Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Conversations with taxi drivers: Eleven

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

13 November

Caught a cab from home to Chippendale. The taxi driver, Nong, said, in reply to a question I voiced as I was buckling up my seatbelt, that he didn’t know my name but that he knew I was a regular customer. As he was talking he pointed with his right index finger at a device mounted to his right on the car’s dashboard, indicating that that was how he had learned about me.

I told him where I wanted to go and he punched into his direction finder the name of the street, which I spelt out a couple of times because it was a name that is difficult to spell even if you are a native English speaker. He turned right into Harris Street and we made our way south. I told him I wasn’t in a hurry and he thanked me.

He asked if I was going to the White Rabbit Gallery. He said that many people want to go there, and I said that I wasn’t on the way to that establishment. I mentioned however that it was financed by the ex-wife of a fund manager and we talked about Judith Nielsen for a while. I said that she was also now funding journalism through a philanthropic body, and he was interested to learn about her work in the community. I added that philanthropy of this kind is common in the US and he added a comment of his own, saying that it doesn’t happen in China. He was evidently from there. He had an accent but I hadn’t asked where he was born.

He stopped in Meagher Street and I paid using EFTPOS and he asked me if I wanted a receipt. I said "No" and got out of the cab. When I had finished my business I went down to Broadway planning to walk home but my eyes were watering, possibly due to bushfires that had burned in the state in recent days, so I hailed a cab. After I got in and buckled up the driver turned left into Quay Street then stopped at the lights at Ultimo Road. The car in front of us had to wait although our light was green because people kept crossing the road against the red light.

I complained about the people to the driver, saying that pedestrians often won’t obey traffic signals. He responded with a brief tale. He had recently been trying to turn left at an intersection and when the traffic light went green he had moved forward but had had to stamp on the breaks when a man, aged around 50 years, had rushed across the road on foot. My driver had, he said, missed the man by inches and the drivers of cars waiting behind his cab had gotten angry, honking horns. The driver for my trip home on this day was also born overseas and his English was accented and a touch unreliable but he got his message across clearly.

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