Late last year an article on anti-social behaviour claimed that on an average Friday night in Kings Cross there are 80 fights per hour. No wonder given there are 300 licensed premises with 500 square metres.
Yet on most Saturday nights, during reluctant excursions to the Cross, I have witnessed very little violence. More so, there is always an undercurrent of menace on the streets as the weekend warriors come out to play, pumped and primed, looking for action.
One incident happened on Saturday evening whilst crawling into the Cross. Two young fellas, mates, one shirtless struggled to return for more action as the other restrained him.
From up the street three big fellas appeared, also clubbers, spotted the first two and broke into a sprint. They barrelled into them, dropping the young fellas straight to the ground and proceeded with boots and fists to make lasting acquaintances.
Luckily a Federal cop car was right there in traffic and triggered the siren, sending the hit squad scampering off in different directions. A few minutes later around the block I watched them regroup to catch their breath, before heading back towards the action.
Rule #1 for all weekend punks and warriors pushing their luck: avoid any situation where enraged big men charge at you. You will definitely go down, and maybe never get up.
Last week in the inner city some cabbies waiting on a quiet rank were involved in a random street attack. It was a local crazed druggie railing against the world, threatening and challenging everyone he saw.
His mistake was to kick the smallest cabbie, who was surrounded by a handful of Lebanese mates. They responded magnificently in self defence, causing an instant 180° change in demeanor from the idiot as he beat a hasty retreat.
More common than outright fighting are the scuffles and shouting matches, often involving security escorts from places like Central railway, Star City casino, clubs and hotels.
These are drunken idiots putting on a stink to liven up the night. All show and no go. But if you prefer the popular cage fighting style, then head to Kings Cross on a Friday night. It’s a zoo.
Earlier this week around midnight in the outer suburbs a bloke jumped out onto the roadway hailing wildly.
It was a 70kph zone and I couldn't change lanes to avoid a collision so the clown moved into my lane, arms outstretched, blocking me. It was sheer lunacy, bloody-minded intimidation.
There was no choice but to stop as the following traffic swerved around us. A second fella waiting on the footpath and scurried to the cab as stupid climbed into the front seat.
"Two fuckin' hours, man, we been waiting," he barked. "What the fuck is that!" They'd booked a cab but being Monday there were not many local cabs about. However, as a hire car driver he should have known to call TCS, the largest network by far.
He continued, "All taxi drivers are c___, every one of yous. You sit out the Airport for your lousy thirty, thirty-five bucks to the City. You're a bunch of imbeciles." The rant was punctuated with random slaps on my shoulder from his hand resting threateningly on my head-rest.
Warily I played along and chuckled at the fruity assessment of cabbies, whilst silently noting that the aggressive and erratic behaviour resembled steroid rage mixed with alcohol.
At the Airport café where hire car drivers wait for fares, they stick together smoking, drinking coffee and playing backgammon. Amongst the younger ones, like my passenger, testosterone and attitude rules.
Their luxury cars and immaculate uniforms are complemented by groomed and sculpted physiques. They take much pride in their personal presentation, a different animal to the more relaxed cabbies who consider them robbers. Needless to say there's little interaction at the café between the competing tribes.
I asked what he charged for the Airport-City run. "Eighty eight bucks and plenty pay. But those MOT clowns always trying to smash us for touting when we're offering the best service. They don't know what's going on.
"He boasted of a recent job from the Blue Mountains to the North Shore thence to the Airport. Slapping my shoulder he said, "Buddy, how much you reckon?" I didn't care and offered a three hundred dollar guess.
"Seven-fifty," he laughed sardonically. "And yous c___ want to drive taxis?" he sneered. Then a minute later he sounded me out for some casual work!?
Fat chance of that, I don't have the right attitude.
It was a real pleasure to go to work this weekend during the heatwave, the sole reason being vehicle air conditioning. With a fully functioning unit I had the cab chilling on and off right through till dawn after Saturday’s temperature topped 40c.
Four well fed and watered, middled-aged Kiwis squeezed in at the Finger Wharf and ordered,’ Shangrila Hotel, son...and don’t be afraid of the air-con...while you’re at it hit us with some tunes.’
They got it, an icy full blast along with some hits and memories. They were satisfied. So just for good measure I engaged them in the usual Aussie/Kiwi bashing. They expect it.
Air-con was more important than alcohol on Saturday night. I can’t remember seeing or carrying anyone totally blotto. Those that did venture out all seemed to be in survival mode and paced themselves as the heatwave carried well into the evening and early morning. Air conditioning was crucial.
Some guido’s climbed in at Home nightclub and demanded air, then slouched back with arms flopped out the open windows. This was extremely irritating and forced me to go easy on the throttle, making for a slower trip. The upside was a reasonable tip after the crawl afforded them the opportunity to jeer and perve on the way to the Cross.
Earlier some pretty young women headed out for the night, pimped and primed to perfection. Their default request is usually for air-con and is as much to do with appearance as with comfort.
Fair enough, too, for one doesn’t spend two hours on hair and make-up only to arrive at the party looking like a Wipeout contestant after enduring a cab ride with no air and open windows. They will neither thank you nor tip you.
An extreme reaction came from wasted middle-aged druggie who first closed the door then put his face down against the air outlet blowing chilled goodness. “Man o man, this is the business. Phew. How fuckin’ hot is it, eh?” And on and on he went, alternating between sycophantic fawning, disturbing hyperactivity and face-hugging the air outlet.
He travelled to a sixties Housing Commission project, claiming he only had fifty bucks and needed forty to score. So he ripped me for a fiver. If I’d know that he would never have got free air but rather a Wipeout test, compounding the withdrawal effects of whatever chemical he was using.
The final aspect of air conditioning is just how many vehicles have it. This summer I reckon some 90% of cars around town on hot days are travelling with all windows shut. Air-con is so prevalent now one wonders how we’re expected to live without it.
“Driver, any chance of some air back here?” an inner-city passenger recently requested. I hesitated. “But what about the greenhouse gases?” I mocked. “Bugger the greenhouse gases,” he snorted. “It’s stinking hot. Hit that air, boy.”