Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Boxed in

  • 25 April 2006

In a life liberally studded with trips in cabs, I have found cabbies to be in general an amiable lot. Some are given to philosophising, like the man who, once I was settled alongside him and we were on our way, said, ‘If God is perfect and free from defect then He must exist because not existing would be a defect. Whaddya reckon?’ Many are knowledgeable but dismissive about politics, their attitude being one of generalised complaint in the ironic Australian manner or, even more attractive, in the blunt multiculturally Australian manner. As one cabbie put it to me recently, ‘I am in kebs from 12 years and what am I thinkink? Bastard government for me done nothink, that’s what.’ The other day I flagged down a cab, hopped into the front seat, belted myself in, told the driver to take me to Bundoora and prepared to chat idly without necessarily getting trapped in discussions about Camilla and Charles, the criminal affluence of the Vatican, or Howard and Costello. I needn’t have worried. As we swung out into the traffic, he said, ‘I mean, you’d have to be just a bit off the wall, wouldn’t you, one chop short of a barbie? There’d have to be an undescended testicle involved, wouldn’t you say? An occipital trauma that has at some stage necessitated a lobotomy?’ Apparently he would go on trotting out these metaphors and speculations unless throttled or physically gagged. ‘How do you mean?’ I said astutely. But even as I spoke, I realised that his comments referred to the bloke on the corner of the city intersection where our journey had begun, who was accosting people and explaining to them how he had been saved. I’d passed him earlier in the day so I knew his story, which was that he had been a heinous sinner. Sinners keen to confess their outrages to the public world are very fond of the word ‘heinous’. Above the traffic roar and the tramp of feet and the shrill yackety-yak of voices plunging and braying into mobile phones, he announced that he had defrauded, conspired, assaulted and robbed. He would undoubtedly have admitted to garroting and defenestration if he’d been given a little encouragement. He had, as he put it, ‘known the hidden parts of women’, causing a passing larrikin to shout, ‘Half your luck, mate, what’s the secret?’ In the few minutes it took for