Sydney: Fantastic Tales of a Former Burmese Boy Soldier (Part 2)
Violence, drugs and weapons. Life in Down Under's glitziest city may not be that different from that in the jungles of Burma.
She was just sitting idle at the cab rank in a major suburb of Northern Beaches when a visibly agitated man hopped in and sat directly behind her and told her to just drive as he would direct her turn by turn. She started the engine. Then she saw the man took a handgun out of his briefcase. A large police station was just a block away on the same road and she straightaway drove up there and turned into and rammed the thick glass door of the police station.
The mad man fired a single round through her seat. The bullet went through the seat and her thin body and lodged in the steering wheel as the cops rushed out of their joint. Cops got the killer but she lost her life, and that case taught the Sydney cabbies not to panic with a gunman in your cab. It could cost your life.
Now I had not one but four gunmen in my cab and I was not that eager to see a cop car with sirens screaming and lights flashing. If there were a gun battle I would be the very first one to get shot. Then the cool Michael started talking. Many of his Lebanese fellows drive cabs here in Sydney and he obviously knew exactly where the alarm button was.
But he seemed he really wanted to defuse the situation before it got totally out of control. He definitely had used his gun before but killing a cabbie for no reason was not his idea of doing a profitable business, I guessed.
Wow, you were in Burmese army, cool mate. Killed anyone before, he asked.
Did you see the gun, he asked. I said yes and told him it was not a problem for me as back home I was in the army. Where is home? Burma. Wow, you were in Burmese army, cool mate. Killed anyone before, he asked. I said yes. How? All sorts, shoot, stab, bash. How many? Too many, I don’t even remember. At the beginning I marked by notching my rifle-butt. It made a mess so I stopped counting. I exaggerated my body count.
Who you fighting? The minority tribes. Why? They are Christians and we are Buddhist.
Believe it or not that conversation turned the dangerous situation around and I suddenly became their chum. Back at Taxi School they taught us how to relate to a difficult passenger. Find a common ground between you and the passenger and the rapport will follow, I still remember. And now I’d just found the common ground between me and them.
All three, including Jamal, at the back started yakking about their harrowing experiences back home in Beirut and how they slaughtered Christian Phalangists and Gemayel’s dogs and all that shit. I was really relieved. Michael too, I guessed. I could sense it in his now relaxed face. But then I felt bad for him being a Christian working with the bloodthirsty three as I noticed the small cross dangling from his neck.
We dropped Ahmed first at Belmore, then Ibrahim at Lakemba, and finally Jamal at Punchbowl, all former blue collar white suburbs now mostly populated by the Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. Before he got out, the now-sobered Jamal even apologized to me.
You three are obviously Muslims and Mr. Michael here is a Christian. Aren’t you guys killing each other back home?
So I daringly asked. You three are obviously Muslims and Mr. Michael here is a Christian. Aren’t you guys killing each other back home? Not here, we are united here, one Lebanese nation against Skips and Pigs. Michael here is our brain, we are his muscles, Jamal answered and Michael shushed him again.
I brought Michael back to the city and he got out at a famous nightclub in Potts Point next to the Cross. On our way back, we even managed to find the spot Jamal threw out the headrest and picked it up from the median strip. The fare was almost 80 bucks but he gave me a 100 note and said no change, mate.
I thought that was the last of him and his gang for me. There were more than 4,000 cabs and almost 50,000 cabbies in Sydney and to meet a same fare again was almost impossible. Especially for a weekend driver like me. I was wrong as I got him again in my cab just a couple of months later.
That day I was driving what we called a Semi. Instead of standard 12 hours 3 to 3 shift I was doing 24 hours 3am Sunday to 3am Monday shift as the Monday was a public holiday and our factory was closed.
Time was about seven in the morning and I was dropping a sobbing middle-aged mother at the St. Vincent Hospital in Darlinghurst next from the Cross. Her teenage son had a heroin overdose last night at the Cross and now in the St. Vincent Hospital.
As soon as she got out I saw a familiar face. It was Michael coming through the doorway. He swiftly got into my cab at the front. I greeted hi Michael and he said oh you again. You still remember me, he said. How can I forget you and your gang, I joked.
He needed to go home in Rose Bay to sleep but wanted to stop at a night club on Oxford Street. He said bloody Jamal got stabbed last night at the Cross and was fucking dying now in the hospital and he needed to find other two and was hoping they were at the club. He had no gun on him though. What he had on him shocked me later.
I drove him to the seedy club on the Oxford Street and stopped right in front. Unlike others in that gay area, the gay club opened till the middle of Sunday and still there was a line of gays and dykes trying to get in. Michael got out but he leaned back in again and pulled out a fat roll of green one hundred dollar notes from his jacket inside pocket and dropped it casually into the cup holders just behind the gear shifter.
About two inches thick the fat roll of cash must be nearly 50,000 dollars by the look of it. Don’t go away, keep your eyes on the dough, I’ll be back in a sec, he instructed and then turned around and walked past the door bitch and two giant-islander bouncers as if he knew them well and disappeared behind the black silk curtains.
I locked the doors, sat back, and trying to watch the pedestrian traffic on the kerb, but I couldn’t as the fat roll of green cash beside was distracting me. I had never seen so much money so close in my life and I could not believe that guy trusted me with his money. Maybe this wasn’t too much money for him. If I had this much money now I could pay most off my little house and I didn’t need to work this hard no more. I daydreamed and then suddenly shit hit the fan.
asia! IN A SNAP
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