Having a flight of fancy in a taxi queue
Illustration: Caroline Adaszynski
ARRIVING at Sydney Airport on a Sunday night, delayed two hours because of congestion. Not unusual; I try not to be irritated and think instead of the flight attendants. They've probably been on their feet since early morning and have to get up tomorrow morning after only a few hours sleep.
Then I walk through the airport doors, emerge into the hot, sticky Sydney night - and the taxi queue. I jump in quickly, thinking it will probably move along - it's already nearly 11pm. But the queue is long and moves slowly. People stifle impatience, reading their mobile phones and shuffling along with their bags.
Twenty minutes pass and my old frustrations bubble up. Why am I here at all? I've only been to Melbourne; if we had decent trains I'd have avoided the whole greenhouse gas intensive, polluting, time-consuming experience that is short-haul air travel. And why does everyone need their own individual taxi? Can't we car share? I'm sure the tired travellers in the queue just want to get home as quickly as possible; they don't care about having their own two tonnes of steel and personal driver accompanying them there. Bloody airport, trying to maximise the $2 fee it gets on every taxi.
I run through the scenarios, how I would organise things. The two officials whose sole purpose currently is flagging people towards the numbered poles to wait for their taxi could do an extra job. They could pair up people who live close by, calling out suburbs and letting people come forward. I could be home in bed by now! Wouldn't it be good if services were run to serve people as efficiently as possible, rather than to make profits? Why were airports privatised anyway?
I look up and now people are really grumpy. There are no more taxis; just vacant numbered poles, no cars arriving or people shuffling forward. We wait and wait. It's 11.30pm now. Maybe I should cut my losses and go for the train.
Then I hear ''Who's going to the city?'' Gosh - it's one of the people-flagging officials. A few taxis have turned up, and they've read my mind! They're going to change the system. ''Anyone going to Glebe?'' one shouts, and I hurry to pair up with someone who lives two streets away.
''Do you mind sharing, madam? We need to share cabs when there are so few,'' I am asked. Mind! ''No, of course not,'' I say - and go home happy. Maybe a different world is possible.
But bring on that Sydney-Melbourne fast train …