Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Just a Cab Driver then eh? Class divisions hidden but still here...

It is interesting isn't it, how your job perceives you as a person, it defines and labels you, and more importantly, puts you in your social category that the job you do defines you as.

A "Cab Driver" eh? Definitely working class right?

Well of course it is! I am from a working class background, my eastend brick lane cockney brogue gives me away, if I see a penny in the gutter no matter where I might be or who I'm with, I'll pick it up, this most certainly harks back to a more austere poverty, the normalcy of it, was part of my young life.

This article is about perception, and class divisions.

My pet hates about people is how they define themselves. A typical introduction to me from some of my customers is "I'm a teacher" "I'm a councillor" "I'm a doctor"  etc...

They let me know, I have someone in the cab that's a cut above the rest, because they can't or wont define themselves AS themselves, the job title and degree suffices as an introduction into what side of the fence they are from. They also create in that moment the invisible barrier of division between themselves and me.


This class division is probably as old as civilisation itself, But I'm straying away from the central question I posed and maybe the REAL question I'm asking is:

Why does your job or role define you as a person?

I do quite well on Twitter, number one in my area and apparently, excluding commercial companies, I'm the most successful taxi driver on twitter, possibly in the world! (that's a bit crazy isn't it!) People find my true tales of the good, the bad, and the downright stupid, "entertaining" and I enjoy very much telling them.
Suddenly, I am an entertainer!

Well! Where did that come from? I don't mind, in fact now, because of  it, I was invited by my local newspaper to write a weekly column for them. I now write mostly light hearted pieces for them online, my aim and focus now, is to be entertaining.

One of the strange consequences of this role as a default entertainer on twitter and on my online column is that, more of me is disappearing under this persona, and more of this "Mr Taxi Man" is gaining hold. which is why I do this personal blog to let the "me" out of the box now and again.

I started "Twittering" when my town I live in, had, perhaps, ten or twelve active twitterers (Not sure what the "official" collective noun is yet!) there is now happily hundreds, I don't feel so alone out there in the twitterverse-or so I would have thought.

I have loyally followed new twitterers as they have popped into existence in the twitterverse, belonging to a local like minded collective and a "lets see what's out there" philosophy excites me. Strangely or oddly over 80% of them refuse to follow me back! And I have been blocked by people I have never conversed with or even met!

The local twitterati are possibly, perhaps afraid I will write about them maybe? I'll expose a weakness, find a chink or personality flaw that I will exploit and use online to the delight of the rest of my followers, something I have never done by the way! The worthy and the humble always get an admirable mention, which leaves the inane, insane or inbred who get the humorous mentions from me! 

But They all define me as a twittering Taxi driver first.

I am naturally attracted to people of intelligence and wit. My admiration for people that can turn words or images, moving or still, into a hammer that cracks our beliefs and makes us question and think, is of a particularly high attraction for me. I follow a good but small dearth of local talent that operate on a global level with their words and images. I comment, castigate, and cajole them to do better, be better, to make me salivate with their sharp double edged sword of words and images. But I get nothing back, no conversation, no interaction, my confidence undone yet again. I feel like a child pulling at a mothers skirt wanting to be listened to.

So. why am I not part of the little online local clique then? Is it the taxi man badge of commonness? I'm not the eastend boy done good am I? Like perhaps, Alfred Hitchcock? David Bowie? Marc Bolan? Vidal Sassoon? Terence stamp? Micky Flanagan? I could roll off dozens and dozens more. I'm an eastend lad, and I am where I'm exactly meant to be, and that it seems, is driving a taxi.

A better example perhaps is my very old friend Micky Flanagan, I was in fact, his older brothers best friend when I was a young buck, all of us were dragged up on the same council estate in the east end.

Copy this link to Micky into your search bar and see his talent for yourself!

Micky has gained considerable success as a stand up comedian with shows on the BBC and various guest appearances all over television and Radio. His success is due to his comedic comment on his/our upbringing in the eastend! And, how he has risen, got a degree, became a teacher, married into the middle class's and the differences between him and his "elevated" position as a celebrity and honorary middle class citizen.

His career is dependant on these differences. My career is because of these differences.

Myself and mickeys family grew up on an estate not TWO minutes walk from Liverpool St station in the centre of the city of London the capital of the financial world, none of that wealth ever trickle down the street to our estate, not a penny ever fell and rolled down to us. 

"Poverty and wealth breathing the same air, drinking the same tap water"

My mum spent most of her life cleaning and wiping the arses of the rich middle and upper classes in the city of London's financial centre, working as an early morning and evening cleaner for a couple of quid a week, sometimes I would help her when I finished work so she could get home a bit earlier. One clear moment I remember is when I cleaned the director of a big nameless banks mighty office and saw on his mighty desk, that he was using a ten ounce bar of platinum as a paperweight, my career as a thief nearly started right there and then, but giving my mum the rest of the year off after I sold it, would have been marred by the visits she would have had to make to a prison to see me.

Not until this eastend boy does "good" will my perceived social standing change and therefore, for the time being remains and stays. I'm not ashamed of it please believe me, but are others ashamed to be associated with it or me?

I would love to write for a living, I have always dared myself to publish what I have written but never have done anything more than look at them every now and again, I have three books written, tucked under my bed, all different, and with endings that will tear emotions out of your chest. Incidentally, I have only been writing "publicly" for six or so weeks now, so forgive the grammatical errors if there are any, because I don't know IF there are any.

So what do I do? dear weary reader, I'm hearing in my minds ear, Get on with it! So what? What is your problem? You are all probably right of course!

Class divisions are alive and well and reformatted for the 21st century is my WHOLE point I suppose, no matter how well you do in your chosen working class "profession" or area you live in, unless you rise over and above it, you will always be one of us and NEVER one of them. You may have done well and don't see my point, maybe that's because you have never questioned why your well heeled mates enjoy your working class company, they don't want you, they need you, but they don't want you.

It is important to note here, the class division in these, now austere times are now wider than ever, the drawbridges are going up, the access to help is dwindling, your money and pensions are worth less than ever.

At this point, I need to tell you something, I was very very successful in two chosen fields. First, I was in Fashion for many years and ran some of the most successful addresses in the west end of London, Kings road, Oxford St, Carnaby St. They were my domain, I mixed with Princes of Europe, Counts and Lords dressing them, and in their address books.

Secondly, I was in logistics for the financial and insurance industry, Commanding hundreds affecting thousands, Dining on yachts moored on the Thames, helicopters to meetings with the great and the good.  In both careers I was the eastend boy that done good, my accent didn't matter, I was making things happen for the well heeled and the well oiled. It summarises my point your only allowed in when you are successful.

In my circlet of twitter friends, local and distant, there are a few that talk to me as an equal, they are the ones that make me feel at home, part of their community, communicative and open to me, and I to them. My eternal Thanks go out to them.

Oh! And if you see a penny, pick it up! For all the day you will have good luck!

Until next time.