Last night I hung out at News Ltds entrance on Holt Street, Surry Hills for a fare. After dropping off a couple of fashion-girl staffers just on dusk, I elected to stick around. For some inexplicable reason, News Ltd has never been on my usual beat, so I was intrigued by the comings and goings at that time of day, rush hour.
Each time I go to Holt Street, I get this overwhelming feeling a family company is still operating there. Well I guess with Murdoch it is, though the founders, The Packer influence stands out for me. Must be the modest, squat, old-world building with its steet level, staff car-park opposite. The car park, enclosed by cyclone fencing, has always had the appearance of a work in progress, a future development site.
However it is News Ltds lobby entrance which I find appealing, especially by night. It is bathed in homely, yellowish light, as against cold, white office light. For some reason this light speaks to me of another era, of patronage, benevolence and warmth.
Standing dead centre out the front was a blind bloke with a cane. He had a radiant smile and cheerio for the departing workers, who all seemed to know him. His presence on the footpath acted as a lightning rod to his colleagues who lit up in passing. This procession of infectious cheer was obviously a highlight of his day.
Attracted by his happiness, I got out and had a chat with him. He was waiting for his regular cab home. News employed him as a radio-room operator. In a lovely, good natured manner, he was telling me about the various routes he is taken home...when gorgeous journo, Janet Albrechston walked past. For Gods sake, she didn’t even see me ! I mean, Hello...!!!
A pizza guy on a bike arrived with 20 pizzas plus bottles of drink. It’s a party ! He told me it was a regular order, I think - his English was shithouse. By comparision, over in the glass towers on Sussex, Fairfax night staff receive trays of pastries. There’s something symbolic about this but I’m too tired to work it out....
A middle-aged woman came out and made a point of saying hello to the blind bloke, Ben, then requested my cab. She had actually employed him after realising there were jobs at News Ltd. which handicapped people could comfortably perform. For example, Ben monitors emergency services short-wave radios and uses a special computer to dispatch reporters and field staff to breaking stories. Other workers in wheelchairs were found different duties to suit.
My passenger, a journalist, despite sitting in the back was happy to chat, a refreshing change to Fairfax morons. It inspired me to warn her I owned a public website, before quizzing her on aspects of her job. This didn’t phase her though, being a mature and discreet employee, she still made for interesting conversation.
Somebody important -I forget who- once said, ‘ the art of conversation is making the other party comfortable’. Within an hour, I had a young woman in Surry Hills react badly to a news item on refugees. Instead of lying and agreeing with her, I gently challenged her rant. The trip ended badly, with her slamming the door and me no tip. The art of conversation ? Out the window.
Last summer, I was taking an Australian Republican Movement heavyweight to a function at Darling Harbour Convention Centre. The guest speaker was William Shawcross, making me envious of her, who didn’t seem to know him. I think she’d had a couple of Stollis, as she was rabbiting on about gay broadcaster, Alan Jones, when I decided to warn her I operated a public website. Immediately, she stopped talking to me ! Though later she tipped real heavy. Passengers are a funny lot.