Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Unknown Soldier.

"The Unknown Soldier."*

In my work as a cab driver I come across a wide variety of people, the beautiful, the ugly, the intelligent, and sometimes the almost insane. We drivers see just about everything it's possible for humans to imagine, the best and the worst of humanity. When we think we've seen it all, something else confronts that belief.

On Friday and Saturday nights we are always flat out, and there's always a shortage of cabs. In the early morning hours people will sometimes come to blows over a cab at a rank. Last Saturday was fairly typical, but it wasn't quite the early morning rush hour yet, though jobs were coming through the on-board computer quite fast. We don't like "time-wasters" on busy Saturday nights, which usually constitutes slow moving people. This could be the excessively drunk, or elderly people (with walkers) who take ages to get into the cab. It's not a nice mentality to have, but we are in the business of earning money, as much as we can, as quickly as we can, because we know we only have a few hours in which we can discriminate in who we pick up, and if we can avoid it, we don't pick up "time wasters". Nothing irritates a driver more than to see a wobbling drunk trying to approach a cab, or an elderly person shuffling towards the cab, and in many instances the latter usually only go short distances because they can't walk it. Another irritation is having to spend time filling out M40 dockets (government subsidised half-fare concessions), which most elderly people have. It's paperwork, and it takes up valuable time on a busy night.

I accepted a computer-generated job last Saturday to a club which can sometimes produce good fares. When I got there I saw an elderly gentleman shuffling towards the cab, with a walking stick, and I thought, "oh no, here we go, what have I done; short fare, M40, and he's probably going to crap in his pants". The first words he uttered was an apology for being so slow, to which I replied "it's okay" (not). When he was in the cab he said, "never get old". This brought me some light relief. Destination: Bulli. A decent $25 fare. Great start! I changed my tune. Even if it's an M40 it would be worth filling out the docket. We immediately struck up conversation, and I learned that the old bloke was a digger who fought in Borneo during the Second World War. I'm quite a war history fanatic, so I knew this was going to be an interesting journey. The old digger told me of some of his experiences, and I thought this is gold, some people would pay to hear this, and here I am being paid to hear it!

He told me about one of his mates, Jeff, who was killed in action in Borneo, aged 20. His platoon was ordered to advance 500 yards towards the Japs, and he jokingly said being a coward he counted every yard, but his mate Jeff wanted to go farther. He told Jeff don't be silly, you're not going to get an award for bravery, but Jeff took off on his own. His body was later found, riddled with Jap bullets. Here was the old digger, now 84, recounting this event of 64 years earlier. By my calculation, this would have been about 1943, yet he was relating this to me as if it happened last week. I felt completely honoured to be listening to this, which a war historian would pay for. Because I was so riveted, I let him do all the talking, which brought the remark "I'm probably boring you with all this", which had to be the understatement of the century. 'No, no, no, I'm listening, please go on!" I was now thankful this was going to be a 15-20 minute trip, and wishing it could be longer. Every now and then he would pause and light-heartedly say, "never get old", obviously hampered by age, and possibly war injuries. He fought through the whole war, five years, including the Borneo stint. "How does it feel to be in battle?", I asked him. "You don't think about it, you don't think it's possible to be killed when you're young and invincible, you just get in and do what has to be done."

At age 60 he had a heart attack and temporarily "died". Probably brought on by smoking, a habit he said most of the diggers developed during the war. The first thing he told me before relating this experience was "Kerry Packer was wrong". Packer is famous for his remark, after also being temporarily dead after a heart attack, that "there isn't a F***ing thing there". No life after death. The digger said his experience was very different, and I relate his words as much as I can remember them: "I felt complete peace. It was wonderful, like floating, and I saw beautiful flowers in a place I can't even begin to describe." "Did you see God?", I asked. "Oh no, no, but I know this life is not all there is, and I'm not afraid of dying." I thought about his long gone mate, Jeff, who left this earth 64 years earlier, and how he must now be enjoying that place, while the old digger could only reminisce, and say, "never get old".

At the end of the journey, to my surprise, he didn't have an M40 docket, and paid full cash. He apparently had a few drinks at the club, and said he had, for the first time in a long time, "one too many", but he gave the impression he had only one, and that was enough to tip him over. He accidentally gave me $35, so I said "that's too much", and gave him back ten. "You're too honest", he said, "tell you what, take the ten and give me back five". He gave me a $5 tip. Wow, I thought, this guy not only pulls his own weight, but he's got a heart of gold. But then, he's a soldier. I told him not to move, and hopped out of the cab, opened his door, and helped him out, handing him his walking stick after. We bid goodbye, and as I drove away I thought I didn't even ask his name! Who was he? I don't know, and that's why I've called him "The Unknown Soldier".

Merry Christmas, and be thankful for life, because no matter how tough it gets, someone has done it much tougher than you have.

They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

Ray Agostini.
*This was originally posted on a blog that is now defunct. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Legacy of Ayrton Senna (1960-1994) - 20 Years On.

"I'm very privileged. I've always had a very good life. But everything that I've gotten out of life was obtained through dedication and a tremendous desire to achieve my goals... a great desire for victory, meaning victory in life, not as a driver. To all of you who have experienced this or are searching now, let me say that whoever you may be in your life, whether you're at the highest or most modest level, you must show great strength and determination and do everything with love and a deep belief in God. One day, you'll achieve your aim and you'll be successful." (1991)

"If I ever happen to have an accident that eventually costs me my life, I hope it is in one go. I would not like to be in a wheelchair. I would not like to be in a hospital suffering from whatever injury it was. If I’m going to live, I want to live fully, very intensely, because I am an intense person. It would ruin my life if I had to live partially." (January, 1994) 

Senna the racing driver:

Senna the humanitarian:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Danica Patrick.

"The mental stress I think would be pretty difficult for a lady to deal with in a practical fashion. I just don't think they have aptitude to win a Formula 1 race."- Stirling Moss.

Hold on, Mr. Moss:

Danica Sue Patrick.

Danica's "Letter To Self":

In spite of never winning a major race, like the Indianapolis 500 (though ever so close), or the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick has established herself as among the best racing car drivers alive today, and that in itself is an achievement worthy of much note.

First female to win an Indy Car Series:


Danica in NASCAR.

Apart from being the first female to lead the Daytona 500, she recently became the first female to lead a Sprint Cup series at Talladega (May, 2014):

 "Danica Patrick - 5 Years Running." (Documentary)


God Speed, Danica.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sir Nicholas Winton Should Be Awarded The Nobel Peace Prize.

Thanks to a friend of mine*, I only recently became aware of Sir Nicholas Winton, who has been described as the "British Schindler".

Without further ado, a brief look at Sir Nicholas Winton's "Schindler efforts":

Sir Nicholas is now 104 years old, and will turn 105 this coming May 19, 2014.

Nicholas Winton.

Sir Nicholas Winton's Website.

If after reading this you feel inclined, as I have, to sign a petition directed to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, you can do so here:

 Nobel Prize Committee: Award Sir Nicholas Winton the Nobel Peace Prize.

As my friend pointed out, many people have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, who have been far less worthy than Sir Nicholas.

*Thanks to Dr. Daniel C. Peterson for bringing this to my attention. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Tribute To The Men and Women Serving in the New South Wales Police Force (NSW Police) - And a Few Concerns..

Policing isn't the easiest job, and it's certainly not among better paid jobs when the risks are calculated. 

Coming clean, I admit to an ulterior motive in doing this post. I was recently the victim of what I'd call a "minor crime". Yet the Police took it very seriously, probably because it involved a juvenile offender, and the prospect of "stemming it in the bud". For the record, this juvenile was eventually caught, and the officer assigned to my case asked me if I wanted to press charges. I declined. I hope, at best, that this person was at least given a warning, but I wouldn't want any more than that, in the hope of reformation, considering the very young age of the offender.

Being a cab driver, I've spoken to *many* police over the past seven years, ranking from constables and forensic police to senior detectives. One female constable told me, "it's a stressful job, and you're always under pressure, but I love it".

On the other hand, I've spoken to former police officers who quit the Force because of the personal and emotional toll it was taking on their, and their families' lives.

NSW Police are trained at the Goulburn Police Force Academy:

When the Academy is completed, graduating Police have to deal with the harsh realities of street life, and crime. Especially alcohol-fueled violence (which takes up 70% of NSW Police resources). The female officer pleading with this intransigent to "stop it", is a detective, and she and the other male detective tried to contain him until "beat police" arrived:

Who can go home at the end of the shift like this feeling "job satisfaction"? It takes a rare individual.

Many police don't survive the stress, and in some cases, it has led to suicide:

Stress among NSW Police:


The really sad thing, I think, is that *most* police recruits enter the Force with lofty and noble ideals about improving society, and for too many - it ends in despair, and disillusionment.

So I ask you to think for a moment: Are *you* contributing to improving society, and helping police stem crime? Or do you prefer to shout out "pigs", as they go by?

Examine your motives, if you chose the latter, and whether it's in the best interest not only of yourself, but society-at-large.

When you're the victim of a crime, the police are the best friends you have.


Law enforcement officers are never 'off duty.' They are dedicated public servants who are sworn to protect public safety at any time and place that the peace is threatened. They need all the help that they can get.