Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ping and the Ponce

On Monday arvo Peter, the day driver, is late ... I hate this but am trying to control my tendency towards impatience and irritation. When he finally turns up - he's been shopping - I skip the usual leisurely cruise down to Bondi to look at the sea and go instead straight up the Junction. Just before pulling round the corner and onto the rank I see a dapper chap there lighting up a cigarette. He raises his hand and walks quickly towards me, taking two or three deep drags on his fag then throwing it down and climbing in the front. Chinatown, he says and takes out his mobile phone. He's maybe 60, grey-haired, a small, cocky fellow wearing immaculate clothes of an old-fashioned kind: a pink striped shirt, a waistcoat, grey trousers, a sports jacket, leather shoes. A ponce from another era. He has the wheeze of an incipient emphysemic as he rasps into the phone: Get me Ping. Various instructions to do with banking matters follow, delivered in a brusque, even imperious tone. Then he hangs up and calls a mate. You'll never guess who I just saw ... he begins. Your old boss! The story that ensues is one of marital wreck following upon a recently contracted liaison. He built her a mansion in Little Bay but now that everything has gone to hell it's all up for grabs. The pre-nupt. apparently won't stand up in court and anyway, matters soured long before: the day after the wedding she said to him that she was going to have his balls for breakfast. All this is relayed with reeking schadenfreude; then at the end he says: Oh, and by the way, he's still looking to buy a pub. Yeah, 800 ... He hangs up from his mate and calls Ping again to say give that bloke two grand in cash if he's still worried about the cheque clearing. She must have somehow demurred because what follows is a truly vicious explosion of phone rage: I don't fucking know, I'm stuck in fucking traffic, could be half an hour, could be five fucking minutes ... We are not stuck in traffic and never have been; it's a smooth run the whole way. He calms down a bit, repeats the instruction about the two grand then cuts the connection. I let him out on the corner of Sussex and Goulburn, opposite the Star Hotel, and while waiting for the lights to change, watch to see which way he goes ... down Goulburn, across the road, and into that vaguely pagoda shaped stumpy high rise on the corner of Dixon. A little strutting cockerel of man, some kind of shady character, with his money in gambling perhaps, or prostitution, or even, though I think this unlikely, drugs. As for Ping, I have no idea.