Last Friday morning, on a busy street in Sydney, I hailed a cab to head back to work. Nursing a broken arm in a sling, and carrying a bag full of research for that night’s Insight, I was feeling a bit apprehensive.
I’d had five long weeks off, but the specialist treating me had warned I might need longer. “The workplace is hazardous” he’d said “and I’ve seen you on TV, you throw your arms around a lot.”
A taxi quickly pulled into the kerb and as I peered through the window, I hoped I’d see a friendly face - someone willing to help me with all my stuff and drive slowly over the bumps. A slight dark haired man looked up at me and broke into a warm smile. He was out of his cab in an instant, opening the door, taking my bag and checking to see if I was OK. “I know who you are” he said, beaming. “SBS! It’s an honour to have you in my cab.”
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Ten years ago, I drove cabs for a living. I’m pretty much done telling taxi stories, but there’s one I’ll share today, as it’s more or less in the spirit of Christmas.
It was the Friday before Christmas and I was working the area around Coogee/Maroubra on Sydney’s eastern suburbs beaches. It was a favourite spot to work as the fares were regular, and I stayed out of the city traffic.
So in the early evening, I pick up three young guys in South Coogee. They’re 18, maybe 19, and they get in the cab carrying brown paper bags filled with booze. They say “hey driver, can we drink this in here?”
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No matter if you’re sitting in a boozed state in the back of a cab at 2am, if you’re being taken on a half-hour “shortcut” or have to revert to sign language to say ``take the next left’’, always take time to share a nice word with your cabbie.
Those on the road we never feel guilty to rage at, honk or flick the bird, cabbies are fast becoming public enemy No.1 - And there’s no mystery as to why.
In hometown Brisbane it’s hard to get a driver who speaks English and doesn’t stare at you blankly when you ask them to drive you into town. Their 12 hours shifts means they get bored with indicating, speed limits, right of way and other minor road rules and a simple ``to the airport please’’ usually provokes a frantic tom-tom tap-fest.
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