Thursday, December 07, 2006

blinded by the light

Weird night last night. Don't think I've ever before worked a shift where I haven't got out of the cab even once ... how did this happen? Hard to recall. Started late, drove into the City, the rank at Park Street is empty except for a gaggle of fares waiting but as I pull in a guy steps off the curb outside McDonalds & hails me. The Taxi Council bloke on the rank wagging his finger at me as I go. The queue-jumper's in real estate & wants to go to Rose Bay. Has his mobile phone switched to speaker, which irritates me 'cos its crackle interferes with some cool jazz on the radio ($18). Then I'm offered a job from Rose Bay to Hunters Hill ... whoa! Three chubby teenage girls wearing hardly any clothes. They spend the first half of the trip in the back seat reviewing the weekend's activities on a mobile phone. Then the Mum of one of them rings in & insists her baby go home immediately. Baby gets out at Town Hall to catch a train back to Bondi Junction. One of the others is pleading on her phone with some boy to meet her in town that evening; she gets the sulks afterwards. Traffic is awful, all night. At a servo in Hunters Hill, Chazza casually slings me two twenties & four dollar coins - where do these kids get their money from? - just as I'm offered a job from Hunters Hill to Ultimo. A Catholic boys school, St. Josephs, literally round the corner; except the guy, a teacher now doing admin in fact wants to go to Kensington. Maybe he's the wrong guy, I don't ask. We discuss the vagaries of State versus Church education all the way ($34) ... back in the City, Elizabeth Street is jammed up but, sneaking along on the inside in the bus lane, I'm hailed by a grim looking woman who wants to go to Artarmon. Takes half an hour just to crawl to the Bridge but she's fine about it ($47). Approaching Artarmon, I'm offered a job to the City from Onyx Road. Used to live in a road called that in Pearl Beach. She's a woman my own age, perhaps, going to a party at the law courts in Liverpool Street. I only have a social life at Christmas, she offers. I don't have a social life at all, I say ($33). Back to Park Street, where I pick up two smart young woman & take them to a pub in Paddington. Their conversation is in every respect the kind of talk you hear from the Masters of the Universe at the Big End of Town, so I guess they are Mistresses of the Universe. No idea what line of work they're in ($12). After that ... Park Street to Coogee, a quiet woman, going home from work, there's been a race meeting at Randwick today so its a crawl up Anzac Parade & Alison Road ($25). On the way back, in Belmore Road, I pick up a startlingly beautiful young woman carrying evening clothes in a plastic sheath, going to work in Darling Harbour. Her make up as thick as a Geisha's only it's brown, not white ($20). Outside the Imax, as she leaves another woman arrives, she's going to Balmain ($18). I head back to the City, thinking there'll surely be a chance now to stop on a rank & stretch my legs but I'm hailed on Bathurst Street by a stolid young woman who wants to go to Kirrawee, way down there in Sutherland Shire. It's gorgeous to drive out under the sky at sunset & we get all the way to the lights at President Avenue before I have to stop the car, even once. She's a Kiwi too, it turns out, from some tiny little town on the Canterbury Plains. Winchester. Likes it here but her husband can't get steady work ($55). Barrelling back up the Princes Highway I score another radio job, Rockdale to the City. A young Chinese couple who sound very sweet, chatting to each other softly in Mandarin in the back seat ($27). Drop them off in George Street, head back to Park, thinking now, surely ... but it's still empty of cabs & crowded with people. Another woman, she wants to go to Clovelly ($25). As I'm turning from Oxford Street into Flinders I have a moment of complete disorientation that is very scary. For an instant, I can't tell where the road is & at the same time have the illusion that I'm heading straight into a line of traffic that's coming towards me, fast. This is when I realise how tired I am & that I have to either take a break or finish the shift. Somewhere out in Randwick I'm offered a fare to Maroubra but I think no, that's enough, it's not even ten o'clock but I've made my $200.00, I'm going home. So I do. Walking back through Ashfield Park, with the fruit bats screeching & dropping fragments of figs from the trees, I'm amazed at how quickly the stiffness goes from my legs. Almost, but not quite, like being young again.