Thursday, 23 January 2020

Conversations with taxi drivers: Thirteen

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

9 December

Caught a cab from Glebe to home. I had left my Aurion sedan to be serviced. The dealership called the cab for me, and it was Taxis Combined Services the woman at the service desk phoned; I use them myself when I need to call a cab.

The cab arrived in the service bay and she told me it was there, so I stood up from the table I was sitting at – reading a copy of the Daily Telegraph – walked out of the lounge, and got in the car. The driver did a three-point turn and a staffer directed traffic to help us get to the street.

Once we were there, I asked about his car which was, as is usual with Sydney cabs, a Toyota Camry hybrid. The cabbie and I talked about hybrids. I said that I had seen the first hybrid model, a Prius, in 1997 when I was working in Tokyo.

Does a Camry hybrid have enough power? I asked. He said it is not that powerful, and I said that was my concern. My car is a 3.5-litre six-cylinder sedan and I wanted to get a new car, so I was looking at the Camry, but all the hybrid models on offer from Toyota have four cylinders. The guy in the service bay had told me, when I had arrived, that the six-cylinder Camry was probably going to come out in a hybrid version. When, on another day, I went to the showroom, a salesman told me that no such model was planned.

The cabbie said, when we were driving next to Wentworth Park, that scientists are always tinkering in their labs trying to come up with new technologies and later, when we were next to the Fish Market, he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I am a journalist and we talked about the public sphere for a while. He asked me how the business had changed since the arrival of the internet and I mentioned the fact that anyone can publish these days, that the barriers to entry are vanishingly low, and that this had dramatically altered the dynamic between politicians and the public.

As had the appearance of social media, I went on. The time between a government announcement and the appearance of the community response is so short now that the public sphere is, I said, very different from how it was a generation ago.

He said that being a journalist is “elegant” and we talked on this subject for a while, with me mentioning that, collectively, politicians and journalists are not held in high esteem by the community. He said that people will always find things to criticise, and I heartily agreed with him. “It doesn’t matter what you say, someone will find a way to criticise you,” I said. Earlier I had mentioned the extreme polarisation of the community and now he said that people are always complaining.

When we got to my street I showed him where to stop and then paid using EFTPOS. I got out of his car then went up in the lift to my apartment.

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