Conversation with my pax: Medical Insurance

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Table of premiums for citizens

Recently, I fetched a father and son from East Shore Hospital at Joo Chiat Place to Bedok North Ave 4. The son was huge – double the size of the old man even as they look similar in features. A chip off the old block as the saying goes. I innocently asked what happened to his son when I saw his face half bandaged.

“Oh, he had a cut whilst playing soccer in school. I brought him to East Shore Hospital yesterday around 10 pm. Got admitted and they patched his jaw with some stitches. There was a deep cut on his jaw. Luckily no fractures and no concussion on his head after X-ray and MR scan!” said the old man.

It was about noon when I fetched them. They were waiting for taxi for quite some time. The father complained that it’s always so difficult to get a taxi when you need it urgently. He’s rushing home as he had to get to work cuz he’s on half day leave.

The father and son were chattering in Mandarin in the taxi. I overheard them talking about the expensive medical costs. “Fortunately, I got buy medical insurance for you. Every year I pay about $335 for you. I’ve been paying for the past 15 yrs and now we have claimed back the expensive medical costs of more than $5,000!”

The father took out his handphone and started to calculate the total amount he paid for his son’s 3rd party medical insurance and the total medical costs for the one night costly stay at the hospital. He then declared that the insurance company still made some money from him despite the hefty hospitalization claims.

I then interrupted and told him that the government is about to introduce medical insurance for all of us including PRs. They are still debating the proposal in parliament. Soon, it will be implemented and it’s compulsory for all of us.

The father then said that he heard about it i.e. Medishield Life but still he’s at a loss. He’s not so sure of the scheme. From what he heard from friends and read on the internet, lots of people are unhappy about it.

I briefly explained to him. “Actually I’m also not very sure of the details. What I know is that it is an universal health care for all. From baby till the day you die all must pay medical premiums. How much you pay depending on your age. Whether you got any medical condition or not you will still be covered in the scheme.”

“Is it similar to what I’ve been paying for my son, myself and other family members?”

“Yes. In a way it is. Instead of paying to a 3rd party insurance company for your medical needs, now the government has taken over the role cuz not everyone like you could afford the 3rd party insurance. Some of them don’t even bother to buy medical insurance at all. The current medishield or even your medisave is definitely not enough to cover your medical costs in the event of prolong illness or a major operation in a hospital”

I added further, “We know that medical costs will definitely keep rising. The costs of the same operation few years ago will not be the same today. It will surely cost more than you could pay in future.”

“I am working and I could afford. What about those who are not working and can’t afford to pay the premiums?”

“The government has committed more than 4 billions to subsidize or pay for those citizens (NOT PRs) who really could not afford. Maybe they feel that it’s worth while to subsidize or pay citizens’ medical premiums than foot their hefty medical bills in the event they need to go for a major operation.”

I spoke to the passenger in English. I then said, “like you, I’m buying 3rd party medical insurance for my aged parents, myself and my son. I am using CPF medisave and cash to pay for their medical insurance amounting to more than $3,000 every year! With the government’s latest initiative, I need not have to pay cash out of my pocket. I also need not use my medisave to pay for my parents’ medical insurance premiums except my son who is not working and got no CPF.

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The yearly 3rd party premium I'm paying for my mother

I then gave the example of my 72 yrs old mother to illustrate what medishield life entails. “Currently my mother has $15,478 in her CPF medisave account. Assuming that she has to pay about $1,000 premium from her CPF medisave account per year (which is what I’m paying for her using my own CPF medisave plus cash to 3rd party insurance company), it will last for the next 15 yrs! She will be 87 yrs by then when her CPF medisave account is depleted.”

“For the next 15 yrs, I do not have to pay a single cent for her medical needs. I will have 15 yrs peace of mind. I need not worry if she is warded for any major operation or any prolong illness cuz the medishield life covers all these. Once her CPF medisave is depleted, I’m not sure if I will have to pay for her premiums out of my CPF medisave or the government will pay for her?”

My passenger was impressed. In that case, “Like you, I need not use cash to pay for 3rd party medical insurance any more?” Link

I would like to reiterate that my mother has been a housewife all her life. She never held any full time job. Only recently, about 7 to 8 yrs ago when my brother migrated to Vancouver with his family and all the grandchildren have grown up that she found it boring staying at home doing nothing that she decided to work. She is currently working as a kitchen helper earning about $900 monthly. She’s enjoying her work cuz her employer will entertain her reasonable demands such as taking a few days off without pay before the CNY to do spring cleaning for the house or going for medical appointments every now and then. I told her it’s due to her pink IC that her employer is tolerating her cuz they need to fulfill their quota for work permit holders. That’s the privilege of holding a pink IC. 

Back to the question as to how she could accumulate more than $15,000 in her CPF medisave account even though she’s been a housewife not holding any full-time job? The amount is actually due to the quarterly workfare that the government is giving her. Also every now and then, the government tops up senior citizens’ CPF medisave account. Plus the 4% earned and the compound interest resulted in her having more than $15,000 in her medisave account.

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My mother's CPF medisave account stmt

If the government does not initiate such a scheme i.e. Universal Healthcare system for all citizens, the $15,000 will be wiped out in a single major operation. I’ll have to foot her medical bills using my own CPF medisave once her CPF medisave is depleted. I would rather that she uses up her $15,000 to pay for the yearly medical premiums lasting 15 yrs than not using it at all. The fact that she is aging and hospitalization is definitely a possibility in the near future. That is the reality and an alarming fact.

“If what you say is so true then why there is so much opposition to the idea?” my passenger was quite confused when I painted the above scenario to him.

“You see, humans are such that they want freebies. No one likes to pay. They think that nothing will happen to them. Once they are asked to pay, they will jump. They expect the government to pay for their medical costs. They forget that the government has no money. Whatever money the government has is from the taxes collected from the people.”

“Just like you. If you did not pay the $300 plus yearly premiums for your son over the past 15 yrs, you would have to foot the $5,000 plus medical bills your son just incurred at the hospital. Nothing is free in this world. Someone will have to pay for the medical bills. Either you pay from your own pocket, the government pays (tax payers’ money) or the insurance company (provided you pay the premiums). It is as simple as that.

Soon, we reached Bedok North Ave 4. It’s time for the father and son to alight. The father declared that it’s a good medical scheme that the government is trying to implement BUT “I will check further on it since it’s going to affect me when it’s passed by parliament into law.”

My parting shot, “Basically, it’s a good policy. They just don’t know how to sell the idea. They are poor in their marketing strategy. The government is not so stupid as to introduce a policy that is harmful to the population. They risk losing power if they don’t handle carefully this politically sensitive and emotional issue affecting every citizen!”

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The minister trying to explain on FB.


Click here to read related article.

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Conversation with my pax: Tamil is King

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Map of Tamil Nadu

One of my favorite fishing spots is the drop-off point exactly opposite Tekka Centre before Hastings Road near to the Verge where Sheng Siong supermarket is located. Whenever I pass by the vicinity, I’ll definitely stop there by the road side for a while to check if there is any passenger. It doesn’t cause any obstruction and usually there are passengers waiting for taxi. I have picked many passengers there before; usually shoppers around noon time such as maids after their marketing errand either at Tekka Centre or Sheng Siong supermarket nearby.

Those domestic helpers on their weekly marketing trip there usually live at Newton, Stevens or Balmoral residential estates vicinity. Whenever I pick up a maid, I would wait for the lights at the junction of Sungei Road and Serangoon Road to turn red before filtering over to the other side of the road turning in to Buffalo Road then to Race Course Road, Hampshire Road, Kampong Java and on to Bukit Timah Road leading to all the private residences there.

Once a while, I managed to get long distance passengers either to Jurong or Chua Chu Kang HDB estates. From there, I would continue with my driving routine looking for other fishing spots on the west side of the island.

This happened quite some time ago. As usual I was waiting for passengers at the road side exactly opposite Tekka Centre when one elderly man in his 60s knocked on my side glass panel. When I wound down the window panel, he asked me in halting English if I could send him to the bird park? Of course, I’d send him there. “Come in lah!”

I was quite surprised when that elderly Indian man was still standing beside my taxi even after I asked him to hop in. He asked slowly in English, “How much er… you charge for taking me to the bird park? Is it far?” “It’s about $20 plus or minus depending on the traffic conditions etc. Not so far, about half an hour should be there.” was my reply.

That Indian gentleman still didn’t want to get inside my taxi. He said that he would pay me $20 for the trip to the bird park. I told him, “No. No. We go by the meter,” I pointed the meter to him, “I can’t just accept your money like that. It’s against our regulation.” I then told him that I would not charge him more than $20.

Assured of the fare, the elderly Indian gentleman got into my taxi with his wife and daughter in her late 20s. After I hit the meter, I told him that I would be taking the ECP, MCE, AYE and then exit via Jurong Pier Rd to the bird park. But first I needed to make an U-turn via Upper Dickson Road to Jln Besar then to Ophir Road. That Indian gentleman stared at me blankly and didn’t understand what I was telling him. Suddenly, a thought struck me. “Oh, he must a foreigner dah!”

Indeed, my Indian passenger with his wife and daughter were first time tourists from Tamil Nadu. They were here for a short visit. They do not have any friends or relatives here but they heard so much about us so they decided to visit Singapore. He’s soft spoken and a jovial person. Always smiling just like the laughing Buddha – a portly figure. When I asked him why he wanted to visit the “Kuruvi”, he was surprised that I could say it in Tamil – his mother tongue. I then let go a few Tamil phrases like “Have you eaten?” “How are you?” etc… “What other Tamil words you know of?” “Nop. Only these phrases. The others I can’t say cuz they are bad words!” That made him giggled uncontrollably.

When he heard one powerful statement I made, the smiling jovial Indian tourist suddenly got serious stood out from his seat next to me. I said, “Tamil is King here in Singapore!” “What do you mean by that? Pls explain.” with his huge hairy forehand waving at my direction.

“Have you noticed that certain street names are written in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil? The MRT stations got Tamil names.” “Oh yes, that’s what I noticed when I took the trains yesterday.” was his confirmation.

I elaborated further on my earlier statement. “You see, Tamil is one of our 4 official languages in Singapore. Click link here to read related article. In fact, if you go to any of the police stations or government departments, you may speak in Tamil. They will have to entertain you. They can’t chase you out. Whenever the government sends out letters to us, it’s always in 4 official languages including Tamil.” After listening to what I said, he was extremely impressed. He told me his wife doesn’t speak English, only Tamil. After few days here staying in little India, he said that he’s quite at home even though it’s not his home state Tamil Nadu where he came from. His wife and daughter like it here.

“But why you said Tamil is King here?”

“Isn’t it so obvious that you can use Tamil easily here in Singapore? Even in your own country, your Parliament in New Delhi, India you can’t speak or debate in Tamil! Here, an MP can speak Tamil in our Parliament. In your Parliament, only Hindi and English are used. Except in Tamil Nadu, Tamil doesn’t have the kind of status accorded by Singapore as compared to India even though Tamil Nadu is a huge state occupying the tip of the Indian sub-continent with almost 80 million people.” Click here to read Indian Cabinet Minister can’t speak Tamil in Parliament. Another link here.

When I was saying all these, the Tamil native kept nodding and swirling his head in agreement to what I said. He told me that Hindi is the language of the elites in India spoken by mostly Northerners. He spoke in an unhappy tone. “Oh, you try speaking Hindi or any other of the 22 official Indian languages other than Tamil in our government office, they will not entertain you cuz those other Indian languages are not recognized here except Tamil.”

I also told him we had 2 Tamil presidents before this current one. “No, only one. The other one not Tamil!” I was quite impressed. “You seem to know much more than me?”  
“Presently, we have 3 Indian ministers including one DPM in our government even though the Tamils are a minority here. Only about 8%!”

“That’s what I like about Singapore. They treat their own Tamil people better than the New Delhi government!”

“Oh, I didn’t say that. It’s you who said it.” I was quite cautious not to talk bad about their Indian government. I merely stated the facts here. I usually do not go beyond the facts especially avoiding criticizing my tourist’s government. 

With much chattering, the journey seemed rather short. In no time, we had arrived at the bird park. The fare was about $18 plus. He gave me the $20 and told me to keep the change since that was his original offer. Unlike Singapore, they bargain at taxi fares in India. Otherwise, you could be over-charged according to him.

The Indian gentleman from Tamil Nadu’s parting shot, “I’ll tell all my countrymen what you just said. I’ll tell them all to visit your country since Tamil is King here! Haha!”

My reply, “We welcome them here as tourists. They give us business when they spend here. Pls bring them all here! Nandri!”

After he left. I thought to myself. What if all the nearly 80 million Tamils from Tamil Nadu suddenly just decide to enter our country legally via travel documents? Could we accommodate them all? In our business quest for their spending power could we – just a little red dot cope with the sudden surge in the overwhelming numbers if they do arrive here by the tens of thousands of millions? Will the little red dot of 710 sq km with only 5 million over inhabitants turn into a little India overnight?

Click to read related article here.

Posted in Langgar

My taxi kena langgar!

Yesterday (30/1/15 Fri) @1115 hrs, I brought out my taxi from Sin Ming workshop. That same morning, my night relief Alan Taxi sent in for repair @0100 hrs. The screeching sound when applying brakes was so intolerable that he had to send in the taxi for repair. Even passengers complained about the irritating sound. In fact, the problem surfaced 2 days ago but the sound was intermittently soft. I was thinking that since the monthly preventive servicing was scheduled on yesterday afternoon, I thought I would just inform the workshop when it’s sent in. But then it was not to be.

Since my taxi started running on 5 Aug 2014, barely 5 months plus, it already clocked more than 90,000km! It’s been running 24/7 with more than 500km mileage each day. The wear and tear of the taxi is tremendously stressed especially when we are rushing to beat the within 10 mins current calls booking time line to pick up passengers. Thus, the workshop changed the entire brake discs and even the brake plates. Even the rear tires were changed to a brand new set.

When I took out the vehicle @1115 hrs, I could feel the vast difference. They informed me that they had already serviced the vehicle by changing to top grade engine oil only fit for Euro5 engine! It was so smooth and the braking system was perfect. Time to hit the roads then.

My first passenger after leaving Sin Ming workshop was to fetch a family from Bishan St 22 to City Furama hotel at Havelock Sq. Took the Braddel Rd to CTE and exited at Havelock Rd. Previously, I could just turn in to City Furama Hotel (that’s the place where my brother got married more than 15 yrs ago!) just after the exit at Havelock Rd. But due to the on-going construction, the whole place is blocked. The whole carpark in front of the Subordinate and Family courts is blocked. I had to make my way to Eu Tong Sen Street via New Bridge Road by negotiating an U-turn by keeping to the extreme left after the red color whole day bus lane before turning in to Havelock Sq to drop off my passengers at the hotel.

The traffic condition was really havoc. It was jammed around the vicinity of Chinatown. Due to the coming CNY (about 2 weeks’ time), jam is definitely expected there. But then the jam is exacerbated by road re-surfacing just in front of Chinatown MRT NE4 station. Maybe, they are preparing for today’s road closure when VIPs will officially declare Chinatown lights up? Only one lane was passable at New Bridge Road with road re-surfacing going on under the scorching mid-day sun and I pity those foreign workers having a difficult time doing their work and at the same time controlling the tons of traffic with incessant horning. Why did they decide to re-surface the road at the last minute? Why not do it at night which they usually do in a busy thoroughfare? Those questions kept running on my mind when I was stuck in the seemingly endless jam. Like they say, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen would go out in the midday sun!” Click here for explanation.

From Furuma Hotel having dropped my passengers I got another pax. From then on, it was continuously non-stop until I ended up at Chinatown Point again. From Chinatown Point, I managed to pick up a male passenger to AMK Ave 5. Took the CTE via Havelock and headed straight north exited at AMK Ave 5 all the way to Blk 151 AMK Ave 5 drop off point. That was my 6th trip and it’s about 1345 hrs when I dropped off my passenger there. I decided to take a short break by clearing the rear floor mats and adjusting them to proper position. It’s good to stretch my limbs after driving continuously for about 3 hrs.

Suddenly the unexpected happened …. My taxi was hit by a van parked in front of me. KNN! What a langger situation!

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Accident at AMK Ave 5 drop off point lamp post 30

My statement ..

” I stopped my taxi at the drop-off point in front of Blk 151, AMK Ave 5 towards YCK for my male passenger to alight.

After my passenger left, I decided to take a short break instead of continue driving.

I then got out of the cabin and stood at the walkway where I took a cursory look at the surroundings.

Meanwhile, the video camera mounted in my taxi was on as I did not turn off the car engine.

Then a freak happening took place when the van GBB XXXX parked in front of me rolled backwards towards my taxi. I watched helplessly as there was no way to stop the van from hitting my taxi.

The van was parked about 2 car length in front of my taxi before it rolled backwards towards my taxi.

The occurrence of the accident was completely recorded in the in-car video.”

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The front right side was hit

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The bumper was slightly mis-aligned

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The rear left side of van damaged

The accident happened at about 1350 hrs. This is the first time I met with an accident.  After few calls to my taxi brethren on the procedures etc and the company workshop, I was strongly advised to drive the taxi to Loyang workshop for repairs even the kind gentleman of the van admitted his carelessness of not engaging the handbrake and offered to repair my taxi plus reasonable compensation for my loss of income.

On the same day, @1500 hrs, the taxi was garaged at Loyang Workshop rooftop joining the ranks of countless accident & damaged taxis. I was told that the taxi will be ready for collection either on Tues or Wed. In the meantime, I am taking a deserved break. I need not pay the $132 daily rental when the taxi is in the workshop. I’ll be compensated with $80 for the loss of income per day. Share it with my night relief driver, it’s only $40 per person! My takings for the 3 hrs of driving from 1115 hrs to 1345 hrs on that fateful day came to about $59.50! Not even enough to pay my $66 rental for the day.

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Summary of the 6 jobs done

When I asked around, veteran cabby Ricky Martin told me that since the year 2005 when he started driving taxi, it’s already $80 per day for loss of income. Fast forward to today after 10 yrs, it’s still $40 per driver ($80 divide by 2 drivers). It just doesn’t make sense at all. Security guard on a 12-hour shift is earning between $70 to $90 a day if you include CPF, annual leave, bonus and paid MC. In other words, taxi drivers are worst than a normal security guard. Taxi drivers are the lowest in the entire food chain when we are supposed to be ambassadors of the country since we frequently pick up tourists. How to improve the professional image of taxi drivers when our income is officially set at only $40 for a 12-hour shift? Indeed, taxi drivers are a neglected lot.

On hindsight, I should have taken the offer by that kind van driver. It’s a win-win situation for both of us. I’ll get a better compensation package from him and he will not be penalized when he renews his car insurance. After all, who cares or speak up for our welfare? We’ll have to fend for ourselves just to eke out a decent living in this 1st world country where everything is number 1 except that our taxi industry is never on the number 1 list if you compare us to other world class cities like London, New York, Tokyo or even Hong Kong! I guess, we just will have to accept our miserable fate. That’s the life of a taxi driver here.

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My condolences to DK on the demise of his beloved father

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That's the bouquet of flowers I chose

Just before noon, I received a msg from my good friend M Chua. It’s just a simple straight forward msg. 

“Bro, DK’s Dad passed on today. Wake at …. Funeral on Thu. FYIP”

I forwarded it to some of my ex-colleagues. Later in the evening when I was about to report off, I dropped by at the following shop…

Bee Flowers & Gifts
No: 338 Changi Road #01-48
Singapore 419977
http://www.beeflowers.com.sg

I ordered a wreath (bouquet of flowers) to be sent to the wake. The lady boss of the shop was most helpful and professional in making arrangements for it to be delivered there on the same day. That’s the least I could do for my ex-boss even though I’m no longer working in the company.

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My condolences to DK

For the past few weeks, I’ve been receiving bad news one after another about my ex-colleagues from my ex-colleagues. Some of them still keep in touch with me. There was a Train Captain who had gone to India for holidays and met with a fatal accident. He went there happy and lively but never came back home. Another Train Captain complained of sudden acute stomach pain. Got admitted to hospital and never recovered. Yet another slipped and fell in the toilet due to hypertension. Got hit in the head and ended with blood clot in the head. Had surgery and he’s still fighting for his life with tubes all over his body. Hopefully, he will pull through and recover.

Yup, all happened within a month. All three of them are Train Captains in their prime. In their 40s with families and hard working staff with many more years to live on. Cuz I know them all so it’s extremely sad to hear of such bad news. Not forgetting my dear friend Bob; another ex-colleague who lives in the same neighborhood whom I’ve known for more than 15 yrs is still trying to get his life back after his spine operation. I heard that he’s recovering fast. Hope I could drink with him at Elias Mall soon.

Now I fully understand what our ex-CEO said just before her departure. Where ever she goes, she will still feel for the company and staff. But then she was with the company for only 10 yrs, whereas I clocked 18 yrs!

The latest bad news put a pause button on my busy work schedule. It really reinforces my belief that life is so fragile and unpredictable. As such, the Chinese saying, “天有不测风云, 人有旦夕祸福!” really strikes a chord.  link Today you are well and good but then anything could happen just like that. That’s what happened to Bob who is an avid cyclist and yet the unthinkable unexpectedly happened! Sigh…

I ever said before, in the history of our Cabinet, there is no equivalent to DK. I caught a little portion of the Chinese interview PM gave on TV recently. He was asked if he had in mind any successor. He said that he needed about 20 yrs to prepare for the prime ministership. His successor will not have that luxury. He also mentioned that his successor may not even come from the current cabinet. PM then went on to quote few world leaders. I could only recall him talking at length about President Obama who was never tested as a political leader at the national level. He was a lawyer by profession. Not even a governor where previous presidents used to be governors first. Suddenly, Obama had to lead America without any systematic tutelage. Compared to past presidents, fact is that he’s doing very well indeed. That’s the gist I heard the PM talking about in Chinese on TV. He further said that it could even happen to us in our country. I hope that gives you an idea with regards to the first sentence in this paragraph.

My respect for that man is unwavering. I’m sure he will fix whatever problems in the rail network. Rail network is now part and parcel of our life. More and more rail lines are built and new stations keep opening up. In another 10 to 15 yrs, once the island-wide rail system is in place, it’s no surprise that railway stations will be like bus stops all over the place and all within walking distance. But first someone capable and talented need to put our oldest aging railway lines in order so that all of us could ultimately reap those benefits in its entirety.

We have to thank DK’s father for giving us such a talented Singapore son. Our deepest condolences to him and his family.

Posted in Langgar

Conversation with my pax: The Fisherman

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The Caribbean at Keppel Bay

I’m now driving the morning shift from 6am to 6pm Mon to Sat. From next week, I will take the Sun morning shift as well since I enjoy driving so much. My other relief drivers shall take care of the night shift from 6pm to 6am. Since last Aug when I started as a full time hirer, I have improved by leaps and bounds in terms of my driving skills and road knowledge.  I’ve never been more confident than ever whenever I pick up pax nowadays. Unlike driving trains, I got to interact and direct contact with my pax. Like I used to say, I don’t talk to pax unless they wish to. Maybe, I should start a series of “Conversation with my passenger …” blog to capture some of the interesting exchanges I had with some of my passengers!

Let’s start with the most recent passenger I picked up this evening earlier just before I reported off duty. 

Let’s sidetrack briefly, I would put up the changing shift sign to “Pasir Ris” around 4pm. I would then do shutter services at Pasir Ris MRT station or proceed to Ikea or Giant @Tampines. Few trips around Bedok, Tampines or Pasir Ris and I’ll head back home by 5.30pm. 10 mins of cleaning up the interior and exterior (front & back windscreens) of the vehicle before officially handing over to my relief around 5.45pm. My relief will have another good 15 minutes to settle down such as adjusting the side mirrors, rear mirror, driver seat position or put in place his personal items like coin box, cash card, log in to MDT, coffee flask etc before he officially set off at 6pm.

Starting from 6pm from Mon to Sun is the start of the evening peak. From 6pm to midnight it’s extra 25% on top the metered fare. Midnight to 6am will rake in another extra 50% of the metered fare! If the pickup is inside CBD, another $3 city surcharge after 5pm. Current bookings at $3.30 instead of $2.30. As such, it’s definitely more lucrative to drive the night shift. But then I still prefer the day shift despite that. Let others make their money!

The first taxi didn’t want to pick up the male pax carrying fishing rods with a big plastic bag. I was the 2nd in queue at Pasir Ris MRT station. He was eyeing at me hopefully but decided not to approach me. I wound down the window and looked at him. 

He said, “Uncle I don’t think you want to fetch me!”

I replied, “Let’s try?”

“I want to go to VivioCity.” was his response. I looked at my built-in clock on my taxi console. It’s about 10 mins before 4pm.

“Hop in and I’ll send you there.” I was thinking that I should have enough time to send this guy to VivioCity and from there get another fish back to the East before I call it a day knowing that there would be tons of fishes there based on my past experiences. Straightaway, he jumped into my taxi with much relief. I hit the meter and told him that I would be taking the KPE/MCE and exit 2A Telok Blangah all the way to VivioCity. Our friend immediately corrected me in a Filipino accent that actually he wanted to go back home at “The Caribbean at Keppel Bay.” KNN!

Alamak, quite cumbersome. I would have to send him to the basement carpark and search for his block then make my way out of that condominium past the security. Turn right into Keppel Rd. Had to make a huge U-turn to VivioCity via Sentosa gateway midway (towards Sentosa cuz no right turn from Keppel to VivioCity) before I could meander my way to the first taxi stand Giant @VivioCity! No choice lah. I can’t chase him out right?

Even though I was quite “bang balls” having been conned by him, I still kept a smiling face and told him no problem with the last minute change of destination.

“I see you went fishing? You carrying fishing rods.” I commented.

He said he was fishing at the Pasir Ris park pond. He loved fishing during his spare time. I then gave him some tips on fishing venues such as Pasir Ris Farmway One where there are huge fishing ponds there. I told him I ever fetched pax there having caught many big fishes. There are also many people fishing at the mouth of Sungei Api Api off Pasir Ris beach. Now it’s the time cuz the tide is high and there are fishes to be caught. He then asked me if I’m interested in fishing?

“Nop, I feel it’s quite a waste of time. However, I love to eat fish especially if it’s freshly caught off the sea. Those fishes from the wet market are not fresh and they are not as good. They are full of formaldehyde lah! I used to go to the Kelong in Pengerang or Kg Pendas to enjoy fresh seafood where money may not even buy at all.”

Half-way through the journey I could hear some snapping sounds from his plastic bag.

“What’s that sound?”

“Oh, it’s some of the fishes I just caught at the fishing pond in the park. Nearly 10 of them. Since you love to eat fish, I’ll give you one. I’ve got seabass, grouper, red snapper amongst others. They are salt water fish even though it’s from the pond. Take your pick!”

“Really? I would like to have the red snapper then. Thank you so much!”

“Could I call you if I happen to be fishing in Pasir Ris cuz I used to come here often?

“No problem. Just call me especially around 4pm when I would usually be hanging around in home ground.” I passed him my name card.

When I entered “The Caribbean at Keppel Bay”, he directed me to the basement carpark and pointed to Blk 12 where he lives. The metered fare was $20.60. I insisted on giving him a $5 discount since I take his fish or else I wouldn’t take it. He refused. That kind gentleman gave me the exact amount and took a plastic bag at the back seat of my taxi ( my relief Alan Taxi standby many plastic bags for drunk pax ) to put the almost 2 kg red snapper before he hurriedly left!

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The metered fare from Pasir Ris to Caribbean

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The freshly caught Red Snapper

I do not know this Filipino gentleman at all ( I assume he’s a Filipino from his accent ). Whether he’s working here? A PR here? I’ve no idea. I just met him once and we had a good conversation despite the bad start when he told me he’s going to VivioCity instead of his condominium. He’s humble and soft spoken. I’ve met many such Filipinos in the course of my work. Who says that all Filipinos are bad? 

When I brought the red snapper back home, my mother was most surprised and delighted. She said it would easily cost more than $10 in the wet market and it wouldn’t be so fresh at all. She decided to divide into three portions to cook thrice. We shall have the head this evening. The mid section and the tail sections shall be eaten on other days!

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Cleaned off its scales ready to cook

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Steamed to taste Teochew style

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The steamed Fish Head of the Snapper

When I was waiting at the traffic lights just outside the said condominium, an Indian middle aged couple knocked at my window. The wife said that she saw my Pasir Ris changing shift sign on top of my taxi. Time was about 4.35pm.

“Are you prepared to send us to Mandarin Gardens?”

I shouted jackpot! The bemused husband smiled and said, “Let’s go then before your jackpot is gone!”

Another hearty conversation with them. I found out that they are PRs here. We discussed about current affairs and recent happenings. I shall not elaborate here. That will be another blog on another day.

By 5.10pm, I reached No 5 Siglap Rd inside Mandarin Gardens. Fare was $12.90. The husband gave me $12 and looking for coins. I told him forget it.

“I’m sharing my jackpot winning with you. You can keep the 90 cents!” They burst out laughing uncontrollably! 

“Go back home safely and enjoy your fish with your family!” Yup, I told him about the story of the fish and I even showed it to them which was placed at the front seat!

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