Theodore Dalrymple; ‘I had that drunken student in my taxi’

Taxi drivers are among the best sociologists I know, and even in war-torn countries they are usually better-informed about the military situation than the generals, or at least the military spokesmen. For me they are oracles: I believe everything they say.
I arrived in Loughborough the other day. It was the first time I had ever been there and I took a taxi from the station to the far side of the university campus, which the driver lost no time in telling me was the largest in Europe. I asked him what the town was like, whether – for example – it was quiet.
‘When the students are away,’ he said.
‘And when they’re here?’
‘It’s different.’
‘Are they nice, the students?’
‘They’re evil bastards.’
I confess I was taken aback, as much as anything by his unhesitating and uncompromising tone, though I cannot (I think) be accused of being dewy-eyed about humanity. I had expected him to say something like, ‘Most of them, but there are a few unpleasant ones.’
He told me how they get drunk first and then go to night clubs, for entry to which they pay £5. It is on their return that the trouble starts: they refuse to accept that a taxi fare at 4 in the morning is more expensive than earlier in the night. They argue with the drivers, they refuse to pay what is due. With four in a taxi, the fare back to the university is about £3.50 each, not very much when it is certain that they have already paid far more than that for their evening’s unintelligent entertainment. But they look down on the taxi drivers as lesser being than themselves, from the great height of their status as undergraduates.
‘They can’t all be like that,’ I said.
‘About seventy per cent of them.’
He went on, ‘They’re all rich kids, from rich families. I don’t know anyone from the town who can afford to go to the university.’
The driver was an intelligent man and certainly gave no impression of hysterical exaggeration or over-elaboration. I believed him, though of course it is possible that only a minority of students go to those fascist rallies of libertinism called nightclubs. I could not help wondering whether the taxi drivers of other countries would tell me the same stories about students. I suspect not.
‘Nice talking to you,’ said the driver at the end of the journey. It seemed to have been something of a catharsis for him.

1 Comment on Theodore Dalrymple; ‘I had that drunken student in my taxi’

  1. I may confirm the drivers observations.
    Over 20 years ago in a french ski resort,I had the doubtful pleasure to share my landing with a bunch of partying young Brits with definitly upper class background( accent ,wardrobe and physionogmies) who vomited and urinated from their balconies and brawled in the landings at 3 am in front of my door.At least, they had the grace to leave after my furious intervention.They were off all leashes.

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