Where are all those smart people who should be running the country?
They’re all driving taxis.
Because I’m one of those few retards who have never learned how to drive, I rely a lot on the goodwill of my wife and friends to ferry me around.
But most of all, I rely almost exclusively on taxis to get me around.
I blame Meng How for that. When I first met Dr Leow Meng How, he was a secondary three boy from ACS – I was from Victoria – who was being chauffeured around and during the rare occasions when his chauffer was not available be would travel by taxis.
You can easily get very spoilt if you travel by taxis. It’s like air travel – once you’ve done first class, it’s very very hard to fly monkey or cattle class, know what I mean?
So taxi drivers have been bone and bane of my existence.
Some are chatty.
Way too chatty.
They don’t know how to stop.
Even when they see my eyes closing and my head nodding away in sleep, they continue to talk, talk and talk.
They go on and on and on – mainly complaining about “the garment”. (Translation: the government.)
This has gotten so bad that taxi companies started to warn their drivers to focus on “safe” topics.
Some are very good in “acting blur” – example, on the way home from the airport one night, the change due to me was 23 bucks, he gave me three bucks first; when I said “thanks” when he gave me the three bucks, he assumed that he didn’t need to give me the other 20 bucks! This was taxi number SHA7429B on June 12. In the hurry to exit, to pocket the change and to get my luggage out of the boot, I did not count the change and only realized when I got home that the old man has shortchanged me.
Maybe that was his modus operandi.
Some get rather personal – “Hey Tua Pwee Sai (Hokkien for “Fat Ass”) you better lose some weight.”
One taxi driver asked a girl friend “What method of birth control do you use?”
I can imagine sitting in a taxi all day and all night, if I were in their shoes – or should I say hemorrhoid-inducing hot seats – I would welcome some conversation to break the monotony too.
Most times I don’t mind the conversation.
It’s the silent ones who irk me.
You get into a taxi, and the driver gives you a look as if you are a pedophile.
“Hello, uncle, please take me to Bukit Batok Street Eleven. Thanks.”
“So uncle, how’s business?”
Ok, Mr Phlegmatic. I get the message.
Then about ten minutes later, “Uncle, why you did you take this route? You should have gone into PIE and then come out to Jurong Town Hall Road and turn right.”
Finally a response – “You never say what, you think I can read your mind ah?”
Those who talk appear to be very knowledgeable.
They can tell you how to run the country.
They can tell you how H1N1 should have been dealt with.
They can even tell you where Mas Selamat was hiding.
They know all about how to fix the deadlock in Thailand between the opposing Yellow Shirts and the Red Shirts
They know how that pacemaker was being fitted into Lee Kuan Yew.
They know what killed Michael Jackson.
And we do have some real smart cabbies.
Singapore’s most qualified taxi driver could well be Dr Cai Ming Jie.
Dr Cai became a taxi driver with SMRT last November after spending 16 years as a researcher at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.
His career switch has become a talking point online after he started a blog – written in impeccable English and with a great sense of humor – earlier this year. Alongside his experiences as a cabby, he takes issue with the circumstances of his departure from IMCB last May.
The China-born Dr Cai, who became a Singapore citizen, obtained a PhD in molecular biology from Stanford University in 1990. The Straits Times on August 19 revealed that he did a two-year postdoctoral fellowship after leaving Stanford at the University of Washington, under famed genetist Professor Lee Hartwell, who won a 2001 Nobel Prize in physiology.
He joined IMCB two years later and worked as a principal investigator in the field of cell genetics up till the time his contract was terminated.
I’m not sure if Dr Cai is a talkative one.
Along with all that talk from the chatty cabbies, you’ll find some other annoying behavior.
Once I had a taxi driver who farted and burped all the way from Tuas to Changi.
And I had to be on the receiving end of these olfactory assaults.
I could tell what he had for lunch, imagine that!
I think it was chicken rice with extra garlic-chilli sauce with a generous dollop of minced ginger.
Once, another taxi driver pulled out a damp, soggy, face towel from some plastic bag to wipe his face – the smell of that thing almost knocked me out.
Another guy pulled out a back-scratcher and started scratching his back vigorously – luckily no smells involved.
Just a horrible grating sound.
Made me wonder if his back is made of hippo hide.
Some are downright dishonest – one guy boasted how much he has made selling cell phones passengers have left behind.
One guy, (SHA2248D on March 13) when I wanted to go from St Luke’s Hospital to Republic Plaza took me for a sightseeing trip to half of Singapore first; I protested and he argued with me, naturally the fare cost a bomb.
I complained and ComfortDelGro replied:
“We have conducted an investigation. The driver should have asked his passengers for their preferred route before plying. For taking a longer route and poor service attitude, we have issued a warning. He was firmly reminded to adhere strictly to the Company’s service standards. Your complaint has been noted into his service record and we will continue to monitor his performance.
“Once again, we extend our apologies on behalf of the driver and we will continue to reinforce training efforts to educate our drivers on the importance of service quality.”
And some of the strangest cabbies are the women.
Maybe they’re trying to compensate, since most behave more manly than men.
But they tend to over do it.
And they talk about things they think men talk about – “Tua Pwee Sai, got go Geylang hot not?”
Oh my goodness.
Some don’t know their roads but thank goodness most will ask “Which route you want me to take ah?”
Unlike those in Bangkok – they lose their way and they go round and round and round and keep quiet the whole time.
Then when you ask them what the fuck is it they’re trying to do, they laugh in your face.
Or those in some cities who know the way but pretend to get lost so as to collect a larger fee.
Cab drivers, it takes all kinds I suppose.