Taxi driver glossary

12 years ago, our colleague Uli Hannemann bid farewell to life as a taxi driver with amusing texts about his experiences and a taxi glossary. Since then, it’s been business as usual with Taxi: downhill. Every time you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it got worse. It’s funny, but new taxi companies keep opening up.

7 September 2021 by Klaus Meier, Uli Hannemann 

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]


You get an almost nostalgic feeling when you read this glossary. In principle, everything is still as my colleague Uli describes it, only the radiotelephone is history, Raider candy bars have long been Twix and the LEA is now called LABO. The Big Yellow Bus has abdicated as arch-enemy and made way for the Uberauto. Ironically, the Übermensch is returning to the country of his birth as an Uber taxi, but let’s not dwell on that. This is about the great glossary. Who else collects terms that make up real life? A few words have changed for taxi drivers since 2009, but the problems have remained. And they’ve got worse. It’s amazing how politicians and taxi bosses manage to keep pushing down drivers’ wages. Thanks to welfare benefits, we now have minus-wage, the taxi alternative to the minimum wage. The main thing is to keep one’s health insurance and not have to crash on the street.

In the book, Uli Hannemann explains how taxi drivers were repeatedly paid minus wages in the noughties, meaning they had to bring money to work. This has now developed into a perverse system in which only the bosses collect. The employees live on mini-pensions, wives and benefits, and since the beginning of August, new taxi drivers have been on an equal footing with Uber drivers without local knowledge. Read the glossary, get the book and you’ll get an idea of what life as a taxi driver is like.

The paperback has been out of bookshops for a long time. Perhaps the author still has a few copies for sale. He will certainly be pleased to welcome you as guests at his appearances. That could be fun.

Appearances by Uli Hannemann:

The taxi driver glossary

Transcriber: Slip of paper filled out after the shift with all shift data: Number of animals run over, red light violations, cigarettes smoked and empty kilometres.

Order situation: Notoriously bad. Main cause of the moaning.

Bear Radio: A merger of the worst radio-taxi companies in East and West, a light version of the Hitler-Stalin pact. The participants’ cars are adorned with the yellow outline of a chimpanzee’s head (a bear was probably intended).

Blitzer: Worst enemy of the taxi driver next to —>patient, —>murderer and public order office. Measures and proves red light and speeding offences. Even nastier is the so-called —>binoculars.

Box: "I’ve been sitting on the coach box for fifteen hours/years", says the —>coachman, describing the duration of his —>shift or occupation. The coachman’s seat of the horse-drawn carriage was a favourite place for sleeping, drinking and complaining in the past.

BO Kraft:The "Ordinance on the Operation of Motor Vehicles in Passenger Transport" regulates, regulates and restricts everything to do with the trade.

Bus: Natural adversary of the—>taxi. The bus is cumbersome, always in the way and takes loads of —>passengers away.

Roof light: See —>Torch, —>Hunger light.

Data radio: "Mouse cinema". The digital order display serves as a useful further development of voice radio, especially for those with a cursory knowledge of the local language.

Thursday: Deceptively close to the more lucrative—>weekend, Thursday is just an enervating dry spell that recurs every week.

Calibration office: Hangs a seal on the meter and charges a hundred euros for it. A fine business idea that unfortunately first occurred to the state.

door-opener passenger: Passenger who gets on at the —>taxi stop. The term "drop-off passenger", on the other hand, is uncommon.

Torch: Slang for roof light. If the taxi is free, the torch lights up. If it has a loose connection, you can drive through the city for hours without getting a —>wave-passenger, even if the order situation is good. On the other day, there are dry bread rolls.

Driver: Also —>taxi driver, —>coachman, —>colleague.

Passenger: The —>customer in the taxi trade. Usually sits at the back in Berlin and often talks too much. Materializes as a—>door-opener passenger, —>wave-client, ->—>radio order, —>murderer or —>patient.

False report: The secret weapon of the dishonest driver who uses fictitious —>locations to swindle —>radio orders that he is not entitled to.

Farwolf: A kind of werewolf on wheels. A hybrid creature between day and night, human and monster, life and death as a result of a human’s transformation into a —>night driver.

bogus order: The passenger who ordered me simply got into the next available —>taxi. At the —>stop, you queue at the back again.

after work time: More of a party morning, especially for the —>night driver. The film "From Dusk Till Dawn" (Rodriguez/Tarantino) shows a typical taxi evening.

Binoculars: Doggy. In contrast to the conspicuous —>flasher, the laser binoculars hidden behind bushes or vehicles cannot be seen.

Load: Basic unit: A load of —>passengers on a one-way start-finish route. Also ->tour.

Radio order: A ->customer calls the radio centre, which transmits the order to the subscribers connected to it. This can take some time.

Radio discipline: First chew and swallow, then speak. Always use the ->radio language and state the —>licence number. The form of address is "Sir/Lady". No —>false reports and no insults.

Funkel, Friedhelm: Bundesliga coach. Has been a —>passenger.

Funkkraftdroschke: administrative expression for ->taxi.

Funkkurs: Money-tapping machine for —>drivers who want to take part in —>radio traffic. In a procedure that insults the intelligence of every semi-primate to the core, the examiner reads questions and answers (9) from the sheet and corrects the spelling mistakes of the course participants. They receive the —>radio licence in return.

Funkmariechen: —>Colleague who has not been working in the trade for long.

Radio regulations: The wording and archaic idea of revenge already laid out in the Old Testament as a pamphlet to pacify radio users. An all too often tendentious instrument used by the ->Radio Centre (main complaint: right-eared deafness) to maintain ->Radio discipline.

Radio (Funk) licence: You are not allowed to radio without a licence. But you could, see —>Funkkurs. Under no circumstances should the F. be confused with the —>P licence.

Radio licence: If a -*colleague violates the ->radio regulations (see —>false report, —>radio discipline), he is temporarily excluded from —>radio communication. Compared to the subsequent discussions, early childhood sandbox fights look like bilateral economic negotiations.

Radio language: From the radio regulations: "The radio language is German." Not true.

Radio traffic:When two radio waves oscillate on the same frequency, they move back into the ether together and have radio traffic. It does not depend on the wavelength, a common plane of polarisation is much more important. .

Radio control centre: Transmits the —>radio orders to the subscribers, who pay for this service, with the greatest possible care. In contrast to —>data radio, —>intercom radio is characterised by arbitrariness in the awarding of contracts - worthwhile —>orders always go to the same amigos ("I haven’t heard anyone else").

whining: What singing is to the bird, whining is to the taxi driver - a long unconscious basic melody. The main verses are—>Blitzer, —>patients, —>>passengers, —>murderers, —>buses and —>order situation.

Thunderstorm: Coded warning of speed checks alluding to the flash of the radar, see ->Blitzer/Flasher.

Black ice:Theoretically, it is forbidden to warn of —>radar traps via radio. So instead you hear "Please be friendly on the so-and-so road", "Thunderstorm in the Somewherealley" or even "Black ice on the Dingsdapath in the 30 km/h zone!" Sometimes leads to misunderstandings and —>accidents in winter. Bell: Jargon for the fare display often incorrectly called a taximeter. Etymological origin uncertain, probably used to ring every ten kreuzers.

Stop: See ->Taxi stops.

Hunger light: Jargon for —>roof light (see also —>torch). An allusion to the common —>order situation.

Guild: Last Berlin taxi radio company that has not yet fallen victim to the radio-bear’s hunger.

Cashier: Refers to both the common black waiter’s wallet and the amount of the shift income.

Colleague: Favourite enemy. Where in good times help was quickly rushed to when requested by radio, today people tend to stay away. The main thing is to have one less.

Female Colleague: Rare as a —>night driver. A monument made of golden wire ropes is hereby erected to her nerves. The idea of having to transport one of the usual —>patients as a colleague is the main reason for me, far ahead of discrimination, high heels and problem births, to be glad that I’m not a woman. I’m happy to die a few years earlier for that.

Concession number: The licence number on the right-hand side of the rear window of the —>taxi. Over the years, the licence number increasingly seeps into the —>driver’s personal identity. At parties, he begins to introduce himself as 6755 or 543 instead of his first name. As the only parties that people still invite someone like him to are taxi driver parties, this is hardly noticeable.

Customer: An alternative term for—>passenger. Considered more honest as it avoids the misleading word "guest".

Short trip: A peculiarity of the Berlin fare system. With a —>passenger waving at you, a journey of less than two kilometres costs a flat rate of three euros fifty. Anyone who propagates discount fares in the service sector is also feeding ducks with salt sticks.

Coachman: At least in Berlin, a common self-designation for —>taxi drivers. See also —>box, —>Funkkraftdroschke.

Shop: "Which shop do you work for?" is a common question among colleagues. Not a greengrocer’s, but the taxi company. "Taxi driver wanted" is written on the shop window. The boss sits inside and looks out. Everyone is cool.

to charge: Door-opener —>passengers. The term, borrowed from the haulage industry, is intended to disguise the fact that you are transporting people (like —>load).

LEA: Patron saint of taxi drivers. Issues, extends and withdraws —>P licences. Offerings called "administrative fees" are intended to make the greedy and cruel goddess merciful, supported by animal sacrifices in the form of (former) cats, martens and rats. Incidentally, the local residents’ office is also named after her.

Leather waistcoat: Classic paraphernalia of the radio Django. Preferably a rancid original from the seventies, where it would have been better left.

Complaint: Where the little sister used to squeak "I’ll tell mum", today the colleague grumbles: "I’ll write a complaint to the control centre." Snitching is both.

Murderer:The last —>passenger on the very last —>shift.

Night driver: Only drives night shifts. Either has no family or will soon have none. King of the night or dawdler, —>Farwolf or angel of the —>patients, proud owl or unlucky raven, individualist or loser. Or a bit of everything?

Local knowledge exam: The biggest obstacle on the way to the —>P licence. The main content is the so-called —>Target journey.

Patient: A heavily inebriated —>passenger, often prone to unruliness, violence, nausea, illiquidity or related problems of alcohol-induced origin. Also known as "Strammer Max", "blue angel", "recumbent transport" and more recently "problem bear".

Passenger transport licence:Much more commonly read and heard in the short form ->P-Licence.

P-licence: Common abbreviation for —>passenger transport licence. This licence is mandatory for taxi drivers to transport passengers on a commercial basis. Also known as a "pest licence" or "taxi licence".

P-licence extension: Applied for at the altar of sacrifice of the ->LEA. The most difficult hurdle is the double AA test. This involves an alcoholism and eye examination by a public health officer. Carrying enough small, used and unnumbered banknotes sometimes works wonders ("Lazarus allowance").

Radar trap: Mostly in the form of —>speed cameras or —> binoculars. The high fines mean that particularly fast —>night drivers have to work as doctors or lawyers during the day in order to be able to afford the taxi profession at all.

Calling column: This is actually used to call the —>colleague standing in front at the —>stop. However, children usually call from the neighbouring tower block, who are happy to see the drivers crawl out of the car again and again, only to receive a dial tone or spontaneous squeals of insult when they reach the call pillar.

Shift: A work unit, always longer than permitted by law. If —>drivers and —>shops complied with all traffic, tax and other legal regulations, there would be no more —>taxis. The authorities turn a blind eye so that the source of income doesn’t dry up.

Snout full: In addition to cirrhosis of the liver, insomnia, lung cancer, road traffic accidents, stomach ulcers and accidental burial due to lack of vital reflexes, S. v. is the main reason for premature retirement.

New Year’s Eve: The —>taxis are running out. People want to go home or somewhere else. You’re finally really needed and the cash register is right. If you survive it, the best night of the year - it should never end.

Voice radio: A dying relic that is increasingly being replaced by radio data transmission. No other memory of driving a taxi is as engraved as the years of hissing and mumbling, rattling and creaking, joking and swearing. "How can you understand a word I say?" passengers often ask me. "You get used to it," I say. But I don’t understand more than one word myself.

City tour: Ironically, it’s often used by —>patients who don’t know where they are due to alcohol. "Careful, friend - I don’t want to go on a city tour" means: He, the patient, is wide awake and is watching like a sniper dog that I, the —>driver, don’t take a huge diversions instead of the shortest route from A to B, just to take advantage of him, the supposedly drunk person, in this way. If I try to do this anyway, despite his clear warning, I’ll be in big trouble. However, due to his clouded judgement, there will be trouble anyway.

Location: The position of every —>radio-operated cab in motion or at the stopping place. Decisive criterion for the issuing of—>radio orders.

Stasi: Whoever had worked in the Stasi’s "Fahrbereitschaft" during GDR times often ended up in the taxi trade after reunification. Fits.

Student: For a long time, the taxi industry was largely supported by students. The flexible time management and the possibility to make some quick deutsche mark was ideal for their needs. The change from the quick mark to the slow euro has made the taxi job less attractive. The student now works in a call centre.

Stork ride: —>Tour to the delivery. The—>driver is often more excited than the father and mother together.

Day driver: Stands all day at the —>stop and in traffic jams. Nobody knows what he does for a living. A walking news magazine due to excessive newspaper and radio consumption.

Taxameter: Epic verse in which the taxi driver makes up excuses for detours or imaginary surcharges.

Taxe: ->Taxi.

Taxi: ->Taxi. Car with ivory-coloured paintwork.

Taxi stop: Also taxi rank. The taxi driver’s second home. This is where his whole life slowly passes him by, interrupted only by the occasional —>door-opener passengers or the ringing of the call column.

Taxi driver: —>Driver of the ->taxi. Is often sad and has a hard time.

Taxi driver Latin: A taxi-specific variant of hunter’s or fisherman’s Latin: the legendary tour to Paris. The three hundred euro —>tip. The busload of tourists for whom you collected a two thousand euro bounty from the bouncer at "Club Michelle". The beautiful Bundestag backbencher who snatched the unsuspecting man at night at the deserted Kladow Kirche taxi stop. Ali Baba and the forty robbers who were put to flight during their attempted taxi robbery ("I just yelled >buh< loudly, but the heroes ran away"). Memorable encounters with celebrities are also a must. Record waiting times at taxi ranks or negative business volume days, on the other hand, are never part of taxi driver lore.

Tour: See ->Load.

Tip: Blurred memory: The little -—>taxi driver is four years old. The scent of apples, nuts and almonds hangs in the air. It’s Christmas Eve. He peers curiously through the keyhole into the Christmas room. Suddenly the tree is alight. And so are the presents. He cries and screams, a traumatic experience that still torments him today every time he doesn’t receive a T.

Accident: A -—>taxi driver is never at fault. If this is objectively true, he may have provoked the accident, because every accident caused by someone else is worthwhile for the -—>shop. There are shops where drivers are paid bonuses for this.

Wannsee: A remote upmarket suburb in the south-west of Berlin. "But not via Wannsee" is considered less aggressive than "I don’t want a -—>city tour!"

Wave-passenger: The ideal case. In contrast to the -—>door-opener and -—>radio order, you don’t have to wait for the wave-passenger, because he suddenly stands at the side of the road, a godsend, and waves the free -—>Taxi over. For the -—>driver, the sight of the wave-passenger triggers the release of happiness hormones, similar to when looking for mushrooms.

Winter: The peak season for the taxi business, the -—>weekend among the seasons, so to speak. The cold and weather drive the -—>customers straight into the nets of the ivory-coloured human fishing boats.

Weekend: Hausse for -—>night drivers. The -—>shift from Friday to Saturday is pleasant. "The noble man goes out on Friday", as Confucius said for a reason. Saturday night, on the other hand, is characterised by business peaks that are postponed tediously far into the morning as well as a clientele of -—>murderers, -—>patients, nervous wrecks and madmen. The fat cash register is a Pyrrhic victory.

Target journey: A central component of the local knowledge test to obtain the P licence: The examiners ask the candidate questions such as: "Tell us the shortest route from the Holocaust memorial to the Franco-German fairground and the names of all the streets and squares on the route." I would have liked to meet the imaginary -—>passenger.

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