Saturday, April 30, 2005

high on the hog

Aaaaaahhhh ... the weekend. Is blessed relief. However. I seem to have arrived at a way of working that works. Three nights, about nine hours a night (3 pm - midnight) during which I don't stop for anything except the odd cigarette, usually on a rank so that I'm still in contention. This because I found that every time I made a pitstop it took up to an hour to rediscover the serendipidities - or stochastics - or whatever. Every night is the same, only different; or different, but the same. The thing I'm most pleased about is that I'm managing to keep my resolve to be pleasant to my fares no matter what the provocations may be ... though I nearly lost it the other night. I picked up three people on Macquarie Street. Two men and a woman. They'd been to a restaurant, were fairly well liquored but clearly used to it. A big, bluff, red-faced man got into the front seat, the other two in the back. That took a while. They were old and unsteady. Once in they began to discuss who would be dropped off first. That took even longer. I didn't mind - the meter was running. He in the front was going to Darling Point. He in the back, a little old guy clutching a biography of newspaper magnate Conrad Black, lived in Elizabeth Bay. She, tiny and elegant, with an accent that might have been Viennese, was from Bellevue Hill. The obvious way to do it would have been Elizabeth Bay, Darling Point, Bellevue Hill. But he in the back was having none of it. He wanted to escort her home. So that's what we did, dropping first in Darling Point. The two men were well-heeled, complacent, with the braying Brit accents of the born to rule. Doctors or lawyers, or at least those they talked about were. London, Morocco, the south of France ... flitted by. Darling Point, Woollahra, Bondi Junction, too. The old couple canoodled in the back seat for a while outside the mansion in Benelong Crescent. They were sweet and tender, like young lovers of another era, with a curious formality to their endearments. But as soon as she had gone, he changed. He became querulous and demanding. He was too hot. 'Turn on the air conditioning, driver,' he ordered. I did. But still he wasn't comfortable. Not surprising - he was wearing a three piece suit on a sultry Sydney night and the air-con still isn't working properly. 'The air-con's not working properly,' I said. 'Why not?' he said. 'Probably the fluid needs replacing,' I said. 'You could try opening the window.' He grumbled as he did. Next: 'Are we going to Elizabeth Bay?' I didn't answer that one. As we entered Oxford Street, Paddington, he began muttering. 'Oh I see. We are.' Then: 'This is a very long way.' He had a point - I was using the old route, as I often do, not the new, slightly quicker one. On the other hand, there isn't much to choose between them. Two sides of a trapezium are much the same as the other two sides. And at that time of night ... At the end of Elizabeth Bay Road he said: 'Number 93, driver. On the corner.' I couldn't see any corner - the road ends in a semi-circular turn around. '93!' he shrieked. 'On the corner!' I saw the big bright numerals on the gates to the mansion and pulled over. We did the business. 'Goodnight,' he said. 'Goodnight,' I said. But he mustn't have heard me. 'I said, Goodnight!' he repeated, in his imperious accent. It was at this point I nearly lost it. I turned round and looked him in the eye, making sure he could see me too. I'm capable of a cold imperious gaze myself. 'Goodnight,' I said. He got the look. A moment of uncertainty, perhaps? His own unpleasant behaviour reflected in the eyes of a servant? Perhaps not. He was still muttering as he trailed off into the night, Conrad Black tucked under his arm.