…. how I got to pushing a taxi around Sydney, I have no idea, that’s something I can’t recall; would you believe. I’ve got a feeling that it was at the suggestion of Kerry, before graduation, but I doubt she’d remember now, more important things to think about, like what can she get me to cook for Sunday nights dinner, now I’m back in harness; sort of.
But I do recall my first day on the job; which still makes me grin; and I’ll get to that after I’ve filled in the blanks.
Getting my cabbies licence.
Now being a cabbie in Sydney is in no way, in the same league as the Londoners, “The Knowledge”. I’d never have had the time, patience or desire to do what those blokes do. I wonder if there are any women cabbies now in London, and I don’t mean those pirates or uber drivers, I’m talking real cabbies,. The London Cabbie.
I switched my original drivers licence, a Victorian one, to a NSW licence without to much trouble, didn’t even have to do a driving test, fair enough I suppose. I’d been licensed for 25 years at the time, and mine was clean as a whistle, trotted over to the Registrations Dept. HQ and told them I wanted to get a cab drivers licence.
No problem, gave me some booklets & pamphlets, told me to go away, study the stuff, and when I was ready. book in for the written test. Not sure what they meant by go study; I’ve never studied anything in my life. I took the stuff to have a read, thought it might be a good idea.
Kerry and I were living in a flat/apartment in Dee Why, on the Northern Beaches at the time, and awaiting the arrival of our first baby, who was already named Sarah, I’d made all the right arrangements, except for the date, I was out by two weeks, she was born on the 10th, and she was supposed to be born on the 24th; what this has got to do with me getting a cab licence? I’m damned if I know.
Anyway I got stuck into reading all the guff that the Rego. Dept. had given me.
All it was really, was a great lists of how to go from places, ‘A’ to places ‘B’ the shortest way. Lots of them, I didn’t bother to count them; just read and stored as many as I could in my scone.
The Rego. Dept. held their ‘Cab Drivers Licence Examination’ once a fortnight, so I booked in for the first available, on the appointed day, I slipped over ‘The Bridge’, joined a group of nervous looking, cabbies to be, called in, sat down to the easiest test I’ve ever encountered.
One of those tests, where they get you to pick from the ‘A’ ‘B’ or ‘C’ answers to a question, knocked it off in a few minutes and sat twiddling my thumbs waiting for “Times Up”, then had to sit around waiting while they checked the papers. Times like that, I wish my surname was Aadams, not Smith; why must they do their thing alphabetically?
I got my licence, and was now officially a licenced Sydney cabbie, all I had to do now was find a cab to drive. Not too hard in Sydney, at that time, to get a cab driving job, most of the cab companies, are, or were, screaming out for drivers, experienced or not, and living on the Northern Beaches was even easier. Only the one cab co. for the whole Peninsular, Manly Warringah Cabs, and they had the game sown up, a cabbie from another company, looking for a job out of the Beaches had Buckleys of getting a job, the locals were loyal to a fault.
So along to “The Number Two“ I went, armed with my nice new ‘Sydney Taxi Drivers Licence’, with a big picture of me stuck in the middle. The Number Two, is /was Manly Cabs main depot for hiring, training and running the cabs. The Number One was head office; radio control centre. No worries, come along Saturday morning 10 am, and go on a test run with other newbies, and an experienced driver.
Bit of a farce really, the bloke who was running the show, Smythe, can’t recall his first name, if it comes to me I’ll bung it in later ( Ross! it just came to me), liked to have a drink now and again, usually now. There were three other new blokes, besides me, in the car and off we went; we would be taking turns with the driving, Smythe directing.
He had a set route, at each stop/change over point, usually on a cab rank at a shopping centre or mall, and always within cooee of a grog shop, at which each of the new recruits, had the honour of popping into the shop, to buy Smythe, a couple of cans. He knocked off the eight cans of beer, in the couple of hours we were out and about, and you’d never have known he’d been drinking.
A bit of an aside on friend, Smythe, he became a part time rep or something for Jim Beam, got hooked on the Bourbon and was dead in his early 40’s.
Now having done all the tests, for what they were worth, I was ready to go; a fully trained and equipped Sydney cabbie.
On the Monday I went off to work at the pub I’d been working in, gave them notice that I’d finish on the Friday, they were probably glad to be rid of me.
I called into the Number Two on the way home, and arranged for a cab for the Saturday afternoon shift. Sydney cabbies work on a 12 hours on 12 off type of roster, with a change over time of 3 pm and 3 am, the knock off times were flexible, you could knock off early but not late. Well sort of flexible.
Three o’clock Saturday, having passed inspection by Kerry, who insisted I did not look like a scruffy cabbie, off I went to pick up a cab and hit the roads.
My first car was a ‘dog’, I think they kept one heap, to test out the newbies, or else they were worried about the good stock, still I was feeling good and had to decide what I was going to do to start, a great deal in fact the best work came over the two-way, but I thought I’d lay off that for the first couple of days ‘til I felt comfortable.
I decided to head down to Manly Wharf, and work the cab rank there, “plenty of people came off the ferries, head straight to the rank, and away you’d go”, so I was told. Not only that, if you were on that rank, you were not obliged to take a radio booking over the two-way. I was second, or third, cab on the rank when I got there, and the first two moved off quite quickly and I’m first cab off the rank.
My first fare arrived hopped in besides me and says “Bondi Junction thanks mate” .
I take a good look at him and says “ Where’s Bondi?”
“You’re joking” says he,
“No I’m not” says me. “this is my first day on the cabs, I’ve never been to Bondi in my life, and haven’t got a clue where it is or how to get there”
“How’d you get a cab licence if you don’t know where Bondi is?” “ Easy” I tell him and gave him a quick run down on the ease of getting a licence.
“No worries” says he “I’ll show you the way”
And he did.
That folks is my first day as a cabbie!