24 December 2011


I have never been hungry - I mean, not really I-must-eat-or-I'm-in-trouble hungry and certainly not where-will-my-next-meal-come-from hungry.  In September 1969, therefore, although I appeared to face the end of any sort of academic life, and had no job - and were Edna and I divorced by now?  Did I have child support and alimony duties? - but in any case, in September 1969 I was 28 and had, perhaps, still the unquestioned assurance that nothing really bad could happen to me.  This, it may be, explains why I have no recollection of worry about jobs.

Or perhaps it is just that the passage of 42 years, and the fact that I did get paid work fairly soon, have driven any worry out.

It may have been Tom Bratt who introduced me to Airic - if that is how his name was spelt.  Airic was - oh, perhaps 50?  People of 28 are not good at judging the age of old people - that is, anyone older than about 40.  Airic's name, in any case, was not the name he had been given by his parents.  It was the name of someone he had been in a previous life.  Airic was a Scientologist.  He was also the owner of a small fleet of taxi cabs, driving under the badge of Charley's Taxi.  Tom was a close friend from Yap Peace Corps.  He had been a trainee in Moloka'i in the 1966 group I had worked with.  Now he was living in Honolulu, sharing dope with me - and driving for Airic.  Airic and his wife took care of a number of young drivers like me and Tom - I say 'took care of' rather than simply 'hired' because that was the genuine feeling one had.  Many of us were in one sort of trouble or another.  Airic was no fool.  He would not have drivers working for him who could not do the work - but he taught us the ropes, helped us when we were in temporary difficulties, had us around to his house for meals.  I have given thanks for Airic often enough since then.

Airic taught me the things I needed to know about taxi-driving.  He shored up my shaky lack of self-confidence.  He told me the critical things I needed to know to pass the State of Hawai'i examination for taxi drivers.  When I had passed, he went out with me for my first couple of runs.  Then ... I was on my own.

I had lived in Honolulu since June, 1966.  I knew the city well, I thought.  I discovered that I knew my way to the University; to the supermarket; to the houses of friends.  I had never been to any of the places tourists want to go to.  I had never, in fact, been in most of Honolulu.

The very first solo fare I got was an elderly Japanese couple, with not much English, picked up at the Ala Moana shopping centre, who wanted to go to ... well, I certainly don't remember where they wanted to go, but at the time, I had not the slightest idea how to get there - even once I worked out from their pronunciation what the name of the street actually was.

Thankfully, they sat in the back - and I had my map book secreted on my lap.  I got there, somehow.  It was a fairly stressful trip for me - and I think they realised that I was less than confident.

I suppose I started driving in mid-September, and drove until sometime in January, 1970.  By the time I quit, I was a confident driver.  I knew where many things were.  I knew how to coax the despatcher into helping me find the places I didn't know.  I was no longer embarrassed to say that I didn't know where a place was.  Nevertheless, I did not like taxi driving.  I drove a twelve-hour shift - mine was 6AM to 6PM - which, with preparation of the cab before 6AM and cleaning it up afterwards, and getting to and from work, amounted almost to fourteen hours a day.  The money was not unreasonable.  Half the listed fare went to Airic, but all the tips - which, in Honolulu in 1969, tended to be fairly substantial - I kept.  I was, I think, completely innocent of any thought of income tax.  So the money would have been not unreasonable, except that I spent most of what did not actually pay the rent and buy food on marijuana and LSD.

And the job was very boring - except on those rare but not non-existent occasions when it was terrifyingly stressful (such as the time I was driving a man who, I think, was looking for his wife, in order to kill her - I managed to abandon him at one point when he was searching around some house - and I did not worry about my fare).

All in all, though, I am glad of my taxi-driving experience.  Airic was good to us all.  He made me sufficiently interested in Scientology that I thought of doing something about it - could not, of course, so long as I was using drugs, and anyway, could not have afforded the fees - and, even more, motivated me to find enough about it to know that it was not at all either a safe or a reasonable sort of practice.  And, best of all, Scientology eventually became the vehicle by which I came to Jesus Christ - but that is a later part of the story.

Well before that part of the story, I encountered a remarkable woman.  Her name was Betty Friedan.

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