Early this morning a drunken passenger remarked, “Australia Day? I don’t even know what it is we’re actually celebrating.” To which his mate replied, “Doesn’t matter, we’re sure as hell are going to start it off with a bang, eh?” And they both laughed in anticipation.
Thirty minutes later their mood had turned sour upon the realisation that a bloke from the pub whom they’d given $400 for “party supplies”, had duly disappeared. Then I was laughing at the extra $40 waiting time charge.
Still, on departure they wished me a Happy Australia Day.
Whilst they were of Anglo heritage this salutation was extended by various nationalities last night, including non-citizens. At dinner the Turkish proprietors wished me a Happy Australia Day, as did two female baristas during the shift, an Argentinian and a Columbian.
At the end of the night another greeting came from a young Indian student at my local service station. Due to my usual weariness after a long shift I’ve never interacted with him, other than to pay for the gas and request a receipt.
Yet last night he was all smiles and handing over the change he heartily wished me a Happy Australia Day. After I returned the wishes we had a brief exchange regarding my heritage.
One interesting passenger during the afternoon was an ABC TV producer on Message Stick, heading to Coffs Harbour. He was part indigenous and carried a didgeridoo for a performance today at the Saltwater Freshwater Festival, a family day of Aboriginal culture, food and games.
In recent years there has been alternative indigenous celebrations held on January 26 called Invasion Day. No ambiguity there as aborigines and supporters seek to highlight what they regard as a black-armband day.
Heading home I tuned into overnight talkback radio which many consider ratbag radio. At times, however, the program presents some informative content, like this morning.
This was the instructions issued by King George III to Governor Phillip for establishing the first white settlement. Founding principles which contrast with the view that white settlers were merely marauding invaders with little regard for the indigenous...
You are to endeavour by every possible means to open an Intercourse with the Natives and to conciliate their affections, enjoining all Our Subjects to live in amity and kindness with them.
And if any of Our Subjects shall wantonly destroy them, or give them any unnecessary Interruption in the exercise of their their several occupations, it is our Will and Pleasure that you do cause such offenders to be brought to punishment according to the degree of the Offence.
These laudable intentions of the Crown towards the aborigines are therefore one thing worth celebrating on this day. Something I could have explained to my aforementioned passengers, puzzled by Australia Day whilst awaiting their gram of coke.
At the Port Macquarie cinema last night I saw a spectacular comedy. And judging by the departing crowd of family holidaymakers, they thought so too.
My agreement to see Avatar was based on the condition I could cheer for the Marines. Well, someone’s got to resist Hollywood’s favourite sport of military bashing.
On Monday night I collected a young military serviceman a long way from base and short of funds. After he accepted my estimate of the fare I asked why he was low on cash. Surely, I thought, the Government pays our forces enough to catch a cab home.
"Well, it’s just that I’ve got heaps of debt,” he explained. “I’m only eighteen and we don’t make that much. Plus the fact that I’m paying off my car and I’ve lost my license, twice, doesn’t help.”
With that he proudly showed me a phone image of a new Holden Commodore which he'd tricked up. I said, “Mate, no wonder you’re in trouble with the cops, that’s a rocket.” Yet given he was only on green P’s the loss of license is automatic after accumulating seven points.
He told how his father was all gung-ho when he bought the car. “But now that I’ve lost my license,” he lamented, “he reckons I’m a real dickhead. I know I done wrong and I feel shithouse about that. But I wasn’t driving like an idiot or anything. I’m not a piss-head and I don’t do bongs, I just love my car.”
I told him not to beat himself up because high powered cars need lots of experience to handle and he’d be better off selling it. Honestly, though, I felt like bagging the father for supporting his purchase of the car in the first place, but that's not the kid's fault.
Let's hope he gets enough experience driving the beast to avoid becoming a road statistic.
All road users have their (un)favourite Argh! moments in traffic. Last night I exchanged a few of those moments with a female passenger.
After a pleasant day at the beach followed by dinner at her boyfriend’s joint, she was in a relaxed and friendly mood...until we arrived in Newtown.
Joining the King Street Crawl her mood quickly vanished at the antics of the vehicle in front. It was failing to stay on the pace, slowing for every footpath gathering by inexplicably drifting towards the kerb lane, as if to stop. It would then squirt back into line causing me to brake hard.
"Bloody rubberneckers!” she cried, gesticulating angrily in their direction. “If you want to sight-see, park the car and get out,” she yelled. “Don’t stuff-up the rest of us.” Then collecting herself she apologised, “Sorry, but those people are my pet hate.”
I laughed and advised her never to drive a cab. “You’ll have a new pet hate, every other week.” Welcoming the distraction she inquired about my pet hates and one quickly sprang to mind.
“Lately it’s been those cyclists who come up alongside you at traffic lights and position their bike directly in front of a headlight, almost touching the bumper."
I explained how the most arrogant riders will actually turn and make eye contact, as if to say, ‘You’re a heavy metal 'cager' and I’m an unprotected lightweight. So you’d better not hit me, even though I’ve put myself in harm’s way’!?
It reminds one of the aggressive posturing recently employed by the Ady Gil in the Southern Ocean, which has had me wondering: are the operators of that sunken boat also militant cyclists?
"Let me guess,” my passenger suggested, “the inner west?” Uh huh.
The vehicle in front finally decided to stop and slowly floated off-line with no indication of their intention. “That’s another of my pet hates,” she fulminated, “people who turn without using their blinker. Ever heard of a blinker?” she yelled as we passed.
Her frustration had me reflecting on how cabbies either learn to live with such selfish road behaviour or quit.
Immediately I became aware that the next vehicle ahead was surging. “Here’s another pet hate,” I warned. “Text-surgers.” These were vehicles which could not hold the pace, at any speed, for no apparent reason. If it was an unaccompanied driver then most likely they were text messaging.
After confirming the prevailing speed the driver looks away to enter text characters on the phone. Thence checking the traffic realise they have fallen a few car lengths off the pace and accelerate to catch up. And the surge repeats.
Approaching the Alice Street intersection I sensed our green light was ‘hot’ and about to change. “Watch this,” I announced.
Sure enough, the lights turned amber and the surging vehicle, now fallen two lengths behind, suddenly sped-up through the intersection leaving us trapped at a red light we should have made.
“Aaarghh!!!" she exploded. "Another pet hate.” That made two of us.
Sound familiar? Readers are welcome to nominate their (un)favourite Argh! moments in traffic.
The well-regarded media and marketing blog, Mumbrella has questioned my use of certain passenger recordings, in relation to privacy. These have been published on five occasions, all in the past twelve months.
Whilst the tapes were primarily the result of concerns over passenger behaviour, rather than gratuitously captured for blogging purposes, I concede it's a grey area. So I’ve decided to pull this content from the public domain until obtaining a definitive legal clearance.
Furthermore there is also a brand and a trademark to consider, especially since Cablog has now accepted advertising.
And it was branding and marketing which I discussed in the cab last week with a senior McDonalds staffer. I inquired about a contentious rural billboard and showed him an image recently sent to my phone.
First he exploded in laughter and insisted he’d never seen it before, then explained how McDonalds have a standard template which is uniform across all their advertising mediums. Hence it’s continued use.
Yet, curiously, the previous version of this billboard was less conspicuous than the current adaption.
Once I lost my wallet after leaving it on the counter of a quiet suburban tobacconist. Returning within five minutes and 100% certain of it’s location, I was confronted by a totally unsympathetic proprietor.
No, he hadn’t seen the wallet and countered my incredulousness with a stare of utter disdain, which almost had me jumping the counter in rage. But there was absolutely nothing I could do, legally.
This was the frustration conveyed by a middle-aged businessman on Friday afternoon who had just been robbed at the gym after work. The thief forced his locker and stole his Blackberry, iPod and wallet. Cruel.
He explained, “After the work-out I went to have a shower. There was only a young fella there, around 19 years old and also changing. When I came back from the shower the locker was open and he was gone."
What surprised me was that the management gave the victim the kid’s name, address and contact details. As this is a well-known city gym maybe they felt some potential backlash from the crime, and so sought to appease the victim somehow.
Anyway, my passenger waited two hours for the police but they were unable to offer anything by way of investigation, despite the gym management confirming that the kid was the only person in the locker room at the time.
So as a last resort the victim rang the kid, explained that he could keep the cash but pleaded for the return of his business contacts and files, family Christmas images, and a digitised memento of his recently deceased father. The kid denied being the culprit, abused him and hung up.
Unfortunately for my passenger the locker security was totally useless, there was no surveillance in the change room, obviously, and no one saw the robbery. There was nothing he could do, legally.
When iPhones started appearing in the cab I was somewhat ambivalent about the device. If it wasn’t the annoying keypad clicking-in fact, they only have a virtual keyboard so the noisy contact is just for show-it was the high-speed access to Google Maps, allowing savvy passengers to monitor my navigation choices.
However since then I’ve come to believe that iPhone users may be the most generous of all mobile phone owners. Or, at least, so relieved are they to recover their lost phones that the recompense is outstanding.
When returning lost phones to their owners I start the meter from wherever and charge for the home delivery, usually around twenty bucks. Otherwise it will be dropped at the networks lost property office.
Yet two recent iPhone deliveries earned me much more than the average charge.
One fella travelling to Cronulla late at night left the phone on the back floor. It wasn’t until next day that I located the incessant ringing and made arrangements for its return.
After it was recovered from lost property, the owner sent me a $100 dinner voucher for a swish beachfront restaurant. Bonus!
Then yesterday afternoon I made my second iPhone return to a young woman in the Eastern Suburbs. As this was my first job on the shift I couldn’t change her fifty dollar note for the $20 fare. When I offered to change it at a nearby shop she graciously decided it was mine to keep. What a star.
There is scope in the upcoming Australian of the Year award for acknowledgement of those selfless acts of charity which never attract media attention. These could compete in the Legends category, sub-section: Suburban.
Outside a noisy house party on the weekend a fella scampered down the stairs carrying bottles of booze and fell into the back seat. He was quickly followed by a second bloke who did the same and we took off as these two larrikins roared with laughter.
"Mate, what the f___ was that!? one bellowed and they howled in relief. They had just escaped the clutches of three lively cougars, ‘on the wrong side of forty’.
"But don’t get me wrong,” one quickly added. “Sure, we’re in our early thirties but ten years is a stretch, come on.” Besides, he may have added, we’ve been tasting fresher wine...
A long overdue redesign of Cablog has finally been launched.
The purpose is to make space for advertising - yes, after six years I've sold out! - plus tweak the site for improved readability, Web 2.0 compliance and cleaning out redundant code. So please bear with me whilst the update is bedded down and debugged.
In the meantime here's a follow-up video to a recent post on a kamikazi clown around town...