08 December 2008

Fat Monday

I’m not much of a one for religion, but sweet Lord, what a night it was! I smashed my all-time best record for a Monday night by a good hundred and fifty dollars.

From the moment I signed on, the work just flowed. There was nothing special. No Parliament sitting. No Floriade. No big exhibition. No sports events. Maybe a few high school and college formals, but any work from them usually doesn’t appear until around midnight.

But this was the golden shift. Job after job. I’d pull into the airport and instead of a packed cabyard, the red tail lights of the only other taxi disappearing through the boomgate to collect another passenger from the queue. I had long jobs, I had short jobs and the only way I could get some time out to have a meal or gas up was if I deliberately ignored the system.

It was odd, though. Usually when we cabbies are flat out, bookings pile up in the system until the busy areas have long listings of stale bookings. Bookings that are more than fifteen minutes old often spell trouble for the cabbie: either the passenger is tense after waiting so long, or they have given up, called another cab, flagged one down or just walked home.

But it wasn’t like that - bookings were handled promptly, drivers and passengers were happy and it was just a great shift.

Towards the end, I picked up a lady from a Christmas party. She was well sozzled and I kept a wary eye on her all the way down to Gordon at the bottom of Canberra. But she was OK. We talked about our children, the pains or pleasures of parenthood, and how the balance was positive.

After I dropped her off, there were a few jobs here and there, and about quarter past two I gave up for the night, facing a long drive back to the city to run the cab through the carwash and hand over to the day driver.

I found a service station that matched the fuel card the owner gives us - this time of night there’s only three remaining open in Canberra - and gassed up. As I got back into the car, I was offered a job on the despatch system. I looked at it as the seconds counted down. Chances were that it would be something local, something short. I had a bit of time left up my sleeve.

I hit the “Accept” button just as the counter hit zero. The details screen came up. “Town Centre Sports Club”. That was only a couple of blocks away. “Destination: City” - Woot! Jackpot!

I was going to drive back to the city anyway. Far better to do it with a passenger paying the fare than driving empty.

Turned out that the job involved three very drunken young cooks, and they sang along with my music videos all the way into the city. I dropped them outside Mooseheads nightclub with a few minutes to spare before three.

I topped up at the Braddon servo and asked for a “taxi wash”.

“How was your night?” asked the young chap running the night counter.

“Flat out!” I said happily. “I’ve had a fantastic night!”

“That’s because of Eid ul-Adha,”

“Ummm?” I looked blank.

“All the Muslim drivers are staying home. It’s a religious holiday.”

And that would be about half of Canberra’s taxi fleet. No wonder I’d had a great shift. On a slow Monday, when normally I’d be scratching for work, there was just the right number of cabbies on the road.

Praise Allah!

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