Monday, 2 September 2019

Conversations with taxi drivers: Seven

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

3 August

Caught a cab from home to Newtown. I phoned the order in and Abdul arrived in about ten minutes’ time. I asked him when he had started his shift and he said he had been driving for three hours and I was his third fare. He was renting the hybrid Camry we were travelling in and it was just before 6pm at this stage. He said his first fare had been from the airport, where he had had to wait for almost two hours, and the fare was to Mascot. It was an $8 fare. I told him another cab driver I had had told me a similar story.

When we were near King Street I told him about the truck accident that had happened there not far from where we were. He was interested in the details and I told him that an 87-year-old woman in a wheelchair had been hit, as well as her daughter, who was aged in her sixties. He seemed surprised as, he said, traffic on King Street usually stays at a maximum speed of about 40km per hour.

4 August

Caught a cab from King Street in Newtown to home. When I got into the cab I complained about the beggars on the streets there. I had been approached by a woman with dark skin who asked me to give money to her, and there had been men sitting on the bus stop furniture drinking beer in the open, spitting, and carrying on like pork chops. The driver was sympathetic and told me he never gives money to beggars.

He then complained about the driver of a small white car on the carriageway that had failed to let him into the right-hand lane going north towards Darlington. I said Sydney was like this now: drivers have no patience. He said that in some parts of the city you have to be very careful because if you beep your horn at someone, chances are they will come and smash your windscreen or punch you in the face. I said that when I was young people hardly ever used their horns but that it was common now.

He took a phone call. From his daughter, he said, and he spoke for about five minutes in a language I didn’t understand apart from a few words like “mummy” and “good girl”. The driver had black skin and I didn’t ask him where he came from but he told me, after hanging up, that his daughter, who is eleven years old, had refused to take a shower. She had school the next day and she needed to wash today, he told me he had insisted to the child.

His wife made cake and cookies for his children, he said, and even made fresh chips at home. He would buy a big 10-lilo bag of potatoes, and he would peel them, then his wife would use a special device to make straight chips and then fry them in oil. She even made hamburgers using chicken mince from the supermarket. She would freeze the burgers in plastic bags and prepare them for the children when they wanted a treat. He said he had told his daughter to do what her mother wanted otherwise he would tell her mother to stop making any treats for her. I told the driver I had a daughter as well and he said that in his case his daughter listened to what he said but tended to argue with her mother.

10 August

Caught a cab from King Street in Newtown to home. The car was unsurprisingly a hybrid Camry. The driver and I talked about the lockout laws. He asked me if the Cross was worse than Newtown on a Saturday night and I said that young people were not dying in Newtown. He regretted the lockout laws because, he said, it affected his business. I said that the government wouldn’t change the laws again because the doctors liked them.

We talked about drinking culture in Australia and I said that I had never heard of one-punch deaths in other countries. He said that he thought that in Europe even 16-year-olds were able to drink a little alcohol and I said that this was so. He said that the new casino in Barangaroo would be outside the lockout area, which was something I hadn’t been aware of. We had been talking about Pyrmont and the casino which, I said, was always busy on Saturday nights.

When we got to my street he said he recognised me and said he had driven me home from near Town Hall Station a few days earlier. He remembered that I had refused a receipt for the transaction when it was complete. I didn’t record a conversation for that occasion no doubt because there hadn’t been one; I had just caught his cab home in silence.

14 August

Caught a taxi from Park Street in the city to home. The cab driver took the Western Distributor and when we got to where the traffic was queueing before the off-ramp taking cars to Pyrmont Bridge Road he made a noise like he was dismayed. He said that the traffic in the morning on the same day had also been heavy. It had taken him, he said, enough time to get from the International Terminal at Sydney Airport to Pyrmont so that the fare was $60. He had gone through Redfern, he said.

Later, I asked him if he rented the car and if it was a hybrid Camry and he said “Yes” to both questions. We then talked about the stabbing in the CBD the day before. He said it had not affected him because he had been out of the city centre when it had happened. He asked me about it and I told him what I knew. At my street I paid using EFTPOS and as usual refused a receipt.

19 August

Caught a taxi from Central Station to home. The car was a Camry. The driver asked me if I wanted to use Darling Drive and I said, “Yes.” We went to turn left at the traffic lights from Pitt Street into Goulburn Street. A long tail of pedestrians snaked across the street, holding up all the cars. I said, “People are so selfish,” with reference to the people who had started crossing the road against the red signal. The driver agreed with me. I think he was Italian but at the time I wasn’t sure. He said, after agreeing with me, “Finish!” which is a direct (though not idiomatic) translation of “Basta!” an Italian expression used in this sort of situation and which can also be translated as “Enough!” When making the comment he made a gesture where he brushed his palms together twice or three times as though wiping his hands.

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