Many years ago when my son was a boy he would regularly spent weekends at my place in Bondi. One of our Sunday pleasures was walking to the beach for a twilight meal of fish and chips, or pizza, sitting on the grass overlooking the beach.
Later I would hail a taxi for him to head home alone to South Head and each time I instinctively requested a business card from the driver with his plate number. Then I'd phone his mother and notify her of the details.
It was a simple system of risk reduction which never failed, our SOP – safety operating procedure.
Yet in some twelve years of driving taxis I cannot recall anyone ever requesting this from me. Rather they’ll plead, “Please, driver, look after my friend/daughter /lover ? They’re really, really special.”
This happened on a recent Saturday evening when an intoxicated young woman was assisted into the front seat by her girlfriends. After their pleas for special protection I brusquely replied, “Yes, of course,” wishing they’d quit the boozy goodbyes and pledges of undying love and close the friggin’ door before the blocked traffic went feral.
Yet I've often wondered, if these vulnerable passengers are so special, why don’t their friends request my cab number, if only to warn me that I'm on notice?
This day last week, around 1am, I accepted a radio booking in the suburbs for a staff member from the network. She was travelling into work in our radio room. “We’ve probably talked together over the radio,” I chuckled. “Undoubtedly,” she replied from the back seat.
Then my radio came to life with an inquiry from the operator. After confirming that I’d picked up the fare I was asked to test my alarm button. This took a few minutes of text messages, a radio re-boot, plus camera and microphone activation before finally receiving the all-clear.
Again, this was something I’d never experienced in years of driving taxis. Whilst other drivers have since told me this is a random event, the fact that it occurred immediately after the staff member boarded was significant and I figured they were just looking out for a female colleague, travelling alone in the dead of night. And fair enough too.
What I’m trying to say is when helping those you care about get home alone, don’t be afraid to politely request that the driver provide his taxi plate number. After all, you are entrusting loved ones to the care of a stranger who may not have the same level of concern for their well-being that you expect.
(Further reading - The wrong approach)