I jumped in the taxi out the front of the Edinburgh Castle Hotel in Sydney Rd, Melbourne. Although I would have been happy to walk home, the rain was steady and had been for long enough for a taxi to be the better idea.
Usually, I am one to try and engage taxi drivers in conversation - or research for new songs as I see it.
On this occasion, for some reason, I was not in a research kind of mood. I did, however, remember this taxi driver as he had picked me up several years before from The Cornish Arms Hotel, also in Sydney Rd, Melbourne.
I remembered him because just like the first time he had picked me up he had a long thin strip of brown leather wrapped around and around his left forearm and part of his hand. Like all those years before he was still wearing it.
I don’t remember if we talked the first time he picked me up. But I remember wondering on the earlier trip why he might have had the leather wrapped around his arm like he did. The only theory that I could come up with was that it might have been protection against a knife-wielding robber - similar to what a Roman Gladiator might use in battle. I remembered from the previous ride that it had taken the whole trip to come up with this theory, and so for this trip home I didn’t need to worry about theories.
As I said, I usually like to talk to taxi drivers. When Melbourne started to get a lot of taxi drivers from India, I would ask them whereabouts in India they were from. I thought if I asked the question enough I might find one that knew of the place in Northern India where my brother Robert had got washed away forever down the Ganges River. None of them had ever been to the one place in the world I hated, but every one of them that asked why I was interested in this place said they were sorry about my brother but that the Ganges was a holy river to die in.
This driver though was a Greek taxi driver. He was a talker and interested in Numerology. I looked out the window and rolled my eyes; and just as if he had felt the presence of a sceptic in his cab, he rose to the challenge.
He asked me all kinds of questions that were related to numbers - birthdate, how many siblings, what I did for work and how long I’d been doing it for etc, etc.
Now, once upon a time, I would always answer the work question with, “Musician”. But I had long since avoided that answer because of the follow-up questions that always went like this: “Really, that’s cool, what band are you in”? Answer: “I just go by my own name”. Follow up question: “Really, what’s your name then”? I’d say my name and because they had never heard of me there were no more follow up questions and the subject quickly got changed.
So this taxi driver has no idea I’m a musician with a day job. All he finds out is I have a proper job and how long I’ve been proper for.
He asked many more questions to work his equations out and finally arrives at my house. I check the fare on the meter and pull the money from my wallet to give to him. I try to hand him the cash but he’s looking out through the windscreen with his eyes fixed on something that I can’t see at the end of the cars headlights beam.
He continues to stare on up the road at nothing in particular then finally turns, looks hard at me and says that something is wrong with the numbers.
“Really”, I say, while opening the car door, and still waiting for him to take the money.
Finally, almost as if he’s forgotten where he is and why I’m trying to hand him money, he shakes his head, takes the cash, and then says, “It doesn’t make sense, the numbers say you were meant to be a musician”.