Lousy hours, bad tips, the threat of not making a penny – what is it that keeps a cabbie going?
Cab driving is a funny game (to paraphrase a well-worn cliché). Regardless of what mood one starts a shift with, it can instantly change to suit a particular passenger.
On Saturday night I went to work late, tired and dispirited, due to a small personal brush fire. To start some four hours late on a 12-hour shift is largely a pointless exercise. Barely worthwhile. I was resigned to just making my pay-in, gas and dinner money, and little else. Plus the forecast of a quieter-than-average night only served to compound my dejection. I figured I would simply go through the motions.
In keeping with my mood I opted for a dead rank at Ashfield station, rather than head for the City. A young couple approached and immediately I was wary. Why? The girl had given me a friendly wave from some ten metres away. As no one ever does this, my cynicism sprang to the fore. Was I being set up, I wondered, lulled into a false sense of security?
These things ran through my mind as they climbed in the back and started questioning me on my night, my hours, my localities, and so on. ‘No’, I replied, ‘I’ve only just started but I should’ve started at 3 pm. I’m being just lazy tonight’. Jaded as I was, I played the proverbial dead bat to their questions.
It turned out there was no need to worry: she was a local girl and he an Irish/Canadian, and both very much in love. They were happy and drunk on the intoxicating power of new love. It wasn’t long before their friendliness had rubbed off on me and I warmed to their conversation.
So much so, by the time I delivered them to a City hotel, introductions were made and we exchanged handshakes. They were complete strangers when they boarded the cab yet in the space of 20 minutes, we parted company promising to make further contact. This is a big reason I drive cabs. It reminds me that despite my lousy mood, an overwhelming majority of people are innately kind and decent souls. Hence in this game, passenger encounters are frequently positive and sometimes therapeutic.
I explained as much to a woman last night, off to work the graveyard shift at the taxi base. She had inquired why I still drove cabs, when like so many drivers I’d only ever intended it to be a fill-in job. ‘I was seduced’, I replied, ‘as much by the freedom and flexibility of the job as by the positive interaction with passengers’. It certainly wasn’t for the money.
Earlier I had elaborated on the subject with a passenger traveling from the Airport to Kings Cross. He was an Irish comedian on tour of Australia with an international comedy troupe. After traveling all day from rural Victoria he boarded the cab tired and flat. Yet he sparked up when I mentioned my cab stories. ‘Though it’s ironic…’, I laughed. ‘Now I’m making a name for myself, I’m often asked will writing allow me to quit driving. Yet all my content comes from driving!’
Given that both of us worked creatively from social and personal interactions, we swapped stories. Once again, the conversation had commenced in a perfunctory manner only to terminate on a high. He gave me a tip he couldn’t afford and I slipped him a copy of Investigate. After which we both parted with a warm farewell.
There are plenty more stories along these lines from a weekend which threatened to be boring, depressing and a real chore. Sure I’m tired after a long night’s work, but it’s a contented tiredness. Made all the better knowing I have regular readers logging on and keen to read my stories. Without these readers I would simply be talking to a void, working just another job. So it’s g’day to you and goodnight from me.
I thank you all.
Read more of Adrian the Cabbie at www.cablog.com.au