Love letter to NSW, minus one hectoring cab driver

I sent this missive to the New South Wales Taxi Council and the Sydney Morning Herald this week. Just to get it out of my system.

Here’s what happened when my daughter married an Australian and moved to New South Wales.

I started traveling to Australia.

Obviously, if I had my druthers, they and their two little girls would be closer, but I understand that the draw of a before-work surf is hard to beat and not readily available in Canada. So I go to Australia and have to say, the more I visit, the more I like it. Not just the beaches. Everyone knows they’re special. Nor even the wine, which is beyond decent. My most recent trip included the Jenolan Caves.
2017-07-08 15.32.18
Bless those who discovered it a century or so ago and committed to preserving the formations. For that matter, the whole topography of the Blue Mountains is breathtaking. No Rocky Mountains, to be sure, but red hued vistas to be appreciated from the top down, rather like the Grand Canyon.

So I was all full of Australia love endorphins last week on my return trip home that included an overnight at an airport hotel. I took the train to the international terminal, pondered seeking a shuttle, but it’s a big airport and decided it would be easier to taxi to the hotel.

sydney airport taxis

I wound my way to the front of the taxi rank queue where an attendant directed me to a spot on the curb. A cab was hailed, the driver got out, opened the trunk and I volunteered that I was going to the Stamford Plaza Hotel.

Taxi driver: “F@ck!”

Did I hear right? Surely not. I hesitated, then got in. Dumb.

As we pulled away, he made a phone call, speaking in a language inaccessible to me. I heard the hotel name and then gales of laughter. He ended the call and began to lecture.

Taxi driver: “I’ve waited 90 minutes for a fare and then I get this, a trip that’s going to take about four minutes. Why didn’t you take the shuttle?”

Me: No answer.
Taxi driver: “I have to pay $35 for airport taxi privileges and you have to pay a $10 airport fee that’s included in the fare. The airport is privatized. Did you know that?”

Me: “I’m sure this can be a hard way to make a living.”

Taxi driver (angry now): “No. It’s that with a small trip like this, I end up having to pay and you have to pay more than if you’d taken a shuttle. Where are you coming from?”

Me: “I’ll be flying to Vancouver in the morning. (Instant regret. He didn’t need to know that).

Taxi driver: “So you took the train to the international terminal? Why didn’t you stop at Mascot Station? It’s near your hotel.”

Me: “How would I know that?”

Taxi driver: “Or why didn’t you stop at the Domestic Terminal? You could’ve walked from there.”

Me: No answer.

Taxi driver: “Look! There’s the Domestic Terminal. If you’d stopped there you could’ve saved yourself a lot of money. Over that way is Mascot Station. You could’ve stopped at either of those.”

Me, quietly: “This isn’t my city.”

Taxi driver: “This is your hotel. That will be $23.”

He said he had no notes to change my $40 and handed me a fistful of change. I didn’t count it. Nor, to my regret, did I take his name or number. I can’t even recall whether his cab was white or blue. All I saw as I exited, was red.

All of this to say, one person can alter the tone of an experience.

Sydney is a fabulous city. I’ll fly there again and probably take a cab.
But this is my 2017 Sydney take-away story.

It took just one person.


11 Comments Add yours

  1. Jocelyn Skrlac says:

    On behalf of my fellow Aussies, I do apologize for your horrible experience. There always seems to be one rotten apple and it’s too bad that you left my gorgeous glistening hometown city with such an awful last imprint. Glad you wrote to complain.

    Had a similar experience when Bill and I were there in March-April. When the trains were down on certain lines we had to find the complimentary busses that were supplied to compensate passengers using those lines. Trouble was, even for an old Sydneysider like myself, it was a bit tricky trying to locate exactly which busses were for where. With over five million people in this city, there tend to be lots of busses. Anyways, after reading lots of makeshift signage about bus routes, I finally politely asked the guy who was in charge if a certain bus would get me to my destination. His crude answer – “Read the bloody sign, lady!” – left me feeling like he’d slapped me across the face! I recovered enough to tell him he really needed to find another job.

    Interestingly he didn’t speak to others that way, just me – and I was in my very best Canadian polite mode as I said earlier. Later as we discussed it, the general consensus was that he thought I was an American. (Despite my nationality I now speak fluent Canadianese).

    So, a tip for your next trip, Gery. Let everyone know you’re Canadian whenever you can. The phrase: ” back home in Canada” will open many doors to the extraordinary graciousness of most Aussies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gery Lemon says:

      Bang on, Joss (my favourite transplanted Aussie). Love that you told that guy to get another job. Like Canadians, I find Aussies to be open hearted and welcoming. This guy knew and didn’t care that I was Canadian, he was just pissed that he got me over a full fare to Bondi (I’m also pretty sure he wasn’t Aus).
      Sydney IS a glistening city.


  2. Jayne Beason says:

    So true! It’s very easy to have your great experience trod on by one unthinking or rude person. Especially when you’re out of your usual environment and perhaps feeling more vulnerable to outside influences. Obviously that cabby was never taught the golden rule, “Do Unto Others”.
    However I hope this memory soon fades while all the wonderful ones will bloom on!


    1. Gery Lemon says:

      Exactly. I was a woman alone at night in a car with an intimidating driver. Anyway…out of my system now. I had a smashing couple weeks.


  3. Gery Lemon says:

    We’ll need to sort you out on Uber before your next trip. They know both where you are and where you are going before they come to get you, so wouldn’t have anything to complain about. Sorry you got stuck with such a dick.


    1. Gery Lemon says:

      Hmmm obviously you are still logged in to my machine. heehee


    2. Gery Lemon says:

      Right. And yes it looks like I’m still on your machine. 🙂


  4. I had a remarkably similar experience in Montreal way back in the ’70s. It was disturbing and I felt verbally assaulted and extremely intimidated- never forgot it, and I know it happened to many. Years later a ‘flat fee fare’ of $40 was introduced for all airport pick-ups to spare the poor drivers who had waited 4 hours only to get a $5 fare from an unwitting and innocent traveller after an exhausting day. My only cabbie experience worse than that was in Toronto when a driver, having taken me to the airport, refused my credit card on arrival and forcibly wouldn’t let me leave (bag in trunk) and drove me to a bank 10 minutes away to extract cash. Turns out he may have been an illegal driver (in a regular looking cab) and had no credit card machine. Horrifying. There may be a place for Uber yet although I haven’t dared to try. Glad you had a wonderful time down under…


    1. Gery Lemon says:

      Exactly, P. I felt intimidated and bullied. But your Toronto experience sounds terrifying and harrowing. I’d have gone the uber route if my Iphone wasn’t locked in to Canada and Rogers…:(
      Thanks for the feedback.


  5. want says:

    Hі there, just wanted to mention, I liked this bⅼog post.
    It was inspiring. Keep on posting!


    1. Gery Lemon says:

      Thank you, I appreciate this. And yes, I will! Can I ask how you found my blog?


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