18 January 2009

A month of Sundays

January is the month Canberra cabbies hate. It's the middle of summer and it seems that everyone but the taxidrivers are off on holiday. Long days and nights waiting on motionless cab ranks, reading newspapers.

"It's great for passengers," I tell people more used to long delays, "and that's the main thing, isn't it?"

Happy passengers equals happy cabbie, I say to myself, but there are limits. Much as I enjoy taxidriving, when I check the meter and it comes out to something like five dollars an hour after tax for a job with no leave or benefits, I have to wonder.

Come February, it will all change. Schools start up again after the break, the defence academies will be loaded up with cadets, the public service returns to life, and then Parliament will resume, overloading the taxi system once again.

It’s boom or bust in Canberra, and January is bust. The morning and afternoon peaks have disappeared. Normally there’s a period of a two or three hours where I’ll be offered more work than I can possibly take, usually taking people to the airport to catch the evening flights out. For two hours I’ll be running a shuttle service to and from the airport, and I won’t have a moment to scratch myself. Then it dies down and I’ll find somewhere around six o’clock to have my dinner.

January, I sign on and look at the statistics screen. There’s a flood of taxis booked solid into every despatch area, and a scattered few fares or upcoming jobs. From the moment I book into an area, I’m competing with other hungry cabbies. I’m eating my dinner at four, contemplating a long wait for my next fare.

Lately, I’ve been watching movies on my iPhone during the slow times. Movies and books and newspapers - January cabbies have to be patient.

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