Christmas drive can be fun
Getting people around on Christmas Day, particularly those with disabilites, can be rewarding, say some taxi drivers
Taxi driver Alex Morf, meteorologist Greg Connor and Catholic priest Fr Peter Quilty all have at least one thing in common.They’re rostered to work on Christmas Day. Thousands of the twin cities’ workers will clock on as usual next Monday to maintain essential services. Shop assistants, office workers, builders, mechanics and other tradespeople might enjoy a brief reprieve from toil on December 25, but not so police, ambulance and fire officers, garbage collectors, nurses, lifesavers, chefs and taxi-drivers.
‘‘CHRISTMAS is the busiest time of the year,’’ says taxi owner Bruce Smith.
Mr Smith, who operates a fleet of 15 taxis with his business partner Bill Flavel, said they were both prepared to do a morning shift if they were unable to find enough drivers.
Six of their vehicles have been modified to carry wheelchairs.
‘‘When the kids were little I’d go early, get back by 8am and then go back again,’’ Mr Smith said.
‘‘I used to put a Christmas hat on and get a bag of Minties, when I drove normal taxis.
‘‘For the past five years I’ve been driving wheelchair taxis. I don’t mind going for half a day for Christmas.
‘‘We are usually flat out until 12.30am, then it dies.’’
Mr Flavel, who drove taxis in Adelaide before buying a motel in Townsville 10 years ago, says he enjoys the atmosphere of Christmas Day.
‘‘Mostly it’s not too bad. It’s a bit more laid-back,’’ he said. ‘‘If I’m needed I will go out. ‘‘Hopefully we will have sufficient drivers to drive them.
‘‘As taxi owners we are on call 24 hours a day and seven days a week . . .
Alex Morf, a former engineer and chef who took up driving taxis for disabled travellers about 18 months ago, says he anticipates ‘30 or 40’ jobs on Monday.
‘‘Christmas is a really busy day, as far as I know,’’ he said.
‘‘Last year I didn’t have that many jobs, because I didn’t work the whole day.
‘‘I do the people confined to wheelchairs. It’s good to get them around at Christmas time.
‘‘Most of them don’t have any possibility of travel.
‘‘I don’t mind working on Christmas Day at all — I will work the whole day.’’
Mr Morf said he had begun driving wheelchair taxis after seeing the needs of friends with disabilities.
‘‘I have some mates in wheelchairs. I want to give something back,’’ he said.
While he did not personally observe Christmas, he was happy to be part of the festivities, including carrying elderly and disabled people on convoys to see coloured lights on lavishly decorated houses.
He feels the day’s religious significance has vanished.
‘‘Christmas Day is the birthday of you know who. It’s not being celebrated as such any more. It’s too commercial.
Lone Tema, of Garbutt, a driver for two years, told the Townsville Bulletin he had no misgivings about working on Christmas Day.
‘‘I don’t celebrate Christmas, so I am happy to drive wheelchair taxis,’’ he said.
‘‘I am prepared for a big day.’’
Taxi drivers Bruce Smith, Bill Flavel, and Alex Morf are working on Christmas Day