Yeah, so I know every Melburnian has an opinion about this and opinions are like arseholes cos everyone has one, but only I have the edit rights to this blog so – stuff it. Time for me to mount that hobby horse.
My very first encounter with a Melbourne cab driver was on Collins St in 2004, on my second morning here. I was on the way to an interview and was told it was easy enough to get a cab to the interview location. I was in my high heels and pantihouse and brown pinstriped suit (it was the 2000s) and nervously waved at a cab who had stopped at a pedestrian crossing. It was a bright morning and even if I known that the top light being off meant they weren’t available I wouldn’t have been able to see it.
He wound his window down, looking at me over his glasses, and I asked very tentatively, ‘ah I don’t suppose you could take me to….’
‘I AM ON THE WAY TO A BOOKING YOU SILLY BITCH! CAN’T YOU SEE MY LIGHTS OFF?’ He screamed. Flecks of spit burst forth from his mouth in his fury as he yelled at me through the window. ‘CANT YOU SEEEEEEE???’
As he roared away in a cloud of diesel, I burst into tears. Great way to be the morning of an interview. I dried my eyes, crossed my fingers and got on the number 48 tram which neatly deposited me outside the building where I was having an interview. But it’s not something I have forgotten. (Got offered the job though, so that’s something).
I am afraid to tell you my experiences of cab drivers have not hugely improved since then.
Like the time that one played ear splitting trance music and couldn’t hear my pleas to turn the music down and put the back passenger window up (it was July), then was unable to find Edinburgh gardens (really).
The time they forgot my booking, so I was late to a wedding.
Or the time that a driver didn’t know where the MCG was.
Or perhaps the time that a driver was so incensed he had to make two drop offs after he had dropped my friend off, that he sped down a one way street in Fitzroy, flying over the speed humps. I got out – would have rather taken my chances walking another half a hour in the dark.
Or the time one tried to kiss me outside my flat in Richmond after I had passed out in the back (revolting, and no I didn’t report it. At the time I was in a rough patch and felt too much like it was my fault for being drunk.)
The most recent taxi experience was a corker though and just reinforces my reasons to take alternative transport. Work handed out cabcharges over the weekend we had to be in the office (fair), so I booked a cab to come and get me. This driver narrowly avoided a collision on Mt Alexander Road, then headed to Spring St end of Bourke, not Spencer as I said, (not once but THRICE.) ‘Oh sorry I thought you said Spring’ he said. This cab driver then handed me his business card and said he would love it if I considered his services in future. I just said, sorry, probably not, but thanks for the lift. (I’ve gotten more assertive in the last 13 years).
Just goes to show if you have a monopoly the quality of service goes way down. So yesterday when I read about the protest staged by the cab drivers out at the Tullamarine, I had a sincere ‘what the fuck’ moment. I am genuinely sorry for those people that have been stuffed about by extortionate taxi licenses handed out by the state government and this is affecting their livelihood. That sucks. But I can only speak as a customer, one who has suffered a few times, and one who opts for ubers when she can. We live in a free market economy that is consumer driven and this is what happens when competition is introduced. Step up, or move on. And blockading the airport, I fear, will not win you any support either.