|The plastic shield inside a taxi in Singapore
"Uncle, you're a frontline hero, like doctors and nurses" exclaimed my neighbor as we crossed path one morning on our way to the market.
"No lah. I drive to earn a living only and I'm temporarily not driving.". I replied politely.
Yes, I couldn't believe my ears that someone like him who seldom talks to me would suddenly call me a hero. How does he know I'm a taxi driver?. Has he been spying on me or do I have a typical taxi driver's face and demeanor?
I always suspect him to be the kind of person who loves to socialize with the officers from our neighborhood community centers run by Peoples Association and I saw him volunteered at our PAP MP office during MP meet the people session. Somehow, I dislike and avoid such charlatan characters. In the wartime days during the Japanese Occupation, such louts would be categorized as "running dogs".
Anyway, I gave him my due courtesy as a normal neighbor would.
On reflection, I think he compared me, a taxi driver, to those truly heroic nurses and doctors treating critically ill COVIC-19 patients fighting for their lives in ICU in sarcasm, typical of people who walk with their nose in the air with authoritative state connections.
In contrast, I applaud those kind souls, whom he compared me to as admirable people who place their lives at risk of infection while in close contact with highly infectious patients. They are like firefighters inside a burning building trying to rescue trapped survivors. I salute them wholeheartedly.
From my years of taxi driving experiences, I think taxi drivers have always been the scorn of the general public for being rude, unscrupulous, and ignominious people, just to mention a few.
Surprisingly, during this COVIC-19 pandemic, taxis drivers are ludicrously considered essential services personnel, contributing to the well being and health of the overall community.
Like doctors and nurses, we're now recognized as frontline warriors ferrying infected passengers to quarantine centers and hospitals, with threats of contacting the coronavirus ourselves secondary to other considerations.
I have temporarily earned a recognition previously denied to me and my fellow goons. Overnight, I, the cockroach have become a scoring eagle.
Seriously, apart from this dubious transformation, the more tangible "benefits" a taxi driver gets during the current pandemic are:-
1. A reduction in taxi rental in March 2020 and free rental for two subsequent months with an extension possibility.
2. Under the Solidarity Budget, all self-employed people like property agents, home tutors, private sports coaches, and taxi drivers, automatically qualify for the Self-Employed Persons Income Relief Scheme (SIRS). The scheme will disburse three quarter cash payout of $3,000 - in May, July and October (total $9,000) to help such people to tide over the loss of income stemming from the COVIC-19 epidemic. Today, I received an sms from MOF informing me that I'll receive my SEF payout of $3,000 on 27thMay 2020. Hooray!
3. In an un-precedential move, ComfortDelGro will install a plastic shield inside its taxi to minimize contact between cabbies and passengers, reducing the spread of CONVID-19. The unbreakable V-shield covers the driver's cabin entirely and also serves as an added protection against "violent passengers".
Frankly, I'm stunned that ComfortDelgro is empathetic to the welfare of its drivers. A few years back, to save cost they unscrupulously requested their taxi manufacturer to dispense with the need for safety airbags in its fleet of taxis.
Needless to say, I'm now thrilled to learn that they have taken measures to enhance the safety and welfare of its drivers and hope such measures are not spurious or temporary but permanent features of their corporate policies.
4. To address the delivery slots shortages due to heightened demand for home deliveries because more people are forced to stay at home, taxis are allowed to deliver food and groceries till the end of September 2020.. Nevertheless, there is frivolous public concern that it would affect traditional taxi service and contribute to traffic jams.
Participating taxi divers could supplement their income during this unusual hard time and also gain experience in home-delivery in case they wish to switch to this line in the future.
In conclusion, I'll grab all the benefits I'm entitled but I'm determined not to drive a cab again as my defective eyesight is a danger to not only to myself but other road users as well.
All lives are worth safeguarding though some might be a low-life with money always not enough.