A young married couple, Nicola and Thomas, hired a taxi for a whole evening. They had in mind to first call at a public house for a drink or two, from there to go on to a restaurant and then to finish their outing by taking a ride in an open carriage in the town park. The agreed fare would be £100.00. An excerpt from the dialogue that took place in the cab is given below:
Thomas: Right, we’ll start with a drop of good cheer. Please take us to the Hussar, driver.
Cabbie: I wouldn’t go there if I were you, sir.
Thomas: Oh, may I ask why you say that?
Cabbie: It’s snooty, the sort of place where they make you feel uncomfortable when they think you are not their type. I’m sure you know what I mean. The prices are very high and the drinks are nothing to write home about. I’ll take you there if you insist, but you’d be better of at the Nag’s Head.
Nicola: I don’t fancy that. I’ve heard it’s a spit and sawdust establishment and I hope we don’t strike you as potential patrons of such a place.
Cabbie: I grant you it’s a bit rough but you can get tanked up there for half what you’d pay at the Hussar, the booze is better and so is the company.
Thomas: Look, this is none of your business. Just do as we ask. When we’re ready to move on, we’ll have dinner at the Palace in Regent Road.
Cabbie: I wouldn’t recommend that.
Thomas: I don’t care what you’d recommend but as a matter interest, what have you got against our choice?
Cabbie: Just about everything. It costs a packet to eat there and it’s unhygienic.
Nicola: In what way?
Cabbie: Well, for one thing the cooks and waiters think they’re God’s gift to the diners. Condescending is the word, madam. There’s every chance somebody on the staff will take a dislike to you for no good reason and if that happens, you can bet that one of the chefs will be doing something nasty to your food.
Nicola: Oh, dear. Anything else?
Cabbie: You bet. One of their favourite tricks is to get an empty bottle of top-class wine, fill it with the cheapest plonk they can get, recork it and present it as the real McCoy. A friend of mine knows a lot about these things and they offered him what they said was a Gevrey-Chambertin, Premier Cru. He swears what he got was Beaujolais Nouveau.
Thomas: Astonishing. If that’s true, how do they get away with it?
Cabbie: It’s a question of percentages, sir. They know that on average, only one party in five complains. The others are either too shy to make a fuss, or they’ve had a bevvy or two before they dine, so they don’t realise they’re being swindled. That way the restaurant foists them off with rubbish eighty percent of the time. Makes sense from their point of view.
Nicola: Appalling, but we’ve booked.
Cabbie: Well, it’s your money but I think you should try Tommy’s Grill & Griddle.
Thomas: Yes, we’ll do that. After the meal we’d like you to take us to the park and wait while we have a spin in one of those carriages.
Cabbie: That’s something else I wouldn’t do if I were you.
Thomas: This is ridiculous. What’s wrong with our plan?
Cabbie: I suppose you’ll be wanting to do that around nine o’clock, right?
Thomas: Yes. So what?
Cabbie: The place is full of muggers and suchlike at that time. You could wind up with somebody jumping out of the bushes and telling you to stand and deliver. Those types are just like eighteenth-century highwaymen.
Thomas: This is ridiculous. No doubt with your encyclopedic knowledge you have an alternative suggestion.
Cabbie: Yes I do. Your best bet is to go to the News Theatre in the railway station. It’s small, sort of intimate and the seats are luxurious. You get an hour and a quarter of great entertainment – a newsreel, a couple of good travel shorts and a few hilarious cartoons. In my view, a much better way to pass your time than what you have in mind.
Later. The cab has taken Nicola and Thomas home.
Thomas: Well, thank you driver.
Cabbie: The name’s John, sir.
Thomas: Right, John. Thank you for steering us to a pleasant evening. I’m sorry I doubted you.
Nicola: That goes for me too. We met some very nice people at the Nag’s Head, had a super meal at Tommy’s place and a really lovely time at the theatre. I enjoyed every minute of our outing.
Thomas: So did I. Look, here’s the payment we agreed on and another twenty for your guidance.
Cabbie: No need for that, sir. The advice comes free. Now just to see you top off your night out, take this.
Thomas: What is it?
Cabbie: A bottle of single malt, with my compliments. After all, Christmas is coming.
Nicola: What do you mean? It’s the twenty-fourth of September.
Cabbie: I know that, but you can’t deny what I said about Christmas. It comes every year. Good night.
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