Monday, 20 August 2012

Best Insult at a Cabby

I'm immune to all kinds of intended or unintended insults from my passengers.

Unintended insult, like someone from an European country gives you the best complement you ever heard, after you've help him with his heavy baggage and then he demanded the 20 cent loose change at the end of his trip. Okay, he doesn't know about tipping, which is not customary here, anyway. No big deal, you forget it right away, like the sight of a speeding motorist.

Or a young couple that goes beyond the socially acceptable behavior of kissing and fondling each other affectionately at the back seat, as if there wasn't another human being sitting right there in front of them. Okay. you tell yourself that your kids might be like these young couple in someone's cab.

Or something as common as a person getting in the cab and barking out the destination without saying "please". Okay, I'll not condemn him and give the guy a break as he might have loads of problems.

But there is one thing that really piss me off. One thing that would make me eject him out of my cab. . And I'll bet you wouldn't guess what it is.

Being told to drive faster? Or slower?

Being accused of going the wrong way or cheating?

Being asked why a smart, old man like myself is driving a taxi?

No, it's none of these things. Here's what it is: being given directions to a destination that anyone would know unless you were a complete moron.

For example, a person gets in at Center Point in Orchard Road and says he's going to The Singapore Flyer. Then he tells you how to get there. He doesn't ask you if you know where The Singapore Flyer is, although that would be almost as bad. He just tells you how to get there, assuming you don't already know.

It's the most horrible insult for a seasoned taxi driver. And it happened a few nights ago.

A twenty-something guy and girl jumped in the cab at around midnight at Clake Quay. In a fake Western accent voice, the young man told me they were going to Newton Circus Food Center. Now, this is easy navigation. Really easy. All a cabbie would have to know is the shortest route to the iconic Newton Circle.

All right, there are a few ways to get to Newton Circle, the longer or shorter route. To be fair and to avoid disputes, I always go by the shortest route. If you were a taxi driver, you would have mastered these basic routes within a month or two behind the wheel, unless you were a complete, utter, and hopeless moron.

So I punched the meter and moved to the right lane wanting to turn right into Clemenceau Ave. then straight into Cavenagh Road (Istana), and Newton Circle.

My passengers were chatting quietly to each other and had not engaged me in conversation. But then the guy leaned forward and started to speak.

"Take River Valley Road and make a right at Zion junction ," he said.

I flared. This is akin to telling "Ya Kun Kaya Toast" how to put "kaya" on a toast. But it got worse.

"River Valley Road," he explained, "is two-ways, so you can make a right turn at Zion junction, onto Patterson and Scotts Road."

That was the end. This was the equivalent of telling "Yan Kun" why people like to put their "kaya". I had to retaliate.

"Where are you from?" I asked him.

"Batam," he replied.

"I drive a taxi for 6 years," I said, "and then some guy from Indonesia gets in my cab and tells me how to get to the famous Newton Circle! That's like me telling you where Nagoya City is in Batam... please...!"

He sat there cold like a sea cucumber and didn't say a word. Clearly, I had offended him.

So what we suddenly had here was he unintentionally insulted me and I offended him.

I felt bad that what should have been a pleasant ride to a nice supper for these people had instead wound up in a whirlpool of hostility.

Some would say that I should have simply followed the passenger's instructions. But no, sometimes, only sometimes, I wouldn't let such an insult go by unchallenged.


gm . 绿效精神 said...

The best response to insult is not to fall into the shadow of these people, but to take up the challenge to do more correct things in return with humor.

We cannot and do not have to win those who are determined to create trouble and are up to no good, with some even to the extent of committing offence to be the sore losers.

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi, GM,

Thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree, don't fall into their trap.

@40stripes said...

I took a cab once and was unfortunate enough to meet a complete, utter, and hopeless moron for my driver.

I boarded at Bt Panjang and told him to head to the floating platform, which I suppose was iconic enough since NDP is held there every year.

The taxi driver then asked which way would I like to go by, to which I answered BKE-PIE.

I assumed the taxi driver knew the way from then on, but to my horror, he turned from BKE to PIE (Jurong). I immediately told him that he is heading to the wrong end of Singapore and he should go by PIE (Changi).

He found his way back on the PIE towards the correct direction. I asked him if he knew where the floating platform was, and he said yes.

He then missed the exit at Stevens Road. I asked him where does he intend to exit, and he answered "You said Changi?"

My trip from Bt Panjang to the floating platform took me much longer than expected.


Anonymous said...

I see your point; 'expertise' being questioned is insulting and I'm glad you take pride in your work.

However I'd encourage you take a step back. Perhaps your passenger has met drivers Timothy (and I) encountered - those who don't know and don't say - some expected me to direct them. It could be that the young man had thought most drivers needed to be directed based on his experience.

Anonymous said...

Cabbie for 6 years and you don't know that it is Newton Circus and not Newton Circle?

The said...

I think those who instruct cabbies on which route to take could be due to the fact that they have been literally taken for a ride by unscrupulous cabbie who take the longest or round-about route.

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi, Everyone,

Thanks for all the comments on my post. I appreciate them, truly.

Please allow my humble self to reply in honesty to each of them in sequence.

1. To Timothy,
Usually, there are always several ways to get to a destination and I like to ask my passenger which way they preferred at the beginning of the trip. But, if it's a simple, understood and shortest route, I wouldn't ask so that I do not look like a hopeless moron taxi driver.

In your case, from Bkt Panjang to NDP at Suntec, the "best" route is BKE/PIE/AYE exit at Rochor Rd. The BKE/PIE exit at Steven to Beach Road route is met with heavier traffic and many traffic lights, therefore slower but also can. It's possible to go beyond Steven Road but much longer route and not recommended. From my experience, it's important for the driver and passenger should have a clear and precise understanding of the final destination and best route to take at the start of a trip to avoid dispute and unhappiness. Though this is a perennial problem, it can be minimized.

To "annon"

Communication is important in every aspect of our life either between a taxi driver/passenger or Government/Citizen. Many new taxi drivers join the driving job everyday. Everyone should be given a chance to lean a new job and rookies should be humble, while "boss" should be magnanimous.

I will leave the error of "Newton Circus" intact as I feel there is humor in my mistake. That food center often has many "foreign clowns" patronizing the "shark" stalls.

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi, THE,

The common notion of most taxi commuters is that many taxi drivers are unscrupulous and deliberately take the longest route to earn a few dollars more. While this may be true in the olden days, I think it's less prevalent these days because fuel cost is sky high and time is money. Usually, the driver takes a longer route because he simply doesn't the correct way not because he wants to rip off the passenger. Of course, there are some bad drivers around who take advantage of foreigners and unsuspecting passengers after mid-night.

Unknown said...

After reading all the post I felt compelled to write my 2 cents worth.
Every job has its dignity be it a Cleaner or a President. This is no fault of anyone, EVEN TYPING MISTAKES to Anonymous that dares to comment but dare not present him/herself.

Every job is already stressful in itself in these days and you should not let it get to you even more. "Try" to humor the passengers whenever possible. Better still, you can always "ask" if going via this road and that road to reach the destination is OK. This shows them that you know what you are doing and leave no questions to be asked. Should they choose to travel via an alternative route so be it as they are the one paying.

Many a times when I board a taxi, the driver from the airport will ask ECP or PIE. I will tell him the route I prefer and which exit. Both routes arrive at my place with a small difference in the fare and there is no "insult" in my reply but sometimes its in the familiarity of the route that I am used to.

So chill out and keep your blog coming as I enjoy the "debates" being presented whenever you post something. Cheers.

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi, Candi Kum,

Thanks for your comment.

Like I said in my post, I'm immune to all kinds of "insults" and most of the time, I let them blow over my shoulder. Cheers!

Tina Loh said...


May I know what is your email address? Thanks.


Anonymous said...

I tell the taxi drivers which way to take because I've had drivers travelling ridiculous routes.

For example, Khatib to NTU. Instead of Mandai > BKE > KJE, he went through AMK, Marymount, Thomson, PIE, BKE & KJE. I was fuming.

And just last night, Toh Yi to Yishun. Tired as hell at 4AM, closed my eyes for a bit. Which way does he go? Dunearn, Adam, PIE, CTE, SLE instead of PIE > BKE > Mandai.

I don't tell taxi drivers which way to take to insult them, sir. I tell them because of these amazing individuals who sully the name of cab drivers, and these are just two instances of several.

Anonymous said...

I thought you are supposed to follow the passenger's preferred route? Who pays decide.

By the way, the passenger can complain to your company or LTA and you will get into trouble for being too proud.

Thought you were a good cabbie but this post disappointed me.

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi, Anon,

Thanks for your comment.

In your opinion, a good cabby is like an obedient child who meekly obey all orders from the parents who pays for their upkeep. Customers are always right and servants must serve their masters without questions. He who pays become the lord like he who governs become the king. I beg to differ that in a market economy, every player has a choice. Regards.