Davie Hodgson

I’VE been a Glasgow taxi driver for half my life. I’m 52 years old and have been driving for 26 years, doing the night shift every second week. Previously I was an electrician, but back then the industry was experiencing a downturn. My uncle was a taxi driver and persuaded me to get my badge as something to fall back to when I couldn’t rely on the building trade. By the time the building trade did pick up I was so entrenched in taxi driving that I just stayed.

It took me the best part of a year to get my taxi badge, and most of that time is spent obtaining the knowledge needed to do the job and learn the geography of the city.

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I attended the topographic school at Glasgow Taxis Ltd. That involved loads of repetitive exercises to learn the names of streets. At first you know where a street starts and where it finishes but you don’t necessarily know the location of that particular street. From there you build the meat on the bones around that.

When you are ready you can go to the council and take the test. It involves roughly 85 questions testing your knowledge of the city’s streets including questions that quiz you on the quickest possible routes. It’s tough but creates the most knowledgeable and best trained taxi drivers.

After I passed, I was let loose on the Glasgow public. Normally when someone starts a new job they have someone to guide them through the first few weeks, but by the nature of the job I was on my own. It was sink or swim. I was given the keys and told how the meter worked and that was essentially it.

I don’t know if anyone is ever ready for their first night shift. There are so many factors including basic confidence, as you have never done it before. I remember having knots in my stomach like I had never experienced.

There are some nerves starting out, because you don’t know what to expect. The nightshift is a lot more civilised than it was 26 years ago. Back then it was like the Wild West. Nowadays we have the support of taxi marshals who help us out by managing queues, assisting customers and working with police in dealing with any potential trouble.

The introduction of marshals at the weekends has been the biggest change in my 26 years. Since they were introduced it has helped massively, and significantly reduced the hassle for drivers. It has made the city centre a lot more organised and safer for the public, and has made the whole process of getting a taxi at ranks a better experience for both customers and drivers.

I’ve had very few bad experiences and I think that is true for most drivers. I did once have a guy try to hit me with a snooker cue, but by the time he was able to fit the cue through the hole I was able to steal half of it and it turned into a bit of a fencing duel.

I’ve made so many lifelong friends through this job. Most are taxi drivers and they are some of the finest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet.

There are times when you think to yourself – what else would I have done with my life? But I’m glad I am a taxi driver because of the fantastic people I have met and the experiences that have come with the job.

The job has been good to me as it has given me a good standard of living, it’s flexible and the Glasgow public on the whole are magic to deal with. They are really appreciative and know how to have a bit of banter. They help make the job what it is – I wouldn’t wish to do anything else.

Visit www.glasgowtaxis.co.uk