It’s strange to say now but I almost gave up being a cabbie before I started.
Well, I knew I’d have to take a couple of tests. To prove I could drive, to prove I could read a map book, that type of thing. But I would never have believed that I’d have to take a test to prove that I could speak English.
Me, an English born, English bred English speaking man of a certain age being told that I had to prove I could speak the language I had been speaking since my Mum had decided not to give me to the next door neighbours .
It wasn’t good enough that I had passed my High School Certificates with flying colours; been accepted into Uni; won awards for my writing all over the world; oh no, I had to prove it by taking a literacy test.
And pay $75 hard earned dollars to the Government for the privilege
“Why?”, I asked most reasonably.
“We can’t be seen to discriminate against anyone” was the reply.
“You’re bloody well discriminating against me”, was my reply. All to no avail, of course.
Still on the day of the test I got my revenge, it wasn’t $75 worth of revenge but it was sweet.
“Here you are’ said the female interviewer who, to give her her due was as embarrassed as me about the simplicity of the test,“ write a story about these four pictures on the card.
“I’ll teach them”, I said to myself and proceeded to write a story that had absolutely nothing at all with the pictures.
At the end of the test my female interviewer read the story, gave me a very strange and puzzled look and, of course, passed me with flying colours.
Now I felt very good about this until I heard a story recently about another would be taxi driver who took the same test, a Vietnamese man I’ll call Van Tram.
Although Vietnamese, Van Tram also spoke perfect English, which was quite understandable as he had been a Uni Professor before having to flee his home country during the troubles there.
As with many like him, Van Tram couldn’t continue his career here and took any job he could get, all of them menial, and eventually decided that being a taxi driver would fit the bill ( and, yes, I am going to resist the obvious joke about it being easier for him to have become a tram driver).
Now it would seem that at Van Tram’s test he was given a card which showed people working in a rice field and, like me, was asked to write a story about what was depicted.
When he was asked to stop writing Van Tram didn’t seem to hear and it was only when the moderator insisted that time was up, she noticed that the former Uni Professor had, in fact, not written a word but was simply sitting with his pen poised, frozen in time, tears pouring from his eyes.
The story goes that the moderator, realising what had happened and knowing, from the other parts of the test, that the man spoke and wrote perfect English, passed him. I hope she did.