Cabbie takes on a new journey

RAY Baker knows Launceston like the back of his hand.

The Ravenswood man was driving taxis well before the widespread use of global positioning systems, first jumping behind the wheel in 1969.

Mr Baker, who stopped driving taxis about six weeks ago, has enough stories to fill a book.

There was the time two men asked him to drive to a made-up address at Rocherlea, put a scarf around his neck and tried to steal his till.

Another story had him pick up a distraught woman at 3am, who managed to choke out a special request in between sobs.

``What's the matter lady, anything I can do to help?'' Mr Baker asked.

``My best girlfriend had sex with my partner - would you like to drive up Lilydale Road and have sex with me and I'll get even?'' she responded.

The answer was a resounding no.

Mr Baker said he had learnt a few lessons about judging people on appearances.

``A working man will give you a tip that's $5, $10, but if you get a bloke with a suit on and a bow tie and you tell them the fare is $9.90, they'll wait with an outstretched hand,'' he said.

``Unemployed people even help you more than the flash people, or so they think they are.''

There were a few lessons Mr Baker could pass on, too: ``You're not here for entertainment, you're not here for the heater, I'm here to get you from A to B.''

He said abuse and fare evaders were far outweighed by the 95 per cent of people who did the right thing.

``To be a taxi driver it's gotta be in your blood, it's not something everyone can do,'' he said.

``It was a job I enjoyed doing, because I enjoy meeting people, and you're meeting new people every 15 minutes.''

Since retiring at 79, Mr Baker has focused on his two great loves: his garden and his relatives.

Mr Baker's tight-knit family will celebrate his 80th birthday on May 24 at Launceston's Cataract Gorge.

Ray Baker, who retired recently after 45 years as a cabbie, with Willie the dog ... since retiring at 79, Mr Baker has focused on his two great loves - his garden and his relatives. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON

Ray Baker, who retired recently after 45 years as a cabbie, with Willie the dog ... since retiring at 79, Mr Baker has focused on his two great loves - his garden and his relatives. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON

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