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Posts Tagged ‘Taxis’

Taxi tales

In News Reports, Society on November 30, 2014 at 8:33 am

There is an interesting read in Sunday Times today by a journalist who took to driving a cab to experience what life was like behind the wheel. It logged his encounters with the good, bad and ugly passengers. The most interesting part was that he developed haemorrhoids after nine days of driving a taxi!

Anyway, here’s my version from the passenger seat.

I date my worst experience in a cab to more than 30 years ago. I was rushing to get to university and had hailed a cab. This John Lennon-lookalike picked me up and we proceeded along the PIE on a ride which involved stops and starts and plenty of jerking on the expressway. He was NOT a good driver. Trouble started when he overtook a sporty-looking car with a surfboard on its roof. He nearly clipped the car. The ang moh driver was furious and so started a car chase down the PIE. Seriously, like in the movies. The cab had to stop in the middle of the road because the ang moh driver succeeding in overtaking us and blocked the way. John Lennon reached below his seat for a metal pole then turned to me and said: “Miss, you be my witness ah!’’.

This beefy ang moh in a sleeveless tee-shirt (surfer dude, I thought) came to the driver’s side and let forth a string of four letter words with plenty of finger wagging as John Lennon clutched his pole with both hands. Then he went back to his car and drove off. If I wasn’t so young, I would have taken more notes. But I was so terrified that I wanted to leave the cab – except it was along the highway. It was a very shaken John Lennon who got me to the university, in the shakiest cab ride of my life.

Future adventures were less exciting, involving drivers who were going to nod off at the wheel (Uncle! Wake up!), a couple of tipsy cabbies who swerved like crazy (again along highways where there’s no chance to hop off) and one who actually wanted to see what my apartment looked like. I told him my (non-existent) husband doesn’t like me bringing strangers home.

On a general note, though, I think our cabbies are a wonderful lot. They don’t try to cheat you; they are polite and give you a pleasant ride, especially Comfort cabbies, and they keep their cabs clean. The limousine drivers are the best of the lot, concerned about you like the radio music and whether the air con is just right. They know how to make just enough small talk to make you comfortable. One day, I stepped into this wonderful Merc with a very, very young man at the wheel. Much too young to be driving a taxi. Definitely below 30. He prevaricated when I asked his age and it seemed he was driving his father’s cab. No, I didn’t report him. He was very nice.

Taxi “uncles’’ and a few “aunties’’ I have encountered include:

a. The die-die want to talk to you cabby

You know him immediately because he starts quizzing you not just on where you want to go and “how you want to go’’ but goes on to list the various ways of getting there nevertheless. Then he moves on to whether you’re working, shopping or why you are so late, early. If you are attentive, he launches into a tirade about road users before going on to lament his lot under this “garment’’. I don’t mind these garrulous cabbies; they are well up on the news. I think it comes from listening to the radio and having their pee or tea breaks with the newspaper in hand. But I’ve had to stop some of them from going on and on when all I want is a rest in air-con. That’s when I say: “Uncle, I am very tired. Wake me up when we are near there’’. Works like a charm.

b. The die-die must talk on the phone cabby

That’s the one who picks up his calls, yes, hands-free these days, and proceeds to gab on with whoever is on the other line. Usually, they think I don’t understand dialect and I’ve heard wonderful tales about mother-in-laws, buying Toto, arrangements for the kids, assignations for dinner ecetera. Of course, I sometimes hear about myself: a chabor going to Bedok. I really hate being with drivers with divided attention, hands-free or not. So I wriggled in my seat and make hrrrmppph noises and even let out a “Uncle, please be careful on the road’’. The last line works.

c.The “grunting’’ Uncle

You don’t know if he really heard you when you give your destination. You hoped that he heard your “turn left please’’ or “go straight’’. He points to the meter when you ask about the fare and when you say thank you, he grunts.  This sort of cabby stresses me out by his silence: I feel I must keep alert in case he took the wrong way.

d. The old familiars

I have come across ex-colleagues driving taxis, even an old university mate, ex-neighbours and neighbourhood fruit stall seller in the driving seat. They usually take no money from me, that is, I get a free ride. Of course, the question which pops into my head is “how come you driving a taxi now?’’ I don’t quite know how to phrase the question because I am not sure if it will cause embarrassment (on either side). The ex-fruit seller tells me plainly though that he earns much more now than he did before. Then there are those who have driven me before (I don’t know how they can recollect faces…) and actually tell me my destination before I do…

I think cabbies are cool. If you can get into a cab, that is. I call taxis often and many times, taxi drivers have asked why I was designated a VIP. I said I didn’t know. But when I left my last job, that VIP tag was taken off too, although I take taxis twice as often. I realised then what it meant to be VIP. You always, always get a cab, come rain or shine or isolated destination. Once, an operator kept in constant touch with me for 45 minutes trying to get a cab for me in heavy rain. When she finally got one for me, she told me the driver had been told to waive the booking fee. How nice! It’s different now. More often than not, I get a disembodied voice telling me that no taxi is available and to try again in 10 minutes. Or a text message. I think to myself: How the mighty are fallen. I am now trying taxi apps.

I think there are plenty of people who have horrible experiences with taxi drivers, just as they do with passengers. The interior of a cab is to me a most precious place. It represents a private contract between driver and passenger, one of security (the driver isn’t going to crash with you on board), of privacy (there’s just the two of us ) and society (we talk the same lingo). It’s the one of the places I feel at home, even with a stranger, as parts of Singapore fly past. It is also a reason I hope the industry is closed to foreigners.

That is why I will wait for a cab I have called; I am never a “no show’’ despite empty cabs plying past. And even though there are occasions when I feel like bludgeoning a garrulous or cranky driver, I don’t. You might as well say, try the bus or the train and you might feel the same. Much cheaper too. Maybe.  What to do? I have been spoilt by taxi Uncles.

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Notes on the news

In Money, News Reports, Politics on November 5, 2014 at 3:55 am

Weighing the WP’s worth

In Parliament, we have the Workers’ Party worrying about the independence of the judiciary, which it argues might be compromised if the Constitution is amended to have retired judges back to serve short stints. The WP wanted secure tenure for judges who should have a higher retirement age than 65.

In Aljunied-Hougang housing estate, the WP town council is chalking up arrears in service and conservancy charges. Seems three households in 10 haven’t paid their S&C fees for at least three months by end-April last year. It stopped submitting monthly reports from the next month on despite reminders. I wonder what has happened since then? Have they collected everything that’s owed or are households owing even more and how much is that in dollar terms? You wonder how the WP manages to fund the needs of the estate like this. Or (gasp!) have the rest of the HDB households outside the WP areas actually been paying too much in S&C fees??

Anyway, I thought today’s news reports on WP highlight the role of MPs very well – as a check on the G and as estate administrators. Put to the vote, the amendment got through of course. The WP made an interesting point about judges but I wish it had done more homework by suggesting where to get/find more judges. If more were available, there would be no need for Judicial Commissioners, a sort of temporary judge, introduced in 1979. Lawyers in private sector prefer short term stints at the Bench, but not many want to do it for a lifetime.

I wonder what is more important to the Aljunied/Hougang voter : the need for a contrarian voice in Parliament or a well-run housing estate.

A case of interest

So a review committee wants a 4 per cent cap on what licensed money lenders can charge in interest. And the licensed money lenders are very unhappy. They charge at least 20 per cent. Now, either their current rates are too exorbitant or the new cap is way too low. You wonder then about the people on the review committee. Some moneylenders sit on it too and they would surely have raised whatever objections then. Actually, while a low interest payment makes it easy for debtors, doesn’t it also encourage more people to take out more loans? Or is the position to make it attractive for debtors to go to licensed moneylenders than the loan shark, never mind if the licensed money lender can’t make as much money as before and might exit the business altogether?

Cabby, cabby, quite contrary, how does your wallet fare?

Plenty of cabby stories today, including an ST report that a simpler fare structure is going to be announced soon. Excellent! The report said that there are now close to 10 different flag-down fares, from $3.20 to $5, three different metered fare structures and more than 10 different types of surcharges. Seems ST got word that the new flag down rate that will apply to all taxis is going to be $3.80 and distance- and time-based interval jumps of 30 cents, rather than the 22,30 and 33 cents today. I’m sure passengers will welcome this, although what the taxi companies will say about such interference in the business operations is another matter. They must be doing okay, since there’s also news that Trans-Cab is going to be listed on the stock exchange.

And they must be pleased too that the Land Transport Authority is looking to regulate the likes of Easy Taxi and GrabTaxi, apps which are taking away their call bookings. The G is thinking of regulation that will protect the passenger, like methods of redress should disputes arise. Cabbies like the apps because their takings go up, although transport experts warn that the apps have not yet been monetised and money is likely to be clawed back from the drivers. Another worry is that over-regulation will kill innovation.

No need to be so jolly

So Christmas came early for manufacturers, crowed the ST on Page 1 today. Well and good! Then comes several paragraphs on how October Purchasing Managers’ Index is up, and at the highest level since April 2011. There was an “uptick’’ in orders from the US. You have to get through eight paragraphs before a note of caution is sounded that it might just be a seasonal thing with Christmas round the corner. I seriously wish ST would stop taking a rah-rah tone and provide a fuller picture quickly for those with short attention spans. Whatever happened to what is known as the double-barrelled intro?

BT has this:  SINGAPORE’S factories were busier than expected in October, with the latest purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rising 1.4 points to 51.9 – a level not seen since April 2011. But economists are downplaying the uptick, chalking up the expansion to year-end seasonal effects, and warning that a patchy global recovery will continue to weigh on manufacturing performance.

Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow

I did a double take when I read that the three-month delay in the completion of the National Stadium meant that the grass did not have time to grow. Seems that the grass had an extra three months to grow! Or do you build the concrete stuff first and then lay the grass? Does it then mean we should have delayed the OPENING of the stadium then? If the Sports Hub people “misjudged’’ the impact of that the events calendar will have on the pitch, then you wonder if what sort of “green’’ expert it has on board. Or whether the targets that it has to fulfill (or does it set them itself?) in terms of events and revenue led to the packed calendar.

Not sex and politics

In News Reports, Society on September 28, 2012 at 1:55 am

Let’s get away from sex and politics and get down to the stuff that really matter…

Hawkers hit out at hike in cleaning fees in yesterday’s ST
Seems nine hawker centres have had their cleaning fees raised, even doubled. NEA sent them a note to this effect, arguing that this was because of higher wages and training costs of accredited cleaning agencies. The NEA said that this was “fair and representative of market rates for such services’’. No elaboration. Seems the hawkers were not consulted. They’re unhappy of course and I am sure cleaners Let’s get away from sex and politics and look at some stuff that we really really should be concerned would be happy. I wonder what will happen next week when the new fees kick in… Hawkers say the cost will be passed on. So what’s a bowl of wanton mee going to cost next week? I hope some people are keeping track of prices. Will customers swallow the new prices? It’s an example of the knock on effects when a policy is changed. Most people are more or less agreed that we should pay the low wage workers more like the NWC says. But somebody has to pay for this. That would be you and me. I wish though that the NEA would give more than just vague comments about the fees (from $240 to $614 a month for Holland V market!! And from $268 to $480 at Tanglin Halt). So what will the cleaners who will benefit get paid then? And what kind of improved trained service can hawkers/customers expect. Seems a bit high-handed just to give hawkers a fait accompli.
No taxis? Some offer extra cash to get a ride in today’s ST
Some enterprising people have set up a radio service involving 1,000 cabbies or so to get people a cab quick(er) for a higher price. You can pay up to $20 more if you do so. LTA said the practice is against the rules. But frankly, isn’t this a willing buyer/willing seller situation? Why not let people pay more if they are willing to? In the hawker centre story, the hawkers (and customers) don’t have a choice – especially if the fee hike extends to more than just nine hawker centres. Here, we have people willing to pay and the G says no can do? So we all have to wait for the next transport fare hike that the G blesses to get a faster ride? An MP says this is in the interest of “transparency’’, I think it’s just another case of levelling down. Equal misery. You can’t afford to pay higher, so no one else should.
FB users rant over late deal in today’s TNP
Expletives peppered SingTel’s FB page after it announced that it had secured the screening rights to Uefa Champion’s League. Seems some people didn’t like the “late’’ notice, coming hours before the first match. They flamed the poor fellows who were managing the page and got pretty personal. The comments stayed on the page, undeleted, and probably fuelled further attacks. I applaud SingTel for coming out to defend its staff even as it allowed the comments to stay on the page. Customer service shouldn’t mean bending over backwards and condoning uncivilised behaviour by anonymous people. I don’t know who these people are but some are probably people with families. Shame on them. I wonder what they will say if their own FB pages got attacked – and they find out that the trolls are people they know, like their own children.