Monday, December 2, 2013

Hannibal, Sydney airport to Manly, 110 dollar

Hannibal and I have been talking for a while in the taxi and he tells me about his karate and thai boxing career.

"You know Dolph Lundgren?"
"Yes, of course"
" Well, we were in the same tournament here in Australia many years ago. He was supposed to fight me but he lost his competition and went home. I won that tournament. "
"Haha, so you are better than Dolph Lundgren!"
" You know, karate is a full contact sport and you can get many bad injuries during a tournament but you have to keep fighting. But you can get too many and that is what happened to Dolph. I did talk to him several times during the years. He is a nice bloke."
"That is pretty cool. You can put that on you CV. 'I almost fought Dolph Lundgren'".
"Haha, almost yes."
"And when did you quit practising?"
" I did not quit. I still practice every morning one hour. I also train people I have my own studio and my own variant of Karate. I do that twice a week. That is my third job..."
"And what do you do when you do not drive the taxi?"
" I build cabinets. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets. I have my workshop, I like working for myself. I do not like anyone to tell me what to do. The taxi driving I only do during the weekends but I like it and it enables me to take it easy during the week. I like to have a comfortable life and not too stressful. I like to travel. I travel every third or fourth month for 3-6 weeks."
"That sounds clever. And do you have a family?"
"Yes. I have a wife. But she is in Thailand now. She has her own business their in landscaping. And we have an apartment there so she takes care of the business."
"Yes, I have four boys. One with my wife and three with my ex wife. My ex wife is Italian. She was too loud. My Thai wife is much better"
"Four boys, three jobs, two wives. You have a busy life!"
"Haha, yes, a busy life. But I love it. I love my life"
"And do you take your wife travelling when you go?"
"Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. When I go to Poland she does not go with my. I have a property there that I renovate and then I normally go by myself".

We stop and the bill is a staggering 110 dollars.

"Hmm, I have never seen it above 100 dollars before".
"Well you see it is the weekend, the airport tax etc etc that is why"
"Ok, thank you and have a good night!"
"All the best, bye"

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tony, Manly to Sydney Airport, 95 dollars

The alarm went off at 4.30 this morning. A little bit earlier then I normally go up. At 4.55 the taxi driver was waiting outside as the sun was rising.

"Good morning! "
As I was opening the passenger door the driver had to remove his stuff. Not too many people go in the front, but I always do that. We start chatting and after a while he asks

"What is that accent of yours?"
"Aha - I have been to Sweden"
"Have you, when was that? "
"That was in year 2000. I toured Scandinavia and Russia. "
"Where abouts in Sweden? "
And he starts telling me about his trip that started in Berlin and went into Denmark, Norway, Sweden and then into Russia.

"18 months later I returned to Russia. There were places I wanted to see. I asked one of my drivers that was Russian if he could find me a minder. Straight away he said
- My brother. You will have no problems with him!
So I went to Russia and travelled with his brother. In Russia at that time there was control points at every 50 ticks. The minder told me that we only had to stop at the first control, and then there would be no more stops. So we are getting closer to the first control with a lot of guards and they stop us and ask for our papers. They get our papers and look at them. Then they start screaming and out comes the police along with other guards! They all start arguing and look at the papers. Then we get the papers back and they all salute us. It turns out that my minder used to be a KGB general! We get back in the car and start driving. When we approach the next control nobody stops us, everybody stands in  a row and salute us as we are going pass. I had a great time with my minder and felt very safe. We had no problems getting rooms even if hotels were full either. Great trip. "

Tony stops at the aiport and we wish each other a great day. I again feel excited over these amazing people with their amazing stories I keep meeting in a taxi. And I am reminded of a quote from one of my friends who is constantly travelling: "The joy in travelling is the people you meet"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Muhammed, Sydney Airport to Manly, 97 dollars

This time I arrived so late in Sydney from Melbourne. We had been on a Christmas party and arrived in Sydney at 10.30. I did not book a taxi in advance since I did not expect any taxi queues at this time. Of course I still had to wait for 5 or 10 minutes, but it was not too bad. A big Toyota taxi rolled into my dock and I got into the taxi. Muhammed and I started talking about this and that and it turned out that he was a computer hardware engineeer.

"I used to work for a private company in Paramatta. They employed me when I was just graduated. But they did not pay me well"
"No? How much did you get?"
"Only 15 dollars an hour. He said that it would change and 2,5 years later I was still on 15 dollars per hour. That is when I quit"

Muhammed lives in Sydney since 7 years with his wife and his kid that is 18 months old. He was telling me about his family in Pakistan.

"I got a sister doing her MBA. My brother is studying computer science. I got another sister studying medical. "
"How many sisters and brothers do you have?"
"We are 11. 6 sisters and 5 brothers."
"Wow, that is amazing! Your mother must be very strong!  How old is our youngest brothers and sisters?"
"The youngest brother is 12, my youngest sister is 18"
"Ah ok, so soon there will be no more kids in the house"
"Oh yes. There are 9 kids there now. You know, two of my sisters have 3 kids each, one of my sister have 2 kids and one of my brohters have 1 kid. Some of them are still living in the house."
"Wow! Soon there will be like 50 kids when all your brothers and sisters get kids."
"No no, only 12 kids now. Only 12."
"Do you not miss your family?"
"Yeah, you know, my parents have 13 bedrooms in the house to host all the family from time to time. Two of my sisters live nearby and come and stay the weekend. In the winters we all gather indoors around the well where we make the bread and we keep warm that way. It is in amazing feeling!


Here in Australia everybody live separate. If anything happens in the street in Pakistan everybody would know. Everybody will help. There is no difference between families, we are all one big family in Pakistan, everybody helps. It is not like that here. Everybody is separate. That is different. "
"Oh yes, it sure is"
And I was trying to picture myself in that image. 10 brothers and sisters. The parents never reaching the time when all kids have left the home, new grandkids replacing the own kids. Totally different way of living.

"So Mohammed, how many kids are you going to have?"
"2 or 3 maybe"
"Not 10?"
"No no no. It was different then. Now it is too expensive to have kids like that. And according to my religion it is not up to me to decide how many kids I get. It is up to God. "
"Ok, but you just told me you are going to have 2 to 3 kids?"
"Yes, you can plan. But I cannot decide. God decides. "
And we have reached our destination. I pay my bill and get out of the taxi
"Thank you Muhammed, have a great night"
"You too. Thank you, it was nice talking to you. "

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sujit, Richmond to Melbourne airport, 84 dollars

After my business meeting the taxi driver was waiting for me. I was a little bit late but he was calm and relaxed.

"Are you in a hurry? "
"Not really, I got almost two hours before the flight leaves so it should be alright"
"Yes because we got two options on which road to take, we got these options... " and my driver starts explaining the different options.
"Whatever you find appropriate, I do not know Melbourne traffic, you are the expert, you make the choice. "
"Ok, we will take this route that will the quickest. "
"Sure. "
Yesterday was Melbourne cup day, so I ask:
"Did you bet on the horses yesterday?"
"Yes! But I lost. I always lose. "
"I am sorry to hear that!"
"But I was driving a couple of people and the wife won 600 dollars. She had no idea about horses, just took one at random. "
"Ha ha, yeah, that is the way to do it I guess... Where are you from? "
"I am from Nepal"
"Nepal, I love Nepal, where abouts? "
"I am from Kathmandu. Have you been there? When did you go there?"
"I was there 12 years ago. "
"It was probably beautiful at that time"
"It sure was. Has it change a lot? "
"Yes, it has changed a lot. But is still a underdeveloped country. "
"Ah ok. "
"But is due to one reason only. Do you know why? "
"Nepal is a very rich country. It is the worlds richest country in regards to drinking water , but still there is a big water problem in Kathmandu. We have go gold and a lot of other minerals, but nobody is mining it. The government is corrupted and does no development. Nepal is very important to China and India. India is using a lot of resources now for free. They use our water for free, we supply northern India with water. But India do not want us to get developed because if we get powerful they cannot use us like they do now. Indian government is bribing the Nepalese government to prevent them from developing the country. The give them millions and millions of dollars. Nepali government people have houses in the US, in London and for sure in Australia. They do nothing... We actually had a prime minister 10 years ago who wanted to change and develop the country. He closed the border to India and started working on developing the country. He was planning a railway, flew in fuel, started making the agriculture more efficient and distributing the money to institutions and building roads. Three months later the king was pressured from India to take him away. So he was taken away from his position only after three months. "
"Interesting. Hopefully there will soon be somebody that is not corrupted and that will not taken away from the position "
"Yes. The current prime minister actually also have started doing things. But everybody wants him gone. They do not like that Nepal is being developed"

"Why did you move here? "
"To study. I have studied a business degree. I am actually going back in three months. "
"So what are you going to do in Nepal? "
"I do not know yet. I will see what kind of opportunities there are to make business. "
We arrive at the airport.
"Well, thank you for the ride. I wish you the best of luck when you go back to Nepal and start your business!"
"Thank you very much. Enjoy your evening. "

Bisan, Manly to Sydney airport, 92 dollars

It is a beautiful morning. Warm and quiet and the sun is rising. The taxi has already arrived and the taxi driver gets out to help us with the luggage.

"Good morning! No, no, you do not have to go out, we do not have any luggage. It is just a day trip. "
The driver laughs and gets back in the car.
"Are you travelling international or domestic?"
As we are driving out of Manly I am struck by the calmness in the morning. The time when few people are awake and the day is just waiting to begin.
"So where are you from originally?" This is the first time I got a driver that has a foreign accent going from Manly.
"I am from India. I am from Punjab"
"Ah, Punjab - yes I know Punjab, I have been to India, but not to Punjab."
"Well I have been here since 1982 now."
We keep on talking about this and that and then Bisan tells me that he actually used to be a chef and have a restaurant.
"Yeah, really? An Indian restaurant? "
"No, I am an Italian chef. I was a chef for 32 years. From Punjab I went to Germany and lived there and studied. That is where I learned how to be a chef. I used to have a restaurant in Neutral bay and one in Dee Why. "
"Wow, so how is it running a restaurant, is it profitable?"
"If it is busy, yes, very profitable. But not when it is not busy. And also it is so hard to find good staff. Very hard. You need to keep it within the family to make it reliable. My family used to work in my restaurant. My son was taking care of the front of the restaurant and I was taking care of the back, the cooking."
"And you still have any of your restaurants? "
"No, I do not have any of the restaurants left. I still own the property in Dee Why but lease it. It is a huge Indian store there now. Huge"
"That sells food?"
"Yes, everything. Food, clothes, DVDs. You can get anything Indian there. It is massive!"
"Sounds interesting, I want to go there!"
"Yeah, you know Pittwater road? It is just along Pittwater road, you cannot miss it. On your right hand side when you drive through Dee Why. You can get great Indian DVDs there about Hinduism, a lot of Australians come and buy them."
"So you do not do any Indian food?"
"Only for fun, I cannot do it professionally. Only Italian. But now when I do not have my restaurants anymore, I am driving the taxi. But just for fun, I do it two to three days a week. Just to pass the time you know. My son moved back to India a couple of years ago and started a school there. A school for teaching English and computer sciences. He has got a master of computer science from Australia. He started small but now he has got 150 students. My second son just got married. He works with accounting. The marriage was in Canada"
"So his wife is Canadian?"
"She is Indian-Canadian. They live with us now since a couple of weeks back."
We are now approaching the domestic airport and the queue of cars stretches out onto the highway. Will I make it? With 35 minutes before the flight departs we arrive at the taxi rank at the departures.
"Thank you Bisan, it was great chatting to you. Have a great day!"
"Thank you. You too and enjoy your flight. Please call me when you need a taxi and I can arrange so that you will be picked up, even from the airport. "

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mark - Manly to Sydney airport, 96 dollars

This is one of the few times I am waiting for the taxi outdoors, I am normally a couple of minutes late, arriving at the kerb meeting a sometimes concerned driver. I squat down and do some facebooking while a dog resists passing me. I guess I look threatening in my squatting pose. Time passes and the phone tells me that it is 5.32. I was supposed to be picked up at 5.30. Should I call them and ask? Just as I finish that thought the taxi is turning around the corner. The man stops and goes out and starts talking. As usual when going from Manly to the airport, this man is born and bred Australian.

We start talking about the weather, an accident in Balgowlah and that news papers normally are so depressing only containing sad news.

"That is what everybody wants. According to my experience, meeting a lot of people during many years, I belive most people are like that. They take joy in other peoples misfortune. They feel good by putting other people down"

"Yes, that is true, many people are like that. I guess they belive they will be happier by doing that... But I think it is the opposite."

"And a lot of people use laws and regulations to put people down. And especially females, haha!

Every law and regulation gives these people an opportunity to put somebody else down. By enforcing the law in any circumstance. There are so many laws everywhere, we cannot follow them all!

I had this woman in the car one time. And she was like that. I almost never use the phone. If I have sent 50 texts during 10 years, that would be a good estimation. But this time it was certain circumstances so I needed to talk to one of the other drivers. He called me on the phone and I picked it up to see what was happening with the car, and the driver and so on. When I had been talking for 10 seconds the woman told me :

- Put that phone down!

I said to the driver: I will call you back, I have one of those in the car... She started going on and on about that it is against the law to use the phone while driving. I said, what about all these other gadgets in the taxi? I tap, I read on the screen, I put in codes. Do you think talking in the phone is worse than that?

She was persistent. It is against the law she said. So I said, there are laws against everything. I bet you have broken 10 laws and regulations every morning before you turned your first corner. Look at this line we are approaching for example. According to the rules we must turn left here instead of going where you want, so let us do that and take a detour.

After that ride she went to the police and made a report on me. Nothing came out of it luckily. "

We are approaching the airport and the queue is long. Mark does not want to fall into the line but passes it on the right side in hope to find a gap and sneak in just before the wall that divides the two lanes. When we approach the dividing wall he realises it cannot be done, and says

"I will stop by the cross over. Is that ok?"
"Yeah, sure. "

We stop at the cross over and I give him my credit card.  When we are about to finish the payment a police car turns up next to us. He gets stressed and pulls my reciept and gives it to me before it finishes printing. Then he gives me the second half containing the actual amount.

"Damn it. Can't he see that how crowded it is this morning? Ok Ok. I gotta move. Just because I stopped at this line. Everybody does that!"

Mark is upset and starts the car and says that we can sneak in the back way just 100 meter in front of us. The police car passes us quickly and puts the car exactly where we intended to go in for dropping me off.

"Look at that guy! I have to make the loop. He is one of those people I told you about! Using laws and regulations to put you down. That was not necessary. This airport is so badly built. Everybody stops there to drop people of. I feel like I should have told him one thing or two. Asked him if he felt good this morning when he got up and got into his little uniform. Asked him if


A couple of minutes later we have finished the loop and again Mark passes the queue in hope to sneak in at the end. Once again he fails to shortcut into the line before the dividing wall. This time there are four taxis in a row by the cross over. He stops there again and drops me off.

"Look, everybody does it. Why did he have to pick on me? "

We exit the car and he gives me my luggage.

"Thank you. C ya!"

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Anthony - Circular Quay to World Square, 11 dollars

I arrived to Circular Quay with the Manly Fast Ferries. A beautiful morning ride. The world's best commute. I went to the taxi stand and found a free taxi, sometimes you need to wait for a while, but not today. I opened the door and started talking to the driver.

"Hi, how are you?"
"Good thanks" The driver looked a bit reserved, maybe this is going to be a quiet drive.
"I am going to World Square please."
"Ah ok. A lot of traffic now. The kids are back from holidays and it is a lot of traffic. Slowly getting better now. "
"Good, that sounds good" I said.
"So where are you from?" Anthony asked me, discovering that I am not an Aussie from my accent.
"I am from Sweden. "
"Jag talar svenska " Anthony said.
"So you have been to Sweden? "
"Yes. I was there when I was sailing".
"Wow, so you were sailing! Tell me more about it"
"I was in Uddevalla. I was working on a ship. It was a merchant ship travelling the world. "
"That sounds exciting! What were you doing on the ship? "
"Well, just working you know. All kinds of things. Painting, moving stuff, fixing - just working doing whatever was needed. "
"So how is it working on a ship, is it exciting?"
"You know, it is kind of a sad life. It is only you, the sky and the sea. Nothing else. "
"Oh. But do you not experience marvellous things, fish in the water, something? "
"Not much, it is mostly the same. But in Saudi Arabia there is a lot of fish. A lot of fish. You can put down a rope with nothing on, no bait. And you pull it up and you have like 5 big fish on the rope. Amazing! I used to do soup. Vegetables, onion, fish. And then you boil it a long time until it is creamy. When you eat it, later you fall asleep, ha ha"
"Where are you from? "
"I am from Peru. But I have lived here for 38 years, I am from here now. I have been back to Peru only four times. Four times. It is no good to live there. To dangereous. Last time I was back I was scared. You can loose your money, they will take your car... It is not safe. "
"You like Australia better? "
"Oh yes, this is much better. It is safe here. I can leave my car in one spot for a week, and I come back and it is still there! Australia is a good country. I live a good life here. "
"And you like driving the taxi? "
"Yes, it is a good job. I have been doing it for eight years now. It is free. I start early in the morning at 4 or 5 and finish at 3 pm. It is a good job ."
"Good to hear. You can stop right here please "
"Ok, 11 dollars please"
"There you go."
"Thank you, God bless you"
"God bless you too"
"Thank you"