Tag Archives: Highway Code

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.

The knowledge of the car driver: Number 5 in an the series: Knowledge, traffic and arts based research.

The knowledge of the car driver is perhaps the most complete form of knowledge available to us in both the private and public spheres of knowledge. He (for the car driver is always male, the form has not yet found a way of accommodating female insights into how to navigate oneself around the world) knows how to use Satnav, A – Z or his own innate capabilities in recognising how the world roads systems should connect up; how to surround himself with the perfect soundtrack which mirrors how his own internal emotional turmoil connects to his public confidence in the morals of the highway code; and  how his mpg will accurately predict his eta. On a good day, the drivers knowledge is both organic and inorganic,  both evolved and constructed: man and machine are perfectly melded. On a bad day, you find yourself on the M25.

Arts based research has a particularly effective role to play if the driver finds himself on the Moebius Loop that is the modern outer city motorway. Poetry, site specific installations and bricolage can be bought into play on the car dashboard, creating new interpretations on ancient themes of mans inhumanity to man, the place of God in a Godless society and the existence of the Devil. The only risk to the driver is that by becoming so immersed in the knowledge that this research generates, they miss the turning for the Dartford Tunnel and are doomed to repeat their journey for a further 120 miles.

More travel knowledge here.