"Lets have pot-luck this Chinese New Year" exclaimed Ah Meng - a fifty something taxi driver.
"What's pot-luck?. Is it pork & duck?" asked Ah Soh, with a cheeky smile.
"No, lah. Each one cook a dish and we eat together" replied Ah Meng
"Last year, we had our "lo hei" (Cantonese 捞起) at a restaurant in Geylang. This year, we should try something different". added Ah Meng
"Sound Great! Let's wait for the rest of our buddies to come in and ask them whether they're interested or not? I chipped into the discussion.
It was 3am on the 6th day of CNY. The three of us had finished our driving early and were sniping coffee at our regular coffee shop in Jurong Central.
We, taxi drivers, had a unique comradeship, usually starting from casual acquaintance and developed through the passage of time into lasting friendship, like recruits in army. We undergo the same trails and tribulations of surviving as a taxi driver and endure similar abuses from our passengers. Ours was a natural affinity because we suffered the same hardship together. The many things we share in common makes our bond unique and endearing .
Unlike office workers, we don't have office politics nor competition for promotion in our ranks. The only competition I can think of is at the mah-jong table. Each of us are on our own, searching for jobs on the road, like anglers at a fishing pond. We regularly share information of traffic jams, jobs opportunities at crowed locations and police road blocks.We rush to help our buddies when they are stranded with a stalled taxi at secluded places or involved in a traffic accident and sometimes, assists in whatever we can when they've problems with difficult passengers or drunkard. Because, we're not obsessed with raging self interest, we're less selfish and friendlier to each other. And with the warmth of fraternity, it makes our jobs less miserable and more bearable. Of course, there are many taxi drivers who prefer to work as "lone-ranger" and still "enjoy" their day of work.
The road is an oyster of opportunities. It pain me to see some taxi drivers race against each other as soon as the traffic light turn green. Most race for nothing. Some suddenly cut into your lane at the sight of a prospective passenger ahead and risks their life and others for a few dollars more. How much more can we earn a day? $100 or $200 more? No! Maybe $50 more in a shift. Some also cheery pick passengers at busy taxi ranks. Somehow, another driver had to pick that rejected passenger. These are the bad hats and they are the ones who tarnish the image of our vocation.
Now, going back to our pot-luck. An hour late, about 10 of our buddies sauntered over to our table and were immediately invited to join the pot-luck. Almost all agreed without hesitation.
-I proposed to cook a simple dish of fried bee-hoon with prawn, meat, vegetable etc......(Below photo is my contribution)
-Ah Meng will supply a set of Yú shēng which include thinly sliced fresh raw salmon, shredded white radish, shredded carrots........
-William will cook a pot of black sauce pig trotter.
-Ah Roy will supply a dish of curry fish head and mutton
-Ah Lui will get his wife to cook a pot of our favourite curry chicken.
-Ah Leong will supply a roasted Peking Duck....
-Others will supply tit-bits and drinks for the occasion.
Wow!! look at the spread of foods on the tables.
We feasted on Monday - 30/1 at 3am with about 10 dishes.
I was overwhelmed at the spirit of comradeship and endearing friendship displayed at the simple celebration. We may be poor taxi drivers but we know how to pull our resources together to celebrate the traditional "lo hei" in a simple and fun way.
We started off by having the "Yu Sheng" (Chinese: 鱼生), or Prosperity Toss, also known as "lo hei"(Cantonese for 捞起). It's a raw fish salad mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments. When having this dish, we gathered around the table and tossed the shredded ingredients into the air with chopsticks while saying auspicious wishes - "Huat -huat -huat" - out loud to mark the start of a prosperous new year.
We thoroughly enjoyed each other's cooking and discovered that some buddies should have been chef, instead of taxi drivers, because the dishes they cooked made them Michelin potentials. Anyway, at the end of our celebration, we combined our money together to try our luck on the coming 10 Million Dollar Hong Bow Draw. As taxi driver, our only hope of a good fortune comes from the weekend 4D or Toto. Most of the time, we ended up consoling ourself -better luck next time.....sigh!