my day job is at night

I first drove a taxi in Sydney in June 1981 . . . I think. At the time a friend in New Zealand asked me to put together a few pieces about my experiences of that kind of work for a possible book. I did write something, called A Night in the Life, which for various reasons never eventuated. I still have a photocopy of the ms somewhere but, since it was made on heat sensitive paper, last time I looked it had faded towards illegibility. No matter. I drove for about a year that time; returned for another stint of about the same length in 1988-9; and since 2005 have driven, if not continuously, then continually. Over those five years I noticed that it was very difficult to drive and write at that same time. I don't mean literally: if I was driving, I wasn't writing; and vice versa. A bit like the way you can't smoke and swim at the same time (the water puts the fire out). This is obviously not a satisfactory state of affairs, so recently I have been attempting to discipline myself in such a way that I can both write and drive - do my thousand words or whatever in the morning, drive through the afternoon and evening, get back to the desk in a fit state to continue the work next day. Today I completed the first part of what I hope will become a book. About a hundred pages have been compiled, laboriously sometimes, sometimes not, over the summer that has just ended. All the while I have been driving two or three or four shifts a week, trying to make the rent and the bills and so forth. I'm pretty pleased about those pages, although I do notice that, now I have drafted the first of the three parts of the book, and the euphoria of composition has (temporarily?) departed, the critical knives are venturing forth with their unappeasable hunger to slash and to burn. But, get this - just the other day I discerned another pattern to this crazy quilt. I realised that on the days I write fluently, the shift does not go well; and on the days the writing is hard, I tend to make more money driving. It is as if there are two antithetical states of mind, one contemplative, even vague, a serotonin daze in which I gather words or phrases or whatever into coherent sentences almost without thinking; the other a hustler's state, disenchanted and analytical, probably adrenaline-fuelled, in which it is possible (never easy) to gather more fares from city streets and therefore more dollars. My writing mind does not drive well for money; my driving mind banishes that negative capability so prized by we who write. What to do about this? The next few years are more or less spoken for, the exigencies of living on a fixed income, ameliorated by a couple of nights driving to find the wodge I need for food, drink and entertainment, stretch before me like the M5 on a quiet Tuesday after nine. While through my head, on permanent loop, a wistful verse from a popular song ricochets: Everybody's desperate trying to make ends meet / Work all day, still can't pay the price of gasoline and meat / Alas, their lives are incomplete . . . and then, in the nick of time, just when all seems lost, the chorus kicks in: Don't it make you want to rock and roll / All night long . . . Yes. It does. That must be the key.


pic & song credit : mohammed's radio



Elisabeth said...

It reminds me Martin of Olga Lorenzo's question to our writing class of mainly women many years ago: 'What do you want written on your gravestone? She kept a tidy house or she wrote a good book?'

Of course you'd opt for the latter but you might live longer if you manage enough of the former. For me perhaps tidying the house, for you driving taxis.

Man and woman do not live by words alone.

Richard said...

I am a man and I like my place to be reasonably tidy. Why not have both on the tomb? But I "agree" that women shouldn't be the only ones to tidy the house...If there si man and a woman together both should contribute.

I can relate to this I think. Sometimes the disheartening aspects of a daily activity can actually stimulate writing -or some other creative activity. There is no rhyme or reason...but too much drudgery makes it hard and you are brave and it reflects well on you that you drive taxis... or work at something.

Maybe also you might meet people etc that stimulates ideas in your subconscious or conscious or whatever it is that makes on have ideas...

Martin Edmond said...

you become like a sensor of the city . . . but not a censor.