Friday 17 February 2012

Free Lunch

Come In. Free Lunch!!.


I woke up and instinctively pressed the alarm clock to death. It was 9pm on a Wednesday night. I had overslept by more than an hour. Quickly, I rushed to have a bath, bite and hit the road with my cab in 30 minutes. The morning medical appointment had disrupted my sleeping routine and I had slept like a dead log. Somehow, I knew the night would be different from other Wednesday nights. And true enough, something out of the ordinary did happened later and I would like to share my experience with you.

I hit my favourite pick up spot at Night Safari around 10pm. About 60 taxis were already in the queue that stretched up to car park entrance. I was not deterred though because I knew the crowd would soon arrive at the taxi stand. Thirty minutes later, I had my first passengers. They were three young Chinese girls and a man - all in their early twenties. They had deliberately avoided taking the "expensive" black "Chrysler" and a "Chevrolet" ahead of mine and boarded my "slightly-cheaper" blue "Sonata", smiling and laughing happily. Immediately, I knew my passengers were street-smart and calculative people, mostly likely Mainland Chinese.

"Royal Park at City Hall, please" the man asked with a typical Mainland China ascent and sat beside me. I was right in my prediction of their nationality.

"I got it" I replied, punched the meter and hit the highways.

Through out the journey, the group talked non-stop and loudly in Mandarin, like most Chinese nationals do. Each time when the man beside me talked to the girls at the back seat, he would turned his head around to speak to them. The bad breath from his mouth was horrible and I had to place a finger across my nose to mitigate the terrible smell. I did not squeezed my nose as it would be offensively rude.

Well, I did not alter a word during the trip, as they were talking totally among themselves. Their conversation revolved around their office politics, travels, relationship within their families and friends but not a single word about their experiences here nor comparison of China with Singapore. Apparently, the group were office colleagues on holiday around this region and not China girls from the night entertainment industry here.

Soon, we reached the hotel. A girl paid the exact fare of $20.50 and I gave her a receipt upon demand.

A buddy of mine was at the nearby "Esplanade Mall" taxi stand and I drove off to join him for a smoke right behind his cab.

Within minutes, my buddy moved off with a white couple to Holland Village and a Filipino man boarded mine to Ponggol Central.  It was a good fare for me.

Now, (if you're still with me), what happened in the next hour was something out of the ordinary and a good learning experience for new cabbies.

A few minutes after I moved off from "Esplanade Mall", my cellphone rung:-

"Mr Lim, did you pick up a group of people at the Night Safari earlier" a lady from COMFORT call centre asked politely.

"Yes. what's the problem?. I replied.

"A girl left a camera in your taxi. Please check whether it's there" she asked.

I turned around to look at the back seat and immediately, my Filipino passenger passed me a camera. It was a miniature camera in a cotton pouch.

"Yes, it's here. My honest passenger found it". I replied loudly so that my passenger could hear my compliment of him.

"Ok, I'll ask the girl to call you" the lady said.

"OK, But first, you must tell the girl that she had to compensate me based on the meter fare when I return the camera to her. I'm now on my way to Ponggol with a passenger" I demanded as a matter-of-factly.

In my rookie days, I had returned many lost items like cellphone, camera and laptops to owners without a single cent of reward nor a word of "thank you". Some people think that it is a taxi driver's obligation and duty to all return lost items to owners. Yes, I agreed but we've the options to select where and when to return item. After five years of taxi driving, I had wise up. I'm a poor taxi driver with a family to support not a wealthy man with free time to do charity work.

"If she don't accept my request, she had to pick up the camera from COMFORT office tomorrow". I continued.

"Ok, I'll check with her and call you back", she answered calmly.

A few minutes later, the call-centre lady called to say that the girl accepted my request and would call me directly soon.

Ten minutes went by and then my cellphone rung again.

"Driver, this is Hotel Royal Park. When you reached the hotel, call me at the number appearing on your cellphone and pass the camera to me". a Filipino ascent man spoke brusquely over the line.

"Look. I don't have to talk to you. Ask the girl to call me directly using her cellphone or she had to pick her camera at COMFORT office tomorrow, period". I told him off bluntly as he was rude. I reckoned he thinks that taxi drivers can be easily bossed around.

"She don't have a cellphone" he replied angrily.

"Tell her not to bull-shit me". I screamed over the phone and hung-up.

I was petulant with the hotel staff's attitude when he spoke to me. But infuriated at the girl reluctance to call me directly. I knew she was using the hotel staff to collect the camera on her behalf to avoid paying me the "compensation-fare", just like she avoided taking the expensive "Chrysler" earlier at Night Safari?. She thought she was smart but I wasn't stupid. From past experience, I observed that most of my passengers from Mainland China are cheapskates, shrewd and unscrupulous. I never like them and never will.

A few minutes later, my cellphone rung again. As expected, the girl finally called me with her cellphone. She spoke to me snobbishly in English with an American ascent. I replied in Mandarin sternly.

Eventually, we met at the driveway to the hotel entrance. Two hotel staffs were with her to lend their moral support. I handed her a meter-fare receipt for $22.00. Before she hand me the cash, she demanded to inspect the camera for damages and defects. I pushed the pouch into her hand, took $20 out of $22 from her palm and walked away feeling disgusted. Typical China girl!. I didn't open the pouch at all while it was in my hand.

Anyway, not a word or gesture of appreciation was given. Was she disappointed that her decietful trick failed or was she expecting a free return all the while?. Now, who pays for my fuel, rental and "missed opportunities"?. She thought she could trick this old man to get a free lunch. FAT HOPE!

Somebody should tell her that in Singapore, don't ever expect free lunches. Our government never give free lunches and we're obediently following their footsteps. However, at the risk of sounding self contradictory,  I'm pleased to say that in recent months, this government had increased social spending and extend more state support to the elderly and low-income workers, like me. This is long overdue.      




Anonymous said...

this is so true, I never liked mainland chinese, although I'm a Local chinese myself. They think they are very clever and classy, but they are actually very snobbish and stingy !

Suren said...

I think she should have acknowledged the honesty which was shown not only by you but also the Filipino passenger... well.. there are people of such types and they need to be dealt with accordingly.

Anonymous said...

errr Uncle, where is "Royal Park at City Hall" or "Hotel Royal Park"?

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi, Everyone,

Thanks for your comments on this posting. I appreciate it. Keep it coming.

By the way, Royal Park at City Hall is at Coleman Street. Hotel is opposite "Peninsula Shopping Centre".

Once, a Mainland Chinese owner of a lost cellphone asked for my home address so that she could pick it up from where I live. These selfish people think of their interests only. with a thought for others. Bye

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Important correction :

These selfish people thought of their interest only, without ( not with ) a thought for others. Careless old man. Ha ha ha. Bye..

elderflowertea said...

Interesting!! =)

Btw, I find most taxi drivers rude. I don't know why.

Soojenn said...

What would you expect. Most of these mainlanders are locusts as the hongkomgers apparently correct in labeling them as such.

They treat their own like shit back in China, what would you expect of the, to do now that the can travel to Singapore? When they see westerners, they are all politeness?

If they are the rich, and cultured, you wouldn't be seeing them behave such in a crass manner. Most of these who get to travel to Singapore are generally cheapskates who think they are better than Singaporeans. Well if the Singapore government goes around suppporting them, what can you expect.

Also, they would be going to places like Europe, Australia or the USA, not Singapore.

The rich and cultured ones also stay back in china, where they have the power, money and connections. The ones that Singapore gets to have, are the crass, rude, loudmouth, overbearing, uncultured leftovers who apparently believe that the are better than Singaporeans per se.

Anonymous said...

Few years ago my son left his new Sony handphone in a taxi. I called his number and was pleased that the driver answered the call. He asked for my address and sent the phone back to me. When we finally met he called back my phone number to make sure that he got the right owner. I was really grateful and gave him $100 as a reward. He refused at first but accepted after I insisted. I am thankful that we have honest taxi drivers.

Anonymous said...

I've personally lost things on taxi and also found lost items on taxis I got into and the taxi drivers were always most professional and helpful.
My best experience long ago ard 13years old, is a comfort taxi driver who drove all the way from Jurong to Hougang to return my student pass to me. He was even apologetic to my grandma when he told her that he was fetching a fare to Jurong and would only be able to reach hougang after 11pm. My grandma offered to pay the fare for the long trip from Hougang to Jurong but he turned it down even a small token sum of kopi-money he also turned down saying he knows children need their student pass for many things from bus to library. How nice!

Bai Hu said...

From your story, a good lesson has been learnt. Always do a scan to your taxi first after the previous passenger has left before accepting another passenger. U are lucky that the Filipino passenger is a honest one. If it had been otherwise, things would have turned out to be very complicated. That 'China girl' would have accused u of dishonesty and most probably u might need to fork out $$$ to get her a similar camera upon request of your taxi company.