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The London Cabbie Who Put Me To Career Shame

This is a true story. Every word.

It was my last night in London after two weeks of hard work. A few beers, and into a cab.

It was there, in that taxi, that I met one of the most extraordinary people I have ever encountered.

The cabbie and I exchanged pleasantries. Traffic, weather, rugby.

I remarked on what sounded like a Welsh accent (not common in a London cabbie). He confirmed it, and I asked how he came to be driving cab, in London, and for how long.

At this point I had not really looked at the driver, whose name turned out to be Merv. I had a vague image of a middle-aged, fit-looking man, so when he said 19 years as a cabbie, I felt confident to remark “Ah, most of your working life then.”

“Not at all” he grinned. “This is my third career so far, and the shortest one at that.”

And so it unfolded.

Merv is 80 years old!

I kid you not. Very upset he was that he had to have a medical every year, unlike the other cabbies who only need one every three years.

His brief CV:

  • Born 80 years ago to a coal mining family in South Wales (“Still go hiking in the Brecon Beacons every chance I get, boyo!”)
  • Worked in the coal pits from 14 to 40 (“12 hours physical work every day, boyo, and people died down there all the time”)
  • Worked as a scaffolder from age 40 to 60 (“It’s a tough job, boyo – lifting, climbing, carrying, and falling too, if not careful!”)
  • Cabbie from 60 to 80 (“The hardest part was ‘the knowledge’ boyo, the rest is just fun”)

And did he have stories to go with that CV! The deprivation of life in a coal-mining town. Scaffolding work that took him all over Europe and Africa. (By the way, his considered opinion is that Latvian woman are the world’s most gorgeous. “But they’re all gorgeous, aren’t they boyo?” he reminded me.)

He has been married three times.

His first wife, the love of his life, died of a stroke at 50.

His second (“She who must be obeyed”) died of bowel cancer when he was 65.

Then there were a few lonely years. Very lonely.

He is currently married to wife number 3, who is “Also a very good woman”

I asked when he intended to stop driving a cab. “Next year” came the prompt reply.

Foolishly, naively, blindly, I remarked, “At last time to retire, hey Merv?”

His response was a mixture of a scoff, a choke and a laugh.

“Not on your life, boyo. It’ll take me till then to set up my new business, which will be ready to launch in 6 months.”

I was astounded. New business?

Turns out Merv has developed a few theories over the years. The effects of ageing could be held at bay – by exercise. Specifically, weight-bearing, muscle-building exercise. He put his longevity, and mental alertness, down to physical fitness, mostly because of the physical work he had done for so much of his life.

Indeed, he feels both his now deceased wives would have lived longer if they had been ‘stronger’. And dementia, Alzheimer’s; all can be held back by strength-building exercise, according to Merv.

And he had done his research. He quoted Harvard studies and longitudinal research, which proved his point.

And he, Merv, had designed a piece of exercise equipment, based around the muscles used in coal-mining and scaffolding, that he is poised to unleash on the market this year. This is where I go a bit hazy. I think he called the machine, the ‘Hercules Jones’, but I may well be wrong on that. But what is certain is that that he has the prototype, he has the patent, and he has the manufacturer ready to start production. He knows his target market, he has a business plan, has a marketing plan, he is about to hire staff.

He is an 80 year old taxi driver!

Merv gave me his phone number and said, “Call me in six months, I’ll give you an update.” Australia would be a good market too, he opined, and I suspected he was eyeing me as one of his international sales agents.

Stupidly, again, I succumbed to a stereotype and asked, “Don’t you ever get tired Merv? You know, feel like you’ve earned a rest?”

“You must be joking, boyo” he huffed. “I just wish there were more hours in every day. So much to get done.”

And so I took the lift to my hotel room, astounded at the energy of this guy who had been working for 66 years, and appeared to have more energy and career drive than me, who had been feeling sorry for myself after a hard couple of weeks on the road.

I can’t speak for Merv, but clearly, age was nothing to him. He had plans, he had energy, and he was going to make them happen.

So I resolved to stop being so easily satisfied with myself, smug about what little I have achieved at work, and instead see my own lengthy career as just a stepping stone to my “Next big thing”.

In fact, thank you, Merv! I have now decided that whatever I have done in the past is just a beginning.

For me, I reckon, my best work is in front of me!

And what a great feeling it is to view your life like that. The best part of my career is yet to come, even after 35 years, in my case.

How about you?

Can you “out-enthuse” Merv?

This post first appeared on The Savage Truth.

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