Sunday morning after 2am found me working Pittwater Road on the northern beaches, taking home the Saturday night revellers. Like the dude I spotted walking on a narrow and dangerous part of the road.
He was still walking when I returned from an Avalon drop-off so I stopped. He ordered Dee Why, some ten kilometres to the south.
I judged the kid was aged around 18,20,22 but couldn’t be sure because of his smaller stature, typical of his Nepalese heritage. Initially I pinned him for a Japanese surfer with his cool demeanor and dress...
Sydney reader Pennie has started a blog chronicling her two year honeymoon with husband David around the UK and Europe...in a Black London taxi. It was 1968 and the Swinging Sixties generation was on the move.
Europe by London taxi is a treasure trove of fascinating images, postcards and vigniettes of the time. Although still under construction it's a quality effort with something for everyone.
Some favourite images include the blog banner, departing Sydney Cove (older posts), and General Montgomery's staff Humber. Worth a visit.
Early this morning I collected a young family from a wedding on the northern shore of the harbour. They had waited an hour for a maxi taxi only to give up and request two taxis, anything to get the kids home to bed.
At their destination I opened the back door to find three junior princesses in flower girl gowns, dead to the world in their seat belts. It was a delightful sight to a jaded cabbie after a tough weekend...
At 3am in Bondi a crazy looking hippie chick stood in a roundabout lane. The choice was to stop, or hit her. That’s logic to some people. After climbing in the front seat she spent five minutes looking for her key card in a shabby travel bag full of clothing, make up, toiletries, bills and receipts.
She was on the move, and nuts, yabbering away the whole time about being lost for two hours walking around the streets in circles. I don’t know what she was on. In the end she paid the seven dollar fare plus a three dollar tip for stopping and being so patient. I had no friggin’ choice...
When a bloke aged around sixty orders the best street in the best ‘old money’ suburb, one can be forgiven for thinking that it would be just a routine fare.
The trip from exclusive Go... to privileged Whoa... is less than ten dollars at the most, so I thought it strange when upon arrival he requested that I wait whilst he went upstairs for money. We had pulled into the lobby of a prominent harbour side tower block...with security doors. Uh oh.
As he opened the cab door I said, “Mate, don’t forget me, alright?” He turned to me with a wounded look and silently offered a handshake. It was weak, flabby, without conviction. So I noted the intercom button he used to gain entry. Bottom button, top floor. The lift went to the top floor. I waited.
After five minutes I started buzzing him. Nothing. I was annoyed at being played for a mug, and bemused that this would be my oldest runner from the cab yet. A record!
With the meter approaching twenty bucks I gave up and headed to Rose Bay police station. The idiot was in trouble for the sake of a seven dollar fare. Or maybe such a scam pays for itself if done often enough.
Once the constable took the details I left confident they would pursue it. They had enough information and, luckily for me, enough time. Ten minutes later I was summonsed back to the tower block to meet two waiting officers.
They quickly gained access to the building and brought ‘ol man runner down to the lobby. It was embarrassing for him and his teenage son, who provided a fifty dollar note to cover the fare. “Keep the change,” his old man said smirking, as if it was only about the money. Then he offered to shake hands...again!?
I must confess to sneering. “You know that fare evasion is a summary offence worth three hundred bucks?” He simply turned away, unfazed, impervious, and headed for the door. “Just a minute,” ordered the cop and pulled out his infringement book. “I need some identification.”
The bloke wheeled around. “Then give me my change,” he demanded, hand held out. No worries. I handed back thirty bucks, happy that a possible serial offender had eaten a shit sandwich. Thanks to the police.
Coming into winter cabbies expect a downturn in business. It goes with the seasons. This year it started early, straight after Easter with a marked drop in passengers.
There is still plenty of activity around town but increasing numbers of passengers are opting for cheaper transport. Some experienced cabbies I've spoken to reckon we're in a recession. After the last few months it sure feels like it.
People suspect a proverbial Yasi is brewing off the coast, threatening to wreak havoc on their livelihoods. So they are battening down.
Early on Sunday morning a young Bangladeshi cook travelled home from working in a restaurant. The cab fare might have been half of his wage for the night but he explained he had no choice. Retaining the seven days a week job was his sole priority.
“It's not making the money which is hard,” he said, “but the lack of time.” He only worked and slept, with no spare time to organise things like finding better accommodation. Or relaxing.
Last night a driver told of carrying a young Indian fella who missed the train from Central to Cronulla. The poor bloke had to sacrifice most of the nights wages on a taxi fare rather than fail to show for a shift doing security. Losing a job was something he could ill afford.
You've got to hand it to the young kids from South Asia, studying and working around the clock in unskilled night jobs from kitchen hands to security guards, servo operators, shelf stackers, etc. Their work ethic is commendable.
Without this demographic there would hardly be any demand for night buses. These run every hour from way out, into the City and return. I used the Night Rider a few times last winter when my car was off the road.
At 4 am it's a sobering, dismal ride with most passengers hunched against the window, attempting to sleep against the jarring, bouncing motions of the bus. Wishing they owned a car. A heated car.
Lately I've been working on a side project following the big wedding. For the happy couple I created a web page of the event, a digital memento.
The closing post is a short montage of video images from the evening.
UPDATE: Oh, and the wedding had a taxi-related moment. Steve, the MC referred to the time when, by pure chance I carried him in the cab. It's a legendary tale amongst my son's friends.
Everyone has a big night from time to time. But at the end of the night no one-except Steve–is helped into a taxi driven by their good mate’s father. Totally smashed.
How did I know he was my son’s mate? Because he was helped out of my son’s house! And people say cabbies are stupid.
It was beautiful, although Steve might not have thought so, for he was seriously struggling. So it’s not difficult to imagine his reaction upon learning who I was. Something along the lines of: O_M_G !!
My primary concern was to get him back to his city hotel in one piece, so I activated the mandatory safety code – drive like the passenger is 9½ months pregnant. No one wants any deposits on the back seat.
Yet in spite of Steve’s condition he indulged me in some light chat regarding our former days working at telecos. Sure, it was a somewhat munted exchange but I was impressed. The bloke could still communicate whilst visiting the outer planets.
Furthermore, not only did he manage to hold onto his lunch, but throughout the chat he addressed me as Mr Neylan. No one in the cab has ever called me that. But then, I rarely carry anyone I know...
Doesn't matter. The fella's a class act all round, no better exemplified than by a wonderfully entertaining turn as the best wedding MC I’ve ever seen. Well done, Steve.