Here's one of the more attractive cab ranks around town - Meadowbank Ferry terminal. When I was a kid this part of the Parramatta River was totally toxic, from the nauseating sulphuric odours to the old cars and refrigerators dumped on the river bank.
Since then the river has undergone a remarkable transformation whith only one toxic site remaining, nearby Homebush Bay.
Currently I'm taking a break up the North Coast for a week or so before spring arrives with it's increased business. In the meantime stand by for some holiday posts. Cheers,
(Hungry pilgrims and a praying panhandler outside Maccas, George and Bridge streets)
If you're wondering why the lack of pilgrim posts during WYD it's because they never caught taxis. The Pope arrived and announced we should be saving the environment so the pilgrims duly set about offsetting their 747 carbon footprints by walking everywhere. Catholic guilt, works everytime.
It wasn't until Monday evening when I collected my first pilgrim who, suffering from a foot injury requested the nearest railway station. Otherwise I carried a elderly Italian priest on Sunday evening and that was my WYD, a common story amongst cabbies. Time for a holiday.
A few weeks back I reported how cabbies can sometimes win rather than lose, from passengers’ excesses. Over the weekend I again encountered such a fare.
A thirty-something fella staggered out of a Darling Harbour nightclub and opening my front door thrust a twenty dollar note at me. “This is your tip, on top of the fare,“ he said. “First I need you to wait for my friend...don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of money.”
As with the aforementioned fare, we hung around while he continually attempted to contact his mate by phone. After ten minutes I suggested he go inside the club and haul out his mate. This he did, after flicking me a fifty dollar note and checking my number plate. I turned the motor off and settled in.
The mate eventually emerged drunk and stoned. Falling into the back seat he announced, “Fuck man, what a night...where we going now?” “Kings Cross,” the mate said. “But l I’ve only got two pills left...let’s smoke a joint.” He addressed me, “Hey driver, I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you let us smoke a joint in here.” I just laughed, “Mate, weed stinks, forget it.” They didn’t mind, they were already too wasted.
The rear passenger decided I was his new best friend and made introductions, laughing and joking, the usual bullshit. At Kings Cross he gave me a business card and fifty bucks. “Mate, give me you number cause we’ll need a lift home in a few hours. It’s a good fare for you – out to Bankstown.” I jotted down a number and handed it over, agreeing to drive them home.
They were so high and pumped it was a relief to finally see them alight and leave me in peace, despite the 20 minute hiring reaping $120. Then I checked the back seat and found the clown had left his wallet there, bulging with notes. Luckily they were still mucking around near the cab and responded to the horn.
Upon seeing the wallet he almost kissed me and I was again subjected to vigorous handshaking and declarations of friendship. “Mate, you’re the best cabbie in Sydney. We’ll definitely call you around five o’clock.” Yet he never did because he didn’t have my number.
Here's an image for my New York expat readers. For anyone who has ever visited that wonderful city check out New York Taxi Photo blog. Besides a compilation of NY cab shots over the years, Lucky also posts fine images of New York neighbourhoods. Another NY blog is Pictures from a Taxi with shots not found in tourist brochures.
On Monday evening a passenger related how a Silver Service driver had recently offered his services on a private basis. In quoting a price for her journey he consulted a chart of listed suburbs and added a $10 flag fall. If he was busy, he told her, a friend would respond and it may be a luxury hire car. All of which is illegal.
This was old news to me as such arrangements are common within the industry and have arisen due to substandard white taxis and their drivers. “However that was some years ago,” I confidently stated. “Now white cabs are much better due to some embarrassing media exposure and increased spot checks by authorities.” Of course there is still room for further improvement.
Yesterday I took my own vehicle in for a service which necessitated catching two taxis. Both were substandard with obvious suspension, brake or steering wear. One cab had a front seat stuck in the full-forward position making for an uncomfortable ride pinned up against the dashboard.
It’s hard to blame individual drivers as these cabs may have been from a managed business with numerous vehicles and drivers, rather than owner-operated cabs which tend to be better maintained.
One driver wore a hearing aid and became increasingly frustrated at being directed through the inner west. He apologised for his poor hearing yet the front windows were fully open which did not help communications. But then he had been smoking when I hailed him so the problem was of his own making.
What did concern me, however, was that there was no Driver’s Authority on display. “How long have you been driving?” I asked. Once again he failed to hear me. “Sorry?” I pointed to the empty Authority holder and said, “You have no Authority..” He mumbled something about it being in his bag due to an earlier radio booking, blah, blah, but was clearly bullshitting.
Instead of a decent tip he only scored a rounded-up fare.
If you haven't heard about World Youth Day then you've been living under a rock (apologies to international readers) as Sydney is swarming with hordes of wide-eyed youthful pilgrims. Last night I came across a Mass congregation from St Mary's Cathedral milling on a forecourt which resembled a rock concert venue.
This group was one of the unusual sightings around town last night. They were spotted early in the evening carrying the US flag along Bayswater Road to their lodgings in Kings Cross. Most surprising was hearing the sound of gentle song emanating from the group. Given the location I surmised it was a hymn to ward off local evil.
Later I came across a bunch of Pharisees wearing flowing robes, headpieces and carrying staffs, lurking on the steps of the NSW Art Gallery. In the Domain opposite a group of Centurian soldiers in full regalia huddled together in the evening chill.
Yet the prize for the most hardy performers went to a troupe of aboriginal dancers rehearsing on a pontoon in the middle of Darling Harbour, wearing only loincloths, at 2am! A real test of faith.
It doesn’t necessarily hold that cabbies are only ever victims of passengers’ excesses. Quite often we are large beneficiaries of their unusual behaviour which, more often than not involves sex and substances.
For example, early this morning in the western suburbs I accepted a radio booking to the city. I mean, who in their right mind leaves home and heads to Kings Cross at 2am on a Tuesday morning in the middle of winter? Only those seeking further party supplies, it seems.
When I had all but given up after a crap shift, this unexpected fare coupled with a return hail from Rushcutters Bay to Rozelle reaped an extra sixty bucks, thanks very much.
Another example occurred over the weekend. Around 1am a thirty-something woman hailed me in Darlinghurst. “First we need to collect someone from a bar,” she requested, “then take us home to Drummoyne.”
Under normal conditions this fare would run to around $25. However after adding booze, kebabs and cocaine it can approach three times that amount.
Once outside the bar our pick-up, Jamie proved elusive to nail down. If she called him once she called him a hundred times as she competed with the background racket inside the bar. But given she possessed something he craved, he finally staggered outside and into the cab.
From what I could gather she had earlier obtained some cocaine and their arrangement was to meet at 1am and return to her place. This is where the communication problem arose for he expected her to simply deliver the coke to the bar then leave him to continue partying with his mates. Yeah, right.
After she reiterated her expectations he called to me, “Mate, turn the cab around, we’ve got to go back.” It was all about loyalty, he told her, as he couldn’t desert a mate in a bar. Thus he was obliged to bring him along, despite him being a total stranger to her. “Loyalty...", she queried, "then, where do I fit in?” Silence.
Of course she was royally pissed off, especially when back at the bar we repeated the same tiresome charade. “Come out and get in the fuckin’ cab”, Jamie frantically pleaded on the phone, over and over. Although the meter was ticking nobody cared as they were professional types who could easily afford the excess fare.
Once aboard the mate decided he was hungry so we next stopped at a kebab shop which was crowded with drunken revellers. This detour involved another fifteen minute wait during which time the couple in the back seat fell silent, interspersed with strained whispering.
This may have been due to the sound of Jamie practising his coke routine with some sharp clearing of the nostrils followed by deep snorting. Me, I just zoned out practising patience at their expense.
Finally, at her place, the meter approached sixty bucks so they flicked me seventy and left me in peace. By employing a little tolerance $25 became $70. That’s cab driving where sometimes the path of least resistance is the easiest and most profitable.