Last night I only worked half a shift starting at 9pm, due to a family function earlier in the evening. Whilst resigned to making little money I still chanced my luck by working the Sunday night, hard-clubbing crowd in Kings Cross. Not something I normally do as it can be heart-in-the-mouth work. After Saturday nights I like to relax on Sundays.
Around 1am I was hailed by a couple. He was a tough, shaven-headed, Latin lover type and she a young woman in a mini skirt with skinny legs, indistinguishable from many other girls on the crowded Strip. After first asking where she lived he ordered a suburb past the Airport.
She was fairly drunk yet not that incapacitated she couldn’t resist his suggestions during the trip. ‘C’mon’, he pleaded, ‘we’re hot together, you know it’. ‘Stop it’, she countered, ‘or I’ll vomit on you ! Anyway I’ve got a boyfriend at home, I told you that already’, then relented to engage in some ‘tonsil-tickling’. I was tempted to turn on the radio but given her drunken condition I didn’t want her spinning out, and so endured the awkward silences.
On arrival at her house she offered him money for the fare but he wouldn’t take it. So she quickly hopped out and sauntered off, leaving Lothario to call out the window, ‘Hey, what’s your number - 1_800_fuck_your_mother ?’. Charming. ‘Driver take me back’, he said, ordering a suburb we’d passed earlier. ‘What a little prick teaser !’. I laughed and asked, ‘Where did you meet her ?’. ‘At a club. She was all over me - I was grabbing her arse and she was rubbing me hard all night. But all I got in the end was a peck on the cheek. I feel like a dill’. I chose not to agree.
He then called his girlfriend and spent ten minutes attempting to lob at her place, but it was obvious she wouldn’t have him so late and he hung up. She probably sensed what he’d been up to anyway. ‘So why all the action at the club', I inquired, 'if this woman intended going home alone ?’. ‘Oh no, she wanted a friggin’ hotel’, he moaned, ‘two hundred bucks for a couple of hours ! Bugger that, she already cost me three hundred in drugs and booze. I would have been better off with a hooker’. Understandable really.
‘Well, I assured him, ‘the fact you saw her home shows that you’re a gentleman’ (here I was massaging his ego - with the meter showing $50 I wanted to distract him from the pain of wasting more money). I continued, ‘An old gentleman once told me that a sophisticated man only uses call girls when playing around. It’s much cheaper financially and emotionally, and much less damaging if your partner finds out’.
Given my passenger’s frustrating encounter with his ‘little prick-teaser’, he could only agree with the opinion and dutifully paid up. I departed doubting he’ll change his ways.
Shortly before midnight last night I was driving Vacant along Manning Road, Double Bay. Approaching Cooper Park I noticed movement and reflection just inside the darkened park and immediately picked it for young kids out late, mucking around and probably drinking. It’s what plenty of kids do on a Saturday night when they’re too young to enter licensed premises yet old enough to be out unsupervised.
As I travelled past at about 50 kph two simultaneous impacts slammed into the cab with an almighty crash. It scared the pants off me and I hit the brakes thinking a side window had shattered. After checking and confirming the windows were intact I lit up the park with the side spotlight. A bunch of kids ran for thirty metres then stopped, as if taunting me to get out and chase them. I reversed the cab a little and they ran some more, and stopped again. But what could I do ?
Next thing a middle-aged fella tapped on my window. ‘Mate, I saw them throw those rocks at you’. ‘What, are they schoolkids ?’, I asked. ‘I think so’, he said. ‘They’ve been hanging around for awhile and all the residents are really pissed off with them. I’ve already called the police. How about you drive around to the other side of the park while I tell them I’ve got a gun’.
Still shaken and not really thinking straight I agreed and took off to look for them. However by the time I arrived it suddenly dawned on me that this was ridiculous. What the hell was I going do if I did find them ? Make a citizens arrest ? Beat them up, single-handedly ? Not to mention working in concert with someone threatening them with a supposed gun !?
Immediately I turned around and went had some dinner, embarrassed at my blatant stupidity. I could easily have ended up like this bloke, being stretchered from a park early this morning in Manly.
Most Saturday nights at work I listen to a delightful ABC radio program called The Idlers. The show often features travellers wandering around Australia on The Big Lap. A regular question posed by the show's hosts is, 'Where is the best place you've visited'. And invariably these travellers reply, 'The Kimberley', in north west Australia.
Not so well travelled as the Kimberely is the neighbouring country of the Pilbara. Along with it's isolation and rugged accessibility, the Pilbara is renowned for being a lucrative mining district of hard, rocky, desert lands, around 500,000 square kilometres in area.
Ever wondered what it was like out there during the early days of the mining boom ? A few weeks ago Nicolas Rothwell in The Australian Literary Review detailed a wonderfully evocative and poignant account of the abandoned Pilbara settlement, Goldsworthy.
Titled Memory is all we have Rothwell produced a captivating story of the remote mining locale, its history and its people. A superb weekend read. Highly recommended.
A fella around thirty years of age climbed in the cab and duly announced, ‘Mate, I’m as pissed as a fart’. ‘Yeah, but where you wanna go ?’, I asked. ‘Home, dammit, home !’. God, a live one I thought and it’s only Wednesday.
However rather than ignore him, I decided he needed to stay awake and so engaged him in meaningless drivel. After raving on about his job he suddenly blared, ‘You know what ? I’ve got a great job, clients kiss my ass, all that. But I’ve got serious girlfriend trouble’. ‘Umm, what’s her problem ?’. ‘Me !’, he yelled. ‘I can’t decide whether to live with her’. The bloke had some issues.
‘What does your mother say ?’, I asked, cruelly. ‘I love my mother, she’s the greatest!’. ‘Yeah, but does she like your girlfriend ?’. Silence. ‘Well...it’s not really that, you know. I’m terrified of getting to forty and realising I’ve made a big mistake. My life would be over !’. Fortunately the trip was nearly over.
We pulled up at his parents house, yes, he still lived at home and he asked, ‘Driver what would you do in my position ?’. ‘Mate, don’t ask me', I told him. 'At your age I was already divorced. Need a receipt ?’. Some nights I’m just too jaded to care.
A recent query on my throwaway line, 'unreconstructured bogan' got me thinking about degrees of boganess. Lately I've noticed a proliferation of fluorescent lime and orange safety vests and shirts, adopted as a fashion item by blokes who dress for comfort. Practical daytime wear suitable for work, the pub, shopping, footy, wherever.
Click the thumbnails for my version of a few outfits in homage to bogan style...
THURS UPDATE : Tonight - TV bogan heaven, Rodder's Life, 8pm, Channel 31 (Free TV !)
Generally after each shift I head home thinking, ‘what happened tonight, did I carry any interesting fares, what will I post on ?’. As last night was nothing special, I’ll instead report on a few encounters relevant to recent posts...
Regarding my post on bicycle safety, I paid special attention last night to the peak hour and evening cyclists, when I wasn’t preoccupied with traffic and fares. Whilst I noted plenty of mountain bikes, surprisingly, I only spotted one road bike. He was waiting to turn off the busy Pacific Highway and had taken a jump-position in front of a taxi. Due to his feet being encased in pedal covers he was unable to put a steadying foot on the ground, and so wobbled precariously to stay upright. A common sight with road bikes.
Early in the evening I carried a thirty something Dutchman from the large accounting firm, KPMG. We discussed the general cost of living here, plus the relative costs of taxis in Sydney and the Netherlands. ‘Are taxis cheaper here than in Holland ?’, I asked. ‘Yes of course’, he replied without hesitation. ‘they’re cheaper than almost anywhere in northern Europe. In Amsterdam the flag fall is $5 and this trip would cost around $25’. Here the flag fall is $2.90 and his trip cost $9.50.
This difference in fares sounded hard to believe, so I inquired if he knew of the Big Mac Index. Being in finance he knew of it but was of the opinion is was somewhat outdated and suggested, ‘The latté index is probably a better guide to relative purchasing power. A cappuccino in Amsterdam is around $4-4.50 and here I pay $3-3.50'. Unfortunately the journey ended before I could ask why he thought the Big Mac Index was outdated, or why the latté index is a better guide.
Shortly after I took a young office woman from the City to Lidcombe. She sat in the back and I lazily used my security screen as an excuse not to speak to her. I kind of felt bad about that but I wasn’t feeling very sociable. At the end she handed over a credit card for the $41.20 fare and said, ‘Just make it forty five’. ‘Aw thanks’, I said, presuming my driving had resulted in a cheaper fare, a common occurrence, and so she’d elected to pay the normal rate. This often happens with company-paid fares as the passenger prefers to present consistent taxi records.
Out of curiosity I inquired, ‘Is that what you normally pay ?’. ‘I don’t know’, she said, ‘I’ve been working in London for the last two years and this is my first week back’. So I asked her, ‘The London black cabs are more expensive than here, no ?’. ‘Absolutely !’, she laughed. ‘But the mini-cabs are much cheaper..?’. ‘Yes but they haven’t got a very good reputation’, she replied. ‘My company would only use one mini-cab driver, who we knew. The rest of the time we used black cabs’. Additionally, over the weekend an Irish couple surprised me by insisting Dublin taxis were the most expensive in Europe.
Finally I carried three young office women home from The Basement nightclub. They were hyped-up from dancing to some high-energy instrumental band. Normally I’d inquire on what band they’d seen. However the front seat woman continually cooed, ‘They were amaaaazing; increeeedible; sooooo much energy; soooo much emotion; soooo good’, over and over to the point where I just wanted to gag her (forgive me, I was tired). Later at home I checked the Web for information on this ‘amaaazing’ band. No comment.
Last night the Horden Pavilion hosted Gigantour, a world tour featuring four heavy metal bands. The headline act was American speed/thrash/metal band, MegaDeath. Needless to say some of my Sydney readers would have been there and I’m expecting a rush of reports from inside the House of Metal. Meanwhile, here’s a report from the outside.
I arrived late in the afternoon with some fans who groaned at the sight of a long queue. Apparently they had to first line up to collect tickets thence queue again, for some other reason. Opposite were the Fox Studio bars packed with pre-concert revellers tuning up for the big gig. The precinct was already a buzz of excitement from animated fans, two hours before commencement. Booze was also available inside the concert.
The crowd were predominately white male, aged from twenty to forty years and hailing from the western suburbs, or further afield. Their uniform was black with a smattering of check flannels shirts worn by unreconstructed bogans. The most notable feature was the abundance of T-shirt slogans which basically said, ‘Heavy Fucking Metal’. If nothing else, unambiguous.
Whilst waiting at the rank I witnessed an early fight when some late drinkers decided to queue jump. So it was no surprise when arriving later with more fans to find a heavy police presence accompanied by a riot squad. They were dealing with the occasional wayward fan being dragged from inside the concert by security.
Later I received a report from a patient at Saint Vincents emergency department who told of a female concert-goer, brought in after being punched and kicked unconsciousness. Nice. On a further visit to Fox I watched as police subdued an out of control male fan who screamed, ‘Fuck off you fuckin’ pigs ! I want Megadeath ! Megadeath forever !’. Which was kind of ironic given he was on the ground under six cops. Megadeath indeed.
Yet it was my last fare, middle-aged fans from the bush who put it all into perspective. They revealed that Megadeath’s front man and founder is a born-again Christian, and 'the whole in-your-face, rebellion thing is purely an act'. That’s entertainment I guess.
Last thing this morning I picked up a young fella heading my way home. ‘Thanks God, you stopped’, he said, ‘I’ve been waiting for ages. I was supposed to be in bed by midnight’. ‘Why’, I asked, ‘you working today ?’. ‘No, I’ve got to get up in four hours for a charity bike ride’. He was taking part in the annual Spring Cycle bike ride.
Whilst the event is largely a fun day my passenger was a dedicated cyclist who regularly rode to work in the City. ‘I bet you don’t like us bike riders’, he laughed. ‘Well, only about five percent’, I admitted. ‘The rest are reckless idiots. They have no idea of how to protect themselves or ride safely with traffic’. Then I tested him on his equipment.
Firstly he rode a mountain bike, rather than a racing or road bike of lesser stability and dangerous tyres. Road bike tyres are totally unsuitable for traction in the wet, sand/gravel drifts, drainage grates, potholes, etc. Negotiating such hazards requires the road biker to take evasive and unpredictable action, regardless of surrounding traffic, whereas a mountain-bike tyre can safely handle the same. Click the image for a comparison of a road bike tyre and a mountain bike tyre.
Furthermore my passenger insisted that road cyclists should be registered and required to pass a basic road rules knowledge test. Very sensible. ‘Plus why not have electronic indicators’, I suggested. ‘Much safer than employing hand signals which compromise a cyclist’s balance. Then nearby motorists would know exactly where they’re going’.
But most importantly, to me at least, he not only used a rear-view mirror but made a point I’ve long believed - all road cyclists should be required to fit rear-view mirrors, for obvious reasons understood by all motorists. The best mirrors are simply slotted into the handlebar end and present a low profile, thereby ensuring stability for fast, safe viewing (click on image). Yet bugger-all cyclists use these cheap mirrors which could one day save their life. Why? Because legally they don't have to. Dumb.
Actually it’s beyond dumb, which suggests a certain innocence through lack of intelligence. It’s wilful arrogance bordering on sheer recklessness. Basically cyclists who refuse to adopt adequate safety measures as those outlined above are tacitly saying, ‘I’m allowed to use the road so long as I wear a helmet, so bugger all the other road users. They’d better be careful because if they hit me, they’re liable’.
Yet in adopting this dopey attitude they are, by default, waiving and blindly entrusting responsibility for their own personal safety to total strangers. And that their negligence can tragically impact upon others also seems to be of little concern. They've got rights.