Life in a cab in Barcelona

In the golden age of Catalan blogs, cabbie Xavier Gonzàlez would write every morning about how his night shift had been going. Ddriver blog was a goldmine of anecdotes about taxi life including socially-related insights, advice on how to find a cab on busy days and his own adventures during a surreal ride.

Cabs, such goldmines of anecdotes! From that time when, in Eastern Europe, we were conned into paying through our nose for a ridiculous distance, to the typical night ride in which someone made a funny comment and couldn’t stop laughing, all ride long. We all have in mind that conversation with a cabbie and, funnily enough, we do not have similar stories with train or bus drivers, despite using them more often.

A cab is an automatic story-generator, and if your cabbie is talkative and outgoing –well, most of them are– anecdotes are endless. In the golden age of Catalan blogs, cabbie Xavier Gonzàlez would write every morning about how his night shift had been going. Ddriver blog was a goldmine of anecdotes about taxi life including socially-related insights, advice on how to find a cab on busy days and his own adventures during a surreal ride. In this blog we discovered that daylight and night-time fauna are quite different, as the former is, of course, made up of workers and tourists but also of dear old ladies on their outpatient hospital visit or grandpas on their way to pester their bank clerks. But at night, the clientele is younger, party-goers on their way out or back, asking for rides to clubs or brothels. In this respect, the blog explains openly the murky world of restaurant and brothel commissions obtained by taxi drivers for providing clientele, and also described the peculiar visitors to the Mobile World Congress, like dead drunk Asians leaving generous tips of up to 100 euros. The blog also portrays another category of tips –well, gastric-related ones, and I will refrain from being more explicit– and also of couples who would give free rein to their passion and started having sex in the backseat.

I once came across an American playwright who worked as a cabbie during the summers, not because he cherished the stories but because of the accents. He would drive around the streets of New York with a tape recorder under the seat

In his blog –where his sense of humour made up for a few horrible spelling errors–, Xavi also analysed common cab behaviours, like those passengers who insist on talking about the weather –don’t do it, a cabbie is not the weather man– or those who keep staring at the meter, “as if waiting for the film to begin”. As I was writing this text, I sent Xavi a message and he replied that, despite closing his blog in 2015, he continued working as a cab driver for 26 years more. You can picture him at the antipodes of a cabbie tuned in on right-wing radio channels blaring loud and a crucifix hanging from the rear wing mirror: he has even pushed out of his car those passengers who mocked the Catalan independent movement or spoke offensively about Barça or Barça fans.

But cab stories do not always have a happy ending. I once came across an American playwright who worked as a cabbie during the summers, not because he cherished the stories but because of the accents. He would drive around the streets of New York with a tape recorder under the seat, and whenever a passenger had a peculiar speech feature –e.g. a Jew saying “Schmuck!” every now and then, or a native Texan with his slow distinctive slur–, he would press the Rec button and engaged them in conversation throughout the cab ride. He would then transcribe the best bits, stole these words and expressions and transferred them to his own characters. The problem came when a mafia-looking Italian American found his recording device as he kicked it from under the seat: he got the driver to pulled out, crushed the device against the pavement and the poor fake cabbie nearly got himself killed, as his passenger ignored that he was not a policeman but a mere accent-seeking hunter.