I LOVE MY motorbikes and everything about them, and to pay for my two-wheeled love affair, I drove a taxicab. Ironic, eh? Imagine a taxi driver, the natural enemy of the biker, being a biker as well. A conundrum, for sure, but there I was, slaving away at all hours of the night and day, pushing drunks into and out of the taxi, carrying shopping bags up steps for old ladies, and spouting rabid, taxi-driver philosophies on just about every-bloody-thing—all to procure money to pay for Shell ‘A’ racing fuel, Avon racing tyres, and the myriad engineering work required to keep my motorcycling habit well fed.
Now, I’m not really into spooky stuff, but one night in the cab, something very, very weird happened; it definitely made me think. And somewhere, there is one very lucky bastard who, to this day, doesn’t know just how lucky he was that night. The incident has no logical explanation, but here’s a brief synopsis, and you can think what you like.
I was sitting first cab on the Manly rank when I took a radio call for an account customer to go from Manly Hospital down to Fairlight. Mrs Mower, an elderly lady who regularly travelled in Manly Cabs, needed a ride and I was her man. In one fluid action, the newspaper was dropped, engine started, the gear lever slammed into drive, and the taxi tramped away from the rank before the newspaper hit the centre console.
Minutes later, I pulled up outside Manly Hospital and helped Mrs Mower in. She was a dear old tit, a true gentlewoman, and as was often the case, you’d almost seamlessly continue the conversation from a few days ago, or weeks, or whenever she was last transported in your cab. I actually enjoyed talking to her.
Now, if you know the area, the Hospital on the Eastern Hill of Manly is right at the top of the steep Darley Road. Starting from Manly’s famous Corso, Darley blasts along the flat, climbs straight up for almost a kilometre briefly punctuated by the ‘wah-hey-yup’ jump as you cross the intersection of Addison Road, before it sneakily veers left in a seriously off-camber and tricky curve, then it’s just a short drag up the gentler incline to the Hospital’s main entrance, about 300 meters further on from the bend.
With Mrs Mower strapped in, I floored it down Darley Road as we began chatting about this and that. Now here’s where it got real weird. For no reason, I began to brake about 100 meters before the sneaky bend. Not heavy braking, mind you, but just a nice, gentle slow down that culminated in a complete stop in the middle of the traffic lane about 40 meters from the bend. I sat there, foot firmly on brake pedal, while Mrs Mower looked at me quizzically. I was still talking, sitting there in a completely parked taxicab.
“Why have you stopped?” she asked.
“Huh?” I replied, like I was popping out of a trance. It was very strange, having no idea why I had stopped in the middle of the road. There were no cars behind tooting the horn, no-one yelling abuse (all things a taxi driver is trained to ignore) but I had my foot still planted firm on the brake.
“I don’t know,” I finally answered, then hit the throttle for a speedy getaway. In that instant, a motorcycle travelling very fast up Darley Road attempted, but miserably failed to take the sneaky left-hand bend. This motorcycle, thrown down hard to the left in panic, was banging down on the bitumen, leaving great sheets of sparks off the roadway as it careered directly across my bow. I slammed the brakes hard on and stopped in the middle of the road once more.
Now, this all happened so fast and it was night-time, but with the aid of adrenalin and an intimate knowledge of motorcycles, I ascertained the bike was an early model Honda Four, painted matt black and had a four-into-one exhaust system fitted.
The rider was man of larger build and he was a very, very, VERY lucky boy. I was also able to ascertain that, while he wasn’t watching closely enough, he was a reasonable sort of rider, as he didn’t crash. His amazing luck got even better, while slithering towards the gutter on the wrong side of the road, just after missing by mere inches the menacing steel bumper of an XC Ford Falcon taxi. His wild trajectory was met by not the gutter, but a very handily-placed driveway, that the Honda headed straight for and he made it. Just beyond the footpath he was now riding on, was the monstrously huge sandstone fence of the Christian Brothers’ College, which luckily he missed (God wouldn’t have taken kindly to some scumbag bikie crashing into one of his walls, and lo, would have to smite him very hard).
The very lucky Honda rider roared up the footpath for a couple of hundred metres, then zipped down the top driveway of the school and back onto Darley Road without so much as hiccup.
While not totally un-composed, I did regain a little bit of composure and told Mrs Mower: “That’s why I stopped there in the middle of the road.”
“You know what,” she replied. “I don’t think that was you who stopped the car—that was God doing that.”
I reckon she had a point. “You might be right there,” I told her. “But I think the Good Lord’s work there was done by Saint Dufus, the patron saint of idiot motorcyclists.”
Neither Mrs Mower nor me said anything for the rest of the trip, but I clearly recall humming the theme to ‘The Twilight Zone’ quite a few times over the next few days.
And if that very lucky Honda Four rider ever reads this, he’ll realise it was more that just dumb luck and more than riding skills in adverse conditions that got him through that bend. Especially when he realises that the driveway that saved him from crashing into a gutter goes absolutely nowhere—it’s totally redundant as the gateway it served was blocked up many years before that night.
Cue the Twilight Zone theme…