Previously I had only known the late Sydney cabbie, Faruque Ahmed as a fiery online poster. Whilst he undoubtedly had the best interests of cabbies at heart, championing their cause at every turn, it was his controversial politics which got me offside and I dismissed him as a ratbag, not to be taken seriously.
I'd seen Faruque around, once off-duty and wearing a black T-shirt with a green slogan, I Love Osama. This made me doubly cautious and so I avoided him. Then one night he accosted me during dinner at a Bangladeshi joint on Crown Street.
He expounded on petroleum and the outrageous price increases, displaying an impressive knowledge of the industry. Indeed, he presented a plausible case as to why cabbies were being ripped off by unjustified LPG prices and I couldn't help but agree with him.
Yet the biggest surprise was Faruque's pleasant, almost cherubic face, and calm and courteous manner. There was nary a hint of the frothing online ranter. Further, he had the class to know when to depart, apologising for interrupting my dinner.
Now I'm sorry he's gone. He will be missed.
My condolences to Faruque's family, friends and community.
Further reading: The cabbie who shook up the NSW taxi industry.
It’s hard to begrudge happy people. That’s what I like about the Oprah road show with it’s heightened happiness levels around town, especially on the waterfront at the Opera House.
The stairs and forecourt is covered with multiple marquees and light towers and lots of white plastic chairs. From the street it looks messy and obliterates the ‘floating’ dimension of the structure.
A bloke and his ‘husband’ scurried away and into the cab. “There are people taking photos of empty white chairs,” he shrieked. “It all looks hideous. And what’s Oprah going to do for us, that’s what I want to know.”
My suggestion of tourism returns was smartly batted away. “Bullshit. The American economy is stuffed so there’s not going to be any rush from them.”
Actually, it’s a very good reason why well-heeled citizens would consider a flight to safety.
I joked how the exposure from Oprah will see hordes of wealthy American gays flooding his charming inner-city neighbourhood. He let out a shriek, and the hubby swooned...or that’s what it sounded like from the front seat.
Then the spray got bitchy with famous names mentioned and one guest’s sexuality questioned, leading to a parting quip as he collected the change.
“You know, the difference between a gay man and a straight man is only six beers and a tab of ecstasy. You have a lovely Christmas.”
HOW'S this for a Christmas wish: compulsory happiness testing for all taxi drivers.
The writer references harried cabbies, all working flat out to meet Christmas demand. They are being heavily tested just at a time when the books need balancing to cover the lean months. The money is there but at a cost of fatigue and frustration.
The regular ebb and flow mentioned recently is disrupted by a flood of new, unusual fares and destinations. Familiar traffic and fare patterns go out the window with this heightened activity piling on the pressure.
Typically workplace Christmas parties provide staff with taxi vouchers home. These are often people who rarely catch a cab because of the cost, and fair enough too, due to many living way out of the city.
Not many drivers like these jobs with little prospect of return work. Yet many will do them, using the chance to relax, away from the city bustle, yet acutely aware that one is losing money. It’s tough but it’s more about luck than good management.
Some newbie fares will insist on taking their personal rat-run of twists, turns, speed humps and roundabouts...at midnight! Last week I informed a woman that presently we were averaging 30 kph whilst back on Parramatta Road the average speed at that time of night was 60+kph.
The younger Christmas party goers, fuelled on excessive amounts of free food and booze will bat-on to a night club or bar, trash talking, stereo blasting, texting, changing directions or simply ripping windows apart. At least it's better than vomiting. Ho bloody ho.
At the moment it’s shift after shift of constant pressure and the traffic, a whole other story, is relentless. Nevertheless, no cabbie should lose it over a short fare from the Airport as the angst is generally misplaced.
Experienced drivers know that servicing short fares is a low pressure method of maintaining a decent hourly rate. For every time the meter starts it’s a free $3.30, money for jam.
Airport short fares enable the driver to quickly return to the head of the queue, within 20 minutes. Whilst it’s a decent incentive for drivers the initial wait is ridiculous and usually not worth it.
In the article the driver flips due to the nature of the fare, not the distance, as the waiting time robs him of the 20 minutes return required for queue priority.
No matter, he should have known that it’s best to hit the city and avoid the Airport like the plague, especially at Christmas.
On Saturday night a bloke climbed in and announced, “I went and saw the Eagles tonight.” He was aged around the late thirties and didn’t seem to fit the Eagles demographic, namely Baby Boomers.
“Why?” I asked, curious to know what he saw in them. It was all about technical proficiency, he explained. How they could perfectly recreate their classic sounds live for concert audiences.
Fair enough. But what about something new, I challenged. “If they’re that good, why aren’t they producing new music instead of touring with the same old songs?”
Truth is, they don’t have to. Boomers love ‘em just the way they are.
Last night I latched onto the Eagles Homebush concert just as it finished. This was Boomer city with the number of waiting luxury hire cars out-numbering the cabs!
At an average-looking age approaching sixty they swarmed from the exits and quietly disappeared, racing midnight home.
There was no lingering and partying like Saturday night’s Guns and Roses crowd. Or after the U2 gig next week. It’s not that the spirit of Eagles fans' is diminished but rather, they laugh, “The old stamina ain’t what it used to be.” Ain’t that the truth.
I scored two short fares and within the hour the joint was deserted, except for some 50 vacant cabs driving around crying, “What...where did they all go?” Yet it was overly optimistic, despite the mild weather, to expect prolonged taxi work as the Boomers partied into the night.
That’s the thing with being sensible. Most were sufficiently wary to plan a quick exit from the well-known, late-night transport trap of Olympic Park. They were outta there and home in bed before we knew what happened.
Finally, in related news, the weekend also produced a Gunners moment through a fare from a new night club in Double Bay. Axel and Slash were to make guest appearances at the private launch on Friday night, I was assured, along with the press and other important types.
What struck me most, however, was the choice of name for the place: XS. The club was located directly opposite the hotel from which Michael Hutchinson checked-out in such dramatic style.