Thursday, 9 January 2020

Conversations with taxi drivers: Twelve

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

2 December

Caught a cab from Broadway to home. The cab was heading down Quay Street when I flagged it and as I did the driver leaned over, across the passenger seat, to beckon me into the car. I got in and buckled up. He asked me how my day was and I said I had had dinner with a friend. He made a joke, asking me if I had left any food for him. I said in reply that we had eaten Thai food. He asked if it was any good and I said I had had a bowl of tom yum soup with noodles – it was actually vermicelli – and some spring rolls.

He told me his name at the end of the trip – it was Mohammed – and as we made our way to my street we talked about the economics of driving cabs. He said that business was good before Uber entered the market but since they had done so it was hard to make a living driving a cab. He was lucky to pick me up, he said; even a $10 fare was hard to find nowadays. I said that I had had many conversations with cab drivers about the business and so I knew something about it.

He said that some people won’t get into his car, because it is small. I asked him what type it was and he said it was a Prius – although at first I didn’t get his meaning when he said the model name. I said that most taxis in Sydney are Toyota Camrys and he just said one word: “Hybrid.” “You can’t make any money unless your car is a hybrid.” He pointed at the generator display in the dashboard in front of us and said, “Electric.”

There are many costs involved in running a cab, he said, including rent, petrol, insurance, and the fee the taxi company takes to help you operate. I said I always call 13CABS – Taxis Combined Services – and he said he used to work for them but that their fee was too high to justify the work they sent his way.

Mohammed was from Egypt and his wife is Turkish. I told him about my trip to the Middle East in May and he asked where I had gone. When I told him, we talked a bit about Istanbul and he asked if, in addition to visiting Ayasofia, I had gone to the Blue Mosque. I said I hadn’t gone inside it because it isn’t open to tourists all day. He countered by saying that it only closes to tourists five times a day and that at other times they let you in to look around.

We had arrived at my building by this time, so I didn’t prolong the conversation. I got out of the car after paying with EFTPOS and walked to my front door, then caught the lift to get upstairs.

4 December

I had to go to Broadway Shopping Centre so I decided to take a biscuit tin full of coins to the bank to put into my account. I caught a cab on Harris Street and the driver was an Anglo of about my age. He was chatty and we had a chin wag about getting old. The conversation started when I had to remind him on two occasions where to turn. I added, “I forget where I am all the time.”

He agreed with me that people are different physically and mentally, when they get older, compared to how they are when they are young. I said you become more cautious and you don’t care anymore about what other people think of you. “When you’re young you are still trying to work out who you are and you are full of weird hormones,” I said. He said his father told him the best birthday was his 60th (his father’s 60th birthday, not the driver’s). We were agreeing furiously, like a pair of classic Boomers gabbing on about young people. His name was Mark, I saw by looking at a card set on his dashboard.

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