THE BLOG

I Never Appreciated British Taxi Drivers... Until I Went To Texas.

22/03/2013 15:04 GMT | Updated 21/05/2013 10:12 BST

I've never really had a good experience with taxis. If memory serves, the worst occurred in my second year of university, when a week after passing my driving test a mini cab rear-ended my Peugeot 206, writing the poor hatchback off for half the price we paid.

I could have forgiven the driver if he hadn't claimed I hit him (hard push when I was smacked from behind) but the fact that he described me as white and blonde-haired I knew this brunette, half-Tunisian wasn't going to have a problem getting justice in the small claims court.

However, after spending 10 days in Austin, Texas for South By Southwest, I don't think I could appreciate the British taxi driver more.

The yellow cab situation didn't start off so bad, oh no. After my flight arrived four hours late, I had a Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses moment - paying the driver to take me to my Texan home and drop off my luggage then straight to the Paramount theatre to interview the cast of Evil Dead at it's premiere.

All the while, I was clumsily stripping off my travelling clothes for a more presentable (yet creased) dress and attempting to do my make-up in the growing darkness of the back seat.

But that journey seemed to be the rare exception to the frustrating rule that there wasn't enough cabs to meet the demands of the 120,000 strong influx of people to the city. And more importantly, that if you managed to actually flag one down, no Austin taxi driver knew where they were going, carried a satellite navigation system, or owned a flipping A to Z.

So many times, myself and my travelling buddies found ourselves confounded by a universal lack of cartographic awareness, offering up street names - be it Red River and E 48th or 404 Atlanta - and getting a 'do you know where that is' response.

No driver, I'm from London and I cannot direct you, as I believe that is your job.

The perfect example of this came one evening when our English collective hailed a cab and asked to be taken to a college dorm to see the Palma Violets play a secret gig.

After giving the driver the address he set off, but after 5 minutes of heading east the questions began: 'Erm... do you know which direction I need to go? Can you tell me which road I need to go down?'

The guy had no sat nav, no map, no phone, no clue.

So after 20 minutes of trying to understand this professional incompetence, we ended up making the expensive international call from our own phone to his despatch office just so we could reach our destination.

Therefore the remaining days of Texan road uncertainty, reassured me of the navigational skills of our own British taxi drivers - even if their direction takes them towards the back of my car.