Saturday, March 26, 2005
Wei Jen Chang
You get these weird glimpses into other lives. Last night I accepted a radio booking in the city. I was to pick up at a block of brand new serviced apartments in World Tower. I knew where it was because I visited an immigration lawyer in his office there a couple of weeks ago to ask him a few questions relating to the screenplay I'm working on. The site also makes a brief appearance in Luca Antara so the portents were good. I left the cab in the street and rang the apartment number on the intercom but the intercom was busy. There was a Japanese man waiting but he had luggage and needed a station wagon. I was about to give up when I saw a slender young woman looking questioningly at me. Yeah, I said, I'm available. Did you call? She didn't say. She wanted to go just down the road but would it be alright if I took her boyfriend to suburb and back? Sure. What suburb? Her English was poor but we worked out 'suburb' was Dulwich Hill. I thought she was Japanese too but I was wrong - the name on her credit card was Wei Jen Chang. She looked delicate and fragile and was conservatively dressed; her boyfriend was the complete opposite: stylishly crumpled, world-weary, with a touch of a (very young) gangster about him. And a bad cough. She was going to work. She wanted to pay for her boyfriend's fare with her card. That meant using the antiquated system of manual registration of the card details on a driver's docket. This way, there's no guarantee the fare will be paid but what the hell. I let the boyfriend do it. Then she signed it, leaving the space for the fare empty for him to fill in later. As soon as we left her in Harbour Street, his demeanour changed. He made a mobile phone call and, while talking, directed me to Darling Harbour. He was asking someone to come down and meet us in the street. His directions were crisp and accurate. He called me Boss. We found the apartment building but there was no-one waiting. He didn't miss a beat. He directed me all the way to Dulwich Hill, using a route I wouldn't have taken but which was at least as quick, if not quicker, than the one I would have. I had a twinge of fear as we drove down what looked like a dead end street with a derelict industrial site on one hand and the backs of warehouses on the other, but there was a bend at the end and on the next corner, a brand new, fairly swish apartment block. Wait here, Boss, he said and went inside. He was gone maybe two minutes. Then we drove back to World Tower. The fare was $47.65 but he wrote down a round fifty. I have no idea what he was doing. Suspicions, but no real idea.