Chris Discombe has finally switched off the meter after an incredible 45 year career as a black cab driver in Coventry.
Chris, aged 71, has seen the changes come and go – even the Ring Road wasn’t finished when picked up his first fare – and he said he has enjoyed every minute.
He first got behind the wheel when he was in his mid 20s and wanted a change from his job at Peugeot.
A friend offered him a few shifts in his taxi and he soon bought his own cab and hasn’t looked back.
Chris, of Chapelfields, said: “It has been a wonderful life. I can honestly say I have looked forward to going to work and I have looked forward to going home, but I guess you have to stop some time.
“I have been self-employed and I have been able to choose when I work. Sometimes the hours can be hard at nights and weekends, but I have enjoyed it.”
Chris said the boom time was the 1980s and his favourite customers over the years have been the older customers who like to chat about the changes in the city and the things they remember.
He added: “There have been a lot of changes to the roads and the landmarks and I enjoy chatting to people about what they think and the things they have seen.
“You get to know if a person wants to talk or if they want you to leave them alone – I guess I’m a bit like a cross between a barman and a barber!. I have always asked how they are and quite often they’ve told me their life story within five minutes!.
“I have always found that whatever time of day and whoever you get in the cab, if you treat them right, they treat you right and I have never had any trouble.”
Chris has never been the subject of a complaint and once won a Police Good Citizen Award after helping a man with a serious neck injury get to hospital.
Some drivers had refused to let him in the cab, but Chris realised he was badly injured. He needed 50 stitches and doctors said he would have died if Chris hadn’t acted as quickly as he did.
He also picked up the Taxi Driver of the Year Award in 1995 when he was tested on his knowledge of city roads and his driving.
He said: “You used to have to know all the roads and I knew everywhere in the city. I refuse to use a satnav in Coventry – professional pride.”
He now plans to spend more time with his wife Pauline, children Louise and Nick and grandchildren Daisy, Thor and Henry, and he is looking forward to some holidays, but said there are some things he will miss.
He said: “I will miss my regular customers and I will miss the interaction and the chats with passengers and other drivers. It has been a big part of my life and I will miss the social side.”
Councillor Ram Lakha, Deputy Cabinet Member for City Services, met Chris to thank him for his years of service and to wish him well in retirement.
He said: “Our taxi drivers are an important part of the city – they are the people who greet our visitors and give that first impression.
“Chris has been a role model for other drivers, working all those years and never a bad word said against him. He has been a credit to his profession and a credit to the city and we wish him a long and happy retirement.”