The Case of the London Cabbie

Yesterday I ventured out on a solo shopping trip in London. My goal was Harrod’s, of course. Is there anywhere else to shop when you’re a tourist in London?

I am one of those people who, once my gyros get tumbled, can manage to get horribly lost. As a consequence, rather than walking and possibly being run over in traffic for looking the wrong way in a cross walk, I opted to use a taxi.

In my experience, London cab drivers have always been unfailingly helpful, knowledgable, and cheerful. So I set our from our hotel, the Park Lane in Piccadilly, with a happy heart.

My goal on this venture was to buy a hairbrush–a man’s hairbrush. The one Bill has been using was given to him long ago by Lynn, his first wife. Since Bill and I have been married for going on thirty years now, you can understand that his old hairbrush was ready for a dignified retirement. The cab driver drove seemingly in circles but soon deposited me safely near the exact entrance I needed–the one that led into the men’s department. I wandered for some time without seeing a sign of a hairbrush. When I finally broke down and asked about gentleman’s hairbrushes, people looked at me as though I was speaking a foreign language which, it turns out, I was–American English. At last someone directed me to the “Gentleman’s Lounge” which was down a very long flight of marble stairs.

At the bottom I found myself in a men’s perfume emporium where, unsurprisingly, they had exactly what I needed–a lovely wooden handled, soft bristled brush. I whipped out my credit card, paid, and left. I had a request from someone to bring back a touristy thing that Harrod’s wouldn’t carry on a bet, so I found one of those and then made my way back to the cab rank where I had been dropped off to begin with. There was another rank of taxis on the far side of Harrod’s but that one was much busier. I liked the less busy one better, so back I went, carefully abiding by all the WALK and WAIT signs along the way. (American tourists have a way of looking the wrong way, stepping out in front of oncoming traffic, and thus turning themselves into international roadkill.)

At the taxi line, I walked up to the first available cab and said, “Park Lane Hotel in Piccadilly.” To which the cabbie replied, “Never heard of it.”

Okay, I told myself. Believing my accent was at fault I repeated what I had said the first time, speaking very slowly and carefully. He shrugged and replied, “I don’t know where that is.”

So how am I going to get back to the hotel? I wondered. Walking was not an option. I had left the hotel in a taxi and had launched off without a map. So I moved along to the next taxi in line and repeated my request. The second cab driver pointed at the first cab and said, “What did he say?”

“He told me he didn’t know where it was.” So the second cab driver, Cabbie # 2, got out of his vehicle, led me back to Cab # 1, opened the door, put me inside, and said, “Park Lane Hotel. Piccadilly.”

And then all hell broke lose. Cab # 1, with me inside, pulled away from the curb, drove half a block, and then stopped in traffic. Whereupon both cab drivers, #1 and # 2, bailed from their respective vehicles and proceeded to have a screaming match in the middle of the street, with traffic building up behind us, horns honking, and with bystanders staring from the sidewalk. There were threats of pulling licenses. There were bad words. There were single finger salutes.

For a while, I sat there, thinking, “It’ll be a cold day in hell before this driver gets a tip.” Finally I bailed. I got out of Cab # 1, got into Cab #2, and with Cabbie #1 still yelling invectives in our wake, we came to the Park Lane Piccadilly where the concierge explained that the first cab driver claimed ignorance because it was “too short a trip.”

By the way, the second cab driver did get a nice tip, Bill got his hair brush, and I was glad to be back in the hotel.

Those of you who read my books and know how my mind works are probably thinking, “Oops. Time for a London Cabbie to show up in one of her books.” Too late. It turns out it’s already there because I already wrote it. The Case of the London Cabbie is a novella that came out years ago. In it you’ll find some characters who show up much later in some of my Ali Reynolds books. If you’re interested, go to the J.A. Jance Casebook at ipulpfiction.com.

Oh, and did I mention? We’ve had fun on this trip, but I’m glad to be coming home

10 thoughts on “The Case of the London Cabbie

  1. I have pictures of a street screaming match in Baku Azerbaijan. it was my first outside of the movies. I did not realize these do happen in other countries. Now it is fun to see how they drive there .. Having a hard time waiting on the next book .. Love all of your books

  2. I just have to tell you how much I love your books! I have read them all and can’t wait for your next one to come out.
    I have preordered your JP Beaumont short story from Amazon.
    Thank you for sharing your trip with us and can’t wait to see some of these folks in your Ali Reynolds series.

    Have a great day,
    Belinda

  3. That had to be a truly uncomfortable experience, but found myself laughing out loud as the vivid description came to life of the two cabbies.

    Out of all your books that I’ve read, Joanna Brady hit home with me the most. She is a heroine, overcome many obstacles and set a great examle, through her actions, for women everywhere. I do love Ali Reynolds as well and can’t wait to see how she gets out of her next mess, but Joanna Brady I can connect/identify with, and am using her tenacity to help overcome some of my own challenges. Thak you for writing such wonderfully inspiring characters!

  4. I am very surprised that the cab driver didn’t know where the hotel was. They used to have to learn where things were before they were able to drive a cab. Maybe it is not so strict now.

    The times I’ve been in London, I have tried all kinds of public transport. I had a map that showed the routes of the underground and buses on one page. The double decker buses were the most fun as I could see so much more. The trick is not to be out and about during rush hour.

  5. Very funny experience. We caused some embarrassment for a men’s store clerk in Maine when we asked for suspenders. My packing is sort of pack everything we own, but leave out the most vital stuff. Anyway, this young woman from England turned bright red. Turns out the Brits call them braces, and suspenders is their word for athletic supporters!

  6. Sadly I am not finding the Novella “The Case of the London Cabbie” though now I have a whole new set of reading to do with all the other stories…..

  7. I too stayed at the Park Lane a few years ago…and walked to Harrod’s. It’s a bit of a walk but not knowing my way around I found my way to Harrod’s and then back to the hotel thanks to lots of people pointing the way!

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