About 20 years ago my life had reached a crossroads and I was looking for some extra interests. One weekend I wandered into the Army Reserves barracks at Randwick and made casual inquires to their survey and mapping branch...
!!! Breaking News !!! Aussie survey finds cabbies rude, offensive, discourteous, reckless, inconsiderate, intimidating, etc. On a scale of one to ten, taxi drivers’ level of service rated a dismal 4.7. I dunno, 47% ain't too bad, many cabbies would rate it a 'pass'.
Taxi passengers are a confusing mob. Just when you think you’ve seen it all they’ll surprise you when least expected. Consider this passenger from early this morning...
Around 2am, a fella in his thirties hailed me on the Pacific Highway at St Leonards, headed for the City. Dressed in a white business shirt, black trousers and shoes he looked like any office jockey. Though he only carried a bare bottle of wine, I didn’t think anything of it. But therein lay the clue, despite him presenting as sober with no alcohol odour.
He related how time flies when immersed in a project after hours, with no other staff around to distract him from maintaining computer server networks. Speaking in comfortable, logical IT jargon it was obvious he worked in the industry and I had no reason for suspicion whatsoever.
So by the time we reached Whitlam Square at College Street it was a total surprise to hear him fling open the back door and say, "See ya, dude !", then run across the street into Hyde Park. Instinctively I reversed and threw a U-turn to drive around the park into Elizabeth Street. From there I could see him hiding behind a tree, crouching and looking back from where he’d come. Then he doubled back, so I tore around the park to trail him running down Stanley Street.
From thereon in we played a game of cat and mouse as I had him trapped in a small neighbourhood bounded by Liverpool, Crown, Stanley and Hargraves Streets. He’d tear off in one direction only to find me waiting at the next corner.
It was absolutely comical, especially when I found him taking a breather in Riley Street. When I jumped out of the cab he shit himself, and breathless with fear, yelled , "See ya, dude !" and bolted again. By then he was really buggered from ten minutes of running and I could easily have chased him down on foot.
Yet what was I going to do, bash him for $26 ? Yeah, right. Realising my lack of options in the deserted neighbourhood I gave up and headed home, resigned to my loss. I’ll leave the retribution to the next driver he rips off, who may well carry a weapon.
It’s a pity Anzac Day hasn’t seen the widespread practising of unwritten conventions. Like a free drink for veterans and servicemen in appreciation of their sacrifices.
Last night a couple of celebrating Navy girls in uniform - is there a finer sight? - insisted I should be a barman when granted a free ride to Kings Cross. For me it was nothing, five bucks, yet they hadn’t received a free drink all day.
How about the unwritten Anzac Day rule of never taking money off veterans, covered by Sam de Brito in a recent post on two-up,
Never : Take money from a 70-year-old gent wearing medals. Don't be patronising, just forget to pick up your winnings from him, or slip the dosh in his jacket pocket and disappear into the crowd.
In Balmain last night an old fella wearing medals and partially blind was mightily relieved when I found him and his wife on a street of revellers seeking taxis. They were dead on their feet after attending the Dawn Service, thence followed by the March.
A WW11 sailor, his cruiser was sunk in the Mediterranean by a German torpedo in the dead of night, claiming 150 of his shipmates. After which he served on another two ships in the Pacific theatre. Listening to this account told in a matter-of-fact manner, it was hard to comprehend his experience, though an honour to hear all the same.
The bloke and his missus were so effusive in thanks for a free ride you’d think they’d won the lottery. Obviously the first ‘sling’ he’d received all day. "It’s like Christmas," he said after finally opening the door. As it should be on Anzac Day, he sure earned it.
In the taxi game speeding infringement notices take ages to arrive as the owner first determines who is the lucky recipient. Thus some months later it's near impossible to recall the incident, especially those involving flash-less digital cameras.
Given this was my first speeding ticket in five years and only the second in twenty years, it's somewhat annoying to tarnish my record. Apparently I was clocked late at night in the Cross City Tunnel doing 66kph in a 40kph roadworks zone, normally 80kph.
Before paying I ordered the images and proceeded to thoroughly check the details. Now I have a puzzle maybe some knowledgeable readers can help explain, whilst waiting for a response from the RTA. Their website camera page doesn't cover my query.
According to their headers both images were recorded on 'Frame 77', indicating only one frame from one camera was used. Yet to my eyes, the images don't correspond with each other in three areas...(images enlarge)...
the image on the left depicts reflections of continuous overhead tunnel lights along the vehicle roof. However the close-up shot, on the right, fails to show these reflected lights.
comparing both images it is evident they are framed with different alignments. That is, the close-up image is tilting to the right.
there is clear tonal variation between the images, although this may be the result of a different lens filter or focal length.
These discrepancies tend to suggest either two cameras were used or, more likely, two instantaneous shots taken from the same camera. However given both images quote the same Frame number, I'm wondering what's the story with these discrepancies..?
Sure, I'm clutching at straws but with $231 and 3 points pending, I'd like to be certain.
On Sunday a middle-aged fella in Surry Hills boarded the cab and ordered, "Whitlam Square, please." Gees, I thought, there’s a blast from the past, Gough bloody Whitlam. These days I rarely hear of the windy, bottom of Oxford Street being called Whitlam Square. Was my passenger keeping the dream alive ?
After giving it some thought I said, "Whitlam Square needs a prominent memorial to remind us of Gough, a huge statue like Saddam had in Baghdad." Quick as a flash the passenger retorted, "So, when the Americans invade they can tear it down ?" Keeping the paranoia alive, eh.
We got to discussing how Whitlam’s statue could be enhanced with a defining object. For example, a statue of Bob Hawke would undoubtedly be raising a glass of foaming beer. A Keating statue could be holding...a nineteenth century French clock. But what item is synonymous with Whitlam, I wondered. Instantly he replied, "A book."
Of course, a statue honouring that great man of letters would naturally cradle a book. But which book would it be...Frank Hardy’s, Power without Glory ? Suggestions welcome...
Further reading : Commemorating Australia's Prime Ministers - locations, buildings, monuments, organisations and events that bear the names of Australian Prime Ministers. Except for Billy McMahon and Malcolm Fraser who have nothing yet dedicated to them. Paul Keating has recently scraped onto the list with a park, whilst Howard is yet to score. Suggestions for Howard monuments etc, also welcome...
Can a woman be truly described as ‘handsome’ ? This was a question I debated with a barista over the weekend after describing a recent passenger from Columbia. She was feminine but not 'cute or pretty or sexy' I explained. More so classical looking, with a confident disposition. "A sort of impressive, robust beauty, handsome like."
However the barista, a young Argentinian, wouldn’t buy the description. "No way, it’s a masculine word," she huffed, with a dismissive flourish of the hand indicating the subject was settled. However, Google confirms the term was once quite common,
She was a handsome woman of forty-five and would remain so for many years. J. B. Priestley
On Saturday evening I carried another handsome passenger from Columbia, a woman around forty years old. She was going home disappointed after attending a performance event featuring lesbian dance. Performance art can be dodgy propositions at the best of times.
The event had been billed as ‘chic’ French cabaret style. Instead it was ‘nightclub style’ with pumping dance music and a young crowd, casually dressed. Despite a ‘very sexual, very artistic’ performance, she felt totally overdressed and unprepared for the event.
At this point I became confused, not being conversant on authentic French cabaret. Exasperated at my ignorance, she demanded in a heavy accent, "Well, what do you understand ‘shick’ to mean ?" Who cares, I thought, lesbian dance is lesbian dance.
Beforehand she had rung the organisers to ask, "Is it the sort of event I would feel comfortable coming alone ?" Of course they said yes, what else would they say. But my passenger found a crowd of predominately gay couples and friends.
"Back home, I always went alone to theatre or café concerts," she moaned, "but here in Australia it’s not the same. People don’t accept you, they’re not warm to single people."
The perils of singles looking for entertainment. What did she expect patronizing venues without pool tables or dart boards ? Everybody knows it’s the only way to meet people. Welcome to Australia, handsome.
It’s doubtful if there’s a bigger bunch of idiots on Sydney’s roads than recumbent-riding peabrains. This was my reaction early last night after passing a line of cars crawling up Bronte Road in Bondi Junction.
They approached with flashing high beams and blaring taxi horns, for no apparent reason. After decelerating and pulling away from the centerline I made out two small childrens flags, atop 2 metre high rods, travelling slowly in front of the vehicles.
It was a recumbent cyclist trundling up the centre of the lane, as cyclists are legally entitled to, arrogantly waving to pedestrians and motorists. The scene was akin to a child on a two foot high tricycle, totally obscured and oblivious to the surrounding traffic. Oh, wait...it was a two foot high child, masquerading as a commuter.
Surely recumbents in traffic are a rare example where we can legislate against stupidity.