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VIEWS FROM A CAB - A taxi driver's diary


cab

This book is a collection of the most memorable moments in a Brisbane cab driver’s fifteen year long career that began at the time of the Brisbane Expo 88’ all the way to and after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. 

Having just arrived in Australia as an asylum seeker, fleeing the East European communist party for his outspoken views, George, a former photographer and landscape artist, arrives in Brisbane, Australia with nothing more than the shirt on his back and the dream to start a new life and find work.  

Straight away, he encounters the first major obstacle: the language barrier. Unable to secure a job in his old profession, and desperate to provide for his family, George turns to the highly sought after profession of taxi driving which is in high demand due to the flocks of international visitors arriving for the World Expo 88’. 

As the story develops, we get to know George better, and as his  English skills improve, he begins to communicate more and more with his passengers who begin to tell him the most outrageous,  intimate and secret stories in their lives. On the way, he manages to have a few outrageous incidents of his own with drunk, abusive, and sometimes     seductive passengers who try to take advantage of him.

The book is an insight into the lives of the average Brisbane cab  drivers and how they deal with the daily pressures of their profession and the risks involved with it.

George is no longer driving a cab and is semi retired. He is my father, and he lives in Brisbane’s Southside in Springwood.  

In Store Price: $AU28.95 
Online Price:   $AU27.95

 

AMAZON

 

ISBN: 978-1-921731-85-3  
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 291
Genre: Non Fiction
 

Cover: Zeus Publications

 

 


Author: Cezar Furtuna
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2011
Language: English

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AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY  

Cezar attended Brisbane State High School until 1997. He then did a Bachelor of Arts and Education at the University of Queensland, and drove for Yellow Cabs at night to support himself through uni.  

After graduating, he worked as a marine surveyor on the Port of Brisbane for two years, in which time he wrote Views from a Cab: A Taxi Driver’s Diary at his father’s request.  

Cezar now works in retail, and is working on a new non-fiction work that he’s very excited about. He says, “So long as there is life, there is much to write about.” 

Cezar’s father, George, is now semi-retired, and lives in Brisbane’s Southside in Springwood.

INTRODUCTION 

It would be fair to say that I have kept a diary ever since I can remember. Some might say, why? The reason is simply so that it would help me remember moments in my life that I would normally forget, and which I would like to relive or at least read through again. In this diary, I have recorded a span of a few years in my life as a professional taxi driver, highlights containing my most memorable moments on the road with my passengers: people I have met and who have shared their most intimate secrets, fantasies, aspirations and personal problems.

In this diary, you will meet average Australians. You will find out what they think, what they fear and what they want. You will also meet famous Australians and you will find out some things you never knew about them! Whatever the case, these stories are not written to accuse, embarrass or attack anyone. They are simply as they happened and I am just the driver who happened to be there at the time and who wrote these moments in his diary.

Perhaps one of the people I met is you – you never know! Or you might recognise your neighbour, your friend or someone in your family. The good thing about this diary is that you are bound to associate with someone out of all the stories I have carefully selected and shared with you.

So, if you are opening this diary and thinking you will find outrageous stories or the kind of things you would find in a fiction novel, you will not be disappointed. The only difference between this diary and a novel is that it’s all true. All the stories are genuine and as they happened. Enjoy reading through the days of my life!

 

CHAPTER 1

 

How it all began:

George becomes a cab driver

 

So now that we have been introduced, how do you begin to write all your memoirs into a book? I have decided to start with how I began to look for work as a cab driver. As a political refugee from the former communist Romania, with very poor English skills but a great sense of direction, I managed to just pass my taxi driver’s licence test on my first attempt with Black & White Cabs.

This was the first test I passed, and with growing confidence, I began to make phone calls to the abundant number of places advertised in The Courier Mail. At the time, the Brisbane Expo ’88 was on, and there were a lot of vacancies for cab drivers.

I was a fresh Australian then and I remember I had been job hunting for some time. Wherever I called, all I could say was: ‘Hello. I am George. Saw newspaper – you need taxi driver – I work – you job – for me?’

What I would have wanted to say was: ‘Hello. My name is George and I read your advertisement in the newspaper. I’ve just got my taxi licence and I was wondering if you have a job for me.’ However, as soon as I said what I knew from reading the dictionary, the person on the other end of the line always found some excuse and said they had their regular drivers, they had already found someone else, or they wanted a driver with experience. Anyway, all I understood because they spoke so fast was, ‘Sorry, mate.’

One day, I was reading the paper and I decided to call a man whose name was John Smallsman. He had advertised with the eye-catching phrase: No experience necessary. Start now! So I told him the same thing and he said I should come and see him to arrange when I could start driving. I was overjoyed. I told my wife about it and she sighed with relief. The next day, I went to see the man who would be my boss for the rest of my driving career.

When he first saw me, he didn’t think much of me. He could tell my English was not very good and what’s more, I didn’t have any experience in driving a cab, but he decided to give me a chance. He was never a man of many words. All he said was, ‘Start next Monday morning. Then we’ll see.’

I thanked him and the next Monday, I was early at work, ready to start at half past four in the morning. I had my dictionary with me and all I knew was: ‘Please show me the way’, and I also knew when someone told me to go left, right, straight ahead or stop. I also knew how to say ‘Thank you’ and ‘Goodbye’.

Back then, there were no computer cabs. All bookings were dispatched through the two-way radio and I was not very familiar with how to use it; you had to speak English well, anyway. It was also dark outside and I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know I could have gone straight to the airport feeder, or the Expo rank on Melbourne Street, or the nightclubs in town. So no one was there to stop me from going to a secluded rank in the Valley, the first rank I saw when I was passing, where I waited for the next two hours without getting any work or even moving.

Meanwhile, the sun came up and other cabs parked behind me. The operator would call and they would answer via the two-way radio and leave after short periods of time, while I remained where I was, not knowing what to do.

Finally, to my great relief, I saw an elderly lady approach the cab and get in.

West End, thanks, driver,’ she said to me.

‘Do you know the best way to West End?’ I asked.

‘Yes, I can show you.’

When we got there, I stopped the meter and it read exactly six dollars. The woman searched in her purse and she took out some coins, including one and two cent coins, which in total added to just three dollars.

‘Yes, but …’ I started. ‘Six dollars, please,’ I said extending my hand.

She looked at me and shook her head, talking slowly for me to understand. ‘No. I showed you the way to West End and I pay half because of that!’

With that, she got out and despite my protests, I could do nothing to retrieve the rest. Sighing, I went to the West End rank and waited there for another hour and a half. Again, I experienced the same humiliation of seeing other cab drivers park their cabs, wait for fifteen or twenty minutes, and then I would see them speak on the microphone and take off.

To my relief, another customer got in my cab and I immediately recognised him as an Aboriginal, because I had seen these people on TV before.

‘Hello,’ I smiled to him.

‘I’m going to Fairfield, driver.’

‘Can you show me the best way?’ I asked.

‘What? You’re the fuckin’ cab driver. You should know where Fairfield is!’

‘But …’ I mumbled.

‘Straight ahead!’ he said, pointing.

On the way, he was very rude and he asked me where I was from and why I was here and so on, and he was generally very unfriendly. When we got there, the meter read $7.20.

‘Ah, your meter is very expensive. Here!’ he said, shoving five dollars in my hand. ‘That’s all you’re getting!’ and he left.

My day went pretty much the same as it started: it went very bad and by the end of the day at quarter to four in the afternoon when I had to bring the car in, I had made a total of $48. At the time, $48 was ridiculous. What was I to do? I turned my meter on and let it run by itself until it read a total of $72. I paid the difference out of my own pocket. So on that day, I actually paid my way into keeping my job to encourage my boss to give me another shift.

Soon my boss came out and he asked me how much I’d made. I told him how much and he shook his head. ‘I believed you when you said you’re a new driver, but $72 is very little. Still,’ he sighed, ‘you can come back next Monday.’

I was delighted I had saved my job. When I got home, my wife was waiting for me with a cooked dinner and a smile on her face.

‘How did you go?’ she asked.

What could I say? I told her I had started out fairly well and that I had actually made $42 for myself. She was happy, but I did not sleep that night. For the next few days until Monday when I had to go back to work, I began to frantically study the Brisbane Refidex, trying to learn all the places and main roads in the inner-city suburbs.

On the following Monday, I turned up for work again at four in the morning and I got into car 988. At the time, car 988 was an old car that was soon due to be replaced, as it had done over six hundred thousand kilometres and was very run down, which made it less attractive to potential customers to get into. To clean it, I brought along with me a cloth and some methylated spirits and I wiped the grease off the wheel and everything else inside. This made it more pleasant to drive and easier to handle the steering wheel, which had been greasy from fish and chips.

Once I had cleaned it, I was ready to try my luck again on the road. I knew at least that whatever would happen, my second day in my new career as a taxi driver could not go worse than it had on the first day. It would be fair to say that I did not stop at the same rank I had stopped at the week before and instead I went into the city where I got a job from the Hilton to the airport. At the international airport, I waited for two and a half hours for my turn to come, and I got a fare to the Expo. When we arrived, there were people everywhere and there were all nationalities of tourists. I must have heard every language on Earth except my own. When people came up to me, they would ask me if I knew where this or that hotel is and I would be honest and say no, so they would go to the next cab.

In any case, that day I made a total of $56. Again, I left the meter running and I increased the amount. Afraid I would lose my job if I didn’t, I told my boss I had earned $86.

He waved his hand and said, ‘Ok, not very good, but it’s better. You can work tomorrow too.’

I smiled. The next day, the same thing happened and every day I would increase the amount of the total I had made for a period of eight working days until I finally began to bring money home for a change. Therefore, in this time, I actually worked for my boss without bringing any money home. At the end of the eight working days until I got some experience, I knew where the airport was and where there were people to find.

It was my dream to have a job, to be able to go shopping and buy a chocolate bar for my children and afford a luxury such as a magazine for my wife. It was an obsession for me to survive in this new country and not sit on my backside waiting for the fortnightly payments which were never enough to feed and clothe my family.

This is how I started taxi driving. In the following pages, I have recorded some of my most memorable conversations with my passengers and their marvellous and sometimes outrageous stories.

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