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Otto Life Stories #2: Solomon

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Veteran driver, Solomon, shares how he managed to turn his entire life around, spills the secrets of creating a dream retirement plan and reveals where to find the tastiest smoked fish in London.  

Do you prefer to be called Solomon or Solly?  

You can call me Solomon – like the king. I was born in Paddington but I grew up in Nigeria and then I came back to London when I was aged 16. 

Which part of Nigeria did you live in? 

I’m from a place called Ile-Ife, which is so old that it’s often called the birthplace of mankind. The city is fantastic – there’s a lot of ancient stuff. It’s similar to Windsor Castle. 

How long have you been a PCO driver? 

I’ve been doing this job for over 20 years. That was before they even came up with the idea of PCO. I started as a minicab driver in Brixton back in the old days. 

PCO driver Solomon with his Prius at Otto Car's Hammersmith Hub

Have you ever done anything else?  

I drove London buses for about 15 years. As soon as they brought in the modern ones with the doors and everything, I gave up and concentrated on minicabbing.  

Has the role of a cab driver changed much?

Back then, you had to pick up strangers in the dark and handle cash. I once got mugged by passengers who pulled out a knife. The job is transformed now because security has improved a lot. 

In what ways was it different before? 

Drivers used to pick up a car for £50 on the sideroad – sometimes with no insurance – and just go minicabbing. The industry has moved onto something much better. 

What role has innovation played here? 

In the old days, you were given a job on paper and before you even got there, it’s cancelled. Now, the movement of the driver and the passenger is tracked in the Uber app – and I’m not carrying no cash. 

PCO driver Solomon with his Prius at Otto Car's Hammersmith Hub

How long have you been with Otto Car? 

Almost five years. I got this car on the Rent 2 Buy scheme and – to the glory of God – today I finished paying it off. 

Fantastic. Today is your first day of freedom?

Yes. I’m about to get my documents – and I appreciate every bit of it. When I came to Otto Car, I had no hope. I lost my house due to a divorce but they gave me a start, with no credit check. 

And this helped you get back onto your feet? 

Oh yeah. I have also used this opportunity to take a degree in Hospitality Management at the London School of Business and Finance in Holburn. 

You’ve done this while working as a PCO driver?

Absolutely. Even now, I want to do another course on Open University because it’s free and Uber will finance it. If one is serious, you can achieve anything. When you get to the bridge you will cross it. 

What are your plans for the future? 

I have worked hard and used my earnings as a driver to build a 22-room hotel and an eatery (see pictures) in Africa. In the next eighteen months or so, I will retire and go there to manage it fully.   

That’s amazing. You’ve created a retirement dream 

I can’t complain. I’m happy – and I say thanks to Otto Car. Initially, I thought: how can I make this work? But if you stay focused and determined, the time goes just like that. Nothing is impossible. 

Do you have advice for younger drivers? 

Have courage because challenge prepares you for the good times ahead. If a customer gives you a hard time, don’t be discouraged or scared. Think of the good aspects of humanity. Do your best and move on. 

Finally, where is the best Nigerian food in London? 

I recommend a place called 805 – and also Enish. Both of these are on The Old Kent Road. Try the pounded yam with vegetables, traditional herbs and smoked fish or tilapia. You will enjoy this – it’s good. 

Want to learn more?

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