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September 27, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: Losing my drive

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Mum's taxi driver, Mandy Nolan.
Mum’s taxi driver, Mandy Nolan.

When I hit my 40s I imagined I’d be living the life. I’d be lying on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean, or perhaps having a short black in a clifftop cafe in Positano, or even relaxing in my glass-fronted rainforest cabin sipping champagne.

I didn’t think for a moment I’d be driving to Casino. Or Tintenbar. Or Lismore. Or sitting in traffic waiting to go into Byron.

The other day I spent a total of four-and-a-half hours driving my kids either to work or the airport or a friend’s house.

This isn’t unusual. At least two hours of my day are spent on the road in non-essential travel. When I add that to the amount of driving time I do to get to work, some weeks I am clocking well beyond 1,000km.

I’m like a long-haul driver. I am considering getting a hi-vis vest and some crack-revealing shorts. I’ve already got the fat gut so I’m just an outfit away from joining the lads in the truckers’ lounge.

Right now there are disputes between the taxi industry and Uber all wanting a their share of the market. At least they get paid – the Mum & Dad Taxi has been operating for years completely unregulated and, in my opinion, unappreciated. You see, we don’t even care that we don’t get paid. We just want to be loved. There never has been and never will be a minimum fare.

There is no fare. I like to call it ‘Unfare Travel’. Not only does the driver not get paid, lose their most productive work or leisure hours, and be subjected to repetitive and boring drives with no outcome except child getting their own way again, and then child arriving at destination, then asking for money, and organising a time for aforementioned driver to return the following day for pickup, but also very often that same driver is not permitted to listen to the music of their choice.

Because it’s old-people music. Since when is Huey Lewis old-people music? The passengers will pump Kanye so loud that you start to worry that every passing motorist can hear I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger, But she ain’t messin’ with no broke niggas and assume that I’m some middle-aged rap-loving misogynist. Sometimes the driver says ‘turn off the music so we can talk’. I do attempt to use this ‘trapped’ time to forge relationships with my teenagers, taking advantage of the fact that they know they’re supposed to be engaging with the driver as a way of showing appreciation. Sometimes I can see them trying really hard to be nice and show interest, but it’s hard for them to sustain. After all, old people’s lives are dull and meaningless and their insights antiquated and outdated.

Eventually the passenger puts their earphones in, turns up their music and falls asleep. ‘Thanks, Mum. Love you, Mum’. Then they’re gone. And I’m alone. It’s the post drop-off drive that’s the worst. At least when the kids are in the car you feel like you are having some enforced ‘family’ time, even if it is just some sort of driver hostage situation. It’s on the drive home that you realise you’ve been had.

I’m currently on my third learner driver. Now these drives are opportunities to get her hours up. For every hour she marks in her book, I note that’s another hour gone from my life. If you add my high level of anxiety and stress, my white-knuckled terror as she speeds into corners and brakes on merging lanes, I reckon you can triple it. That’s 360 hours of my life lost.

I wonder if this ‘driving my mother crazy by making my mother drive’ or the new ‘driving my mother to the places she doesn’t want to go’ is some sort of revenge for the hours I strapped them into baby seats and made them go to the places that I wanted to go to – like supermarkets, and grandparents’ houses or family holidays.

For the endless hours they screamed and cried like upside-down beetles, legs flailing, flapping in useless resistance, snot pouring out of their heads as I turned and cooed, ‘Not much longer darling, nearly there,’ turned up MY music, and then we’d drive on for another three hours, after they’d finally passed out in sheer exhaustion.

Now it’s my turn as hostage. I now understand why my own mother yelled, ‘You are driving me to the edge’. Just before your mum falls off, don’t forget to say ‘Thanks’.

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