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Taxi The Inside Story Abridged

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Taxi, The Inside Story is a 130 page full colour book that showcases the stories of Victorian taxi drivers. The book is part of a larger social marketing campaign called Taxi Project designed to …

Taxi, The Inside Story is a 130 page full colour book that showcases the stories of Victorian taxi drivers. The book is part of a larger social marketing campaign called Taxi Project designed to build taxi driver pride, build public perception re: the positive contribution that taxi drivers make to society and raise funds for Very Special Kids - who support families of children with life threatening illnesses. $6.00 from every book sold is donate to Very Special Kids.
Taxi, The Inside Story retails for $19.95.
For more information visit www.taxiproject.com

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  • 1. taxi the inside story PRODUCED BY RACHAEL GUTHRIDGE
  • 2. 2 3
  • 3. TAxI PROjECT PROjECT sPOnsORs THAnks THEsE DEsIGn PARTnER PRInT PARTnER ORGAnIsATIOns fOR mAkInG THIs LAUnCH & ExHIBITIOn PARTnER CHARITY PARTnER PROjECT POssIBLE PROjECT sUPPORTERs PROjECT AssOCIATEs
  • 4. ‘YOU TALk wITH PEOPLE AnD PRODUCER: RACHAEL GUTHRIDGE GIvE THEm A POInT Of vIEw EDITOR: DEAnnE POGRUnD Acknowledgements ABOUT THE THInGs THAT ARE REALLY ImPORTAnT. I TAkE EACH PERsOn InDIvIDUALLY AnD I HOPE I would like to thank all the taxi drivers I met during the course of this project who, so beautifully and honestly, shared their stories – they truly are inspiring in their care and interest for their passengers. thank you to the sponsors of Taxi Project who were courageous in taking this ‘passenger-inspired’ project on board – each has participated THAT I CAn mAkE A DIffEREnCE, fully in the project’s creation. congratulations to the forty volunteers who have donated their time and energy so enthusiastically – wonderful to work with a group of passionate individuals. thank you to margaret and marita for inspiring me to ‘take the lid off’. A big cup of tea to my mum, dad, elaine, Ben, craig, Amie, sarah, sharon, simon and my friends for supporting me during this time – your love and enthusiasm has been gorgeous. RACHAEL GUTHRIDGE It seemed at times that the rooms in my house were crowded with the faces and stories that you will find between EvEn If IT Is A smALL DIffEREnCE, TO sOmEOnE’s LIfE. If I CAn HELP these pages. I would like to thank my children, sam and Alyssa, for making space for them. I would also like to thank Rachael guthridge for her patience as I juggled the many different deadlines in my life. DEANNE POGRUND Published by Monument Marketing Publishing (ABn: 11 577 919 468) mAkE sOmEOnE’s LIfE A LITTLE email: info@monumentmarketing.com.au web: www.monumentmarketing.com.au IsBn: 978 0 646 51563 2 BIT EAsIER – wHY nOT?’ 388 41321409945 copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Printed by: Southern Colour www.southerncolour.com.au Book distribution: Dennis Jones & Associates www.dennisjones.com.au TOm, mILL PARk school distribution: Insight Publications www.insightpublications.com.au Taxi, The Inside Story is available online at www.taxiproject.com $6.00 from every book sold will go to support the work of Very Special Kids. Taxi, The Inside Story is printed on Fsc coc certified, elemental chlorine and acid free paper. Its pulp is sourced from well managed and accredited forestation and the manufacturing mill operates under the Iso 14001 environmental management system ensuring continuous improvement. this book was printed by southern colour using “ecolour” sustainable print management processes. southern colour is a PeFc, Fsc and Iso 14001 certified manufacturer. 7
  • 5. It was July 2008 when I jumped in a taxi and asked the driver to take me to Prahran. As we drove up st kilda Road, I asked how he was. ‘great,’ he replied. ‘Has something good happened to you?’ I asked. ‘no, I am great because that is my choice in living my life, it is that simple.’ I was instantly interested in who this man was. we chatted some more and as we spoke an interesting thing happened – I saw a whole project unfold before me. As he shared his philosophy on life I could see a book of stories and an exhibition of images that captured the humanity of taxi drivers – Taxi Project was born. we reached our destination and I paid the fare. I didn’t take the driver’s details and to this day he has no idea that he inspired this project and gave expression to taxi drivers around the state. that day I jotted down some preliminary thoughts and Taxi Project started. my aim in creating this project was to build taxi driver pride, increase public perception regarding the positive contribution taxi drivers make to society and raise funds for Very Special Kids, who support families of children with life threatening illnesses. the overall project would be called Taxi Project, and the book and exhibition, Taxi, The Inside Story. within a week key players in the taxi industry were showing interest. next came the drivers. they were initially wary of a ‘female outsider’ asking for their story but soon got excited about what would be possible through this exchange. In talking about the project, friends and family volunteered their time – even strangers approached me to make this project happen. overall, Taxi Project has had some forty people volunteer their time over the last sixteen months. It would appear that every taxi driver has an engaging story to tell, be it one of loneliness, danger, insight, comedy or confrontation. they include the driver who found a baby in the back of his taxi, the driver who was shot for not following instructions, the driver who saved a man’s life on a country road or the passenger who held up the driver and then paid the fare from the takings. their stories are endless and generously told. what struck me about taxi drivers overall was their trust and honesty in sharing their stories with a complete stranger. they managed to put their reservations to one side and welcomed us into their worlds. For some drivers it was an emotional journey even to be asked to share their story. many drivers feel undervalued, second-class and unseen – they don’t feel worthwhile. to be asked to come forward to tell their story was, for them, a privilege and an opportunity to set the record straight. Just about every Australian has a relationship with taxis. People are passionate about taxi drivers. my reasoning for this is the intimacy of the taxi itself. these one-on-one discussions between driver and passenger are almost confessional in nature. drivers act as unofficial tour guides, marriage counsellors, confidantes and late-night saviours. Taxi, The Inside Story is an intimate look into a very public profession. these stories will offer you a very different view of being a taxi driver – a human view. Readers will be able to see the person instead of the profession, the humanity instead of the hullabaloo. my invitation to you is that next time you get into a taxi you are inquisitive about who the driver is and that a connection is forged that inspires you both. enjoy the ride. Rachael guthridge Producer, Taxi Project 8 9
  • 6. PAUL, BEnDIGO 12 GARY, BEnDIGO 64 HAssAn, HEIDELBERG HEIGHTs 14 DEBBIE, mORwELL 68 YOUsRY, EnDEAvOUR HILLs 16 BREnDAn, BEnDIGO 72 TRACY, GEELOnG 18 GREG, BALwYn nORTH 73 vALERIE, BAnnOCkBURn 22 PETER, ALTOnA mEADOws 74 TOnY, sHEPPARTOn 24 jImmY, HOPPERs CROssInG 76 RODnEY, mORwELL 26 ALI, BRUnswICk 80 mARGOT, BEnDIGO 28 IAn, TAYLORs LAkEs 81 TOm, mILL PARk 40 kEn, BALLARAT 82 sCOTT, sHEPPARTOn 42 mAROUn, fAwknER 83 fARID, fAwknER 43 RAY, sHEPPARTOn 86 ERICA, HAwTHORn 46 BARRY, vERmOnT sOUTH 88 mICk, BEnIGO 51 kEn & LIz, BALLARAT 94 BRUCE, GLEnROY 52 GREG, BEnDIGO 96 wEnDY, BEnDIGO 54 CAREY, mORwELL 100 nEIL, BRIGHTOn EAsT 58 mICHELA, BALLARAT 103 mICHAEL, nOBLE PARk 60 GRAEmE, mORwELL 104 10 11
  • 7. woRds deRYn mAnsell ImAge sImon BIRcH ‘I picked up a big fella with a tat on his neck at 6.30 in the morning ‘the most important thing for me is wanting that person sitting from the BP service station,’ says Paul from Bendigo. ‘there were in the seat to feel comfortable, and to get them back in that seat tears in his eyes and he was quite agitated when he got in. He told again. there’s not a better job for meeting people. there’s such me to turn up the radio and drive quickly, so I did. He told me that a diverse group of people out there – I can’t go ten metres he had only been out of jail for two-and-a-half weeks. He said up the road without having a chat!’ he had just driven a knife into a chopping board and had thrown It’s clear that Paul cares about the people who tell him stories. coffee at the wall after an argument with his wife. He had been He speaks of a woman he picked up who was leaving her abusive jailed for twelve years for murder. He looked me in the eye and husband. she had all her belongings in seven garbage bags and said, “I didn’t do it, I was set up.” He admitted he had driven the was sitting outside the house with her young daughter waiting victim to the murderers, but never thought they were going to kill for the taxi. Paul speaks softly and slowly as he recounts her story. him. It had all been over $4,000 worth of marijuana. He tells how she was bashed and kicked by steel-capped boots, ‘when I asked him what happened, he said: “they cut his head off.” but it was the child’s words he found heart-rending. He was on parole for nine years. now he said, “If the police ring, ‘It was right on christmas and the seven-year-old daughter was you dropped me in Bridgewater.” I said, “correct.” so, I dropped sitting in the back seat. she said, “But mummy, santa won’t know him where he had to go. He was an agitated fella; I was quite where to come.” that brought tears to my eyes as I drove off down concerned about that one.’ the road. It’s really stuck in my mind.’ Although Bendigo is a rural city, Paul has seen more in his Paul’s stories of life in the driver’s seat are as diverse as the people twenty-one years of driving than many melbourne drivers ever will. he drives. He has been offered work driving a prostitute to and Passengers often open up to the compassionate man who admits, from her clients; he has heard about the side effects of Agent ‘I don’t get stressed much. I haven’t got a temper.’ orange on Vietnam veterans and their families, and has had more Paul worked as a clerk in the office at the railways when his than his share of angry male clients. brother-in-law convinced him to buy a taxi. He borrowed $100, 000 ‘You have to learn how to handle aggressive people if they hop at an interest rate of 21.75% to get started and initially worked in. If you ask them how they’re going and they answer: “what’s day and night to pay it off. it to you?” You get them home as soon as you can. You learn ‘I guess my motivation was to run my own business: a new from experience.’ challenge in my life; trying to get ahead. It was a challenge, a risk, Paul talks about how, early in his career, he had two guys I put my house on the line.’ He wouldn’t change anything though, ‘do a runner.’ He gave chase when one of the men turned ‘I really like going to work; I like my job.’ on him and said, ‘I could cut your throat right here and now where Paul knows that many people see being in a cab as an opportunity you stand.’ Paul recalls: ‘It was only as I was walking away that to talk. ‘they spill their insides to someone they may never see I realised how foolish I was ... this fella could have cut my throat again. It gives them a chance to get something off their chest; and for what? nine dollars? I would never chase anyone again. we’re a confidante I suppose.’ It’s not worth it. that was inexperience, I believe.’ Paul’s favourite customers are the elderly he sees on a regular while Paul is happy to talk about the negative experiences basis. ‘Probably one thing is that the old ladies don’t have family he’s had, it’s the stories of his passengers overcoming adversity they see very often. we become their family in a sense, they only that he wants to emphasise. get out once or twice a week and we’re the ones they talk to for He speaks of a Ugandan student he drove in 1998, ‘by the name a period of time. You get close to them; we’re like hairdressers of Ambrose. He was a delightful young kid. He told me his father in that sense; they tell us very personal things.’ was killed by Idi Amin; his mother had died when he was younger. one of his favourite passengers is dora. ‘she rings me up to let He won a scholarship to study computing. You could tell by his me know how she’s going. every time I picked her up, she used personality that he was going to go a long way in life – he had to bring me lollies. I said, “now look dora, you can’t bring me any a smile on his face and he was really happy. He had a lot of more lollies – I’m trying to lose weight.” so now she brings me out confidence.’ fruit. she brings me rags from the RsPcA shop to clean my taxi even though Ambrose was only in his taxi for a brief time, Paul has and she gets books sometimes. I know all about her family.’ taken him into his heart and it sounds as if, when he recounts this Paul knows that not everyone is like him. He believes that no story, he’s talking about a nephew. then he pauses to reflect and matter what industry you work in, if you enjoy your job – it shows. says simply, ‘I would like to know where he is now.’ 12 13
  • 8. hassan, heideLBerG heiGhts woRds kImBeRleY clemens ImAges sUdeeP lIngAmnenI Hassan Ali has left a lot in the past – his home, his career when the violence in mogadishu escalated, Hassan knew and the violence of war. Hassan and his family left everything that it was time to leave. His pregnant wife and child left first to start at ‘zero, zero, zero’. but Hassan was not able to join them. the new baby was three before they reunited. Hassan doesn’t want to see the face of anger anywhere ever again, especially in his cab. He has seen anger enough already, when Hassan eventually arrived in Australia he found work witnessing missiles that regularly blow up ordinary civilians as a steward in a major hotel. After that, he started driving on the streets of mogadishu, somalia. He finds it difficult to convey cabs because it was the only work he could find. nonetheless, the sense of monumental loss caused by anger and violence. he has discovered that there are some good points to driving a cab. He struggles, not because he can’t articulate himself, but because He finds that it can be a very social job where real friendships are what he has witnessed is beyond belief for those of us who have made. He enjoys meeting a wide range of people and likes it when lived in safety and comfort all our lives. He laments that too often people seem keen to hear his stories. passengers are aggressive, rude and racist. when this occurs, A memorable moment for Hassan was when he realised that he momentarily questions why he is here and what it is all for. a passenger had left a bag behind. It contained Us$6,000 ‘I never thought that it would be like this.’ cash. Fortunately for the tourist, Hassan remembered which Hassan wants anger to stay in the past. hotel he was staying in and returned the money. this landed him a hefty $700 dollar tip! Unfortunately, not everyone is as honest Very much a family man, Hassan has worked hard to excel as Hassan. one of his worst encounters was when he had to pick in a job that not many really want to do. He states that ninety-seven up a passenger from crown casino, drive to werribee and then per cent of melbourne cab drivers are immigrants. For the majority, to newport where they jumped out and ran off without paying. cab driving is the only work available to them. After restarting his life at ‘zero’, it is a major accomplishment that he now has Hassan also thinks that not only should laws improve the economic a good business. He has five drivers who work for him and insists security of drivers, more could be done to improve physical safety that all his cabs are maintained in immaculate condition. His high whilst on the job. He thinks that the new safety screens won’t standards have enabled him to build up sixty-three regular clients do much. ‘they are not as good as those in the United states and who have also become friends over the last five years. the United kingdom where the driver is completely isolated from the passengers. Protection here is only partial.’ driving a cab was not the dream plan that he had in mind when he arrived in Australia. Hassan had many achievements Hassan says that it is too easy to become a cab driver. candidates to his credit before the civil war in somalia wiped out these need only to have resided in Australia for one month before they accomplishments. He was a professional soccer player and can apply to be drivers. He thinks there should be more intensive represented his country. From this, he derived a lot of respect – training courses to help immigrants become more familiar with and a decent living. excelling in sport enabled him to buy a four- their territory so that there is less resentment from passengers. bedroom home and a business selling food. life was good, very good, but all the fruits of success are now obliterated. to know that life can change so dramatically still leaves him incredulous. 14 15
  • 9. yousry, endeavour hiLLs woRds RAcHAel gUtHRIdge ImAge sImon BIRcH ‘one time a guy shot me with a gun in sunshine. I don’t know why, he was just a weird guy. I had only been driving for one or two weeks. He said, “do you make good money?” I said, “It’s ok.” He said, “Hand over the money.” I didn’t give him my money. Back home in egypt you defend yourself whatever happens. But this time the man had a gun and I didn’t know. when I saw it I got scared and tried to run from him. He pointed the gun at me and shot. I heard a click but the bullet didn’t hit me directly. I think it hit something else and then ricocheted and hit my leg. the man ran away. I called the police and filled out the paperwork at st. kilda Road; the man was never found.’ In egypt, Yousry was a criminal lawyer with difficult cases including once representing a man who had raped over 300 women. what interests Yousry is how the criminal mind works. ‘some say people are born as criminals; that it is in their genetics. others say it is society that creates criminals. when you come out of college, you want to work out how the criminal mind works. If I didn’t know what this man had done I would never have guessed it.’ Yousry remembers picking up a man once on the street as an act of goodwill. the day was very cold and this man only had a t-shirt on. Yousry felt for him and, as he was going that way, slowed down to pick the guy up. they had a good chat but at a set of traffic lights halfway through the ride the passenger opened the door. Yousry thought the man was going to be ill, but instead he got out and did a runner. on his way out he started shouting at Yousry ‘saying the F word and “You are a dog!”’ confused, Yousry tried to reason with his passenger and called back, ‘I picked you up because I was trying to help you, why do you do this to me?’ the man kept walking and they met up at the next set of traffic lights. At this point Yousry noticed the man’s house keys on the passenger seat. He wound down the passenger-side window and called out, ‘do you like diving? ’ the man looked back blankly and asked, ‘what? ’ As the lights went green, Yousry called out as he drove off, ‘Because you are going to have to dive for these.’ He then promptly threw the keys into the Yarra! For Yousry, driving is more than a means to an end – he does it with pride. He was one of the first melbourne cabbies to dress in a tie. ‘Back in the early 1990s I used to be the subject of a lot of fun because of how I dressed. now it is normal.’ Yousry would like to be practising law again but he has a family to support. ‘I wish someone would help me. I have only two to three subjects to finish and then I need to do my articles with a law firm. I have made contact with many firms but driving full-time takes first priority at the moment. sometimes life pushes you to do things and you have not much choice – what can you do? Hopefully one day I will return to law.’ 16 17
  • 10. woRds VIoletA BAlHAs ImAge sImon BIRcH Being a taxi driver seems like a strange career choice for someone there is a reason why she has never had a customer do a runner when the police officer looked in the open taxi window, the like tracy. Although a geelong girl ‘born and bred’, she admits on her, abused her, or damaged her cab. she talks scathingly passenger was all innocence. ‘Found my stolen guitar, have ya?’ to having no innate sense of direction and didn’t even know her way of cab drivers who make up their minds about passengers before tracy laughs. she knew she was never in any real danger. around her home town until she started driving taxis four years ago. they even get in the car. she believes that passengers know when still, she doesn’t work nights. they’re being judged and respond accordingly. ‘the one thing that ‘I needed part-time work and hadn’t worked in a long time. [I had] I found is that you just treat everyone the same, rich, poor, doesn’t ‘mum would never let me,’ she explains. ‘It never ends.’ It seems no qualifications, so I thought I’d give it a burl. so, there I was and matter. You just be nice and they will be nice back.’ an ironic statement from someone who says that, ‘with the young here I am, loving it.’ ones, I get all mumsy. I want to take them home. And I want In her time as a driver she has been offered drugs in lieu of payment tracy’s dad had been driving cabs since tracy was eight to adopt all the elderly.’ and tends to adopt a ‘what-a-shame’ tone when refusing them. ‘sorry or nine-years-old and, as she talks, his taxi wagon drives past. mate; never while I’m working. I’d prefer the cash.’ she has also been there are moments that make her sad. ‘there are lots and lots It is the same wagon that she drives, strung with stars and tinsel offered a large sum of cash by a man to ‘entertain’ his young male of lonely people out there. stacks. Particularly the elderly. for christmas. she insists that her dad is the one with stories to tell, employees. she said she found it flattering, ‘but no thanks!’ You try not to cry because a lot of them spend christmas on their that there is nothing remarkable about returning to paid work after own.’ she helps in the only way she can. ‘most people want a bit decades of raising children and coming to love a job that many one of tracy’s favourite stories was when a young man, who of a whinge. they don’t want the solution; they just want you people deride. had possibly watched too many movies, instructed her to drive to listen, and agree maybe, and sort of be there – like a barman.’ up to a garbage bin. He pulled out a wrapped package (which there is no preamble with tracy. she launches straight into the looked suspiciously like a firearm) and placed it behind her seat. tracy’s empathy also has a more practical use. ‘I can pick a vomiter conversation and it’s easy to imagine that she is like this with her He looked like the cock-of-the-walk. A crim. well presented. a mile away.’ she once picked up a couple of girls, one of whom passengers. ‘I love meeting new people and I love my regulars. Until they pulled up at his place to find a police van parked outside. was very drunk. tracy watched her like a hawk and when she You get to hear such interesting things. You get to hear different views.’ He explained to tracy that the police were probably just there knew that the inevitable was about to happen, turned off the meter, Interesting things include drug deals and offers of going on the about his stolen guitar but she should drive on anyway as he’d pulled over, and instructed the friend to open the door, saying, lam or the game, but that’s for later. tracy wants to talk about her forgotten something from where she had picked him up. tracy ‘I swear, if she vomits in my cab, I won’t mean to do it, but I will regulars, the contract work she has ferrying children to and from drove off slowly with the police in pursuit. she told her fare that vomit also, and I will be vomiting down the back of your neck!’ primary school where she must park the car and search for her if the police ‘put on their lights and sirens, I’m going to pull over she shakes her red curls and laughs but becomes serious again charges, or the elderly, whom she will drop exactly where they and you’re going to get out. ok?’ when talking about her responsibilities towards her passengers. need to be, often risking a fine for parking in a no standing zone ‘Alright,’ he agreed and paused before asking, ‘Reckon we could ‘they trust us, so we have to be careful we don’t break that trust. to do so. she also deals with people with ‘all sorts of disabilities’. lose them?’ It’s a huge responsibility. we’ve got to look after them.’ crinkles she pauses to correct herself, ‘I don’t call it a disability, by the way. appear around tracy’s eyes. she’s obviously well qualified for the job. they have dif-abilities, not disabilities.’ tracy is pretty sure she’s ‘we’re in a big yellow car with big numbers all over it. don’t think made the word up, and the invention befits someone who we’re going to lose them,’ she replied. ‘now, we’re going to pull embraces people who are ‘put together different, look at life over. ok dude?’ different, and do things different’. 19
  • 11. 20 21
  • 12. woRds deRYn mAnsell ImAge sImon BIRcH twenty years ago, when Valerie and her husband Vic bought best of it. they moved to Bannockburn, renting an old dairy she drives the taxi, on average, three days a week and employs when she became hysterical. she had left her handbag inside. a block of land in rural Victoria, the last thing on their minds was while they saved to build on their property. then disaster struck. a part-time driver for the other days. It’s hard work and in recent And she wasn't quite sure about the stove, and where on earth to start a taxi business. their plan was for Vic to ease himself into they were caught up in the Pyramid Building society collapse years government-funded community transport has made a dent were her keys? I went inside, got the bag, checked the stove, retirement by commuting from geelong to plant potatoes and and lost their savings just as they were about to start building. in business. ‘they forget that there’s private enterprise in the area,’ found the keys and off we went, after I had carefully shut the onions on a block they owned in Bannockburn, about twenty-five they had to sell their much-loved home in geelong and move Valerie says. ‘elderly citizens are our bread and butter. moreover, gate – on mary's instruction of course. kilometres away. Valerie would stay in town to pursue her career to an old house in the main street of Bannockburn. community transport is only available on weekdays, leaving the ‘A little way down the road, out of the blue, mary said, “You know, managing the nursing education Unit at geelong Hospital. taxi service to fill the gap in the anti-social hours.’ Valerie only drove the taxi occasionally to help Vic. meanwhile I'm not sure if my appointment is today or next week.” Just to add their plan, however, did not anticipate the local community’s reaction she continued to forge ahead in her career, publishing a book despite the stress of the job, Valerie says that it is a privilege to all this it was stinking hot and I was starting to get a sweat up to the news that Vic used to drive taxis in geelong. Before they on the history of nursing education at geelong Hospital in 1996 to be a country taxi driver. ‘one morning I had a call from mary knowing I had another taxi job to do. mary found her appointment knew it, Valerie and Vic were forwarding the community’s petition and completing her doctorate on clinical nurse leadership in 2004. who had just remembered she had a medical appointment and none book and, you guessed it, the appointment was for next week. to the Victorian taxi directorate for permission to establish the ‘I was a very poor student at school. I had to do Year eleven twice of her family was available to take her. I followed her instructions ‘so back I went, opened the gate and got mary comfortably inside. Bannockburn and district taxi service. ‘It was surprisingly easy and I never finished Year twelve, so it was a bit of an ego thing, to get to her property: the one with the blue roof twelve kilometres “would you be a dear while you're here and replace the light globe?” to get – unfortunately,’ says Valerie ruefully. ‘no one in their right I suppose, to show that I could do it.’ she is also a staunch believer from town, just down from Jim's and not far from the next junction she asked. well, what do you do? of course I changed the light mind would go into the taxi business, particularly in the country. in the importance of continuing education and believes that the with the main highway. the instructions were accurate enough, globe and promised I would be back next week. she offered me You work 24/7, it mucks up your social and family life and you just nursing profession needs more Phds, especially in the clinical area. apart from the distances; the house was twenty kilometres from money, but obviously I refused – the experience itself was priceless! can’t plan. You can be sitting at home all night with the phones town and Jim, it turned out, lived three kilometres away. when Vic was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, the doctor deemed on and not get a single call.’ ‘You’re not only the driver, you’re a friend. In this case, a roustabout, the taxi business detrimental to Vic’s health so Valerie retired from ‘I arrived at mary's place to find her on her walking frame in the a handyman and a reliable person who enables the client to maintain nevertheless, the pair couldn’t turn their backs on a community nursing and took over management of the service. now recovered, driveway rounding up the sheep that had broken through the fence. their independence and quality of life. You think to yourself, that that lacked any form of public transport. the bottom had also fallen Vic, sixty-two, has established a new business in pre-mixed concrete we couldn't possibly leave without putting the sheep back in the could be me in a few years time.’ out of the potato and onion industry, so they decided to make the while Valerie, at sixty, continues to manage the taxi service. paddock. so, in fits of laughter, the two of us rounded them up. I got mary settled in the taxi and was just about ready to leave 22 23
  • 13. woRds JIll HARRIs ImAge cHRIstoPHeR deeRe one melbourne cup eve not long after tony had started driving getting out the back so I hopped out – I gave her a bit of a hand taxis, ‘I picked up this bloke, lenny the legend … drunk and full up over the gutter and she got very offended by that. she said, of drugs. He jumped in the car, big overcoat on and I said to myself, “I’m alright, I can look after myself.”’ tony discovered later that “geez I’m in trouble here with this bloke.” the ninety-nine-year-old woman was still very independent and ran all her own affairs! ‘we had an altercation over a couple of differences. I was a bit concerned about his reactions – throwing his arms around and He regularly drives for some special needs passengers with carrying on – abusive – said he’d just got out of jail for battery down syndrome. ‘kids going to the centre… they’re my soft spot and assault and a bit of other stuff.’ tony realised he might have … and some of the reactions out of them. You do get a bit involved, some trouble brewing and considered activating the emergency I suppose, in a way. I’ve got a lot of time for those kids. some button in his cab, but with lenny in the front seat he was unable of them are quite good … and they keep you on your toes. they to do this without arousing suspicion. ‘what would you say if this express themselves in their own way. they’re quite entertaining was a robbery?’ lenny asked tony. ‘couldn’t say bloody much which I don’t mind.’ I suppose,’ he replied. lenny wasn’t tony’s only experience with conflict as a cab driver. tony planned, ‘when he gets half-way out of the car I’ll just put the ‘You let ninety per cent of it go over your head ’til one time foot down; I’ll spin him out; I’ll slip him out the door on the footpath.’ it pushes you on the button. You get a couple of up-jumpers now However, lenny remained in the front seat when tony pulled up and and then who want to be heroes. I went to pick these couple then asked for seventy dollars. ‘ooh, I don’t think so, I only just of blokes up … young blokes … first year apprentices as usual started at five o’clock,’ tony said. In fact, he had three or four … full of grog and bad manners. He started into me; we get hundred dollars in takings after a day’s driving. ‘I don’t think I can around the corner and he’s still into me. so I pulled her [the taxi] make seventy dollars. look, I might make forty dollars if I’m lucky.’ up. I took the glasses off, popped the glasses on the dashboard lenny agreed to the forty dollars. ‘so I tip him two red wings and and I said, “don’t worry about the glasses young chappie, and the I said, “well who’s paying the fare on the meter mate? If I go home grey and balding head. I think I can handle you.”’ once tony called to the boss … and I’m a bit short on the fare, he’s gonna take his bluff the passenger backed off. A threat of being kicked out it outta me pay.” so, lenny gives me back twenty of the forty of the cab while the other passenger went home to mooroopna I gave him. I think, “this bloke’s a dickhead,” so I give him six bucks for free silenced the offender and the trip ended safely. change back – kept the books squared.’ tony admits it is easy to be worn down over time by the harassment tony headed down to the police station later that night to report of passengers. ‘they try their bluff. You get sick of them after the incident. ‘we had the whole police station in a ball of laughter. a while; they push your buttons a bit. You cop it a lot.’ they sent down for lenny at about eleven o’clock and rounded stories and opinions are another challenge. ‘You let them go over him up. But lenny was a bit dirty – he reckoned I short-changed your head, you don’t take them in much … you’d fill your head up him six bucks!’ with garbage.’ while lively discussion is on the agenda some days, tony became a cab driver in the shepparton area ten years ago ‘general things you agree with, just to keep peace’. after the rigours of thirty years of interstate truck driving had taken while work is rarely discussed at home, tony sees his taxi licence their toll. ‘I saw one [taxi] advertised in the paper one day, went as an investment. ‘You have something to sell at the end of the around and bought one in an hour.’ He set himself up with the taxi story. At the end of your working career you have an asset, a bit and licence and has been driving ever since. He says he now feels of paper worth a bit of money, whereas with a truck you’ve ‘too old’ to be employed elsewhere. His children are grown-up and got nothing to sell. his wife of twenty-five years, kathy, is accustomed to tony’s shift- work and absences after his years trucking. ‘It’s a hard job … you’ve got to put a lot of hours in. If you’re part of the life and you’re playing the game you work pretty hard … tony loves driving but finds it best not to assume too much about especially in a small country town.’ his passengers. ‘one girl, she was ninety-nine. one day I picked her up from the retirement centre – her and another lady. took them down the street and she was only going so far. she was 24 25
  • 14. ContriButors PhotoGraPhers raChaeL, Peter, CoMMerCiaL adviCe siMon www.simonbirch.com.au ProduCer the taxi industry has always been a controversial and sometimes political topic through working on this project I get to capture taxi drivers’ stories in a way that offers insight Monument Marketing because of its influence over perceptions into their lives. engaging with taxi drivers is like about the city. this project offers new insights taking a trip around the world and an insight into www.monumentmarketing.com.au our own culture and community in Victoria. into taxi driving and opportunities for drivers I created taxi Project because I have heard so many wonderful taxi driver and passengers alike to have a different no other profession mixes with people from so many walks of life. stories, insights and philosophies and I wanted to see them captured in conversation. words and images. taxi drivers have a unique insight into life and are able to reflect us back to ourselves. taxi Project is a privilege to bring into being. aLex, ChristoPher onLine MarKetinG www.demotix.com/users/deerekit www.etchgroup.com I want to see and show how taxi drivers work, deanne, on the road or in the depot, waiting for the shift I have had many an interesting chat in taxis, to start or winding down when it has ended. before and after being involved in this project. editor (& Writer) taxis are all about place and distance: where It takes all types and I am proud to be involved they set out, where they arrive, and how they are in such a collaborative project. able to make it happen for so many people who www.wordsby.com.au need to be somewhere else, soon. I was hooked on taxi Project from the first moment. After all, how often are you invited to help collect the stories of melbourne’s greatest story MiCK, MauriZio collectors – cabbies? I am a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the video FootaGe www.newterrain.net extraordinary stories of the seemingly ordinary lives of people around me. I was inspired to be part of taxi Project by one of the scenes I like in films is when a complete Rachael who has a great vision for the project stranger jumps inside a taxi and shouts, “follow and the passion and energy to make it happen. that car.” I always wondered what drivers think Taxi Project not only celebrates an important group when that happens. I am very interested in the of people in our community, it also aims to raise social and cultural aspects of Taxi Project and danieL, money for Very special kids. A two thumbs up! the opportunity to photographically narrate drivers’ stories. desiGn Partner MattheW, sudeeP Platform5 Design Studio editor www.ABoynamesue.com www.platform5.com.au It’s not the destination, it’s the journey... isn’t it? life is a journey like taking a ride in a taxi. the meter what a fascinating journey they can provide, keeps a-ticking to the beat of your heart. whether I think taxis are a really interesting topic and one that can be explored a constant source of inspiration and the barometer you have a destination, or are just standing still; alone further visually. we need to turn our attention to taxi drivers as they make of society. or with the best of company, remember to enjoy the such a valuable contribution to our lives. ride. You hold the passport to your life, to the world, to tomorrow. It’s a privilege to contribute to and capture society, the community, in projects like this one. 26 27
  • 15. Writers PauL As a freelance writer, it was only natural that I would want to take part in this great project to document the lives of taxi drivers, many of whom Chris I wanted to do taxi Project because I am a closet people-freak and I also want to be a writer when I grow up. have fascinating stories of their own to tell. vioLeta aMie Ben steLLa www.viletters.com I am taking part in taxi Project because I believe I have always been interested in people and I am a writer, filmmaker and counsellor and love I got involved with taxi Project because I’m that Victorian taxi drivers are an integral part taxi drivers are definitely interesting! I’m excited being involved in collaborative projects. I have a a great believer in the power of stories to of our society. their stories are fascinating, by this opportunity to share with the public the strong interest in migrants and migration issues humanise us. stories are the antidote to the touching and are finally going to be put into print stories of these drivers and their lives behind the and find taxi Project a delightful and important objectification that drives division among people. for everyone to appreciate. wheel. exercise in tracking diversity in Victoria. Plus, they’re so damned interesting. GreG JiLL KiMBerLey aBBy I wanted to get involved in taxi Project because I believe taxi drivers are the storytellers of our I have always been inclined to jump in the front I am involved with taxi Project because I believe I wanted to learn more about writing and the history at the grassroots level. they have an seat and get to know the person behind the that taxi drivers perform a great service to all of idea of interviewing people has interested me insight into human nature that most of us will wheel. us and so many take that service for granted. for a long time. never experience. I am inspired to be part I want to share taxi driver stories with our of a group giving voice to these people. community to help generate respect for this great group of people! nadine sharon derryn www.nadinecranenburgh.com www.summerfilmschool.com As a cyclist, my experience of taxi drivers hasn’t each taxi ride I’ve taken has brought a always been positive – they just get too close I am totally fascinated by people and why memorable conversation, whether it was sometimes! But then, I’ve seen cyclists do some they do the things they do and love working parenting advice or a short lesson in Hindi pretty stupid things too. getting it right comes collaboratively, especially with Rachael. or thai. I live in Ballarat, so I’m particularly down to respecting each other on the road. I interested in the tales of regional cabbies. think that’s what this project is about – building respect by listening to the stories of the people with whom we share the road. suPPort teaM stePhen I believe in finding something bigger than myself to be involved in. taxi Project is a way for me to help someone else. taxi drivers are so widely shane Having driven a cab many years ago I understand how tough and thankless and just plain surreal the experience can be. knowing what I know, maligned that I’m sure I have subconscious from my short stint, I’m sure there have to be prejudices toward them. I want to challenge some great stories out there. those prejudices head-on. Bettina Wendy LuKe PriyanKa www.bettinaguthridge.com.au I volunteered on taxi Project because I once when I was told about taxi Project, I knew I www.coconoir.com.au I am working on taxi Project because I am met a lovely black-bearded taxi driver who told was signing up for something new and exciting. taxi drivers are the pulse of melbourne, helping so inspired by the untold stories behind the me how to cook spinach with lentils. taxi drivers have so many interesting and us all reach our destinations in a time of need. beautiful faces of some of these men and wonderful stories to share. Bringing them Acknowledging them for the wonderful service women. I would love the world to know where to the public’s eye has been exciting and they provide and sharing their personal stories is they have come from and the tales they could a wonderful experience. an absolute pleasure. Helping Rachael achieve tell. this vision is an added bonus. 28 29
  • 16. taxi, the inside story much is said about the taxi industry, usually in derogatory terms. But the taxi industry is an important part of our transport system; it is flexible and fast. the industry is made up of ‘characters’, be they owners, drivers, mechanics or administrators. In the main they are dedicated individuals, dedicated to their industry and the service they provide. And taxi drivers represent a microcosm of the community in which we live. Taxi, The Inside Story captures the diversity of the Australian community and the taxi industry itself. Here are stories of those who have driven for years, those who drive to fund their education, and those who are new arrivals to our country – many of whom cannot get employment anywhere else. stories of men and women of all ages and backgrounds who just happen to drive taxis for a living. the taxi industry has a proud history of service to the community and will be here for years to come. And it will always need drivers who can be proud of their profession, proud of the quality of their individual turnout and proud of the presentation of their cab. Taxi, The Inside Story will warm the cockles of your heart with the personal stories of drivers who deliver this important public service. The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC Promoter and Defender of the Taxi Industry www.taxiproject.com 30