2019 is not quite half an hour old when I get my first Uber fare of the year. I am relatively refreshed after a break spent watching Sydney’s impressive fireworks on TV (though my teenage son was underwhelmed – “So overdone”). I’ve already had a busy and profitable night getting people to their respective NYE locations. But now, the other side of midnight, I expect things to kick up a gear or two. My first pick up is only a matter of blocks away from our place in Bondi. After a brief wait, two women clamour into the back. I smell them more than see them, alcohol fumes filling my Mazda. “Hello driver! Happy New Year!” I wish them both a happy new year and head off towards Chippendale. My passengers are loud, animated and, one of them, a bit touchy-feely. She repeatedly puts her hand on my shoulder to emphasise a point. I consider asking her not to but remain silent. She claims to have a boyfriend whose twenty years younger. “Really? What – is he still in school?” She chortles. “Oh – stop!” Her hand thumps my shoulder. I ask the other one – “What about you? Your boyfriend also a lot younger?” Before she can reply, Touchy-Feely jumps in: “Her – she’s dating the Chocolate Prince!” “Say what now?” The friend replies: “Dated – not dating. One date. And yes – he calls himself the Chocolate Prince.” “Really? Is he American?” I imagine a swaggering black yank – thinking he’s God’s gift to the ladies. “Nah – he’s African.” Touchy-Feely adds, “And he’s actually a real prince!” “What – no way?” My image now changes to a brightly dressed, tunic clad Ghanaian – perhaps one whose family has actually made a fortune from chocolate. TF asks her friend, “So are you going to see him again?” “No way!” “Why not? Anyone who calls himself the Chocolate Prince must have a pretty big dick. Does he?” “I don’t know! I haven’t seen it. I’m not going to bed with any loser who calls himself the Chocolate Bloody Prince!” I smile. An amusing start to a new year.
Head home or go to the pool? It’s almost ten on a Tuesday morning and the rush hour work is dwindling. To go to the pool would mean doubling back towards the city, possibly picking up a late inner city worker on the way. But as I’m already heading east towards Bondi, I decide to continue on. Good decision. The phone pings and there’s a job on offer a few minutes away in Darling Point. As I navigate my Mazda along roads winding this way and that, I’m eventually driving next the harbour. Wow – some major real estate around here. I pull up outside a stylish mansion or small apartment block – hard to tell which. As I wait, I wonder what sort of passenger will emerge. A corporate wanker? A lady who lunches? Nope – neither. Just two little kids, a boy and a girl. Then a woman. A young woman. Mum? Possibly but unlikely. Doors are opened, kids strapped in and the woman jumps in the front. I greet them and activate the job. Looks like we’re going to Darling Harbour – practically next door to the pool – yes! As we drive off the woman turns to the back. “Okay – so before we go to the Aquarium, here are the rules. We need to stay together. The Aquarium is in sections – so if you get lost, then stay where you are and I’ll find you, probably just in the next section. Also, quiet voices – no shouting.” I smile. Definitely not a mum – she’s a nanny. I ask why they’re not in school. “They live in Dubai so they’re on holidays, staying with their lovely Grandmother.” The little girl pipes up. “Aren’t all Grandmothers lovely?” The nanny shakes her head. “No, unfortunately, they’re not.” Now it’s the boy’s turn. “What about your Grandmothers – aren’t they nice?” The nanny shakes her head. “No, I’m afraid they’re not.” “Do you see them?” “No, I’ve never met them.” “Then how do you know they’re not nice?” “Because my parents told me so. Both my grandmothers treated my mum and dad very badly.” “Oh.” “There are all sorts of people in the world and some just aren’t nice. It doesn’t matter if they’re also a parent or a grandparent. People are people.” The kids quietly contemplate this piece of wisdom. Until I ask, “So – what’s Dubai like?” “Hot.”