- Wednesday September 20th, 2006
I was sick this morning so I called a cab to go across to my place to pick up some things (minding the old’s house for a few weeks sigh). The cab arrived and the driver waves at me from across the street. I walk across and open the door. Instantly the strong smell of cabbage wafts out at me. “Hello! I am Vlad - good morning to you!” The driver, a huge bearded fellow, with a thick Eastern European accent extends his hand to me. I shake it as I am clamber into the taxi. “Where do you go this morning?” he booms at me. “Um … Smith St, Collingwood,” I reply, a little subdued at his vigour this early in the morning. “Excellent - we go!” he booms again. I notice on the dash between us is a plastic bag with a large tupperware container in it. The container seems to hold long cigar-like objects, only coloured a greeny-white. Vlad notices me looking. “You like cabbage? My wife make best cabbage roll in Australia!” He laughs like this is an excellent joke - we Australians are obviously not noted for our cabbage rolls. I suspect he is right. “You have one!” he gestures at the container. “Umm… Okay. As long as you don’t mind. I am not stealing your breakfast am I?” I ask. “No! No! Take one - take two. Wife will be pleased if I tell her passenger like her cabbage rolls,” he half-shouts at me, a huge smile on his face. He yanks open the container whilst performing a deft one- handed U-turn and nearly clipping my father’s car. I wince. I also suspect I better like the rolls. I carefully pull a roll from the box and take a bite. It’s good. Rice, beef and little pieces of onion. “Wait, wait,” he says me to, “I have sauce. Tomato. Like for BBQ but better!” He pushes the plastic bag further open and hauls out a smaller, rounder container filled with a reddish liquid. At no time do his eyes actually drift toward the road and I pray we don’t collect something or worse someone. I open the container as it is passed to me and dip the un-bitten end of the roll into it. It tastes even better with the sauce. And it is considerably nicer than the tomato sauce we slather on sausages and steak at BBQs. “You like?” “Yeah, it’s great,” I reply munching quickly. I ask the inevitable question, “So, where are you from?” He grins at me, “Poland.” I speak without thinking, “I didn’t think Vlad was a Polish name … more Russian?” Shit, shit, shit. I don’t know how the Poles feel about the Russians but I am assuming like much of the former Iron Curtain states it won’t be good. He seems unfazed. “Yes - Russian name with V - Polish name with W. I am Wlodzislaw. But no one except Polish people can say, so I am Vlad to everyone.” I try the full name out a couple of times. He corrects me once. “Yes, you have right - perfect.” We drive on, him talking non-stop about Australia and Poland. “Many Polish people here, too bloody cold in Poland. My wife much prefer weather here.” The ‘bloody’ comes out sharply emphasized in that way much Australian slang does when used by people who speak English as a second language. Both our eyes follow the walk of an attractive woman in a skirt with the side split crossing Spencer St. “I prefer weather here too,” he looks and me and laughs when he sees we have being admiring the same woman. “You like music?” he asks. “Yes.” That seems a safe answer. “Well I love Australian music. I listen to all the time. You mind?” “No, not at all.” He leans over and pushes a CD into the player. After a few seconds out blares, John Williamson’s “True Blue”. I wince. Hey True Blue, don’t say you’re gone. Say you’ve knocked off for a smoko and you’ll be back later on. Hey True Blue Hey True Blue. “You like?” “Um, yes I guess. I don’t like much country music.” “They play this at Steve Irwin’s funeral so I put in car this morning. I play for all passengers this morning.” And then he started singing along. After a couple of lines he looked at me, “Come on, you sing too!” So I did and we rolled up Victoria Parade loudly singing True Blue - his booming voice and my scratchy throated rasp. He dropped me outside my house. I paid him and thanked him for the cabbage roll. “No worries mate!” he boomed back and drove away. Only in Melbourne.
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