My Parents Are My Working Class Hero’s
Growing up, my parents owned and operated the towns only taxi business. This meant that 24 / 7 they had a duty of care to collect, find and pick up, the ordinary, the lonely, pensioners, workers , the disturbed, the town drunks and everyone in between. A tough way to eke out a living. Growing up in a family business was a great school for life.
We were like so many other small family run businesses the world over, earning your livelihood depended on how hard you worked. Plus it meant at times putting up with a heap of CRAP.
My parents worked very hard, they raised 6 children, as well as running a busy Taxi Service. It was a mountain of responsibility but gave them focus and motivation. I remember my Dad would have driven all day and most of the night and would then sleep on the couch to answer the phone and do the calls as they came in. No sooner had he laid back down, than the phone would ring and he would have to get up and drive again. I can’t remember my dad ever complaining or whining about customers, and it is only now in retirement he gets a full nights sleep.
Do You Think A 12 Year Old’s Curse Works?
One Christmas, we had all just sat down for the big traditional Christmas lunch when a phone call came in to drive a passenger to Launceston, which was about a 90 minute turn around. Dad asked if he could delay the trip for 10 minutes whilst he ate lunch with the family, the guy said a straight out NO.
Nice one – to the man who took my father away that Christmas, I silently cursed you, and wished you no end of pain and uncomfortable consequence. I think I actually prayed that you have a crap Christmas from this year forth.
If by chance my curse had any form of power I officially revoke that voodoo, pins in your eye curse. You probably deserve a decent festive season just like the rest of us….
(If you have asked the obvious question why my Dad didn’t make this chap wait, it’s because that would go against the grain of offering great service every time. It wasn’t an option.)
We Were All Expected To Be Part Of The Family Workforce
Job description included cleaning cars, answering phones, selling petrol at the door and driving when we were old enough. Most importantly it involved interacting with all walks of life, being able to hold a conversation with anyone from a quick five minute conversation to a trip that could be a couple of hours long. If this meant discussing politics, pensions or pets so be it, but being shy was not on the agenda and knowing how to listen and appropriately respond was. The aim was to make every person feel welcome, and part of the family.
Answering the Phone – My First Taxi Phone Call Was A Horror
The first call I ever received was from the local pub, I thought the barmaid said “the babies in the bath” what she really said ( very quickly) was “Grey’s Bar”- then hung up”. Greys being one of the local pubs, affectionately know by the locals as the Snake Pit. This was a true bread and butter call, but basically the phone would ring all day and most of the night and if your were close by, you were expected to answer it.
When our Grandfather lived with us until his sudden death, he could often be caught answering the evening phone whilst drinking brown lager from a china tea cup and saucer – maybe this chilled approach was were I went wrong…
Driving Cabs Rocked. Tons of free time as you drove back after a job, music up loud, thoughts without hindrance and a box of surprise waiting for the next lift. My small country town was a major port and industry town yet the most impressive cargo that came into town was not the stuff in steel boxes but the people who worked on the ships and the stories they would tell.
Some Reasons Why Driving A Taxi Is A Noble Profession
Sometimes when I tell people I drove taxis they look surprised and any hint of being a snob will show at this point. “Drove taxis, REALLY…..”
I have always been proud of and loved my parents for what they did. Having taxis is a tough gig and some of society thought it was a licence to treat you less than others. The other thing I always hold onto is the fact that driving taxis to this day, has been one of the most interesting life affirming jobs I ever did. It is a rare and fine privilege to sit next to a fellow life citizen and hear their story.
When you picked up some old dear, knowing that the trip in the cab was one of the few interactions she would have with someone for a day or even a few days – privilege.
Driving to the docks and picking up 5 HUGE, not good enough, FREAKING HUGE Tongan’s and driving them to the airport. From that day on I knew I wanted to visit this land of the giants- privilege.
A regular trip each day of taking workers home after they had worked overtime taught me the the value of getting ahead through work – privilege.
Taking all manner of people to the doctor every single day gave me gratitude for my health- privilege.
The opportunity to work with family full time, if only for two years, made me love them even more. Some of my best memories are from around the table with drivers and family. Getting to know your parents and siblings as working adults in a shared pursuit – privilege.
Meeting judges, surgeons, engineers, boiler makers, farmers, prostitutes and every type of worker in between, allowed me to have a connection if only for a short time, with all walks of life – privilege.
Picking up a seaman who slurred his words and had a strange look on his face. I thought he was drunk at 10 am in the morning. Turns out he had a pinched nerve and was going home for treatment. That guy taught me over the next 45 minutes never judge a book by it’s cover – privilege.
Picking up a Japanese seaman and taking him to the top of the local tourist spot Mt George. Whilst looking at the view and me telling him the towns history he put his hands were they certainly were not welcome. The horror when he realised I wasn’t a prostitute. He thought I was being entrepreneurial as a young girl driving a cab – priceless. (Did I keep the $100 tip he offered – absolutely)
One Christmas Eve, well beyond Midnight whilst travelling home on the highway 25 kms from George Town, I stopped to pick up a chap and offered him a free lift home. It gave me more pleasure than he will ever know to get him back to his family for Christmas – privilege.
Hearing the thousands of stories about family, love, children, ill health, good health, money or none but hearing the tales of life for real – privilege.
One wet morning, having an accident and driving Dad’s brand new Ford Statesman off a small cliff wasn’t one of my best days. The car flipped end to end, side to side several times over. Both Captain and I walked out without injury – – -Privilege to still be here.
This Is A Post Gone South
I didn’t mean to go on about driving taxis. I started this post with the intent of telling you about my new job I started two weeks ago at the local call centre. I was going to share about the people I have met, the delight in learning new stuff, meeting and watching others operate in their area of expertise and passion. I wanted to tell you how I applied for this job via 8 positions 11 times over 17th months to finally get a place at this call centre.
Instead of telling you I am now becoming qualified to say “Thanks for you call, you’re speaking with the Miss” I found myself telling you another tale when my fingers started on my keyboard.
So Why Did I Digress
In this new role, as part of the package I get a taxi home because I finish late, so for two weeks now I have had the delight of a different driver every night. So next time you get into a cab, be nice and ask the cabbie to tell you their story. You might be surprised to hear what they have to say. – privilege.
Cheers the Miss xx
PS If you ever get to visit Tasmania don’t go past a trip up Mt George, it is worth the visit, even if you don’t have a miss to tell you the town’s history.
PPS Note from the Captain, he said that Mt George is more like a hill (true) and I shouldn’t mislead potential travellers as you may be disappointed. As with all things a matter of perspective.