replaced with GSP. GPS can tell you where a place to eat is, but little about how good the cook is. Looking for a little jazz joint that has a hot band, ask a cab driver. They are the first contact most people have with a city, and they know it from end to end. —A former cab driver

Comment from Leeuwenhoek
Time: May 17, 2007, 7:28 am

You know that reminds me of a funny story, My wife and I were in Chicago once and wanted to go to a music store we heard about in a blues bar. This music store was on the south side of Chicago. We ask a cab driver if he knew about it, I guess its somewhat famous. Anyway, we crossed that line in Chi town called “The Loop” and headed to the south side. Now, I am from Detroit, so a few burned out buildings and bars on the windows does not scare me, but let me tell you the deeper we got, the worse it started to look. We passed mountains of uncollected garbage and burned out buildings, saw kids playing in the water from an open fire plug, not too bad. Then even the sun seemed to dim. The burned out buildings became rubble and the people all looked like angry zombies. There were cars burning and small fires in the rubble, little columns of thick black smoke rising into the haze. Every once and a while we would hear a bottle break someone had thrown at us. My wife was down on the floor of the cab, peeking out the window. I was as low as I could get in my seat. Just then the cab driver said, “you sure you want to go on, its going to get a little rough up here”. I’m trying to figure out how it could get worse than the post nuke zombie movie we were already in. Well, we turned back. We tipped the cab driver danger pay and headed back to the DMZ, the “Loop”. My wife and I laugh about this adventure whenever we take a cab.

Comment from mesablue
Time: May 17, 2007, 10:30 am

Heh, I’m from Chicago and now live in Detroit. I’ve been all over Chicago and can’t say that I’ve ever witnessed anything close to what you describe, espescially that close to the Loop. The Taylor homes on the South side were pretty scary, but cramming dozens project towers into a small area can do that.

The difference that probably made you nervous is that there were a lot of people on the street. In Detroit, I’ve noticed that in any area that is even a little sketchy, the place is almost totally devoid of human life — eerily. Whereas in Chicago, there is still a large population of — people.

Detroit is amazing in it’s large swaths of sheer destruction. And, huge open spaces where they’ve bulldozed entire neighborhoods.

That said, I enjoyed your narrative.

Back on topic, sort of, the Chicago cab drivers have gone way down in their grasp of The Knowledge. I know where everything is, so I at least hope that the cab drivers will, as well. Too many times in the last few years, I’ve gotten into taxis where the drivers didn’t know where anything was outside of the tourist areas — which I avoid. I gotten out of more than a few after a couple of blocks of trying to explain directions to the taxi driver and that he was a complete moron to turn onto Michigan Ave. heading North on a weekend afternoon.

Stoaty, enjoy your trip — and a few stouts.

Comment from Lokki
Time: May 17, 2007, 11:05 am

Here is Dallas where cabs are only taken to the airport, we’d settle for “The English”. “The Knowledge” (beyond how to get to the airport) is owned by one man, whom all Cab drivers call on their cellphones for help. He speaks arabic, loud enough to hear over the music.

Comment from Leeuwenhoek
Time: May 17, 2007, 2:04 pm

Mesablue, well Ive been telling that story for 20 years, so maybe Chicago, and the story has changed a bit. Thats my memory of the adventure. I should say I love Chicago and dirty old Detwaa as well. As for Detroit being “devoid of human life — eerily” What about all the Rappers having Rap contests on 8mi, like the movie by M&M ? lol Just Kidding. Anyway, both citys have there charms. I’m still laughing at “The English” in Lokki’s post. No offence was intended. Chicago is a great city if you are a musician btw, most bands in the bars encourage you to sit in. I got to play a whole set at Blue Chicago. Both citys have very nice people in them as well.

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: May 17, 2007, 3:25 pm

There once was a Weasel from Boston,
Who flew to an island to get lost in.
But all the cabbies were grand,
They knew the land like their hand,
So the Weasel got a scotch with ice tossed in.

Comment from Pupster
Time: May 17, 2007, 4:31 pm

Beloved so fair
Cabbie’s knowledge unbounded
Spam bucket gone wild

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: May 17, 2007, 5:11 pm

New India ride
Stoat’s wireless retiring
No mobile postings?

Akismet restrained
Bluffed by haiku minions
Pooter gets a pass.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: May 17, 2007, 5:15 pm


My brain is so small
The pain of comprehension
Is truly mindless.

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