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Thursday, 9 May 2019

Conversations with taxi drivers: Four

This is the fourth in a series of posts chronicling conversations I have had with taxi drivers. The first of these posts appeared on 6 June 2018. 

27 April

I caught a taxi to Newtown to see a movie. Initially I had planned on going on the train but there was trackwork on the light rail line so I hopped in a cab outside the casino. I complained to the driver, saying that they do trackwork at night in Japan and he said that Japan is more advanced. I didn’t tell him I thought that people in Japan are more animated normally by a sense of mutual obligation and a desire to minimise inconvenience for other people. But I did tell him a little about the economy there. He asked me if I had lived there and I said I had. I also told him that my children are Japanese and that they live there. I had told him that eating out in Japan is usually cheaper than it is in Sydney and he told me that last month he had gone to Malaysia and that the food he had there was very cheap. I said that I had heard that Malaysian food was very good. He dropped me off at the top of King Street and I walked down toward the station and popped into the Bank Hotel for a couple of beers while I waited for my friend to arrive.

1 May

I was going to walk into the city but my right ankle had a twinge so I jumped in a cab instead. The driver, unusually, was Anglo and he told me straight up that he had just dropped a fare off up the road. His passenger had been a senior executive with WeWork, the shared space company that has just announced that it would be going public. So we talked about how stock prices are valued. He mentioned, in this regard, that Uber had not shown a profit but was still trading at a high valuation. I told him that I didn’t understand how shares are priced. He suggested that we are heading for another market crash. I said I wasn’t sure. We then talked about the 2007 crash and I filled him in on some of the details (if had read Michael Lewis’ two books on the subject). He was very dismissive of people like Donald Trump and Clive Palmer because they tend to dislike government regulation of markets and we agreed that capitalism need to be controlled in order to make sure that the benefits of prosperity are shared in a way that enables political stability to continue. It was a good discussion and it reminded me of how, back in my youth, arts graduates had often been forced to drive cabs because it was hard for them to get other types of work. This guy seemed to me to like his job, and he dropped me off in Clarence Street, where I paid using EFTPOS.

2 May

Had a conversation with a taxi driver who wanted to argue that Australia doesn't have much population growth from immigration. He kept pointing to Christmas Island. When I got home I checked the figures again and see that we have the second-highest population growth in the OECD. We also get much more of that growth from immigration than from natural increase. But this is typical of what happens all the time. People have ideas they believe in strongly and no amount of argument can get them to change their minds, even if you tell them the truth. "Where are you getting your information from?" he asked me.

6 May

Got a cab from the CBD to home. The cab driver didn't like it that I asked him to turn right from Bathurst Street into Castlereagh Street. Then when I asked him if he was going to turn into Liverpool Street he got more upset. Then after that he asked me at every intersection which way to turn. And turning right into Harris Street from Pyrmont Bridge Road he even didn’t move forward when the oncoming traffic had cleared, so I had to ask him to go on. He lost his temper in a calm way.

8 May

Caught a cab from Town Hall to home and the driver made appreciative sounds when I told him my address. He asked if I could see the water from my place and I said, no, but that I could see the city. We talked about real estate for a while and then he said that he had come from China in 1987. He was from Shanghai. He told me about a Datsun 180B he had when he first moved to Sydney. He told me he has a Toyota now. I said I have a 12-year-old Toyota and that I get it serviced every year. He said his car is also 12 years old. He said he services it regularly as well. He was very chatty, and said that Australia has changed in the decades since he first arrived here. He said that in the old days you could go to buy milk at the shop and leave the car unlocked but that you couldn’t do that now. He recited the old advert lyrics that went, “football, meat pies, kangaroos, and Holden cars,” and said that no-one sings the song from the ad any more. I said that the country had certainly changed a lot since those days.

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