The taxi driver as the eiptome of post-modernism. Number 8 in the series: Knowledge, traffic and arts based research.

I reached a new level of taxi driver – passenger complexity tonight.

I get in a cab.

“Where do you want to go?” he asks. I tell him.

He says: “How do you want to get there?”
I say: “The shortest journey possible.”
He says: “What’s the shortest to you is not the shortest to me.”

I say: “The quickest you can.”
He says: “What’s quickest to you is not the quickest to me.”
I say: “You’re the driver, you know best.”
He stays silent.

I say: “The cheapest route possible.”
He says: “What’s cheapest to you is not the cheapest to me.”
I say: “I think we can agree on a price of what constitutes cheap.”
I name a price.

It’s a ridiculously stupid low price. He grunts, puts his foot down and we get to my destination having jumped 2 red lights. The journey is £1.50 cheaper than it cost me earlier in the evening to get to the destination he collected me from.

But that last fact is not the most significant aspect of this transaction.

What’s significant is that everything we think we know about a taxi ride, is from the point of view of the taxi driver, uncertain, relative and open to dispute. Your putative knowledge about your desired journey is, from the point of the taxi driver, a pointless conceit.

The taxi driver is the epitome of post-modernism: nothing is stable, nothing certain, nothing definable and there are no foundations at all upon which we can agree to define a taxi journey by. No wonder they know nothing. They operate in a world which is fundamentally unknowable. They have reached the stage in human existence where the will to know about the universe meets its comeuppance. This allows them to say to you:

“Forget it. You know nothing. I know nothing. I may be a taxi driver with a satnav but deep down I am utterly ignorant. You are utterly ignorant. The sum knowledge of the human race wouldn’t fill the back of a postage stamp. Assuming we could agree on what a postage stamp looked like. So lets agree to disagree about our ignorance. There are no other valid philosophical positions. You might at least get a cheaper fare out of it. Or you might not. Who knows?”

He drops me off and I respectfully salute him as he drives off into the night, unsteadily weaving his way back and forth across the duel carriageway. I finally understand why taxi drivers never know anything at all. It is a position borne of deep wisdom, not a lack of familiarity with the mechanics of the taxi, the road, the Highway Code, of the A-Z of your home town. Respect.

More travel knowledge here.

Author: drnicko

Awarded an MBE for services to arts-based businesses, I am passionate about generating inspiring, socially engaging, creative practice within educational contexts both nationally and internationally.

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