The Knowledge

It was Royger’s fourth attempt at The Knowledge. He knew he might come a cropper when he saw that his examiner was Stoneface Cavendish, the dean of London cabbies.

“Streatham A-2 to Stour Road, if you please,” said Cavendish.

Royger took a deep breath and fixed his eyes to a spot on the table. “I come out the tunnel and on into Yorkshire Road. Hard right into Salmon Lane, the left into Rhodeswell Road, right into Turners Road. Go right into St. Paul’s Way, left into Burdett Road, right into Mile End Road. Left Tredegar Square, then angle right on Morgan Street. Follow left up Coborn Road, right into Tredegar Road and on into Wick Lane. I go right into Monier Road, right into Smeed Road, turn left into Stour Road and we’re there.”

Cavendish gave the slightest of nods. He held no map but the one in his head. “Quite right,” he said. “Now call me a line from Nigel Rayment Haberdasher to Archie street. Avoid all traffic lights, if you please.”

What Pegman Saw: London

The official examination for a London cabbie has been called the hardest test in the world. To ace it, a prospective hack must memorize all of the labyrinthine city’s 25,000 streets and every business or landmark on them.

The rigors of The Knowledge have been likened to those required to earn a degree in law or medicine. It is without question a unique intellectual, psychological and physical ordeal, demanding unnumbered thousands of hours of immersive study, as would-be cabbies undertake the task of committing to memory the entirety of London, and demonstrating that mastery through a progressively more difficult sequence of oral examinations — a process which, on average, takes four years to complete, and for some, much longer than that.


Add Yours
  1. k rawson

    I can just see the whole scene. I got a bit dizzy imagining the turn-some drive. Do you suppose anyone does the test now that we’ve all come to rely on GPS?

    • J Hardy Carroll

      There has been pushback and a great deal of talk, especially with Uber and Lyft trying to come in. The Guardian and NYT have written some insightful pieces about this very subject. Thanks for reading and hosting this prompt!

  2. the real cie

    I drove for Uber and Lyft for a couple weeks back in 2017. It was incredibly nerve-racking, even with the GPS to help me. I was kind of grateful when the dumb stoner kid backed into the rental I was driving and Lyft took so long to reinstate me that I realized I’d rather just deliver food.

  3. rochellewisoff

    Dear Josh,

    Okay, my eyes crossed reading this. Best of luck to Royger as a London cabbie. Sounds something akin to being a NYC cab driver. Well written.



  4. crimsonprose

    So that’s how it’s done. Not for the likes of me. I have a nervous breakdown just stepping our of the Tube. Brave cab-men! And that piece did a great honour to them.

  5. Lynn Love

    As you say, not sure if the Knowledge is so necessary now, but what a skill of memory and spacial imagination that was! You managed to spin a fantastic tale out of it too, Josh. Well done

Don't just stand there.