Although most people would never believe it, you have to pass a test before you can become a cab driver.
In fact, I had to pass four.
For starters, there was the ‘English literacy test’ where I had to prove I could speak and read english; pretty silly really when you consider that english is my native tongue and, to my mind, really a revenue raising exercise conducted by the NSW Government.
Then there’s the Department of Transport Taxi Driver’s test where you have to convince an examiner that you have learnt 600 various destinations, places of interest, quickest routes to and from places, bridges, beaches, hotels, hospitals etc etc, that you know the rules and regulations that govern the driving of a taxi and that you can use a Sydways properly.
Now, being a man of a certain age, I hadn’t taken any sort of test of many years and this proved a lot more difficult than I had imagined.
I didn’t have any trouble with memorising the routes and such, that was just hard slog (especially as my short term memory is very short indeed) and the rules and regulations really are just common sense, no it was using the Sydways that had me waking up in the middle of the night saying “Page 263 K12 to page 335 L8”.
I first knew I had problems during a mock test when my instructor leaned across my desk and said that I was supposed to find the shortest route from Botany to Mosman and he didn’t think that it included going to Melbourne.
Yes, for some strange reason I kept going in totally the opposite direction to that in which I was supposed to go. I mean I know from Botany to Mosman you have to travel north but some magnetic force kept dragging me south.
The same thing happened with other routes, I kept going the wrong way. I don’t know what the word for dyslexia is for map reading but whatever it is I suffered from it.
Now to make sure I didn’t do the same thing at the real test I practiced every morning for a week; no map was going to stop me from becoming one of Sydney’s finest.
But it nearly did.
I had no problems with the fifty destination and regulation questions; I got a couple of them wrong but it wasn’t a problem ‘cos they allow you that. Then came the map reading.
Confidently I looked at the first question, found the references easily, found the relevant pages easily, and then did my normal trip of going totally the wrong way.
I mean, I didn’t do it on purpose and I didn’t even know that I was doing it until I saw the horrified look on my interviewer’s face. “I’m going the wrong way, aren’t I”, I said cheerfully. The nodding of her head confirmed my fears. “Easily fixed”, I said, as my fingers started going in the opposite direction. Thankfully it was and a relieved interviewer, I mean she wanted me to pass she really did, relaxed just a little.
Until the last question, that is. I had to find and then show her where Vaucluse House was.
Now this was where I could show off all my newly learned skills because I knew Vaucluse House was in Wentworth Avenue so there was no need to look it up in the Places of Interest list, I could look for Wentworth Avenue straight away, which I did.
Problem was I looked up Wentworth Avenue in Potts Point, not Vaucluse. Well, you would, wouldn’t you, especially when you’re a smart arse like me.
On not finding the esteemed house I looked up at my interviwer who once again had a look on her face of total disbelief “I think Vaucluse House might be in Vaucluse”, she said.
“Ah”, I said, “Vaucluse House, in Vaucluse”.
I decided being a smart arse was not all that it’s cracked up to be.