Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Secret to Life

"Hi. Good Evening. Where to?"

"Bukit Panjang please."

"Sure man," he said, as I noticed the flyer in the back of his cab that mentioned something about the cab being environmentally friendly."

"What's this all about?" I asked.

"Oh that! Funny you should ask. Ha ha ha! Its a new scheme. Nobody wanted to be part of it. So do you know what they did? They forced those drivers who's license is due for renewal to take part. Haha. So I knew what they were going to tell me when they called me to the office that day. Its a new natural gas powered taxi. Anyway. Do you know there's only one filling up station in this country?"

Shocked at the silliness of it. I laughed.

"Then, hear this. The Japanese engineer told me, through his translator, that the gas can last for 80km before a refill. Not too good, but its just a pilot scheme." Then the driver started to chuckle. "Guess what?" he said, "The gas only lasts for about 40km. So I went back to the filling station to tell the Engineer his calculation is wrong. He never accounted for all the stopping and braking and so on. His translator didn't dare to tell him. Ha ha! Anyway, the taxi is much nicer to drive."

"The clutch is easier because it's not diesel right?" I asked.

"Yes. Yes. Correct. Now my job is nice and easy. The secret of life is to enjoy your job and love your family."

Now thats some advice that I shall be heeding from this cool taxi driver.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

No Change?

As a general rule tipping is not really common in this country because:

1. The 10% service charge is usually included in the bill.

2. The service is usually crap.

Taxis are not really much different.
Taxi service is GREAT in other countries unlike in this country.

Now there's one trick that passengers have to watch out for whenever embarking on a taxi ride in here. That is the trick of pretending to not have any change, or take his own sweet time to search for change in his ten thousand pocket waistcoat.

Big lies. I feel so embarrassed for the taxi drivers when they do that. Do they think people are dumb enough to fall for it? I was doing that trick when I was 18 and delivering pizzas. Argh!

During the time of SARS I usually tipped the taxi driver, since their business was not doing so good during those days. Nowadays they seem to have forgotten all about that and have gone back to selectively picking their passengers and treating them like an imbecile.

Perhaps economic downturns are good for teaching and stressing the importance of good customer service the hard way?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Geylang Taxi Driver

"So you have girlfriend? Chinese girl? Nice?"

"Yes. Yes"

"Wah Looocal ah?"

"Yes. Local."

"You marry or not?"

"Almost. Almost."

"So before u marry ah. You ever visit Geylang?" (not sure if he understood or even listened to the last thing I said)

"Well I stayed in a hotel there once."

"Ahhhhh. Gooood gooood." he said.

"I tell you; wife is nice. She can stay home and look after the kids. You know what I mean? Heh heh? When you want something really dirty you go see prostitute." he bursted whilst almost jumping out of his seat.

"Yeah?" I asked lamely. That didn't cut the conversation short. It spurred him on even further.

"I telllll you ahh," with his eyes glistening in the rear view mirror in my direction; he almost crashed into the central reservation.

"Yeah?"

"Your wife ah. She nice. She look after the kids. But if you ask for blowjob you get slap. That why you need prostitute. They good and you knooooow whyyyy they are good? Because they TRAINED. Yeah! I tell u ah. They KNOW how to please a man."

There were many other things mentioned by the driver but I've omitted them for the sake of modesty. Thank god the taxi ride finally came to a conclusion.

The caucasian male paid the man and got out. Walking back to his house he felt disgusted at the taxi driver for sharing his experience and life philosophy. Blah!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Secret Durian Place

"I tell you ah. Many year ago. Me an my fren ah. We all go down there and take the durian. Wah the durian ah. So nice. I tell you one. Not like you get in shop. Sooo juicy. Wah so good," gushed the words from his swiftly energised mouth.

"But where???" I quizzed, "Is it still there or what?"

"Of course lah! I go only last month. Got one THIS big. My whole family eat lah,"

"Isn’t that illegal or something?"

"Of course lah. But only if you get caught," he smiled with pride. "So far I never get caught."

"Don’t durian sellers just go and pick free durians from there and sell them in the streets of Geylang?"

"Mayyybe lah. But enough for everyone. So okay lah."

"But where anyway? I still don't understand where they are," I prompted.

"Near the highway lah. You know the park there? There's a forest behind. Wah the durian ah. So good," he almost slobbered onto the dashboard.

Coming off the highway I gazed into the wilderness of trees searching for random durian poachers hanging out of them. Nothing there. Maybe I will see them one day and maybe I wont. One thing for sure is that I wont be purposely going looking for smelly durians. I shall leave that to the durian lovers out there.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Worst Taxi Driver Ever

Ok. It is rant time. RRRRRRRANT!

Just the other night I was trying to flag a taxi down. This damn chi ko pek taxi driver drove past me not once, but thrice! Perhaps I wasn't a nice 'chio' girly but a smelly ang moh so he didn't want to pick me up :(. In the end he drove off and I ended up taking some other taxi.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mount Faber

Three locals. Two foreigners. Together, we got inside a taxi.

"No way," he said, "If I get caught. I'll lose my license for sure. There's no way I'm risking having four people on the back seat."

Stupidly, idiotically and bimbotically, myself and the other foreigner decided to get out and get in another taxi together. We flagged another one down in only a matter of seconds.

"Take us to Mount Faber please"

"Where?"

"Mount Faber?"

"Where's that? I've never heard of it," he said. Despite Mount Faber being a popular spot amongst both locals and tourists.

"Mount Faber? Mount Fibber? Mount Faaaaaber? Mount Fobber? Mount Fubber? Mount Fabbbberrrrrr Munt Flibber?" we tried in all possible accents under the sun.

"Where? How to get there?" he asked again, seemingly oblivious to the place.

"We don't know how to get there. We're not Singaporean," my friend replied, who was already slightly agitated.

"Hey. Its next to the World Trade Centre and the cable car station," my collegue pointed out as he remembered.

"Ahh. World Trade Centre," he agreed, and we finally thought we were getting somewhere.

Within five minutes the taxi driver had taken us to the World Trade Centre.

"Ok. Now Mount Faber"

Then the taxi driver got angry. "Why you tell me World Trade Centre if you don't wanna go World Trade Centre? You ask for World Trade Centre and now we here."

"Just look around this area" my collegue insisted. After scouring up and down the road a while, we finally saw a glimmer of hope when there was a sign for 'Mount Faber' which lead to a long winding hill.

"Oh. Mount Faber," he said casually, and drove us up the hill to the pub at the top which was heaving with people from all over. My friend and I foaming at the mouths and ready to strangle him to death. Even though taxi drivers are generally not tipped in Singapore, I did have a few verbal tips of my own to give him.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cabby Pileup

I saw a big pile up today on the highway this morning. Lo and behold, the cause of it was three taxis.

For those that aren't familiar with Singapore's taxi drivers, this is nothing new. It seems that taxis are the cause of almost every highway accident here. Or could it just be that there's so many of them on the highway, that the odds are against them?

I put it down to the standard 'one millimetre gap' that they always leave between themselves and the car in front. I really wish they wouldn't do that.

Pity I couldn't get a picture. Time for a new phone that doesn't make a ridiculously loud noise when it snaps a picture.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mastercard

"Hey, can I pay you by mastercard? Cos I want to try and win the diamond," I asked, whilst pointing to the mastercard advert. It instantly struck a chord with him.

"This one ah! No way you can win. Its just a bullshit lah!" he exclaimed.

"Seriously?"

"Yeah. Have you actually ever heard of somebody winning it? Nooooo right? That’s why I tell you. Buuuullshit lah,"

"But I want to win the diamond," I insisted. "Surely SOMEONE has to win?"

"Listen. Did you ever seeee anyone win a diamond yet? I TELL you. You never see people got win one."

"But," I whimpered. There was no doubting it. I was defeated.

"Tell you ah. Last time. The car prize. Do you see anyone driving it? No lah. Another bullshit! Then everyday everyone want to pay mastercard. Wah lau these guys ah. Heh heh heh."

"My word!" I gasped in my pseudo-Brit-American-Singlish-Neutralised accent.

"God for my business though! [cackle] More and more people want to take a taxi and win. [more sinister cackles]."

It was time to leave before the conspiracy got deeper. He scanned my card and, for once, it all went without a glitch. Arriving home I pondered deep in thought about why don't I just queue up at the ATM for half an hour so that I can pay for taxis with cash? Er, maybe its because I'm a foreigner and after four years I still haven’t gotten any money changed.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Thanks

At the end of a taxi journey last night...

I paid the driver and said "thank you." Here's what happened next:

"Thank you. Good night!" he wished me.

"Thanks. Just give me a moment," I said as I took off my seatbelt tried to collect my bags.

"Thank you. Thank you. Good night!" he repeated again.

"Just a moment..." I said. Still struggling.

"Thank you. Thank you. Good night!" came the response, again.

"Just picking up my bags. Won't be a second."

"Thank you. Thank you. Good night!" he bleeped, in what was becoming monotonous and clinical.

Good grief.

"OK. Got them. Thanks. Good night."

"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Good night!!!"

"Thanks," I repeated it myself as I opened the door, but it had to come again didn't it...

"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Good night!!!"

Monday, July 2, 2007

GO Higharrr!

"Bukit Panjang Please."

"Pasir Panjang ah?"

"No no. BUKIT Panjang."

"Then why don't you say in the first place lah?"

I've no idea why my pronunciation of 'bukit' is anywhere near 'pasir' but what I do know is that I've received some invaluable information from some taxi drivers in Singapore. Mr 'Go Highaaar' is one of the best career coaches I have ever come across.

"Wah. Work so late ah? Which company you work?" he asked.

"Its a small software company. We make accounting software," I told him.

"How much your pay?"

"What?!" I replied, a bit startled from his subtlety. "The pay isn't too good. Well, not for working these crazy hours anyway, but I'm just gaining experience right now," I replied.

"What degree you have?"

"IT," I replied.

"You got honours or no?" was the next big question.

"Yes. My degree is an honours degree,"

"You got Masters or no?"

"No masters. Sorry"

"I think for you. You can do masters. Go higharrr. Goo highaaarrr! Don't let people trod on you. You trod on them instead. I never do degree now I'm driving taxi. No good. Then the taxi company trod on me."

"Oh thanks mate"

"PHd. Hmmm. I think maybe you cannot make it. But you go try anyway."

"Er. Oh thanks again mate"

"Go higharrr. Go higharr. Don't let the taxi company bully and trod on you," he repeated continuously while bouncing up and down on his seat in an uncontrollable fit of frenzy.

Thankfully the conversation ended there and he sat mumbling to himself, for the rest of the journey, about the taxi company in a mix of unintelligible English and even more unintelligible hokkien dialect.

"$10.55," He snapped. "GO HIGHARRR!! Good night ah!"

"Good night. Thankyou."

I spent the rest of the night wide awake browsing postgraduate courses. The moral of this story is to get as high a degree as possible. Then you can guarantee that you will never cause a taxi driver to have a fit.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Vroom!

Vroom! A young man in his twenties zoomed past the taxi and undertook him before repeating the same daring feat between a motorbike and a pick up truck.

"Young idiots" I commented to the taxi driver. This was my attempt to spark an interesting coversation. "I can't believe these young guys spend so much money on a car and drive so recklessly," I said, and this was the taxi driver's perfect opportunity to boast about his financial expertise.

"Not like us," he slowly commented/chanted/sinisterly cackled even. "We know that you've gotta save your money and buy a house first," which I nodded and also verbally shown my agreement, but the pandora's box had been opened and I was now in full scale interaction with this particular taxi driver and I had no escape.

"We need a five year plan. I've always insisted on having a five and ten year financial plan," he beamed back in his rear view mirror.

Now I was sure I only just read that in the newspaper that very morning, but this taxi driver sure had a lot to say and he surely assumed that only he had read the newspaper that day. I listened uncomfortably anyway.

"I TELL you ah. You can't speculate liquid assets on liabilities in this uncertain economical climate. Must save mannie for children's education," he advised. "I've always believed in this," he reinstated with zeal and pride. All of which I could have sworn was repeated word for word out of the day's newspaper.

After the usual 'go straight, turn left, stop here please. HERE! NOW STOP! NOW! HERE!' routine at my place, I exited the taxi an enlightened man with a sinister looking taxi driver, still smiling at me, with his head almost popping through the glass window. Tomorrow would be his day to advise people on how to plan a perfect marriage and arrange a foreign maid to look after your kids.

So now you know where you can go for some good financial planning advice. Make sure you take the taxi on the right day, probe the driver towards the subject and most of all beware any sinister cackles.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Back Seat Shriek

So I got into this taxi one night and had a peaceful journey the whole way home.

Just when I was getting my wallet out to pay maanie, there came a sudden twist in the tale.

From out of nowhere. A pair of black knickers materialised right next to me. I picked them up and asked my girlfriend if they belonged to her or something and if they had fallen out of her bag.

"Put 'em down!" she shrieked.

"Why? Aren't they yours?" I asked.

"No! They were here all along. Lets go."

Suddenly, I then realised that the knickers were attached to a pair of tights/pantyhose on the back seat. I almost jumped through the roof James Bond ejector seat style.

My girlfriend had been trying to ignore their presence all along.

Then what came next was the best part. The taxi driver started to get really flustered and took it upon him to explain their magical appearance to me.

"Er oo er. The last lady ah. She er. Was errr drunk. Yeah drunk," he said.

"Uh huh."

"Yeah. Wah lau. These lady ah. She say she was hot and took off her panty. Ha ha ha ha! [insert deranged taxi driver evil laugh here] These drunk lady they do anything. Just leave them there. Heh heh heh hooo haa haa haa [cackle]."

I wished him goodnight and left him fumbling over the back seat for his treasure.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Robot!

"Hello do you need a taxi now?" asked a polite but robotic girl on the other side. My initial thoughts were that I actually needed a taxi thirty minutes ago and is it not bloody obvious that I pressed '1' to get a cab now?

"Yes. Now please." I asked through my gritted teeth.
"Certainly sir. What's your name sir?" she asked.
"Mark," I replied.
"Ok. Mr. Mark,"
"Actually. Its Mr Ashworth. My first name is Mark,"
A short silence followed from the confused hotline assistant, which was eventually broken by the sound of sawdust falling onto a workbench in a nearby factory in Johor Bahru.

"What is your pickup location?" she bleated, as I contemplated whether I had engaged in a more intelligible conversation with the automated machine when I first dialled.

"Bukit Panjang," I said in my most neutralised accent.
"And where are you going to?" she asked.
"Tanjong Pagar," I replied digitally.
"Please hold for taxi number," was the next line that she bleated. Then that was it. The conversation had cut off and I was now listening to a third machine telling me to wait five minutes for the arrival of my taxi.

"Many thanks." I politely told it, "and I wish you a jolly good day Mr Machine."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Kidney Shocker

Here's a classic taxi-man tale about why you should not go and see a doctor. Even if you're dying. Unless you are from out of town.

After a long day's work and overtime, I finally flagged down a taxi in Queenstown at eleven o'clock at night.

"Where to ah? ah?" asked the taxi driver whilst bobbing up and down on his seat and frantically looking in the mirror to inspect his foreign passenger.
"Bukit Panjang"
"Ah. Buuu-kit Panjang ah? OK. We go PIE, BKE" he said

Now. I cannot stand awkward silence when in taxi. So I tried to break into some conversation.

"So. Busy night?" was my feeble attempt. Which suprisingly seemed to arouse him and spark his engine.
"Busy ah! I tell u ah. In Singapore. You gotta work work work. Else no mannie. Ah ah!" he looked in the mirror at me, eagerly seeking my nod of approval.
"Its the same everywhere isn't it?" I asked.
"Where you from ah?"
"England. Manchester."
"Ah. You see ah. In England, if no work then your government will PAY you to stay at home. Ah! Ah? Even you go hospital, go doctor. Then free."
"Yeah. Its free alright. But its hardly up to any standard." I replied.
"Ah. But you go doctor in Singapore. Then they take your kidney out."
"What!?" I replied in a shocked state of manner.
"I tell you ah. Singaporeans never go doctor if they fall sick."
"What? Why?"
"Singaporeans only though. They never touch foreigners. So that way nobody can know. Because you England ah. If our government take your kidney, then your government will be unhappy and come after us. So foreigners safe. Except 'Michael Faye.' " (I'll skip the Michael Faye issue until later blogs)

I was totally shocked at this and could not begin to understand how, in a country of first rate healthcare, the hospitals would have a racket on people's kidneys.

"Are you sure?" I asked. "Come on. Thats not believable"
"I tell you ah ah. My wife's friend. She went into the doctor clinic with flu. She's sixty five already. They put her in hospital. Then when she went home she realised that she had no kidney."
"You're joking!" I exclaimed
"No lah. I tell you ah. This one is real. You watch ah. NUH. that's where they get their money for all their equipment. Ah! ah! Else how can they afford such good equipment? ah? ah?"

Fortunately at this point we were nearing my house. I directed him to my street and stopped a few blocks before my real apartment in the fear that he might come knocking at my house one day. I paid the lunatic and got out of the taxi.

Safe in the knowledge that my kidneys were safe for now. What a relief.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Condo Guy

So I get into a taxi one night for a journey to Aljunied. I was going to one of those industrial-park type buildings around there. Not a condominium in sight and no reason for one to be there either.

After the waft of durians choked the taxi's air-conditioning system and we passed by several shady hotels, (one of which being a neon-light clad pink building entitled 'Comfort Hotel' ... say no more), here's how my journey concluded:



"So just stop on the left here please," I asked kindly.

"Ah. This condo here ah?" he replied routinely whilst pointing to the blocks of industrial-type buildings.

"Er... Yeah... Er... HUH?" I gasped.

"This condo on the left ah?" he repeated again. In a more assertive manner this time.

Confused and flabbergasted I decided to go along with the routine and carry on without any big confusion.

"Ermmmmm. ..... Yes.... Errrm. Ok." I said. Afterwhich, I paid the fruit-loop of a man and got out.


Perhaps he proceeded to pick up his next ang moh at the Comfort Hotel.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Immigrant Prison

"How long you stay in Singapore?"

"Almost three years now," I replied.

Then he just had to ask the dreaded question...

"So you PR or not?" [damn youuuu for asking this!]

"Nope," I grunted.

"You apply oreddi?"

"Only four times now!"

"You success or not?"

"Nope.. They never want to approve it. They never give a reason."

"Wah lau. Ha ha ha ha! ....... Ha ha ha ha ha! ....... Ha ha ha!"

"Stop it now. Please," I begged.

"Ha ha ha ha!" he continued. It had tickled him immensely.

"Its not that funny."

"Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!"

Tears began to swell in my eyes. That was it. Time to defend myself...

"Actually the last rejection letter said that if I apply in one more year's time I'll have a good chance of being approved."

This at least seemed to sober him up a bit.

"Actually I don't see why they don't approve you ah. Since you here for so long already," he consoled me.

"I guess they just really want to test me. Most ang moh just bugger off home after a few years here anyway. So no there's point in granting PR for them."

"Ahh I see. So tough ah? So where you go apply ah?"

"Lavender there. The 'ICA' building. You know? The one that used to be 'SIR' but they changed the name of it."

"Ahhhhhhh. That place ahh. I TELL you ah," [This is always the start of an ammmmazing taxi story. Stories with mysteries that are only exceeded by their dubiousness]

"Yeah?"

"I TELL you ah. You know what is underneath that place?" he asked in a sinisterly but coy manner.

"No idea. Tell me."

"I TELL you. Do you ever see any immigration offender in Singapore?"

"Nope."

"I TELL you. Underneath ICA building. Is a prison," he whispered whilst scoping the road for any other traffic.

"WHAT?!"

"A prison lah! Jail! Gaol!"

"You're joking right?"

"No lah. I tell you ah. Underneath the ICA. Its where they keep all the immigration offenders. Do you ever see them in the normal prison?"

"Well now you come to say it. Er... How do you know all this?" [...and wait another second. I've never actually seen the 'normal' prison for that matter]

"I tell you a secret. My friend ah. He was there for five years."

"Five years! You're not joking? Where is your friend from?"

"Ah.. This I cannot tell you lah. Else you might find out who he is." [I'm assuming he's from some obscure country that has only had one citizen to ever step foot in Singapore]

"Fair enough."

"Yeah! Now you know. Now you know! Get your PR soon then you wont be an offender."

"But I have an employment pass."

"Don't offend ah. Then you will end up in the prison underneath the ICA." [They just don't hear me do they?]

Finally and thankfully. We had reached my destination.

"Er. Can I get out now? Let me out!" I asked as I moved from a whimper, to a sob to a wail.

He let me out alright. The visions of illegal immigrants being whipped in a dungeon beneath the ICA building filled my bewlidered mind. I was tired and it was time for some Maggi Mee and some sleep. Before that however, I double checked my employment pass to check it was still in date.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Not Again

Flagging down a taxi one night, I was greeted with the familiar sight of an open window and a vigilant driver hanging over the passenger seat with a face full of the question:

"Where you go ah?!"

"Bukit Panjang!" I shouted, even though I was stood next to the taxi.

To which the driver animatedly replied, "No No No No! I have an appointment! Cannot cannot!" and hastily drove away.

Two minutes later as I'm walking down the same road. What do I see? Mr taxi driver sat at the coffee shop drinking his kopi-o.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Let Me Out!

"In Singapore ah. All the student they good. It THAT country where they no good. They go throw stone at the gahmen house." (all 'the government' lives in one big house?)

"Seriously?" I asked, half heartedly.

"You want to know why? You wanna know why they throw?" he beckoned.

"Well no actually but I'm sure you're going to tell me anyway." (that one is made up but I'm sure he wouldn't have heard me anyway)

"They throw the stone because they are PAID to do it!" he yelped as if he had just let me in on the biggest secret in history. "They throw the stone because they paid by the opposition party!"

I prayed that he would just keep his hands on the wheel and stop looking round at me but he continued with his wise words:

"I TELL you ah. There no need to throw the stone at gahmen. I TELL you. If they think the gahmen no good; Then why they no just go study and become the gahmen. I TELL YOU!"

"That's totally right," I acknowledged in agreement.

"They should be in the school. Learn how to become better gahamen than the one oreddi in power.

Become smarter! Only this way then can," were his words of wisdom, as he continued his taxi driver monologue. "They should be in the school studying the economics. Our prime minister he economic graduate. Economic graduate can run country and become gahmen. So you how? You graduate economic?"

"Computer science," to his dismay I replied.

"Ahh computer. I TELL you ah got good opportunity in Singapore but lot of Indian to compete."

'Oh God! Please let me out now!' I thought, and today the heavens were indeed in my favour, we were home.