>Just a fair warning, there is a bit of language in this entry. Virgin ears/eyes should probably avoid this one.<
My arrival into Sydney was calm and uneventful - and, fortunately, very cool. The temperature dropped a good 10 degrees Celsius from Alice, which was a welcome surprise. It was overcast and gray, something I welcomed with open arms.
After helping an old British couple the Avis desk, I found my way to the information desk and had them organize the shuttle bus recommended by my hostel. They said it would be about 15 minutes, so I took a walk around the terminal and used the facilities. When I emerged from the bathroom a thin, salt & pepper-haired Middle Eastern guy with grey pants, a white button-up shirt and a walkie-talkie in one hand was staring at me. "You go on shuttle bus?" Ummm... yeah.
After a quick and semi-difficult Q&A, I surmised he was indeed the shuttle bus driver I'd requested. He swiveled around and took off, motioning for me to follow. He walked fast - like Coach Stuart in the hallways of NHS. He was on a mission. We rounded a corner and collected a Canadian couple who were apparently joining us for the ride to Sydney. On we went, keeping up the power-walking pace, apparently late for something. As we turned the remainder of the terminal into a blur, the driver made a bit of small talk, consisting of the basic, where are you going, where did you arrive from, where is your home, etc... When I answered the last question with "the U.S.", a smile came over his face.
"The USA? <pointing to his heart> I am from Iraq."
As you might imagine, a deluge of thoughts crashed through my mind at that moment. Among the first was that he hadn't already tried to pistol-whip me with his walkie-talkie, so I assume he was at least tolerant of a Yank. The second was that I secretly hoped I hadn't invited a host of questions and inane discussion about the war, and other such things which would annoy the shit out of me.
"Ah, I love USA. You don't worry my friend. I not Saddam's brother." Alrighty then. Good stuff. We arrived at our bus/van/combi - a non-descript white vehicle with about 12 seats and curtains on the windows. Worn, off-white woolen head covers wrapped around each seat - which somehow seemed appropriate.
We wheeled back over to the domestic terminal to pick up some other folks, and were finally on our way. Through the course of human additions to our ride, I ended up in the back, which was probably for the best. Our driver started talking (and by "talking" I mean jabbering incessantly and incoherently about nothing) the ear off someone in the seat nearest him - at times making a full 180 degree turn back to make a point, much to the shock and awe of the passengers.
He was not a good driver. And I've had some bad ones. He drove that combi like it was a go-cart, weaving in and out of lanes, cutting people off, driving on the shoulder, talking on his walkie-talkie, slipping red lights... All of us looked at each other more than once with wide eyes. And, you could tell he was becoming increasingly frustrated with the traffic. At first it was the occasional honk, then the quick swerve followed by a "Shhhi..." under his breath, but audible to all.
Once we reached the city proper, he weaved his way downtown and started dropping some folks off. Most of the passengers were youngish-backpacker types, staying at hostels and budget hotels. Unfortunately for a driver like this, it means navigating downtown traffic at 6:00pm. He jammed his way into narrow streets and wedged into a sort-of parking spot, amid the honks of pissed off drivers behind him.
After dropping off about 4-5 people, we made our way to another area of town. At one point in the journey, he made a lane change to the left, and completely cut a black sedan off. Huge. From the back, I saw the guy slam on the brakes and narrowly avoid another car. He rightfully laid on the horn for a bit as he gathered himself and followed behind the bus. At the sound of the honk, our driver dropped an f-bomb, followed quickly by another "what the fu#%?"
The black car then passed us on the left, and then childishly cut us off, which as you might imagine, sent our Iraqi driver into a rage. I'm talking Wrath of Kahn mad. He went rigid, and looked like he was going to explode. Apparently the only curse word he knows is "fuck", as he yelled it out (and I mean yelled) about 15 times in 10 seconds. At times he add an "-ing" to the end of it to create a descriptor to its eventual usage as a noun in the same sentence. He'd throw the word "mother" in there from time to time, usually at the wrong time to complete the insult properly. Mostly it just came out as "Fu#@ your mother!".
Our driver then sped up and passed the black car, and purposely cut him off again. Honking ensued, and the black car returned favor on the next block. It was tremendous. Our driver obviously had no qualms about doing all this in front of his passengers. It was almost as if he forgot we were in there. We all looked at each other for the 20th time on this trip, amazed.
Then it got worse.
The black car was in front of us and stopped at a stoplight. Our driver quickly changed lanes to the left, and pulled up beside him. He rolled down the window and proceeded to fire off as many f-bombs as he could possibly muster. It was comical, seeing someone so mad trying his best to insult someone in a second language. The passenger of the other vehicle rolled down his window, and fired back what I can only imagine was a witty reply. He was an Asian male, probably about 18 years old or so. This barrage continued for about ten seconds before our driver hacked one up and spit at the black car. The passenger in the other car was stunned. He recovered quickly though - collected himself and spit right back. Back and forth, back and forth - spitting and curses flying over the pavement until the light turned green.
I yelled at our driver from my seat in the back to shut the hell up and drive. Fortunately, the other passengers joined in with me. The other car squealed off, and our driver finally put our wagon in motion.
Unbelievable. I'd never seen anything like it. After another block, our driver looked into the mirror back at us and said "That man make me so mad... fu#* him." And he looked at us like that explained everything.
Unfortunately, out of about ten people, I was the last one to be dropped off. We made it unscathed though - my prayers were answered for a calm delivery the rest of the way. No more f-bombs, and no more spitting. I hopped out and collected my bags as quick as possible.
So yeah, just your average story about an American, two Canadians, and an assortment of Europeans being driven around Australia by an Iraqi who got into a cursing/spitting contest with an Asian driver. Might not forget about this one for a while.