Before I start, I will acknowledge that being a city taxi driver must be a really shit job most of the time. If you work during the week, you could be cruising around for hours before some rude bloke in a suit demands to be taken on a two minute drive and then pays with his corporate card. If you work at the weekend, the chances are you’ll get verbally abused and maybe even vomited on by that same rude bloke, this time he’s got three of his mates in tow but at least they’re going on a good half hour trip, it’s after midnight and they’re paying in cash.
In most cities, for most drivers, taxi driving is a stop-gap on the way to bigger and better things. But that’s still no excuse for being a total and utter weirdo.
All of the following taxi journeys took place in central Sydney:
Here's an idea, let's go to Melbourne!
So.. Melbourne eh? What do you hear about Melbourne? Oh it’s so much more cultured than Sydney! There’s all these amazing clubs and bars but you have to go and find them down back alleys, it’s more of a locals place you know. And it’s got trams! Such a good way to get around! Oh and you must go and ‘do the Great Ocean Road’.
I arrived in Melbourne on a Saturday afternoon in early November 2004 after a tearful and nervous departure from Sydney, from all my new friends and from the infamous backpacker hostel that had been my home for the last two months. I couldn’t possibly spend so much of my precious working holiday year in one location, yet I just didn’t want to leave!
I found myself in the upbeat beachside suburb of St Kilda, and checked into a hostel upstairs from the famous (in backpacker terms) Elephant & Wheelbarrow pub. A good Aussie pub with an Aussie pub band, full of good British backpackers enjoying one of Victoria’s many nods to British heritage, beer served in pint glasses. The longstanding unique attraction of the Elephant & Wheelbarrow was the weekly Neighbours Trivia Night.
On Monday morning I thought I’d go and find a job for the next few weeks. I wandered round the city centre and found myself about as inspired as I would be in an average British town centre. One that had been around for a while but hadn’t managed to retain any old world charm.
So the obvious thing to do then was apply for some kind of sales job from an ad in a backpacker magazine, and that's how I ended up on a train to an interview in the suburb of Richmond that very same afternoon. Cue my first, only and mercifully quick journey on a Melbourne train.
I took a window seat and eagerly looked out to see if anything interesting would go past. Obviously, the only thing that went past was Melbourne. Whilst I was busy trying to take an interest in the industrial estates of urban Victoria, the bloke sitting opposite me decided to start talking. Uh-oh I’ve no idea where I am or where I’m going and now I’ve got a public transport weirdo.
Weirdo: “Hello, where are you going?”
Me: “Job interview”
Weirdo: “If you’re looking for a job you should come and work with me. I’m working at Sexpo this week”
He places his hand on my knee. I thank heaven I’m wearing trousers, not a skirt. I look away from the window and glance at his face. He has that peculiar pale and sweaty look of someone who rarely sees daylight because he’s busy in his bedroom watching very inappropriate things on the internet.
Train pulls into Richmond. I run three blocks and find myself shaking, but not from interview nerves, on the doorstep of the company I will refer to as Crap Toy & Gift Sales Pty Ltd.
As usual I am completely inappropriately dressed, because this isn’t a real job interview, it’s a motivational lets-get-all-fired-up session where a guy tells a group of backpackers about the crazy amounts of money they can earn to fund their travel dreams, and all we have to do is sell his fantastic products door-to-door around the offices and industrial states of nearby suburbs. In the run up to Christmas these amazing bargains just sell themselves! Look at all these fabulous stocking fillers! Of course saying “not for me thanks” is all too hard and I find myself agreeing to come back for a trial day tomorrow at 10am.
I should step back in time now and tell you what I had done over my weekend in St Kilda. In short, I had a very nice time with a very nice bunch of backpackers from my hostel. We drank goon, we found a pub with a free sausage sizzle and $4 pints. I even allowed myself to be kidnapped for a girly Sunday night watching the TV premiere of the last ever Sex & The City episode on a big screen, in a cocktail bar while drinking cosmopolitans. We went for dinner on the Monday night and I told them about my new job and it seemed like I was joining this little gang and we were making our home here in St Kilda and living the backpacker life…hold up…hang on.. wait a minute…
Why was I here, living someone else’s backpacker life? Everything was nice enough here, but these good people has never been to Sydney. They’d chosen Melbourne, this was their backpacker experience. Mine was carrying on without me back in Sydney.
Tuesday morning, 9am. I called Crap Toy & Gift Sales Pty Ltd and firmly told them I would not be starting work that day, or any other. I booked a flight for 2pm. I checked out of the hostel and the guy even refunded the rest of the week I’d paid for. “Have a great summer in Sydney!” he said as I ran out the door to the tram.
Cover image: commons.wikimedia.org David Wallace [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Nicki Ranger is a freelance writer currently based in Perth, Western Australia.
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