By Gary Lemke
Remember Andre Nel, the Mr Angry of cricket? Well, I’m convinced we bumped into his brother right here in Glasgow. Meet Dave, the taxi driver.
Myself and two media colleagues, Shane Keohane and Wessel Oosthuizen, ordered a taxi from our central Glasgow hotel to take us the 3km to the Commonwealth Games athletes’ village, where the official flag raising ceremony was taking place to welcome Team South Africa. It was a grey, dreary day, in stark contrast to the cloudless skies that had greeted the team on its arrival a couple of days before.
Dave looks like a ‘normal’ cabbie, but we quickly found he’s anything but.
‘Can you take us to the athletes’ village please?’ Silence. ‘It’s right next to Celtic Park?’
Dave looked at me through the rearview mirror. ‘Celtic Park? That (expletive) stadium looks like a (expletive) Meccano set. It’s a pile of s**te.’
Me: ‘So I take it you’re a Rangers supporter?’
Dave: ‘Aye. You know the difference between a bucket full of s**te and a bucket full of Celtic supporters? The bucket. You know the difference between a bus full of Celtic supporters and a porcupine? With a porcupine the pricks are on the outside.’ Boom, katish.
With the ice broken, I asked Dave whether he was looking forward to the Commonwealth Games, starting on Wednesday.
‘No. In fact I’m taking the whole bastard two weeks off. I cannee afford to though, so I’m gonna work at night. All the bastard roads are going to be closed, only the privileged will be able to get anywhere. They have designated lanes for Commonwealth Games cars. I cannee drive anywhere without being stopped.
‘If I have to take someone a mile I’m gonna have to stop 500 bloody yards away and tell him to walk, it will be quicker. I’m not against having 300 000 people come into Glasgee, but the way the roads are all blocked off is criminal. I wish the taxi drivers would all go on strike but it’s nee gonna happen. And besides, I don’t know of anyone who has bought a bloody ticket.’
Ok, Dave, let’s change the subject. We drive past a house with a Scottish flag in the window and the word NO written in big capital letters over it. ‘That’s for the referendum, right?’ I venture.
‘Aye. The result will be no but I wish it was yes. We’re getting scare stories about big multi-national companies pulling out of Scotland if we get independence so I think it will be a no. But if it was yes and the economy was ruined then we could all move to England.’ Ah, the hint of a first smile.
It didn’t last long. We are about a mile away from the village and we can see Celtic Park. ‘Look at that pile of s**te. The supporters have been all cock’a-hoop in the last few years but they forget they were five minutes away from the same thing [demotion to a few divisions lower because of falling into administration over financial problems].’
Ahead of us the road is blocked. We slow to a stop and are approached by a policeman.
‘Hello officer, I’m trying to get these gentlemen to the athletes’ village.’
Policeman: ‘Aye, but this is restricted access. You must go right here and along to Dalmarnock Road.’
Dave: ‘That’s a pile of sh**e. Yous are making it difficult for us.’
Policeman: ‘Just doing our jobs sir. Have a nice day.’
We reverse and drive off, turning right. ‘This is why I’m taking the next couple of weeks off.’
A few hundred metres we arrive at Dalmarnock Road. It’s blocked off. Oh dear.
‘Bastards!’ he says to us, hopefully in manner of speak. Dave winds down the window. ‘Hey. The police says I must use Dalmarnock Road to get to the athletes village. I’ve got to drop off these three gentlemen.’
‘Sorry, but you cannee use this road. You have to turn back and go back to the end and turn right.’
‘That’s bloody bull****. I’ve just come from there and they’ve sent me here.’
‘Sorry sir, we’ve been told no unathorised vehicles and you’re just a taxi.’
‘I know I’m “just a bloody taxi”. But how do I get in?’ His face is red and it’s not just the after effects of a week’s vacation in the Mediterranean with his son, that he told us about while the going was still good.
‘Try take the first right.’
We turn around in a wide U-turn and a screech of the tyres as Dave flattens the accelerator while still in first gear. A hundred yards down the road we turn right.
Another road is blocked. Oh dear.
A young marshall, pimply and with a wispy ‘moustache’ that has probably been a month in cultivating, is standing in our way.
‘Sonny, I’m trying to get these fellas to the athletes’ village.’
‘Sorry sir, you can’t go through here. It’s restricted. You must go via Dalmarnock Road.’
‘Listen you wee sh**e. I’ve just come from there.’ Through the rearview mirror I see a large vein protruding from Dave’s forehead.
‘It’s my first day on shift, sir. I don’t know how you can get there, a trembling ‘sonny’ offers.
Another U-turn and wheelspin.
Back to the original ‘offence’.
Now there are two policemen standing at the blocked road entrance. Oh dear.
Dave uses the old strategy of getting his retaliation in first.
‘Now listen here officers. I’ve been driving these fellas around and around. I don’t even like Celtic Park and can’t wait to get away from this bastard place but I have to drop them off. First you tell me to go to Dalmarnock Road, then the bastards tell me to go first right, then this wee fellow doesn’t have a (expletive) clue where the (expletive) we’re going. And now I’m back here. You’re going to tell me I can’t go through, aren’t you?’
‘Yes sir. Sorry, that’s our instructions. We aren’t even from Glasgow ourselves. We’re from Dunfries.’
Dave is not impressed. ‘Yous are all bloody useless. You don’t have a (expletive) clue what yous are doing. The whole bloody lot of yous. Yous are a disgrace. I’ve been pushed from pillar to post and back again. Bloody piles of useless sh**e you are. Thank you for being of nee help to us.’
The three of us are collectively thinking that if Dave was a South African taxi driver by now the handcuffs would be out. We offer to put him out of his misery. ‘We’ll walk from here, the rain has eased off.’
‘Aaah, is that what you call this? Rain? Come back in a wee while if you wanna see rain.’
It’s been a journey of an hour to travel less than 3km and Dave appeared to go from rage to gentle giant in a few blinks of the eye. ‘Sorry fellas. That will be £7.80. Have a nice time in Glasgow. You won’t be seeing me again.’
I guess this wasn’t a good time to ask him for a receipt.