Jul. 13th, 2010


Jul. 13th, 2010 11:48 am
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Cool and misty day outside. Canberra's winters always seemed to me, when I first moved here, to be clear and blue and sparkling. Cold, to be sure, with a frost every dawn, but rarely overcast.

Nowadays, fifty-fifty. Maybe it's indicative of my state of mind to see more clouds than sun, but I doubt it. It's just different. More people, maybe. A wider change, maybe. Possibly both.

Whatever, I love Canberra, and so long as I do it safely ruggled up or in a heated office, winter here is to be enjoyed, not endured.

We've got a temporary cab to drive while Betsy is off the road. It's Silver Service, an old Statesman, and it's a chore, that's what it is.

That bozo who tried to overtake me in the bikelane a couple of weeks back, I'd like to sue him for the lost income, the inconvenience and the stress.

Getting into a new cab is difficult enough. The controls are different, the meter, printers, keypads and so on are all either different models or arranged differently or both, the kill switches for the various things are hidden away in different spots.

But an old cab - and TX70 has over half a million kilometres up - is an extra collection of bother. Small things are broken, or loose. The engine and suspension are no longer fresh.

Let's see. The bootlid struts are gone. Lift the boot up to put luggage in, it falls down. You unlock the boot using either the inconvenient button in the glove box or the stud on the key, and it unlocks and stays closed because there is nothing to push it up away from the catch.

It took me an age to find the switch for the Cabcharge keypad - which no longer fits on the holder because some crucial part is broken.

I can't change the date and time. Maybe there's a way, but if so it isn't intuitive amongst the hundred or so buttons forming the Statesman's ergonomic dash. Likewise resetting the trip meter.

The thing vibrates:
a. at a certain speed
b. when idling after about fifteen minutes.

The wiper blades are worn.

The rear ashtray falls open and won't stay closed.

One of the front park globes is gone.

Turn off the engine and the doors lock.

A hundred other things. Yeah, it drives, it works, it does the job, but it's no joy at all.

And no petrol in the tank. The dual fuel engine starts on petrol and switches to gas a few seconds later, but it really wants that petrol.

So there I am on the airport rank. I get to the front, a lady approaches with a bag, I turn off the engine - remember, I can't open the boot from inside the car, I have to lift it as I unlock it - and she slings her small soft bag into the back seat anyway. I crank the engine. And again, and again.

Passengers are streaming out, cabs behind are growing impatient, my passenger jumps out and gets the next cab.

Finally I get the thing going, get a passenger - no luggage - and he says "Kingston". A short fare.

I drop him off, and that's it. Five hours into a thirteen hour shift, I'm going home. This is NO fun.

Fill up with a bit of petrol and top up the gas, park it in the carport and have a pleasant remainder of the evening with the family watching some Montreal comedy festival. That's fun.

Then at four in the morning I'm woken by a text from the day driver. Problem with the printer. Then - battery flat.

So I'm out in the frosty predawn, moving cars and mucking about with jumper leads and blaspheming away as I describe last night's shift to him.

Thank goodness my day driver is a saint. Every moment with him is a joy. Talking taxis at halfpast four in the cold is a pleasure.

Well, give him joy of TX 70. Leather seats and six-stacker CD it may have, but it's a chore to drive.

He sent me a text a bit later on. He'd gotten a VIP passenger a fair bit closer to The Lodge than the Prime Minister, who remains in her Kingston apartment.


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