I don’t know how to make new friends, but, I know I want to. Not that there is anything wrong with the old bunch. They’re great. We catch up regularly for ‘Chinese with the lads’, which is also the title of our Viber group message for the entire week leading up to the occasion. I laugh so hard during these meals I go temporarily insane, spitting mouthfuls of San Choy Bow across the lazy Susan as a story I have heard a thousand times before makes a glorious return, always with shiny new details. The lies, embellishments and obvious exaggerations about past events are what makes me chuckle most. They are the best bits; the red sauce for the otherwise mediocre dim sims.
So, why do I want to make new friends if the current lot are such a hoot? I think it’s important. If I had never signed up as an Uber driver I would never have had anything to write about. My life just isn’t that interesting. I went from speaking to the same people every week, about ten in total, to adding a whopping fifty extra faces and personalities to my human index. Meeting new people injects energy and colour to my world.
I picked up a group of fellas last Saturday night in Coogee who I want to be my friends. They are welcome at ‘Chinese with the lads’ any time at all, if only I had the courage to ask them.
Beep.Beep.Beep – John – Coogee – 5 Minutes
Two Englishman, Londoners in their late twenties with neat haircuts and warm smiles, entered my car on Dolphin St. in Coogee at 7pm on Saturday night.
“Alright pal? Just down to Beach Rd in Bondi, cheers,” said John, the man sitting behind me. He had strong facial features; a square-jaw and dimpled chin, a Roman nose, and a prominent brow. “How has your night been?” he asked, as he adjusted the seat belt, “Do you mind if we pick someone up on the way?”
“Not a problem!” I replied. “Good night so far, thanks.”
The man sitting next to John in the back of my car was Bill. He had softer features with styled, sandy-coloured hair. He also had unusually plump lips, especially his bottom lip which almost looked collagen-injected. He was making a phone call that sounded nonsensical, as if he was speaking in code:
“Alright mouse, ow are ya? We’re just about to pick up the clock from his gaff and we’ll meet you down the pub in twenty. Alright pal, see ya soon.”
After he hung up the phone he turned to John and said, “Did you hear the mouse moved in with the clock?”
Both men burst into a wild fit of laughter at this statement. Mouse? Picking up a clock? I had to ask. “How big is this clock? And why do you call your mate mouse?”
“We call him mouse because he looks identical to a mouse. It’s not like he’s just got bucked-teeth and pinkish eyes so we call him mouse, he actually looks like a giant rodent wearing human clothing and drinking pints,” replied Bill so enthusiastically I am guessing he came up with the nickname.
“He actually does have bucked-teeth and pink eyes as well though,” said John with a grin. “Here, have a look at a photo of mousey boy when we pull up at the set of lights.”
I turned around and looked at the photo of mouse on John’s iPhone. They weren’t kidding. I had never seen a person resemble an animal so closely. He even had a wispy blonde mustache that looked like whiskers. The eyes were the most rodent-like feature on his face. Miniature, dark and squinting. He was actually a very nasty, menacing looking character. John and Bill loved my “what the fuck” reaction.
“Hahaha alright, what about this clock?” I asked.
“The clock is our other mate but don’t worry, he is more of a wrist-watch than a clock. We could put him in the glove box if you like?” said John. “We can’t tell you the story of why we call him The Clock. He tells the story far better than we can so just ask him about it when he gets in.”
I pulled up to an apartment block in Clovelly and watched a short, stocky, angry looking man power-walk toward my car. He had his left hand in his jacket pocket, the right holding a phone to his ear.
“He looks in a right mood, as always,” said John, as The Clock hung up his phone and gave me a firm nod as he approached the car.
“He’s from Cork, so don’t be surprised if you don’t understand a bloody word he says,” Bill added.
The Clock sat down beside me in the front and turned his head abruptly to face his friends on the back-seat:
“Ya got somethin te say John?” asked The Clock with a snarl. He spoke with rapid-fire and glared at his supposed friend, John.
“Haha I didn’t say anything, I did hear Bill say something though,” John replied, as he tilted his head mischievously in Bill’s direction
“Ah Bill-bo feckin Baggins, always flappin ya gums,” said The Clock, as he turned to face Bill. “You could talk underwater wit a moutful a cark! (cock)”
The backseat erupted into laughter at this outrageous statement from The Clock, who didn’t even crack a half-smile. He just looked at his two friends in disgust and shook his head.
I was nervous to ask my newest passenger about the origins of his nickname. He really was something else. The way he snapped his neck to face whoever was to bear the brunt of his attention was unlike anything I had experienced before. I paused for a moment with my mouth open and then went for it:
“Why do they call you The Clock?” I asked sheepishly.
Snap! He was facing me in an instant, with an expression equal part surprise, equal part fury.
“I think he’s winding you up!”
“Ooooo you’ve really ticked him off now!” came the taunts from the back-seat.
“Are.you.feckin.seeeeeerious!” grumbled The Clock through clenched teeth as he turned his entire body to face me.
It was at this moment my stomach dropped as I saw it for the first time. He had one perfectly normal length arm and the other……the other arm was half the size and withered. The hand on the small arm was the size of a childs.
I stared into the eyes of the crazed Irishman, my mouth agape in horror at my mistake.
Howls of laughter from the back-seat would be my saviour as The Clock snapped his attention back to John and Bill. He let fly with a string of stinging insults as vicious as they were hilarious:
“Jahn! Ya look like ya swallowed a discus, ya Jew-nosed, desperate Dan lookin mudder fuckerrr! Ya head is one big tumour! Was your ma’m feckin one of the scientists from Chernobyl?”
“And what are you cacklin bout Bill? Poor man’s feckin George Michael wit your shiny hair and African woman lips!”
The nasty insults just encouraged the boys to laugh even more as I pulled up to Beach Rd. Bill and John left my car arm-in-arm singing:
“Hickory, dickory dock! The mouse moved in with the clock!”
The Clock followed closely behind them hurling expletives at the Englishmen, who seemed impervious to the sharp words.
I so badly wanted to park my car and join John, Bill, Mouse and The Clock for a night of cheap pints and raucous laughter. There is always room at Chinese with the lads for a few more genuine, A-grade people with humour so bold it brings many tears to my eyes.
The dim sims can never have too much red sauce.