Yesterday after I finished my tour of duty, I presented 2 mandarin oranges and one red packet ($8) to my night relief Alan Taxi. I also thanked him for driving my taxi. I’ll do the same on Fri when my other relief Johnny Cash is on night shift. Both night relief drivers are driving the night shift whilst I take the day shift. So far, they are alright. They are competent drivers and most importantly they exhibit “car sympathy” – they really take good care of the taxi maintaining its cleanliness and exercise caution when operating it. As is the tradition of taxi hirers, we usually give a token of appreciation to our relief drivers during CNY. It’s also giving them luck when the red packet is presented. Some hirers go as far as giving hampers to their relief drivers.
This morning about 9am just before I started driving, my good friend Datuk Freddie zoomed in to my humble abode in his luxurious BMW 5series sedan to hand delivered 8 pieces of fresh rabbit fish. He told me he had gone to the Senoko fish market around 4am to order 26kg (costing more than $1,000 at $60 per kg) of rabbit fish distributing to all his family members and friends. Myself and Lohcifer are amongst the beneficiaries. Later in the day, my brother Dr Nigel and his family came over for lunch. They were able to partake the delicious rabbit fish.
This is the 6th consecutive year that my good friend Freddie has done so! The Chinese really appreciate any fish given on the 1st day of CNY. It is symbolic of abundance cuz the fish pronunciation in Chinese is similar to the meaning of “extra”, “more” or “abundance”. 年年有余 – “Every Year With Abundance” since my good friend is sending fish to me every year. May he prosper and live forever so as to continue this unbroken link year after year! It’s one of those things I look forward to every year. Thank you again Datuk Freddie. Link here
Another link here.
Usually, I would start work late on weekends (Sat and Sun) including public holidays. Instead of 6am, I would start at about 8am or even 9am until I report off at 6pm. Reason is that there is no extra 25% morning peak surcharge on those days. Even on CNY, there is no extra surcharge at all. It really doesn’t make any sense at all when demand for taxis during weekends and especailly public holidays is at the highest yet there is no surcharge. Wonder no more there are so many desparate passengers waiting for the limited number of taxis.
Taxi drivers do not have annual leave or the luxury of taking off days cuz rental need to be paid on daily basis. For once a year, this is the only time during CNY when Chinese taxi drivers could bring their family members out for visiting. With no extra incentive to drive on CNY, the dearth of taxis roaming the streets is quite obvious. When I was around the vicinity of Rivervale Crescent this afternoon after driving continuously for hours with passengers boarding and alighting from my taxi non-stop, I decided to take a short break. I looked around and noticed there there were so many anxious people standing along the streets as if they are watching the Chingay procession. When I was about to resume driving, a maid with 2 young children came running towards my direction.
“Uncle, uncle, pls send us to Toa Payoh Lor 1. We have been waiting for a taxi for nearly one hour. There is no taxi at all!”
“Are you sure? I know taxi hard to come by but to wait for nearly one hour I really don’t believe it. You must be exaggerating!”
“No. No. Honestly I am telling the truth. Just send us there. My employer is waiting for the children. They kept calling me but I can’t do anything if there is no taxi!”
“OK. I’ll send you there.”
The maid thanked me profusely. She told the children to wish uncle “Happy New Year” and say “Thank you to taxi uncle!”
I dare say that having the ability to earn an honest living and contribute in a little way to bring smile to others resulting in much appreciation is the ultimate satisfaction of a taxi driver. Never mind if it’s a dog’s life.
I understand that the dearth of cabs is a perennial problem during public holidays especially on CNY. Why is it that the problem keeps recurring? Why can’t it be solved? Or maybe they just can’t be bothered at all?
You see, one month before CNY, barber shops all over the island jack up their prices. Even ladies going to their usual hair saloon also face a higher price hike. On eve of CNY right up to the 3rd or 4th day, all the coffeeshops jack up their coffee and drinks prices. Usually a bowl of noodle costs only $3.00 but it goes up by another 50 cents during this time. Those hawkers and barbers are self-employed and do not have bonuses. Even security guards are incentivized with “special package” to encourage them working during the festive season! They justisfy the increases during the festive season in lieu of bonuses.
It seems that only taxis are the neglected group. Like I say, taxi drivers will have to fend for themselves in this most expensive city on earth! No one would speak up for their welfare. No one cares for them. They are the pariah group in our 1st world country lah!
With good attitude and a cheerful disposition, many passengers voluntarily gave me tips. One good example was an Indonesian couple I picked up at Ikea @Alexandar Rd. I took the current call booking. When I arrived there, there was the longest taxi queue I ever saw. I was wondering why would anyone go to Ikea on CNY? Anyway, I helped to load the tons of DIY furniture into my cab. When we arrived at the condominium basement carpark at Geyland Rd, the appreciative couple gave me $20 when the fare was only $16 plus including the $2.30 current call booking. Many others – Chinese and non-Chinese asking me if I celebrate CNY and why didn’t I go visiting? I told them if all taxi drivers go visiting, who is going to send them around visiting places? Almost all my passengers just round off the cents to the dollar when they paid their fare. At least, some sympathetic passengers do take pity on us by giving us “bonuses.”
I’m merely stating the facts. As I’m blogging this at Elias Mall coffeeshop, Red Bull just joined me. He’s complaining that the price of a bottle of Carslberg has gone up by $1.00. He just came back from visiting his relatives at Yishun. He told me that he gave the taxi driver $20 when the fare was about $16plus. I then related to him that the Ikea couple also did the same. Red Bull understands the plight of taxi drivers. He says, “it’s only once a year and that taxi drivers got no bonus lah!” How I wish that if only those gods in-charge of our destiny think likewise, our life would be much better. But then, given the fact that taxi driver’s official income is set at only $40 a day on a 12 hour shift; how could it be better? When I told my foreign passengers this fact, they just couldn’t believe it. What to do? Life goes on. We’ll just have to resigned to our fate lah! Link
Any way, I am grateful to be alive and able to earn a decent honest living. I take this opportunity to wish all my family members espcially my other brother James and his family in Vancouver, my friends especially Bodo, Heinz and Ulrike and my loyal followers a “Happy Lunar New Year!”