Gary, Andrew (our web guru) and I spent last week in London for our annual planning session; and to visit a few customers/partners and attend the annual CommoditiesNow awards event. One of our appointments was in Fulham, southwest of London early in the day last Thursday. As is our habit, we hailed a black cab on the street near our hotel and headed-off. Our driver, a very pleasant woman (a rarity in my experience – though most cabbies are pleasant, few are women), managed well in the dense traffic of central London and fought the brave fight to get us to our destination in a reasonable amount of time despite the difficult roads. After enduring about 30 minutes of starts and stops, potholes and road bumps, all three of us were ready to jump out of the car, but especially Gary who was relegated to the uncomfortable jump seat in the back of the cab. Nonetheless, we stuck it out and arrived after about 45 minutes of total travel.
As the driver stopped and the door lock clicked, Gary immediately jumped out and Andrew followed. I slipped an appropriate amount of cash through the slot in the glass that separated driver from passengers and followed out them out through the same door. Finally able to stand straight after the jarring ride, I stretched and reached into my pocket for quick cigarette before going into our meeting. It was at this point that I realized I had left my bag…with my computer, ipad, camera, spare smokes, and bunch of other stuff…sitting in the floor of the cab. Panicking, I looked down the street just in time to see the cab fading in the distance as it rounded a corner at the end of the long road – with about $3k of my property, and pretty much all of my work over the last 3 months on my unbacked-up computer, in the back.
Being that it was a long ride, both Gary and Andrew had some time to look around the cab and both had, for some reason, memorized the cab number that was pasted to the window. I had a receipt provided by the driver with a logo for the LTDA. After a bit of phone googling, I discovered the phone number for the LTDA – the London Taxi Drivers Association. So, with both a phone and cab number, I assumed there was some reasonable hope for getting my bag back. Wrong.
Though sympathetic to my plight, the woman that answered the phone at the LTDA offered me nothing other than a phone number for the Transport of London. The LTDA doesn’t really know the cab drivers and the cab number was meaningless to them. So I call the number for the Transport of London and after being on hold for 15 minutes, am told by another pleasant woman that there nothing they can do as the cab number is also meaningless to them (Andrew found out later through one of his local connections that the memorized number is a “generic” number issued to any number of cabs). They told me that if I was lucky enough to not have my bag taken by the subsequent riders in the cab, and if the cab driver discovered the bag at some point, and if she were honest and had the time, she would probably, eventually, take it to a police station as lost property. The police station would then, at some point, send all the lost property they had accumulated over whatever period to the central station. Once there, I could just drop by and claim it…simple. Though the whole process could take weeks, she assured me that there was a fair chance I might, possibly, if I were lucky, have a chance of getting my bag back. All I had to do was check-in with the police every few days after a couple of weeks.
While I was enduring this phone hell, my colleagues were going through a similar effort an my behalf, each trying their own path to contact the cab. None were successful and I resigned myself to the loss. Though I was distracted by a sense of doom at the prospect of having to rebuild my digital work and life over the coming weeks, we finished our business in Fulham and decided to take a train back to London. So, we walked a mile to station and after a long wait, boarded the Underground for the ride back to central London.
By the time we got out the station in Blackfriars, I had a couple of messages from the cab driver on my phone. After discovery of the bag, she was able to make her way back out to Fulham and remembered the address of our stop. She checked there and was told that we were staying at the Premier Inn in Blackfriars, so she contacted me via the number she was given by our associate there and let me know that she was headed our way to return my bag…she arrived a half hour later and I gave this wonderful woman every bit of cash I had as a reward for her honesty and effort.
Bottom line here…London is a great, though congested city. They have a comprehensive and complex transportation system of trains, subways, buses, cabs, and now even Uber. However, it is clearly not a sophisticated system that offers any type of tracking capability for the numerous black cabs that ply the city streets. If you hail a black cab off the street, don’t forget anything. Nobody, and I mean nobody, will be able to offer any help to you. You will have to rely only on the good graces of your cab driver. That being said, if your driver is a pretty blond named Sarah, you will be in good hands indeed.