Saturday night was jumping in Sydney. The combination of Valentines Day and ‘Wet’ Vibrations meant endless work from go to whoa. Add constant rain to the mix and cabbies really earned their money, especially with departing concert-goers taking big risks with anxious traffic, badly handicapped by rain and poor visibility.
I had been working this crowd very selectively, aware there was a heightened chance of many wasted, bedraggled walkers seeking a free ride to escape the weather. Finally, along Bondi Road I dropped my guard and took pity on a young fella standing alone looking for a rare vacant cab.
When he chose the back seat and elected to leave his hoodie in place, hunching against the door to avoid the security camera, it was obvious he was going to run...
With the meter approaching ten dollars I challenged him. “Mate, you got cash or plastic?” No answer. I lit up the cabin, triggered the camera and repeated the question. “Um,” he mumbled, “I haven’t got anything.”
We were one block away from a police patrol car attending a vehicle accident which I’d passed just prior to collecting the fare. Instead of turning right to his destination I swung left into the street of the accident. Up ahead the flashing police lights greeted us and the kid panicked.
“Can you stop here?” he said. When I stepped on the gas the idiot opened his door. “I’m getting out,” he lied. “You get out here,” I said, “and you’ll end up in hospital. We’re going to the cops.” As I pulled up opposite them he tumbled out while the cab was still rolling and scampered off like a startled rabbit.
Jumping out I called to the officers. “My passenger just ran,” I told them, pointing back down the street. Immediately three of the four officers took off on foot in hot pursuit, in the rain! This was totally unexpected as I imagined they would either ignore me, vacillate, or at least use the patrol car.
For the next ten minutes they charged around the neighbourhood as I trailed in the cab, bemused, yet the kid had disappeared and it became clear the search had failed.
I was impressed and when they informed me that a statement was required I told them to forget it. In my eyes they had done enough to make the kid think twice in the future for he must have been terrified. “Forget about it,” I suggested, “it’s only ten bucks. I just really appreciate your response.”
Cops, you’ve got to love ‘em.