22 January 2009
Some nights I do things I’m not proud of. But my work isn’t entirely delightful old ladies flirting with the cabbie, or returning tourists swapping travel tales. Sometimes I have to put the driver ahead of the passenger.
Thursday night. It’s what they call “Uni Night”, and the clubs in Civic cut their prices to attract customers who would otherwise stay at home. Not the after-work drinkies of Friday, nor the solid frenzy of Saturday, Thursday night is Uni Night, and it’s when the cheap drunks go out on the town.
The drinks are half price, and this means two things. First is that some people drink twice as much as normal. Second is that the cheapskates drink the regular amount. Either way, they are not necessarily the sort of people I want in my cab.
You get a better class of drunk on Friday. People with money in their wallets. People who can handle their grog. People who can carry on a civil conversation. Mind you, as the night progresses, the drunks become increasingly ratty, but on Friday, they start from a high base, and by the time I finish up at three in the morning, they aren’t too bad.
Tonight there’s been thunderstorms hanging around. I scored at the airport early on. A young lady got in and said “Dunlop”. That’s about as far west as you can get in Canberra, with the state border only a couple of hundred metres away. Nice long fat fare and it’s freeway most of the distance. Once I dropped her off, I headed in to “Bernies From the Bay”, a fish and chip shop at Charnwood. Not healthy tucker, but they do a very good grilled fish and chips. Especially the hand-cut chips.
I ate my dinner outside, under the awning, just as a storm came through and dumped a lake full of water on Canberra. Luckily I was sheltered enough not to worry, but Lord, what a deluge!
I finished my meal and followed the storm all the way back to the airport, spectacular lightning strikes ahead of me, puddles on the road, the setting sun lighting up the landscape under the dark clouds. Spectacular.
I did a few airport jobs and when the planes stopped landing, hit the main Civic rank. By half past one, I was dubious. There was a long line of cabs on the rank and the drunks were looking very ratty.
Two young men got in and gave an address in one of the northern suburbs. The guy beside me was fine. He was almost sober, in fact, but his mate in the backseat was gibbering. Calling me names, talking at random, telling me how drunk he was.
We pulled up at the sober bloke’s apartment block and he paid me with a generous tip, while his sozzled mate got out and gave the flower beds a watering. Then he climbed back in for the second half of the trip, out to Gungahlin. The address he gave sounded implausible, he was extremely drunk, his financial status was uncertain, and he’d cranked the window down - never a good sign.
“Just pull into the servo, willya? I need some fags.”
The good old cigarette stop for the nicotine addict. Every cabbie knows it well.
Every cabbie reading this also knows what was on my mind, as I pulled in beside the service station for my passenger to get out and buy his cigarettes.
He left the cab door open, but that was no problem. I gave him maybe ten seconds and hit the gas, the door swinging shut as I peeled back out onto the road. He came back out and peered forlornly after me, but I was too far away and moving too fast.
I’m allowed to refuse people under the influence of alcohol or drugs, so I was within my rights. I’ve spent far too much time and money on passengers who fall asleep, throw up, run away without paying, abuse the driver, leave rubbish in the cab or some combination of the above. I’d had a very good look at this guy, and as well as being very drunk, he was pressing all the wrong buttons with me.
I don’t feel good about leaving him stranded, but then again he was on the main shipping routes of Canberra’s cab world, and he wouldn’t have waited too long before finding a less wary cabbie.
Or walking home. I sure hope he didn’t try walking home, because about fifteen minutes after I left him, there was a second rainstorm, dropping another Sydney Harbour’s worth of water on Canberra.
Just as I was taking the cab through the carwash to remove the mud spatters from the first storm. I’d had enough of ratty drunks and I deserved an early night.