I suppose everyone dreaded their first day in a new job, none so more than yours truly.
But no matter how long I tried to put it off and despite the brilliance of my excuses the day dawned when the taxi cab beckoned and I just had to go and drive it.
Now I’d like to say that despite all my fears the day was a brilliant and unqualified success. It wasn’t. It was all my nightmares come at once and by end of it I was a shaking mass of blubber, not a pretty sight I can tell you.
It started off well enough. I was given a run through of the vagaries of the cab by its owner and although his every word went in one ear and out of the other I thought I’d be able to manage things well enough.
My very first pick up was great. A young woman and her child from Miller St, Cammeray to Miller St, North Sydney. I couldn’t believe my luck, a straight run. This was an omen, I thought, things were going to be fine.
The second trip was also fine and dandy. Well, until the passenger pulled out a $50 note for a $12.30 fare, that is.
Now I’m usually very good at mental arithmetic, it’s something I pride myself on, but in this instance I froze, my mind went blank, my mouth fell open and absolutely nothing would function.
Seeing my predicament and having heard that it was my first day, the passenger said kindly, “Make it $13 and you’ll owe me $37”.
Having responded to his kindness by giving him $35 in notes I then reached for my small change bag which I had judiciously packed the night before with huge quantities of 10c, 20c and 50c pieces. Well, I might have packed the bag judiciously but what I hadn’t done was zip it up.
And, yes, $30 worth of small changed poured out down the side of the driver’s seat never to be seen again.
“Not to worry”, laughed my passenger, “it can only get better”. It didn’t.
Realising that I didn’t have any $1 or $2 pieces I pulled up outside a bank to get change only to discover that my window wouldn’t wind up and so I couldn’t leave the damned vehicle.. I was stuck in more ways than one.
Still, I ploughed on ( I use the word ‘plough’ advisedly as the cab was not new, the air conditioning weak, the handling questionable and the suspension almost non-existent) and after a few more straightforward fares my confidence was back up again.
And then it happened. Everything I had feared came down on me like a visitation from hell.
There I was in Double Bay trying to mind my own business and I was hailed by a particularly good looking young woman carrying a collection of shopping bags.
“Ah, good”, I thought, “another short, easy trip”. “Pacific Road, Bronte, please” said the young woman.
Now although Double Bay to Bronte is in no way a difficult trip to work out I did my usual brain-goes-blank trick. “I’m rather new at all this”, I said “if you know the way I’d be happy to follow your instructions.”
Well, it seemed that she did know the way and what was followed was a back road journey that would have done a seasoned cabby proud.
The one problem was that we found ourselves in Coogee not Bronte, a nice enough beach resort but not the one we were looking for.
Worse was to follow. In Bronte there is no Pacific Road; Pacific Street looms large and easy to find, but Pacific Road nowhere.
“This isn’t it, I’ll know it when I see it”
“Yes, but there isn’t a Road only a Street”.
“But I want Road.”
“So do I but I can’t take you somewhere that doesn’t exist”.
“It does exist., I’ve been there”.
“But there isn’t here?”
“Well, where is there?”
“I don’t know, you’re the taxi driver you’re supposed to know where where is”.
Well, although he’s my favorite playwright, I couldn’t see this particularly fine example of Pinteresque conversation going anywhere so I suggested that I dropped the young woman where we were, not charge her anything, call it quits and let her make her own way to wherever it was she was going.
“That’s all very well but how am I going to get there from here?”
“Have you got a mobile?”, I asked politely.
“Yes, I have” was the terse reply.
“Well you could always try calling a cab” I said as I put my foot down to the floor and gunned it.