At some point this festive season most of us will stagger, stumble and eventually fall into at least one cab.
Often after a party, perhaps late at night, we may remember little of the experience. What we did on the trip, what we said to the driver.
But the taxi driver, sober and alert as they are, remembers everything. And now one has spilled the beans about what passengers are really like at Christmas and New Year — and it’s not all that pretty.
Unscheduled stops for sickness, back seat bonking, even a bit of legal breaking and entering — it’s all happened to 13 Cabs taxi driver Jag Bajwa during the season to be merry.
The taxi industry is battling hard to win back customers after the onslaught from ride sharing. And a renewed emphasis on customer service is part of the industry’s strategy to tempt riders away from Uber and back to traditional taxis.
Mr Bajwa, who has been driving cabs around Sydney for eight years, also has his own tips to ensure revellers don’t have a cab crisis.
And he said the usual worry about 3am changeover — when taxis reportedly vanish from the streets as drivers’ shifts end — is far less of an issue than it used to be.
“I love driving around Christmas,” Jag told news.com.au. “There’s a lot of traffic, it’s very busy and as long as you keeping getting fares and keep your meter running it’s all good.
“People’s mood does change,” he says. “Most of them are joyful and happy and after a few drinks they joke around.”
Mr Bajwa could be the most polite cabbie ever but you can’t help but think “joyful” is code for “drunk”.
He said business doubles in the weeks running up to and around Christmas as people rush to the shops, work parties and family barbecues.
But sometimes people are in too much of a rush.
“It’s very hectic. People are always in a hurry and one fare last Christmas I picked up was from the Hills District to the airport.
“We were on time and it was all perfect but after five minutes she said she’d left her cardigan at home. It was her favourite cardigan so we had to turn back.
“Then she realised she didn’t have her door keys but she’d remembered she’d left the first floor balcony door open,” Mr Bajwa said.
“So I helped her with the ladder and she had to put her feet on my shoulders to get to the balcony.
“Finally, she got her cardigan and her plane and she was very happy and gave me a $60 tip.
“That must have been an important cardigan is what I was thinking,” Mr Bajwa said.
What about the more standard situations cabbies have to deal with — like sleepy passengers?
“People falling asleep happens a lot. Going from work to home they are very tired so I ask them what route I should take,”
But he denies he has ever taken advantage of passed out passengers to pump up his fare. “I never take them the long route.”
Short term illness is another everyday hazard. “It happens,” Mr Bajwa said. “The last time it happened the passenger managed to tell me in time and I stopped so she could throw up outside. Luckily, she was with her friends.”
He said no one has ever been sick on the back seat.
The same can’t be said for a bit of passion in the wagon. Again, Mr Bajwa is a polite cabbie, but read between the lines.
“Passengers do get romantic in the car. Normally when they are drunk after they have finished a party.” In what way? “That would be too personal,” he said. “But they were in the back seat hugging and kissing each other.
“Then they took their seat belts off and got closer.
“They didn’t stop until I told them to put their seat belts back on.” Safety trumps shagging, it seems.