skyring: (Default)
While my day driver's off on a five week holiday - yesterday he drove the Great Ocean Road - I'm on the day shift. At first I was doing doubles, meaning that I could drive the car whenever I wanted within the 24 hours of the day, maybe with a nap here and there, and then I was supposedly given a night driver, putting me on the day shift.

I say supposedly, because as yet I haven't seen him, and though I know the cab was driven on the weekend, it certainly sat idle last night after I finished at three in the afternoon.

I've been enjoying day driving. There's more traffic on the road, but there's also fewer kangaroos, drunks and crazies. I get more of the little old ladies and gents who are scarce after dark but fun to chat up and be nice to.

And I get to be out on a series of glorious autumn days. Cool and clear, leaves in red and gold and everything in between. It's pure pleasure.

I was doing well yesterday. Took in about as much as I do in a nightshift, thanks mostly to a long duration "wait and return" government job. Banked the big notes, gassed up, ran the car through the wash, vacuumed it out...

And then, as I walked the tangled vacuum cleaner hose out across the service station forecourt to straighten it out before replacing it on the holder, I tripped. I lurched backwards, trying to gain some support from the slack hose before I went down under the wheels of an oncoming car, but after one or two steps, I landed heavily on my backside and outstretched hand, cap flying off.

Luckily the car stopped, the driver laughing on, I retrieved my cap and limped the hose back. Hurting like blazes, but that's how these things go - a day or three of bruising to show off and then fadeaway.

I drove home, unloaded the car, and waited a bit for a night driver. But not too long. I was hurting in two places and exhausted after a long day.

Woke when Kerri came home. She wasn't too concerned about my bum, but the wrist was a worry. It was hurting a lot, and though painkillers were found, I still have no strength in it. Maybe it's broken rather than spraint.

I'm to take the day off and get it x-raid. If it's broke, there's the chance of six weeks in plaster. Six weeks of no driving. Six weeks of no income. And me with a world trip coming up in seven weeks.

But if I can't hold the wheel firmly in two hands and lift baggage in and out of the boot, then i can't drive a taxi.
skyring: (Default)
Four pineapples
Four pineapples,
originally uploaded by skyring.

I’ll be giving myself an early mark tonight, ending my shift before midnight to drive home for the broadcast from Washington. I’ve got some hot dogs, buns, onions, American mustard and for dessert, Oreos. I’ll see if I can find a bottle or two of root beer, but it’s hard to come by in Australia. I can always fall back on Pepsi, I guess.

Four years ago I got into Washington just after the second Bush inauguration, and it was a cold old town. Bleak in the snow, ice covering the Potomac, and homeless finding shelter amongst the grand monuments. But there were shops chock full of unsold red white and blue caps, buttons, scarves and nosewarmers. In the days afterwards I virtually had the place to myself, examining the Hope Diamond at leisure, and sharing the “Rotunda of the Charters of Freedom” with only a handful of other visitors, despite the fact that all of the grand institutions in which I rattled around were clearly set up for thousands.

This time around, there are going to be millions of visitors. Whole communities are hiring buses for the drive in. They want their piece of history. Washington will be a city buzzing with excitement, and I wish the local cabbies, creaky old black gentlemen every one of them, a windfall profit.

In Canberra, it’s hot and quiet. You could fire a cannon down any main road and not hit anybody except maybe a lonely cabbie looking for pedestrians.

There’s a bit of work available, but what is it with everybody in January? Does nobody have anything smaller than a fifty dollar note?

I start out with a float in my money bag. Two twenties, two tens, two fives and whatever coins I can cram into my dispenser, usually heavier on the silver than the gold one and two dollar pieces. I might have a few notes as a reserve in my wallet.

The first passenger offering a fifty I welcome with a smile. But the average fare is fifteen dollars and giving change for that wipes out half my float. Still, it can’t be helped, and I tuck away the golden yellow bill, known as a “pineapple” for its colour.

The second is greeted with a groan and the third pineapple just reams me out completely. I’m reduced to making change in handfuls of coins.

My wife doesn’t help. She raids my wallet for cash before departing for work, and at the rustle of notes I’ll wake from a sound sleep, muttering “take the fifties, take ‘em all, just leave me the little ones!”

Yes, it’s true - I love the little five and ten dollar notes with a passion. Give me a thick wad of the small notes and I’m the happiest cabbie that lived, but if I have a fistful of fifties, I’m haggard and wary, looking suspiciously over at my passengers as we near the end of the ride.

Which, of course, brings me to the classic old taxidriver story.

A late night cabbie, much like myself, is cruising the streets when he spots someone flagging him down. Just an arm frantically waving, and a desperate face peering around the corner of a hedge.

He draws up to the curb and a stark naked woman races across the footpath, flings open the door and dives into the back seat.

“Thank god you stopped,” she says. “The wife came home at the wrong time and I didn’t have a moment to...”

She stops as she realises the cabbie hasn’t driven off yet, and in fact is staring at her through the rear vision mirror.

“What’s the matter?” she snaps. “Haven’t you ever seen a woman before?”

“Well, yes,” the cabbie says slowly, “but I was just wondering how you intended to pay the fare.”

She leans back and opens her legs. “Will that do?”

“Awww, geez lady, don’t you have anything smaller?”

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Skyring

September 2010

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