Lately compliance officers from the transport department have been targeting cabbies at the Airport for failing to assist passengers with their luggage. Sounds fair enough. It’s a requirement of a cabbie's license and all part of the service.
However two drivers who were affected told me another side of the story. Quite often able-bodied people with minimal luggage will elect to dump it on the back seat. So rather than jump out we wait, half expecting they will open the back door...
Otherwise they may tap on the boot for a release, happy to load themselves. These blokes don’t want to muck around. A fast collect ‘n go is imperative during high demand and cabbies welcome anyone happy to load their own luggage.
Where drivers need to alight, open the boot and load luggage is the most time consuming, especially at the Airport. In general, this is unavoidable, short of having a marshal in each bay loading luggage. The $3.50 toll would skyrocket.
Sure, drivers are required to assist with luggage but there are also times when a bag weighing a ton of bricks is plonked at my feet. “It’s all my books,” explained one Country link passenger at the station.
I informed her of my dodgy back, and how without her help it couldn’t be loaded. She huffed off to the next cab. Sheesh, I ain’t Hercules.
It’s interesting that a charge for overweight luggage per kilogram is permitted in taxis yet there is no stipulation on the maximum weight a driver is expected to lift under OH&S regulations. If there’s been any risk assessments conducted by the authorities I’ve yet to hear of them.
Whilst a high percentage of cabbies willingly help passengers with luggage, an exception is shopping trolleys full of supermarket bags. One only helps load the bags just to speed up the process, knowing the same annoying routine will be repeated at the destination.
I’ve often wondered whether Coles and Woolies are doping their air conditioners because by the time these passengers reach the rank they’re moving like zombies. Watching their trance-like shuffle from trolley to boot used to be friggin’ painful, until I started charging wait time. Problem solved.
On Sunday afternoon a dishevelled young woman wearing a dark trackie suit and gleaming white runners stepped onto the roadway at Town Hall, city central. I had to stop. She plonked into the front seat and ordered an inner-city housing commission tower.
“You can’t smoke,” I told her. She opened the window and hung the fag out. “I just had a fit, eh.” I looked at her hand resting steadily on a knee. A frayed, dirty bandage showed under the trackie sleeve. She looked zonked, gaunt and grey. “Got bashed and robbed. They took everything.” Except a phone.
Here we go, I thought, a waste of time and money. “So how are you going to pay?” I asked. It was the brother, he’d pay on arrival, of course. I told her I needed some security. She offered her shoes. What is it with junkies and their runners?
I stopped the cab and said I couldn’t help, that no one works for love. She wouldn't get out, and almost hysterically pleaded, “Take me to the cops then, I don't care. They’ll give me a lift.” This would land her halfway home. She could walk from there. She had played before.
Hoping to salvage something from the fare I suggested she call the brother and have him wait downstairs for our arrival. She pressed some buttons, put the phone to her ear and immediately started talking, without even waiting for a connection! I gave up.
A quick left and a right and we stopped in front of Glebe police station, with half a dozen cruisers parked outside. I waited, as the meter hit fifteen bucks, while she sedately chatted to ‘sis’ on the phone.
“I’ll come over yours...nah, we’re at the cops, I’m gunna get pinged. The cabbie’s an arsehole.”
She opened the door and slowly wandered across the road behind me still mumbling on the phone, oblivious that I wasn’t following her into the cop shop. I cleared the meter and left.
Passengers regularly insist upon their 'rights' but are rarely able to cite the regulations supporting their often dubious claims.
So to be quoted a passable version of a regulation is rare, especially at 3am on Sunday morning by a larrikin off his face in Kings Cross.
Whilst I was dropping a fare on the strip he opened the door behind me and jumped those already waiting on the footpath. I didn’t argue, it was bedlam out there with everyone looking for a cab.
He was a big overweight bloke around 40 years old with wild hair and beard, and out of control. He threw himself back and forth to each window propositioning waiting clubbers – young females in short skirts and heels.
He insisted I stop the cab as it was his right to sell seats by private arrangement. I told him to forget it, it wasn’t happening. I was more concerned by his erratic behaviour of bouncing the cab with violent lunges.
Then he quoted regulation 'x' whereby he can sell seats by mutual agreement with others. This he demonstrated by leaning out the window and yelling, “Hey, darling! Where ya going? Ten bucks a ride home? Yeah, baby, you and me!” The girls recoiled at the craziness in his eyes and turned away.
We slowed to go around a police traffic check and he quickly settled down and pulled on a seat belt. It would have been easy to stop there and throw him out but I decided to take a chance and drive on.
After finally clearing the Cross I asked him how he knew the regulation. He leaned back in the seat and smugly replied, “I’m paid good money to know the law.” He was a lawyer. He looked like a bum.
I couldn’t believe it. “Mate, you carry-on like that and you’re a lawyer? What are you on?” Without hesitation he replied, “Nitrous oxide. I don’t do any other shit. It’s the best drug there is. You can get it at the (shop) in the Cross.” And he laughed and laughed, off his head.