You know the joke about taxi drivers in China or Russia or Hungary or Bulgaria or Ukraine or …: never trust the one who asks you ‘Taxi?’ at the station door or even inside, for sure enough you will be led – as I have been – around the back, over a fence and into a car that has at least once been used as a car bomb. And then the ‘driver’, who plonks a light on the top and wires it up for the trip, will then charge you Yom Kippur rates. The sage advice is to go to a recognised taxi rank and get in line, or better still phone a reliable number. At least those cars have meters, licensed drivers, four wheels, brakes, doors …

Not so in the USA anymore. Dodge the ‘taxi drivers’ at the station or terminal door, line up, get in a yellow-looking vehicle with a sign that says ‘Taxi’ on the top and I guarantee it will be worse than those ‘illegal’ taxis mentioned above. The dashboard warning lights flash like a Christmas tree, meters have been dumped as so much unnecessary paraphernalia, the regular thunk, thunk, thunk on the rear right-hand-side sounds distinctly like a missing tyre, and on the off chance that a receipt is available it will be a piece from the year-old burger wrapper  lying on the floor .

It’s one thing to ponder the politics of decline from a distance, but quite another to experience it first hand.