Christ­mas drive can be fun

Get­ting peo­ple around on Christ­mas Day, par­tic­u­larly those with dis­abilites, can be re­ward­ing, say some taxi driv­ers

Townsville Bulletin - - Weekend Extra -

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.’’

Photo:MEGANBRAYLEY OUD52469

Taxi driv­ers Bruce Smith, Bill Flavel, and Alex Morf are work­ing on Christ­mas Day

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