For about five, going on ten minutes, which seemed like an eternity, I was being held against my will in a cab. The driver, now on the phone appeared to be calling the police — which was my request to resolve this matter.
Instead, the phone call produced one more cab driver, then another, circling my makeshift cell. I’ve no doubt more intended on arriving for what I’m not quite sure, had more time passed.
I’m in Coventry, home of Lady Godiva, poet Philip Larkin and a tasty Ice hockey team. Coventry people are known to be welcoming and affable. What was going on?
Some minutes earlier, I’d arrived at the city’s station due to give a talk at the university. My host had given me instructions how to get to the lecture theatre. ‘Jump into a cab’ he said, ‘we’re opposite the Cathedral’.
I, wary of a practise I call ‘double tapping’, spoke on speaker with my host as I walked up to the taxi ranks. The next cab was empty; no driver either. But he soon arrived.
‘Where are you going mate?’
‘To the Alan Berry building opposite the Cathedral. Do you know where it is?’
‘I’ll find it’, he replied. There was sufficient enough doubt in his voice to suggest otherwise. He then added a descriptor to my destination I didn’t recognise. I was told it was nearby, he said it would take a while.
My thoughts went back to double tapping. This happens when you display an ignorance of your surroundings and tell a taxi driver where you want to go. They in turn take you somewhere else with a similar sounding name. It may be accidental or purposeful. When you arrive at the wrong destination and complain, the driver intones that you, unsure of your surroundings, gave the wrong information. You’ll be tapped once for the wrong fare, and then again.
Two minutes into the journey, I gave him the location again and landmark ‘Alan Berry building …it was opposite the cathedral’. By now the cab driver was adamant. ‘It wasn’t!’. It was no where near there, he offered. I spelled out where I was going again, in a slower articulated diction. I was still wrong, he replied.
Three minutes in, with my host back on speaker phone, we tried again. It was futile, so my host gave another land mark location near the university. Could I be taken there instead, I asked.
The cab driver was not having it. He was taking me to the original destination, and that, ‘my friend you don’t know what you’re talking about’.
I guffawed, er excuse me but I’m the fare, why won’t you take me to my new location? No, the fare had been set and he was taken me to where I should be going.
Was it me? Was it my cologne? Or was the driver having a bad day. Which ever way, if he didn’t know where I wanted to go, and wasn’t prepared to take me to my new destination, it was time for me to part company. I’m giving a presentation, and I would rather not this as a warm up.
But the driver now was not going to let me out. I owed him £2.80, which is the charge fee for when I first entered the cab; his dial had not changed since we left the station, meaning we’d gone less than a mile, or is that two.
By now this was turning into one of the those bad movie experiences, but it could be resolved. Can you take me to the nearest police station, so this can be looked at? He swung around to a police station, parked up and got onto his phone. I sat, thinking of Monty Python and that the police would arrive anytime.
No, what was arriving were his colleagues. Now held in the cab, I owed him £4.00 I rang my host and explained the matter and asked if he could come to my rescue, and whether he, knowing Coventry more than me, had the direct number ( quicker) for the police.
Now £6 and with two other cabbies circling the cab on foot, my host arrived. Until I paid £6, they would no let me go and then my driver and my host spoke. More minutes passed. They agreed on a price £3, whilst the cab’s friends still insisted £6 at the point of paying. I was released. I said nothing. His actions did not dignify a response.
Five minutes up the road, my host stood in front of the theatre and what stood opposite him, as he gestured with his arms, but the Cathedral. ‘Oh by the way, the cab driver thought you said somewhere else, that’s where he was taking you’, my host told me raising his eyebrows affirmed.
What does this episode mean for me and perhaps you? That I’m grateful I had someone to meet and support me. That I or you shouldn’t be withheld against our will in a cab, and that my host with a strained appeasing smile regretted not coming to me me or that I should have walked ; it was in practise a 15-minute walk.
Monopolies tend to weaken the acknowledged informal link between customer and client relationship. Should uber intend on opening shop in Coventry, then perhaps an incident like this would be minimised as the competition for customers will be predicated on good service and repeat business.
But this feature is also an allegorical for me, about mental locales we find ourselves. What motivated the cab driver to act that way. His rationale insisting on £3 was perhaps for him a matter of principle, but also casting my eyes across the cab bays —it’s a fee he was not about to relent in times of austerity. Frankly, perhaps it didn’t matter whether he even moved the cab — when I got in, he needed that fare.
I have no statistics to back this, rather a tacit hunch that there aren’t as many fares as there would have been good years. Supply and demand. When a commodity is scarce it is not to ignored or shared.
In times of abundance in the digital age of information, there has appeared an inclination from netizens to give more, to share. In leaner times the link between supply and demand chains can become constrained, become visibly confrontational and hierarchical. Yet paradoxically sharing has become the new powerbroking buoyed by personalisation, twitter metrics and the selfie stick.
Why do we share? I share, because it’s a tonic, an internal much needed adrenalin kick to my disposition. I crave those journeys that open up new experiences, new ways of seeing the world — from growing up in Ghana, working in the tale end of Apartheid South Africa to collaborating with students in China — all much needed experiences and its this ethos which has brought me to the city of Godiva, Coventry.
I’m now sat in the the auditorium — its made up of mainly undergraduate students. The speakers are imparting knowledge about the future of online video via bespoke local television and new cultures at the BBC.
It becomes apparent to me, without the safety net of a powerpoint, I need to alter what I had planned to make the sort of connection I think will be most receptive. I did something similar presenting at Apple (photos) a few months earlier.
Prepare as much as you can, but leave the last word to intuition on the day.
My allotted 20 minutes passes quickly and the reception from the students is very positive. They gave much in the art of listening.
Similarly, they participated in contributing questions and statements that clearly showed they understood the premise of thesis.
My views, though discursive have generally been widely received, such as the feedback from speaking in Dublin in March at the first mobile phone filmmaking conference.
and as stated earlier at Apple
Talking is a performance art. The design is to find the tools, craft and the right seam to address the singular question or questions, the audience would like to hear as you guide them on a journey.
But it’s the content that excites me as I dig deeper and deeper into various revelations, such as:
- Why the BBC made TV news the way it did for reasons that might surprise you.
- Or that video journalism first emerged in the 1950
- Or that a number of scholars point to the exuberance of the 1920s to define the period of our times.
In effect, it involves both empirical and sensory knowledge in painting an obvious picture of disruption of journalism and story telling. The Net was almost coincidental in effecting change.
Trend patterns in history suggest something was going to tilt the axis at some point. Those patterns exist in previous creative arts e.g painting, literature, and the sciences. Culture and society symmetrically shape behaviour, such that a penchant for discarding the status quo at some point becomes inevitable.
Amongst social scientists this is not an uncommon statement, yet I feel passionate about it because it’s rarely explained across modern types of filmmaking and journalism.
After seven years of panning, rinsing, and selecting little slithers gold, and then smelting it to a mass — the ensuing PhD, such knowledge needs to be shared.
We hold by a dubious belief that corporations and those running them have an exclusive hold on knowledge. It’s the reason the conference industry is experiencing a boom. Yet this understanding is erroneous because it disempowers those not strong and confident enough to think they too have something to offer.
I am that student, delegate, or work employer when I share and I maintain a belief that the more we can engage with external experiences, collaborate and engage in discourse not necessarily in conference bytes) we increase the perspicacity of deeper binding cultural phenomenon.
There are risks of being held against our will in cabs, but sharing as a collaborative function, and the help of those we interact with will see things come right