After "easing" myself in the dark bushes at the Night Safari in Mandai Zoo, I lighted a cigarette to make it a "double happiness" with complete enjoyment. It was near mid-night and there were about 30 taxi in the queue. Most visitors had left the show and the taxi queue was hardly moving. A blue Sonota taxi joined the queue behind me. The driver, in his late fifties, got out and ambled over when he saw he smoking by my taxi. He offered me a black sweet, which looks like "Hacks", and said " This is good for smoker". I accepted the sweet and thank him.
He then asked " How is your day?".
I've heard this countless time but knew it was a way of breaking the ice when strangers want to chit-chat.
I also knew what he wants to hear but said "Good. How is yours?".
"Very Good". he said with broad smile and stares into the long queue of taxi ahead in the dimly lid carpark.
" I started at 5pm and already got $170." he said proudly of his achievement.
"That's fantastic. How did you do it" I asked in admiration and a bit of envy.
"Oh! I was lucky. I made a few long trips during the peak hours and did 5 bookings jobs too" he answered and stared at me for a response. I said in sadness, "Well, Myself, not so good. I started late and made no call booking trip and collected only $90 up to now".
He was quick to console me. He said that business was generally bad at present but should picked up soon with an increase in tourists arrival and improved economy. However, the main worry he had was the impending opening of the new Circle Line, which would take away many taxi commuters.
"My children had all grown up and don't need my support" he said with a slight smile. I was surprised that he did not speak with the typical Chinese obliqueness but was direst to the point.
"I don't have to work as hard as other guys. One day $50 is enough". he declared with a twist of his right fist.
"Look at those guys ahead" he pointed his jaw at the cabbies standing and chatting along the taxi queue ahead of us.
" 90 percent of them are sick with high blood pressure, kidney problem and many other sickness" he continued.
"I agreed with you. Driving for a living is tough. I've friends who quit driving because of that". I interrupted him as I felt he was like talking about me.
"I'm not going to wait in this long queue. It's a waste of time." he said with a grin. shook my hand, walked to his taxi and drove off.
A few minutes later, I felt the same frustration of the non-moving queue like my acquaintance and left the zoo.
As I was cruising smoothly along the BKE towards the city, I kept my window open and enjoyed the cool night breeze, the sweet smell of the flowering plants by the side and the beauty of the full moon in the cloudless sky. My mood change to one of self contentment and became happy.
True, life is hard, especially after a transition from an executive to a taxi driver. But life is like a highway. Sometimes smooth, sometime rough, sometime you go slow, sometime you go fast, sometime it frustrates you, sometimes it pleases you. As long as you know where you are going and never quit halfway, you will get there sooner or later.
Also like the lyrics of a popular Hokkien song "Ai Pia Jia Eh Yin", "Life is like the ocean tides. Sometimes high, sometimes low. Good luck or bad luck, we must do it the proper way. 30 parts is fate, 70 parts is hard work. We must work hard to succeed".