At the end of my evening shift at the children’s hospital I call the taxi company and request a cab at the Emergency Entrance.
The controller says, certainly sir. We’ll send one straight away.
I stand outside Emergency and wait, prowling about to keep warm in the cold night. Cab after cab approaches, slows, stops at the lights, and drives callously past.
Twenty minutes past straightaway a yellow cab turns into the Exit of the Emergency Department. The cab stops, a window winds down, a round face asks: You call cab?
I get in.
The cabbie performs some complicated manoevers that see us emerge from the hospital via the Entry lane. The cab enters the main road where it straddles two lanes and follows a sinuous course.
While I watch the road and the reactions of fellow road users with close interest, the driver improves our acquaintance with conversation.
Hello. My name Boris.
What your name?
Hovvarrd. Is difficult.
How long have you driven cabs, Boris?
I am new driver.
Not always I doing this work. Before cab many works.
You have childrens, Hovvarrd?
I also three. They don’t see me, will not talk me.
That’s no good. Do they say why?
They say I am drug seller.
Why do they say that, Boris?
Court sends me gaol for ten years, after seven years when I come out – I am good behaviour – I have paid my debt, I am citizen, they children don’t talk me. I am father, but they are not my children. My wife tell them your father bad, your father is drug pedal.
Is that true, Boris?
Is not true. Not now. Was drug pedal. Cocaine. I carry packages. Is good money. I am retire, I am divorce, my wife got my house, got my kids, got my money. I need vodka money so I carry package.
Now I drive cabs. Three nights I drive, have vodka money.
I study our veering path as we carve our way through traffic.
Three days you drive, how many days do you drink vodka, Boris?
Ha! Ha! You funny man, Hovvarrd. You know, I don’t must to stay in gaol so long. I choosing.
What do you mean, Boris?
Drug detective visit me in cell. Before trial. He say, Boris, we know you Mister Little, you not Mister Big. We know is Mister Big, maybe many Mister Bigs. You know name. You tell name, we do deal, we change you name, you leave gaol. We make you safe. I say no.
Mister Hovvarrd. You been Russia? You been Russia gaol?
I been Russia Gaol. I see what happen when prisoner co-poperate with police. Is not nice. Russia gaol is not nice, Russia police is not nice, Russia mafia very not nice. I tell Aussie police: I not know name. I not know nothing. I say to Aussie police, I like Aussie gaol.
We have, by the grace of Saint Anthony, arrived outside my home. I pay.
Thank you, Boris. It was an interesting drive.
Any time, Mister Hovvarrd. Next time you need cab, you ask for Boris. You I enjoy to drive. You very interesting conversationist.