Sydney is a minefield of no right turns, one-way streets and red light cameras. From above it looks like a child has picked up a crayon and attempted to draw a map with their less dexterous hand. Navigating this bowl of dropped spaghetti while retaining all twelve precious demerit points is a constant battle. You could imagine my frustration at having lost two, following the infamous Paul Kelly incident earlier in my Uber career. Miraculously, my star rating is at a stellar 4.95 despite many missed turns and one-way street debacles. I don’t put this down to free chewing gum or water. I love speaking to people to find out what drives them. For the most part, I engage in mildly riveting conversations with Sydney’s finest, although my over-eagerness to converse has landed me in hot water on more than one occasion.
Beep. Beep. Beep – Sarah – Ultimo – 7 minutes
Distracted by a gargantuan Iggy Azalea billboard on George Street, I almost rolled through a red light on my way to pick up Sarah. Fortunately, I was traveling at the standard 5 km/h through Sydney’s insufferable morning traffic. Sarah and an incredibly tall mystery man were waiting for me on the corner of Harris and Macarthur, suitcase in hand.
The couple were in their late thirties, possibly early forties. Short with blonde hair, Sarah wore a leather jacket and a long green dress. Her towering partner, black jeans and a red and blue checkered shirt. I turned on my hazard lights, pulled over and popped my boot to fit their hefty suitcase.
“Hi Sarah!” I exclaimed, a little too excitedly for 7:30am on a Tuesday morning. “Off to the airport are we?”
Sarah shot me a look as if I had eaten the last Tim Tam and put the empty packet back in the fridge.
“Didn’t you read my text message?” said Sarah sternly while shaking her head.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t see any text come through,” I replied as I frantically opened my phone.
Sarah had texted me. ahhh f#!k………
“Hi! Please don’t mention we are going to the airport! It is a surprise for Gary’s 40th birthday and he doesn’t have a clue! lol. Cheers, Sarah.”
“I am so sorry,” I said to Sarah with the utmost sincerity.
Sarah didn’t reply as she slumped into the back seat, staring out the window.
“No way! HA HA HA!” bellowed Gary in a voice so deep it sounded like he had swallowed Bain from Batman. “That’s freaking awesome!” he continued, beaming a massive smile at Sarah who was still glaring out the window, seething with rage.
“Babe!” yelled Gary. Sarah didn’t react. “Baaaaaaabe!” yelled Gary again poking Sarah in the ribs. Sarah slowly turned to face Gary with a defeated look on her face.
In a bizarre turn of events, Sarah transformed into a baby before my very eyes. “It was supposed to be the best supwise eva,” said Sarah tearfully as she covered her top lip with her bottom lip in a classic sad baby face fashion.
“And now it’s wuined!” said baby Sarah in a humph, crossing her arms and looking over at Gary for attention.
“Awwww babe!” gurgled Gary in a somehow even deeper voice. “But I wuv youuuuuu!” Sarah scooched over to the middle seat and disappeared into the monolithic embrace of Gary.
“What the fu#!king f#!k?!” I whispered under my breath as I watched on in disbelief.
For the next 15 intolerable minutes I endured a cringe-fest of “wuv you”, “awwww” and “but babyyyyy”, until adult Sarah made a brief appearance to flatly state, “international not domestic”, before returning to baby land.
I silently grieved for the poor soul who would be seated next to Sydney’s oldest babies on an international flight. Finally, Sarah and Gary crawled into the terminal and out of sight.
I needed another coffee after that nonsense so I headed toward Krispy Kreme next to the airport. My plans were cut short when the app lit up with a new job in Mascot. I started driving toward the destination when my phone started ringing.
“Hellooo! It’s Gabby, I just ordered you on Uber,” a young woman with a strong American accent said down the line. “We’re actually back at the international airport. Can you come and get us?”
“No worries!” I replied. “I’ll get you from the pick-up bay. What are you wearing?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know? hahaha” replied Gabby jokingly. “Denim jacket, white hat”
Gabby the American had discovered a loophole in Uber’s almost flawless system. The drivers on the Uber X platform are not permitted to pick up passengers from the airport. The taxi industry has the place on lockdown. It is the one place in Sydney passengers are forced to take a taxi. Gabby bypassed the system with ease by simply placing her pickup beacon just outside the airport and then calling me to tell me exactly where she was. Brilliant in its simplicity.
I felt like James Bond as I drove back into the airport. I even removed my phone holder from the windscreen and placed it into the glove box just in case a taxi driver suspected I was an infidel. Radio off, I snaked my way through the congested airport traffic and deep into enemy territory on my first ever reconnaissance mission. Mission Name: FIND THE AMERICANS!
Just inside the pickup bay stood Gabby and her friend with two enormous suitcases. They glanced down at their phone, then back to my license plate, then back to their phone to double check I was their driver. I flashed my lights to let them know it was me.
Gabby and her friend Liana, both 19 and from Atlanta Georgia, were absolutely thrilled to be in Australia. They marveled at everything around them in probably the most desolate part of Sydney.
“WOWWWW! The cars here are so different!” exclaimed Liana excitedly.
“What the hell is that bird over there?” shouted Gabby, pointing at a cockatoo wrestling with an empty McDonalds bag.
“hahaha! If you’re this excited about the airport you will lose your sh!t over Sydney Harbour,” I said proudly as I packed their luggage into my boot.
Their positivity was infectious. We exited Sydney airport in high spirits, that is, until my cover was blown. As I approached the boom gate to leave the airport I was blinded by the high beams of a car behind me. The aggressive sounding of a horn then caused me to jump.
“Woahhh! What’s his problem?” said Liana from the backseat as she peered out my rear window.
I checked my rear vision mirror to see what was going on. A taxi was mere centimeters from the back of my car. I couldn’t really see the driver, but the car was swerving side to side and continuously flashing its lights at me. I thought maybe my boot or petrol cap was open and a good Samaritan was tipping me off. Apparently not.
I accelerated as the boom gate closed behind me and headed toward the motorway. The conversation returned to the endless possibilities for Liana and Gabby’s grand Australian adventure. Gabby was mid-sentence when she was rudely interrupted by the sounding of a car horn. I looked in my rear vision mirror and saw the same taxi swerving all over the road, flashing its lights and incessantly beeping its horn. Obviously, this taxi driver wasn’t as concerned about keeping their demerit points as I was.
“This guy seems pissed!” whispered Liana from the back seat. She had a touch of fear in her voice as she looked over at Gabby who was visibly shaking.
“Don’t stress guys,” I said reassuringly as I put my blinker on to take the turn toward Redfern. “I’ll pull over to see what the problem is.”
I turned into a road off O’Riordan Street with the erratic taxi in close pursuit. I found a safe place to pull over and got out of my car. Walking toward the taxi, which had parked behind me, I strained my eyes but couldn’t see the driver. “Maybe the taxi industry has finally evolved and invested in driverless cabs?” I thought to myself as I continued forward.
I was stopped in my tracks when I saw the drivers side door open and a pair of shoes hit the road. The door slammed and from out of nowhere appeared what must be Sydney’s smallest taxi driver. I was staring at him blankly as I wondered how on earth he reached his pedals. He dropped a cigarette on the road and put it out with his foot before making a beeline toward me.
A miniature Indian man, no taller than 5ft, marched toward me waving his finger in the air aggressively. He was about 45 years old, rotund, with a pair of glasses so thick they gave his head an extra dimension. He was wearing a black vest with a long sleeved white shirt and black suit pants. He had excellent hair. Full and luscious. He really was straight from a children’s lego set.
“Youuuuuuuuuuu bastard!!!!!” He screamed in a thick accent while pointing his finger at me.
I am absolutely terrible in awkward situations. My reaction is to laugh. Not obnoxiously, more like someone who just tripped over in public and wants to brush it off.
“Haha what?” I replied, looking down at lego man.
“Don’t you what me sir!” He fired back.
“Oooooooo you think you’re so clever don’t you Mr. Uber! With the little flash of your headlights at your passengers!” He said mockingly as he held up his hands and rolled his head from side to side.
“I am onto you sir! You will be on a current affair tonight MOTHER F#!KERRRRR!” He screamed, looking up at the sky.
“Mate, you need to calm down. You almost caused an accident back there,” I replied politely, but sternly.
“Why don’t you get a real job!” He barked back. “You LOSSSSSERRRRR!”
“And as for your cheating passengers!” He screamed, pointing at Liana and Gabby who were peering through my rear window. “ You are breaking the law!!!!”
“haha alright mate, whatever,” I replied, shaking my head. “Don’t follow me when I leave here or the police will be called,” I said with a more serious tone in my voice.
“I will be the one calling the police sir!” yelled the taxi driver as he pulled out his phone and started taking photos of me and my license plate.
I got back in my car and drove off as Sydney’s angriest cabbie continued his tirade.
“Are you ok?” I asked the girls as we made our way back to the main road.
“hahaha yeah we are fine,” replied Liana.
“What a psycho!” announced Gabby. “haha at least we already have a great story and we have only been in the country half an hour.”
I hope Liana and Gabby take home many more stories from their stay in Australia. I also hope their first day here wasn’t tarnished by the actions of one lunatic.