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Engaging cabbies in dialogue

OVER the past month, I've ridden in a lot of taxis. I like stories, I like to talk and I like a challenge.

Cabbies like to talk, too, and I've been encouraging them to do so. When entering a taxi, I've discovered it's generally the passenger's role to initiate discussion. And that's a role I'm happy to take. I break the ice by asking them how far into their shift they are or about their furthest fare.

Most taxi drivers work 12-hour shifts and the majority haven't travelled much further than 150km for a single fare. They generally seem to appreciate my genuine interest in their work.

The drivers have come from a large range of backgrounds: Afghan, Indian, Iranian, Eastern European and even a couple of Australians. While many nationalities and ethnicities were represented, all of my drivers were men. Like any self-respecting Australian passenger, I seat myself in the front seat and marvel at all the gadgetry. "The button to activate the security camera is down here, sir," one driver told me as he pointed to the far side of the steering column. Trust. That's trust.

My Iranian driver was surprised that I knew women in Iran were not permitted to enter sporting stadiums. "How did you know that?" he asked me. I told him I'd read it in the news.

One of the cabbies with a local accent wanted to talk politics. "Newman's VLAD laws were good policy," he told me. "He just shouldn't have called it anti-bikie legislation."

And funnily enough, the next Australian driver was also keen to speak on this topic. "Abbott is completely and utterly out of touch. He's lost the plot," he said.

Despite my best repeated efforts, two cabbies were reluctant to talk. They chose to focus on the road and getting me to my destination and managed to ward off my charm.

But, I can put that aside and enjoy the triumph of having had a cabbie shake my hand after the ride and urge me to have a "very good day". I certainly did exactly that.

Follow David Stuart on Twitter: @bigkamo

 



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