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“I’m going to be late,” says my passenger. Personally, given the traffic, I’d have taken the tube. Still, I can see why, with Tchaikovsky and Mozart playing on Classic FM – separated by an ad for a shingles treatment – the idea of motoring in comfort past curious bystanders holds more appeal.
We arrive at my passenger’s destination. “Pick me up in 10 minutes, John,” he says as he heads off.
That should give me time to turn the Phantom around and be on the right side of the road for the pick-up. I’ve noticed how cars, even black cabs, stop to let the Rolls through. Can’t see them doing that for a Mercedes V-Class. He’s back. This time, I’m ready. A confident hello, left hand behind back, right hand opens door, allow ample time for passenger to get comfortable and door to pull shut, walk behind car to driver’s seat, establish temperature is okay and radio at the desired volume, confirm destination and we’re away.
“How was your meeting, sir,” I enquire, as the Rolls joins the traffic.
“Very good, John, thank you,” he replies. He says nothing more but that’s no problem: I’ve established that he wishes to be left in peace.
But for a moment when I forget to follow my passenger’s advice to take a left into Sussex Gardens to avoid the crush at Marble Arch, I feel the return journey is much better.
“Nice ride,” he says as he emerges from the Phantom. “A pity you forgot to go via Sussex Gardens.”
I bark out a laugh and punch him matily on the arm. Abbass shoots me a critical look. Unfortunately, there’s worse to come, at least for him. A few days later, a penalty charge notice lands on his desk. I’d dropped off my passenger in a suspended parking bay. According to his manual, I, as the driver, must pay it. Instead, Abbass, being a thoroughly decent gent, does. Sorry, mate.