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.