From the taxi driver you didn’t tip to that homeless guy you never make eye contact with, ShortList gets the skinny on how it feels to be the person on the other side
“I’ve seen it all”
I stick my fingers up people’s bottoms so many times a day, I can’t think of a single thing that still grosses me out. Showing me the weird or disgusting thing that’s going wrong with your body might be incredibly embarrassing for you, but I can guarantee you I’ve seen it before, or worse.
Nothing you can say to me is worse than the abuse I receive on a daily basis in A&E. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been called a c*nt. Pissed-off people shouting at you after a four-hour wait in A&E, complaining that they’ve paid their taxes for this NHS service and it’s not good enough – that’s just par for the course.
It can be hard gaining the trust of a cyberchondriac. That’s what we call someone who has performed a self-diagnosis using Google and comes in with all their signs and symptoms, basically ready to tell you what’s wrong with them. I actually think it’s very admirable that they’ve used their initiative, as long as they then listen to my diagnosis. Years of medical practice tends to trump the results of a quick Google search.
You may well have done something idiotic, but I’ll never say that to your face. Take someone who smashes 10 vodbulls, bets their friends they can pull a wheelie, falls and breaks their arm. I’ve been the person doing the wheelie, the person encouraging someone else to do the wheelie and the person giving them the vodbull. People are going to make mistakes – it’s part of our job to be there for them when they do.
Sharing stories with other doctors is the best part of the job. If you get pissed and break a toe jumping between bollards, I’ll be stern and tell you not to drink so much next time, but behind the scenes we have a good laugh about it. If we didn’t talk to each other about the funny moments or the emotional ones, then we wouldn’t be able to cope.
The Taxi Driver
“I’m just grateful you got in”
Most cabbies want to talk because they’re lonely. Sometimes customers probably wish they’d never started a conversation, because the cabbie won’t stop harping on, but driving around all day by yourself is a lonely job. I don’t like to bother people so I won’t talk unless you do, but I’d appreciate it if you did.
Ever had the feeling that you’re being watched? I once turned around to see a woman’s face pressed up against the glass while this bloke was doing her from behind. You do get a lot of people going at it in the back, but some are more discreet than others. It’s unacceptable, but what can you do? You can’t pull over and chuck a bucket of water over them. It tends to be over quickly, anyway.
Believe it or not, we do feel guilty when we hit traffic. We’ve got three routes in our head for any given journey, and any or all of them could be bad. It’s a throw of the dice. Which is why most cabbies will pray for you to tell them which route you want to take, so when we inevitably do get stuck, it’s your fault, not ours.
My absolute nightmare is a drunk woman travelling alone. If a guy is drunk and incoherent and falls asleep, you can get in the back and drag him out and take the fare off him. But if a woman passes out in the back, you can‘t touch her. I’ll always insist a friend gets in with her and takes her home.
I’ll put up with a lot – I’m just grateful you got in. Most black-cab drivers appreciate the work, because we’ve lost so much to Uber – probably about 40 per cent of my work.
If someone looks like trouble, I won’t pick them up. You learn to size people up within the five seconds you’ve got between them waving you down and you stopping. I’m out there on my own and I’ve got no help. All I’ve got is my wits.
The worst passengers are commuters who don’t normally get taxis. The Tube’s gone down, they’re pissed off because they’re going to be late and they start giving me aggravation because they expect to get from A to B in a heartbeat. But it doesn’t work like that on top. I say to them that they can terminate this at any time, they’re not my prisoner. That normally shuts them up…
I don’t want to listen to your private conversations. You’re not as interesting as you think.
“People talk down to me”
If someone came into my house, I’d offer them a glass of water. Lots of people just don’t do it. It doesn’t affect the way I’ll deal with you, but it seems a shame that so many people seem to have lost their manners.
I like it when people don’t have a clue, and don’t pretend to. They’re the ones who trust you and just let you get on with it.
People often talk down to me, which is weird, because I’m there to help them solve a problem they don’t know how to fix themselves.
DIY enthusiasts are the most dangerous people to deal with. They’ve watched some YouTube tutorials and think they know what they’re talking about, but they don’t realise that dealing with boilers and gas is dangerous. I won’t respect you for having a go yourself, because there’s nothing clever about getting us both killed.
Be yourself. I’m not a cockney wideboy and neither are you, so why are you talking like one?
You can’t judge what someone’s life is like based on the outside of their home. I’ve worked in gritty council estates where the flats are clean, tidy and lovingly maintained, and multimillion-pound houses where they live like squatters.
You see some weird things, being inside so many homes. This guy once showed me into his bedroom and said, “Come and meet the family”, then switched the light on to reveal 40 life-sized porcelain dolls. I just got the f*ck out of there.
Please tidy up. The guy who left his latex vagina and porn stack on the coffee table – it was hard to look him in the eye after that.
The Rough Sleeper
“You’re scared every day”
I left home when I was 16 after I began to get involved with heroin. I’d started doing some scummy things: stealing off my partner, stealing off my family. I didn’t want them to find out, so I left. That was over 16 years ago.
People’s generosity never ceases to surprise me. You can’t get from one end of Oxford Street to the other without three or four people begging you for money. But people still give.
I’m so grateful when people buy me something to eat. I could be starving, but if someone put cash in my hand, I’d think: “F*ck food, I’m going to score.” When food is bought for you, you don’t have to make that decision.
It’s hurtful when people ignore you. It doesn’t take five seconds to acknowledge someone.
“You don’t deserve to be here. You’re better than this.” That’s the nicest thing anyone ever said to me. Treating me like a normal person, rather than someone who’s just there in the background.
Living on the street, you’re scared for your life every day. Me and my mate were sleeping in a doorway and a load of squaddies that were on a night out walked past and mouthed something. I just ignored it. But then they came back with a paving slab. My mate was in intensive care for four weeks.
I’ve been fortunate. I’ve received help from Housing First and St Mungo’s. I’m back in touch with my parents and I’ve been clean nearly four years. Help is out there, but it can be a long process, so don’t just assume that the next homeless person you see has turned it down.
St Mungo’s provides a bed and support to 2,500 people a night who are either homeless or at risk. To support its work, visit mungos.org
The (former) drug dealer
“The drugs had eroded my conscience”
I didn’t have a history of drug-taking; I had a history of entrepreneurship. In my childhood I’d run to the shops in dinner hour to buy sweets, then sell them at school for twice the price. I just looked at ecstasy pills as a business opportunity.
I didn’t see my customers as suckers. Nor did I despise them. I never thought they were idiots for paying me money. I considered them my people.
I never felt guilt. The drugs had eroded my conscience. It was in jail, where most prisoners were shooting up heroin and crystal meth, where I realised that I’d put people on the road to drug use. That’s when it made me ashamed of what I’d done.
I take full responsibility for all the stupid stuff I did. I pledged to share my story with young people, in the hope that they won’t make the mistakes I did.
“Blokes tend to get aggro”
If you want good service, tip. With the onset of cards and contactless payment, tipping has gone out of the window, and all bartenders in London are struggling because of it.
I’ve drunk my fair share of Jägerbombs. I don’t have a problem with people ordering them, just think about where you are before you do so. If you’re in a sophisticated whisky bar, it’s inappropriate.
Don’t order your drink while I’m making someone else’s. People – mainly blokes – will get aggro and ask whether I’m capable of doing two things at once. As it happens, yes I am: I can simultaneously stir this drink and think you’re a cock.
A sense of entitlement is the worst form of rudeness. People thinking that some drinks should be on the house because they’ve spent a bit of money. It drives me up the wall. You spending more on a bottle of vodka than I earn in a week isn’t going to endear you to me.
Clicking fingers to get attention really does happen. It tends to be flashy people and it’s a fast track to being kicked out. As is persistent jumping in while someone else is ordering.
No man in the world can justify ordering a porn star martini. If you ask for one, you deserve the eye roll, and bar staff have carte blanche to rip the shit out of you. A long island iced tea is also a terrible, terrible drink.