A young local taxi driver, Jeff, grew up in Albion Park Rail and drives taxis as part of a family business. Over the past few years he has been driving in between studying a Bachelor of Information, Communication and Technology. His family own one of only three eleven-seat taxis in the Illawarra and run their business quite differently to normal taxis.
“I've made it a bit more fun than what it normally would be, with the party lights and stuff. For me, it's just cruising around, pumping beats and having fun with the people in the car. It's not like I work,” he says.
“Most of the customers start treating you like they're good friends of yours. It's just pretty much hanging out with your buddies at the end of the day, really. I don't mind it.”
But working mostly night shifts means that Jeff still comes across a few troublesome patrons.
“You get the odd dickhead, I'm not going to lie. People that are too drunk and you can tell that they're too drunk. You occasionally get the odd person who's pissed off about something,” he says.
Recently, Jeff had a man get in the car who was a DJ.
“Apparently, he didn’t get paid for his gig at the club, so he thought he shouldn’t have to pay for the cab,” he says. The man got aggressive, but eventually pulled cash out from a stash of $300 down his pants.
“I was like, why didn't you just pay me from the start? Why be that guy? But they're just drunk and they think that they're above the law or something, I don't know,” says Jeff.
In situations where the police do need to be involved, Jeff says that they are mostly very fair and reliable.
“The Wollongong Police are probably the first ones to hear both sides of the story before they start jumping to conclusions,” he says.
“Whereas, I've been there when a Sydney police officer rocks up and they don't listen to the cabbie as much, they kind of always think that the cabbie's at fault. They’re like, Aw, mate it's $20, just get over it. But if I got over it for $20 with every customer, I'm not making money. You know? I don't go to Coles and take stuff off the shelves and not pay them.”
One of the most intriguing stories Jeff has is from a few years ago, when one of the drivers working for his father was picking up a regular customer from the mental hospital in Shellharbour.
“Normally this guy would just say radio, turn it up, turn it down, that sort of thing. But this time, he goes you're taking me to Barrack Point,” says Jeff. The driver took him to where he wanted and stopped the taxi.
“The guy goes, Alright, now I need you to get out of the car, I'm not gonna hurt you, I just want the car and you can take the money,” Jeff recounts.
“Our driver was scared, so he just grabbed the cash and jumped out of the car. The psycho guy jumped in the driver's seat and drove straight off a cliff!” says Jeff.
In an unusual coincidence, police found the body of an Aboriginal man just 100 metres from where the taxi landed.
“It turned out that the guy drove the car off the cliff, it landed on its side, he opened up the driver’s side and ran away,” says Jeff.
“They thought that it was the Aboriginal guy that stole the car because he was so close. Our driver was talking about the white Caucasian man who stole the car. The police thought he was just under heaps of stress or something!” says Jeff.
“The way they actually solved the case was my dad told the police officer to look at the security camera footage to see who was driving the car. So they went and downloaded the photos from the black box and got the pictures of the white man driving the car off the cliff,” Jeff says.
“So it was a very weird one.”
"I get heaps of good stories from the cab. Weird, wacky, sometimes a bit scary. When I see my mates it's all they wanna know. They're all, what happened on the cab on the weekend?"
Please note: the subject's name was changed at their request.