Will traditional taxi become extinct?

Just like any other day, I started my day driving at about 6.30am. Took an hour meal break around 10.30am. Put up changing shift to AMK around 1pm, managed to pick up a pax along Race Course Rd to Bishan. From Bishan, I headed to Sin Ming to report to CDG to return my taxi. I had given 7 working days of my intention to return my taxi scheduled at 2pm today. I was given a letter and a checklist to report to the return taxi bay at CDG.

On the 3rd day of CNY, I sent my taxi to a workshop on the 2nd floor at Auto Point to touch up dents and scratches. Today is the 6th day of CNY which is also my last day as a taxi driver. Yesterday, my good fren; Lohcifer; insisted on buying me lunch. I reluctantly agreed. I fetched and sent him for our lunch in town. It was a wonderful lunch. He gave me his blessings for the new job I’m looking forward to. He’s always there for me when I was at every juncture of my life milestones.

Just like so many others, notably strangers who were my pax wished me well when I told them I’d be giving up taxi. One pax when she heard that I was about to give up straightaway asked for an empty red packet. There and then she put in $6 and gave it to me wishing me luck. It started off when we were discussing about the sudden onslaught of UG (Uber and Grab) cars and the disruption in the traditional taxi industry.

When I told that lady pax that she was my last pax whilst en route to CDG at Sin Ming, she thought that I was changing shift and calling it a day. Nop. I’m returning the taxi after sending you home I told her. When she found the reason why I was giving up taxi, she agreed that it’s no longer a viable occupation. She told me that only older people like herself still prefer traditional taxi. Most of the youngsters would rather take UG cars. She then related to me how her daughter took Grab Share after midnite from Ngee Ann Polytechnic to Bishan at only $1.40! She was so shocked at the dirt cheap taxi fare which in her own words nobody would believe. I replied to her that she should not be surprised that many like me are giving up. Soon, taxis will get fewer and fewer to the point of near extinction just like those dinosaurs once ruled the earth!

When my old fren Freddie Tan delivered some Rabbit fish for the 8th consecutive year to my flat in the morning on the 1st day of CNY, he told me he loved Grab! He hardly drives his BMW 5 series saloon car nowadays cuz he prefers to be chauffeured around especially when he’s drinking. Only $5 to $7 from Changi Golf club to Tampines in the late evening. His daughter also taking UG cars. When his medical doctor son booked (no booking fee) an executive Grab car in the morning rush hour from Tampines to SGH, one sleek BMW came to pick him up. Fare only $18 without any surcharge, CBD or ERP chargers! My taxi would have cost more cuz of the $3.30 booking fee, ERP and 25% surcharges. What a langgar situation for full time taxi drivers like us.

Yup. UG cars do not have surcharges. Their rentals very low – about half of traditional taxi. Most importantly there is no booking fee on top of the endless discounts up till $15 they keep throwing. Nearly everyday on every Grab taxi trip (Not Grab car which is more lucrative cuz Grab takes 20% cut of the fare. Grab taxi only 50 cents per trip yet they throw tons of money), there is some discount ranging from $3.50 to $15! After midnight, nobody takes taxi due to the midnight surcharge. UG cars rule after midnight. That’s why my night relief AT after more than 10 yrs as a cabby also gave up. He gave me exactly one month notice to quit. I then decided to look for another job and also give up together!

After I returned my taxi, I walked over to LTA to renew my taxi vocational license. Even though I’m no longer driving taxi, I thought might as well pay the $20 to renew it for another 3 years. It’s exactly 3 years since I got my taxi vocational license on 15 Jan 2014. I went on to take my Bus vocational license the following month after getting my taxi vocational license. After about 6 moths as a taxi relief driver, I went on to get a brand new i40 taxi on 5 Aug 2014. For about 2.5 years (5 Aug 14 to 2 Feb 2017), I was imprisoned in my own taxi. I was a slave to the taxi.

I was driving everyday without off days. Only on weekends, I would start much later after my morning exercise at Pasir Ris park. Except on those rare occasions when my taxi undergone major repairs or got hit by another vehicle, then only I could take a breather. Other than that, it’s always driving from 6.30 am to past 5pm with at least 8 hours plying the roads.

My partner commented that “你终于解放了” – I’m liberated at last. The Buddhists would have said “脱离苦海“ – Ending Sea of Suffering! CDG gave me a chance to make $120, 450 (2.5 X 365 X 132) for them. Of course, I have not factored in the quarterly incentives of about $300 and the 3 days of free rental per year! When I first started driving taxi as an inexperienced novice, I could easily make more than $150 nett profit. As I got more confident and experienced after having struggled and learnt the ropes of the trade, I should be making much more but sadly it’s not the case. Especially during the last few months when Grab was throwing tons of money like no tomorrow to entice passengers, our traditional taxi trade has taken to the worst! Just ask any taxi driver and the same woe and moan is echoed to any willing ear. You will even get an earful if you just mention UG cars! Will our traditional taxi – ambassadors of our beautiful sunny island go the way of the dinosaurs to extinction? Only time will tell.

Some say that traditional taxi could “sweep” the roads – pickup from road sides and taxi stands. Is it true? Now that everyone is holding a smartphone, this presumption no longer holds water. Only those computer illiterates stand at road kerb to hail taxi. Youngsters prefer to use apps to book UG cars where they would pick them at the foot of their blocks with no booking fee. Many taxi drivers in their 60s only resort to taxi stands and road sweeping to pick up fares. Some even off their MDT since they do not take calls at all. Reason is that many are too slow to bid for jobs on the MDT or could not read English being Chinese educated. Imagine the frustrations and anger of those elderly taxi drivers queuing at taxi stand only to witness UG cars one after another picking up pax at the same taxi stand?

Taxi drivers like me have a choice. But do the elderly taxi drivers eking out a decent living in this most expensive city in the world have a choice? Maybe, they could quit and collect cardboards at 10 cents a kilo for survival and do some exercise at the same time to keep fit? There is no helping hand to help this group of taxi drivers who have devoted their entire life to this dying profession. It is a sad and pitiful reality which not many are taking their plight seriously.

Unfortunately I’m a nobody. I could not do anything to help those elderly taxi drivers. I could only get out and look for other means to survive. Having said that, I still enjoyed every moment of my taxi experience. My taxi with 2 drivers had already clocked more than 400,000 km. I could say that I have easily achieved about 200,000 km for the 3 full years as taxi driver. My cabby fren Patrick used to say a taxi driver’s one year mileage is easily more than an average driver’s lifetime mileage. In the course of my 3 years as a professional qualified taxi driver (having gone thru the grueling course at Taxi Academy), I have met so many countless pax – the good, bad and ugly. If you just do a search on my blog under “conversation with my pax”, there are few captured on my blog.

When I thanked my good fren Lohcifer for yesterday’s wonderful lunch and other gifts, he had this to say. ” … As you turn a new page in your life, starting tomorrow, I pray that you will be blessed with great happiness, good fortune and bountiful joy and abundance!”

Reflections of a taxi hirer

Confession of a new taxi driver

How to keep their taxi drivers?

Competition must be fair.

Posted in Langgar | 2 Comments

My taxi broke down at BKE!

​I was cruising around Bedok North after my meal break at a coffeeshop opposite Bedok Stadium. It was a lazy quiet half past noon when my MDT sounded. Managed to bid for a call at Bedok Reservoir View. Arrived within 5 minutes and picked up a mother and son. 2 locations she said – send my son to a school at East Coast and then off to Cashew MRT station. On the way to that well known school, mother was chatting with her son about his exams giving advise. As usual, when my passengers either busy talking on the phone or among themselves, I would lower or off the radio. I would keep my eyes and ears open but my mouth shut concentrating on my driving.

After dropping the son off, the mother continued her chatting with me. She was comparing her time in school with her son. After all, her son is not so brilliant academically but a sensible and obedient boy. She is worried about her son not able to cope with our highly competitive education system. I told her that we got no choice. We need to bring out the best in each child cuz we got nothing but only human resources. If you look at Korea, Japan, Hong Kong or even China they are much worst. In order to sustain our economy, we must develop each child to his/her fullest potential. Of course, not every child is equal. We agreed that as parents, we need to manage our expectations of our children within the competitive education system when our conversation inadvertently turned to the Primary 5 school boy’s tragic death as a result of high parental expectations. She also mentioned another brilliant student from a top school taking his own life when he missed his S paper!

All of sudden, I heard a loud click and tock with the taxi losing momentum and power at the 2nd bend of the slip road after the PIE exit to BKE. Gradually, my taxi grind to a halt on the middle of the 3-lane highway. I tried few times to restart but to no avail. I immediately switched on the hazard lights and my immediate concern was for my lady pax to get to her destination on time. She had taken half day leave to accompany her son to sit for the exam and now she’s rushing back to work. She had to get to Cashew MRT station by 1330 hrs to catch the shuttle bus to her office at Bukit Gombak. If she missed the company bus, she had to walk quite a distance to her office. Outside transport not allowed to access the company premises.

From my rear view mirror, I could see 4 or 5 taxis amongst the many vehicles started forming up behind. When I saw one green lighted taxi, I quickly got out to give instruction to the TransCab taxi driver requesting him to send my lady pax to Cashew MRT station and that she was rushing for time. The TransCab driver gladly obliged. When I got back to my taxi, I told my lady pax to hurry and grab that waiting taxi cuz it’s nearly impossible flagging a taxi on the highway. When she enquired about the fare, I said forget it. I apologized to her for the inconvenience which is beyond my control. She insisted on paying and threw 3 pieces of $10 note onto the front seat and ran out to the waiting taxi next to mine. The fare was less than $20. Before I could refund her, she already left in that taxi.

Whilst contemplating my next move, someone knocked on my window. A handsome young Malay biker with his 1000 cc Yamaha sports bike parked just behind my stalled taxi asking what happened. He offered to assist me to push my taxi to the road shoulder as it was causing obstruction. I told him forget it cuz it’s up gradient and not easy. 

But his kind offer of assistance was so sincere and he said let’s try. I then put the gear to neutral and the taxi started rolling backwards. His equally beautiful young wife in Tudang hurriedly tried to stop it from sliding further. I ran out to assist. We then realized that someone needed to control the steering wheel to bring it to the side of the road. The radiant wife volunteered for the task. But the 2 of us could only stop it from rolling backwards. We could not even move an inch. At this juncture, a small lorry whisked passed and parked at the side of the road ahead of us. A Chinese man in his early 30s in sky blue overalls came over to assist. Yet another Chinese man in long sleeve shirt in a luxurious sedan – BMW I think parked behind my taxi also came to join us. Now with 4 of us, we could alas manage to push and shove this heap of metal inching against the force of gravity towards the road shoulder from the middle lane of the highway. Surprising, those vehicles on the 3rd lane – extreme left lane stopped to allow us to push the taxi to the side of the road.

For about 10 to 15 minutes on the middle of the busy highway when we managed to push the taxi to the road shoulder there was not a single horn sounded. Those motorists just looked on sympathetically and understood our predicament! In the meantime, more and more vehicles were forming up behind my stalled taxi causing quite a massive traffic jam. When my taxi was moved to the road shoulder, normalcy returned to the highway easing the jam. Those passerby whom assisted me just left as quickly as they had come to render assistance. I shouted my thanks to them and they just waved back! I’m grateful to them.

From 1320 hrs to 1335 hrs – about 15 minutes of high drama on the busy highway with my stalled taxi parked eventually next to lamp post 1171, I quickly took out the triangle breakdown sign to display it at a distance behind my taxi to warn other motorists. I then called up EMAS for assistance. Within 10 minutes, LTA Traffic Marshall ATOES officer came on a bike. When he arrived and assessed the situation, he quickly placed 2 retractable pylons far away from my taxi to warn on coming vehicles and directed traffic.

My taxi was stalled at the “blind” spot on the 2nd bend and it’s quite dangerous. There were few misses when vehicles turned too fast only to see my taxi parked at the bend. They had to jam brakes as they had no time to filter to the other lane due to heavy traffic. That officer was very professional and was most cheerful when I explained to him my situation. He told me his colleagues would be arriving in few minutes. He told me not to worry.

True enough, EMAS tow truck came in another 5 minutes. They were quick and well trained. They knew what to do straightaway. Towing crew Li E/P No: 044 spoke to me in good English only switching to Mandarin when he realized that I’m a Chinese. I can’t blame him cuz many thought that I’m a Malay due to my complexion. Even that Malay gentleman coming to assist me thought I was a Malay when he asked me in Malay what happened? Obviously, Li is a PRC but spoke English quite well. His tow truck driver is a local Malay. Both of them quickly towed away my taxi within 10 minutes to the nearest car park at Diary Farm Nature car park. From there, I requested my company tow truck to bring the taxi back to Loyang workshop.

By the time I left Loyang workshop with all the registration and documentation done, it’s already 1530 hrs. I was told later that my taxi had to undergo major engine overhaul. My taxi is only 2 yrs and 2 months but clocked about 370, 000 km mileage! For the next 2 to 3 days, it will remain in the workshop for major repairs. At least, I could now take a break doing the things I like. That’s why I had the time to blog about my memorable highway experience. I really appreciate those passerby motorists who came to assist me. I’m also impressed by the professionalism shown by the LTA teams i.e. Traffic Marshall and the EMAS towing crew. They are doing an excellent job indeed!

My son commented: “The people who stopped make me feel very warm and feel that there are many nice people around!”

Read another article here and here!

 

Posted in Langgar | 7 Comments

The Zika scourge 

Last Friday, around lunch time, a lady flagged my taxi at Kallang Avenue. I stopped by the road side and was prepared to pick her up with hazard lights turned on. Instead of hopping into my taxi, she knocked on the front window. I wound down the window and looked at her. She asked me, “Uncle, can you fetch me to Sims Place?” I replied, “Off course! Get in!” Later, she told me that I was the 3rd taxi she had stopped. The 2 cabs before me refused to send her there. She was so glad that I agreed to send her there where she lived. On the way to her place, she told me that since the news broke out about the Zika mosquito outbreak in her area, the place has become quiet. Unlike before, it used to be bustling with activities.

I used to take my meal break at Sims Place hawker centre whenever I pass by. It’s time to visit there after quite some time since the Zika phenomenon. After dropping off my pax, I drove to the big open car park opposite the hawker centre next to the new condominium Sims Urban Oasis which is under construction. I noticed that the carpark is quite empty. Usually, it’s quite fully occupied. I then walked to the nearby HDB coffeeshop to have my favorite Teochew fish ball noodles. Even though it’s selling at $5 per bowl, the waiting time could be half an hour.

The coffeeshop is quite empty. The 3 staff of the noodle stall are having much free time. 

Surprisingly, today no queue at all. The noodle sellers even had time to indulge in small talk. They were saying since Monday, the whole neighborhood had become a “ghost town”. The lunch time crowd had suddenly disappeared. They were in a sombre mood. They did not order much raw noodles cuz they were worried about the bad business and low demand for their cooked food. They also commented that the wet market and hawker centre not as crowded as before.

The Zika mosquito phenomenon started at Sims Place, spread over to nearby Aljunied Crescent area and now it’s Bedok North Ave 3. The areas are getting bigger and the number of confirmed cases getting higher with the latest statistics hitting 240 cases island wide. The numbers keep going up and the clusters keep getting bigger. It’s no joke. Link

One pax remarked to me that Singapore is such a clean and “fine” city. How come we still have mosquitos around? It’s quite logic defying. We usually associate mosquito breeding to 3rd world countries less hygienic and clean with tones of uncollected rubbish rather than sterile Singapore.

More than 35 yrs ago when I was still in my teens living in filthy unhygienic kampong at Jalan Ang Teng near to the Kaki Bukit area just outside the perimeter of Paya Lebar Airport, we had to sleep inside a mosquito net. Those days, we did not even have electricity. No flushing system. We had night soil collector coming around few days to clear the load of shit! We used air-pressured hurricane lamp for lighting. (Only much later we had electricity). When it rained, it’s always flooded. We had to wear slippers to walk about 5 km of dirt track with red muddy earth to the main road to take a bus each time it rained heavily. Once we reached our schools at Bartley Rd (Elling North Pri Sch and Mount Vernon Sec Sch), we had to change our slippers to white school shoes. I still remember it was either SBS No 93 or 95 to get to the schools from Airport Road opposite Hong San temple (still there) to Bartley Rd.

Whenever the raining season came towards end of the year, our place was often flooded. Mosquitos would multiply becoming a nuisance. We had to light mosquito coils in the nights. When I remarked to my pax that it’s going to be heavy rain as the black clouds were looming over the horizon. It’s good cuz we could clear away the haze. My pensive pax retorted that we would have more mosquito problem even as the rains chase away the haze! Either way, we still suffer. No rains mean more haze. More rains mean more mosquitos! What a langgar situation!

Anyway, in those days even though we had lots of mosquitos flying around resulting in us sleeping inside mosquito nets, we did not hear of dengue or Zika cases. No one died of those mosquito related diseases. Mosquitos were more of a nuisance then. I could still recall workers employed by NEA going around carrying a big copper tank on their back spraying chemicals in small drains or puddles of water to snuff out mosquito breeding. No fumigation or smoking out mosquitos then.

Back in those days after a heavy downpour we could see the above in action. Not anymore!

Nowadays, we see lots of fumigation going on. Could those mosquitos be killed by fumigation or are they merely chasing mosquitos away from one area to another area? I do not see workers going around like in those days spraying chemicals to kill off mosquito breeding. Instead, they are going all out to every household keep telling them to change water in flower pots etc. They have been doing that for so many years to prevent dengue yet the Zika scourge still surfaces. Are they barking at the wrong tree? Of course, they are making commendable efforts in educating the public about water retention in households leading to mosquito breeding, but it’s already reached saturation point. Other avenues and angles need to be explored.

I feel that they should go back to the basics. Concentrate on those Zika or dengue clusters and comb every inch to eradicate mosquito breeding grounds. Get more NEA staff or grassroots volunteers to look at every nook and cranny with puddles of water especially after a heavy downpour to spray chemicals to neutralize mosquito breeding. The biggest culprits are those construction sites where water could collect leading to mosquito breeding. Co-incidentally, many of the victims are construction workers! Spray chemicals to destroy all these little places where water could collect after a heavy downpour. Let’s think outside the box lah. Instead of going door to door to preach those converted. Believe me, those households are more afraid of mosquitos than the authorities.

I’ve just witnessed and reported about the forlorn situation at Sims Place neighborhood. Do we want that to happen to the whole of Singapore? Imagine what would happen if the whole Singapore turned into “Sims Place” or “Zikapore”? As it is, many countries – the list keeps increasing – are advising their citizens not to travel to Singapore. Even neighboring Malaysia is spraying insecticide in all our cars crossing over as they try to ensure only mosquito free cars are allowed entry. Everyone outside Singapore is fearful of us entering their countries just like those cabbies avoiding sending pax to Sims Place as elaborated earlier when that lady had problem getting a cab there where she lived.

Already tourist spending has been the lowest in 6 yrs. Link With Zika and so many travel advisory by so many countries, I fear the worst. In the words of Lohcifer, “When people fear coming to a country, that’s very bad for the country. A drop in visitor arrivals affect the entire economy. Last year, visitors spent 22 billion Singapore dollars in our economy!” I say, airport and hotels will die. Taxis and others will also die! We will all die lah! When SARs reigned, one pax waved, 10 taxis rushed over! That anecdote was related by one taxi driver during the height of SARs crisis when taxi business was so bad!

So instead of harping on United Nations praising our exemplary efforts to contain Zika, I suggest all relevant depts get down to work. For goodness sake, pls don’t go around knocking on households repeating what is already on the mass media and tons of posters around telling people how to get rid of unwanted water. Like I suggested, search every inch of those hotspots especially constructions sites and those out-laying areas to eradicate mosquito breeding grounds!

If only you care to wander to those carparks and ulu places, you would find tons of rubbish i.e. discarded food packages, beer cans, empty plastic bags etc all collecting water which are breeding grounds for mosquitos. I suspect one group of culprits are drivers of delivery trucks and vans after eating their package lunches and drinks, they simply throw them away in the bushes or fringes of the carparks.

Let me give you an example to prove my point. Just go to the half-way point on the road leading to Mandai Zoo, you could see many vehicles parked at the bend by the edge of the reservoir. Look carefully, you will see so much rubbish thrown there. Only happened in 3rd world countries with filthy rubbish laying around collecting rain water leading to mosquito breeding. Target those people throwing rubbish from their vehicles and have their vehicles confiscated even if there is a need to change the law! Indeed, rubbish dumps are a major source of mosquito breeding.
In these bad times of the Zika assault, yet netizens still have a sense of humor. They are so ingenious and creative as to come with some interesting terms such as “Majulah Zikapura!”, “Zikapolis – referring to Sims Place” and the best one;

“China government catches corrupt officials.
US and Europe catch terrorists.
The Philippines catches drug dealers.
Malaysia trying to catch No: 1 and
Singapore government trying to catch mosquitos!”

Whatever it is, Zika is no joke. I was just informed by blogger Sg girl that mosquito repellent also sold out. It could adversely impact our livelihood and our way of life if it gets out of control! Let us pray that it could get over as soon as possible!

Read related article here.

Maybe our humble frog is the solution to the Zika scourge?

Posted in Langgar | 2 Comments

Congratulations to our hero Joseph Schooling for winning a Gold medal 

Today is a great day for Singapore. Singaporeans from all walks of life rejoice in our only Gold medal won by a local true blue Singaporean in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Schooling’s historic performance breaking the 100m Butterfly record in the Olympic Games has done us proud. This came after 56 years. It’s the only Gold medal where we are proud of. Images of Schooling’s fantastic feat kept playing on the television and social media. No one can escape the euphoria surrounding that momentous event. It was a Schooling day indeed!

Every leap year; once in 4 years, the Olympic Games lasting 2 weeks are held in a different country. It is the most watched event on planet earth with billions glued to the box or keeping track via newspapers, radio and Internet. Even the World Cup did not garner such an immense interest. It is the time where nations pit against each other in the sporting arena for glory and honor witnessed by billions across the globe. It is also the time where glory is scored and history is made. The sweet victory of the winners and the despair of the vanquished are clearly displayed on their faces as the drama unfolds before our eyes. It is the only single most important international event that cuts across all barriers of race, color, creed or boundaries where talented young men and women from all nations compete ruthlessly for fame and immortality. As it is, so many surprises and unexpected hiccups already happened in the games.

Tiny Singapore; a little red dot with slightly 5 over million people sprung a surprise when Joseph Schooling clinched the Gold medal in the 100m butterfly swimming event. His win has brought all Singaporeans together. We are all united in our support for him. In the social media; irrespective of your political affiliations all express support and admiration for him. Sports can really unite a nation as this historic win has clearly demonstrated. His win has rallied us together as a nation.

This morning, when I responded to a call at MacRitchie Reservoir picking up a group of Englishmen to a condominium at Kim Keat Close just behind the Hawker Centre, they were excited about our local boy having beaten the legendary American swimmer. They were happy for Singapore. The so many pax I picked up today were so proud of our only Gold medal win in the Olympic Games.

When I mentioned to a local Chinese that we had won a few silver medals since 1960, he was not pleased at all. According to him, there were only 2 medals i.e. In 1960 when Tan Howe Liang won the Silver medal in weight lighting and now the swimming Gold medal. He said in Mandarin, “拿别人的屁股做脸皮” not proud at all. He was referring to those table tennis players. I’m not going to elaborate further. I’ll just say that this time round it’s different cuz we could feel the pride in us when our boy sang Majulah Singapura when our flag was raised up high witnessed by billions around the world. They must be wondering where is this tiny little red dot that broke all previous 100m Butterfly records. We could feel the butterflies flying in our tummy indeed!

Creative netizens were quick to capitalize on Schooling’s name and his historic win. Below are some of the interesting creative messages.

We know that the Olympic Games is the pinnacle of sports. Once you hit it there, the rest is history. Henceforth, our local boy Joseph Schooling will be sweeping all the Butterfly swimming medals in all other games i.e. Asian Games, SEA Games, ASEAN Games, International Meet etc. He will be Singapore’s gold mine in all these future sporting events. He’s only 21 yrs old. He’s got many more years to win for us many more gold medals. At such young age hitting instant stardom will come with a price. Hopefully, he could handle all the subsequent fallouts and remain steadfast in his swimming career to bring more glory for our country. Let’s pray that he’ll not be overwhelmed by this great success. It seems that at every Olympic Games, only Tan Howe Liang is mentioned. Now, we got another name to remember. Whatever rewards he’ll get, he really deserves it. He has done his National Service for Singapore by making history in that event.

Lohcifer has this to say;

“I hope his accent won’t get more phony still. (I’ve lived and worked in the States longer than Joseph Schooling but I haven’t got a phony accent.) Girls – especially gold diggers – will fall at his feet. Banks and insurance agents will want part of his price money. Endorsement deals will come his way. The government and thick-skinned politicians like that shameless Lee Bee Wah will and have already claim credit. There will be a mad scramble as kiasu parents sign their kids up for swimming lessons. Some Singaporeans will behave as if they contributed to his success. Neighboring countries will make sarcastic remarks, as always. Perhaps one day he will replace that Ng Ser Miang and really add value. Political office may also be a possibility (just like the legendary footballer Pele?)”

Whatever it is, he has done us proud. We share in his victory as Singaporeans. He has thru’ his success united us as Singaporeans especially at that priceless moment when he sang our National Anthem with our flag raised up high at the Olympic Games. We wish him well and hope that he will bring us further glory.

The sense of pride as Singaporeans was equally felt when the most powerful nation on earth recently hosted a lavish state dinner for our PM. When PM sang Majulah Singapura at the White House we know we have come this far as a nation and our rightful place on earth. Our existence is assured and we will prevail forever earning our living as a tiny nation.

Hidup lah Singapura! 

Majulah Singapura!

Update 
For the first time in Singapore’s history, the Prime Minister will move a motion in Parliament to recognize a sportsperson for outstanding results at the Olympic Games. On Monday’s Parliament sitting, Joseph Schooling will be thus honored for his historic performance, breaking the Olympic Games butterfly swimming record, and giving Singapore it’s first-ever Olympic gold. 

Posted in Langgar | 2 Comments

Reflections of a taxi hirer

​I’ve just completed 2 full years as a taxi hirer. On 5 Aug 2014, I took out my i40 taxi from Hyundai Komoco. Prior to that, I was a relief driver for about 8 months after I got my taxi vocational license on 15 Jan 2014. It’s now the appropriate time to press the pause button and reflect on my trials and tribulations I’ve gone through before I become a full fledged taxi driver. I’m now more confident and steady on my chosen profession. I’m definitely no way better compared to those veteran taxi drivers who are much more skillful than me. But I’m sure I’ll get there soon.

My taxi is already 2 yrs old. It has clocked more than 350,000 km to date. The wear and tear is getting quite obvious with scratches and dents here and there. On average I clock about 200 km per day. Since I drive everyday on the day shift, I have so far clocked more than 150,000 km. As such, I’ve managed to tame my “iron horse” to my whims and fancy at this juncture even though still not able to blend into nirvana state where the soul of the machine and myself merged into one entity. I’ll get there in due course.

In my previous job, for 18 yrs I was driving trains on the East/West line. Almost everyday, I was in the train driving cab aging as the train also ages. I’m now looking fit and better than before with enough sleep without those crazy rotating shifts and bizarre reporting hours in my previous life. At least, I have no TB to worry about! That’s according to some of my ex-colleagues who happened to bounce onto me. The trains on the other hand are getting more sick and unfit now.

When I started driving taxi nearly 3 yrs ago, I was a nervous wreck and a hopeless lame duck with zero knowledge on prominent land marks with no road sense even though I got my driving license in Mar 1984 at FTB (Force Transport Branch at 4th Ave Bukit Timah). Yup, I was a trained police driver performing team policing – driving police patrol cars all over the island attending to cases. I’d ever mentioned, to pass the full time Taxi Vocational course conducted by Taxi Academy is only the beginning at the foothills. Now LTA has decided to shorten the Taxi Vocational License course and also remove some of the modules! Is it not clearly logic defying? Do these policy makers ever drive full-time as a taxi driver before they craft policy with far reaching consequences impacting taxi drivers and the general public using our taxi service?

Like a fish suddenly thrown out of the pond when I was unceremoniously booted out from my previous job after 18 long yrs, I had to struggle and make a decent new living in order to survive in this most expensive city in the world. I had no choice but to quickly learn the basic skills to adapt and survive in a another trade in an entirely different world – a sea infested with sharks where they are out to get you if you are not alert or careful. 3 sets of rules – Road Traffic Act, LTA Taxi Rules & Regulations and also Company’s Rules & Regulations are ever ready to whack you. Tons of cameras on every corner of the roads are also aiming at your backside.

To spend your greater part of your waking hours eking out an honest living on our roads could be a challenge. Just turn on the radio and you will hear of accidents here and there causing traffic jams. It’s a daily affair especially on weekday morning rush hours. I’ve witnessed so many aftermath crashes on our public roads. Yup, knock 3 times NOT on the ceiling but on someone’s bum, you are out of the game! I’ve not elaborated on nasty ugly customers who are always out to get you for any little inconceivable excuses.

When I started driving taxi nearly 3 yrs ago, there were not many careless road users. Now, we have to look out for electric bicycles zipping around the main roads and side roads on top of the usual walking zombies with headsets plugged into their ears.

Recently, there is another menace – the Pokemon craze that is happening right now! Just this evening, I fetched 2 crazy Frenchmen from Changi Village to a pub on Joo Chiat Rd playing Pokemon in my taxi.They were so excited about catching Pokemon and giving me instructions to slow down or go faster, making sudden turns etc! They even asked what’s my Pokemon score. I said no Pokemon for me cuz I’m driving. It’s dangerous and irresponsible. I’ll lose my license if any serious accident were to happen! What a crazy world? Now you know what I meant when I said sharks infested cesspool I was thrown into to fend for myself? Sometimes I miss that comfortable little pond.

For more than 2 yrs, I’ve more or less overcome some of those job hazards coming out stronger and wiser. Just to illustrate, I did not even know where Elias Green is even though I’ve lived at Elias Road for more than 25 yrs! I was always confused with Pasir Ris Street 51, 52 and 53 even though it’s in my neighborhood. I remember the first time when I fetched one aunty to RWS casino she had to direct me. I told her I know it’s in Sentosa but not sure how to get there. She laughed at me uncontrollably like a wicked witch! Really langgar! It was also an adventure getting into Jurong Island. Getting into the extreme Tuas South Basin area is also a maze when it took me a while to get out!

I was determined to perform well in my new job. It’s either make or break. I told myself that I’ll need to get my geography right. Every day after work, I will go through the street directory and maps to get a clearer picture. In my bedroom, there is a detailed CBD map and another larger highways map pinned on the wall. (From Mighty Minds). I need to know all the CBD gantries in order to put a city surcharge if I pick up pax inside. Also to avoid the CBD surcharge if I were to send pax just outside the restricted zone. There are only 10 expressways and yet I need to master all the exits and entrances in order to get my pax to their destination using the fastest route. These are some of the basic skills a professional taxi driver will need to master.

I just did a cursory sketch of the challenges facing a taxi hirer. Of course, there is more to it. Handling pax especially those cocky ones also need some skill. If you are not careful, you will invite a complt. We do not want to be called up by LTA or company to answer to unnecessary complaints wasting precious down time. Time is money to a taxi driver.

I’ve briefly spoken on the job descriptions as a full time taxi hirer. There’s much more I wish to say. Maybe, I’ll touch on the competition facing the taxi industry other time. Or I may even touch on the idiosyncrasies of my night relief drivers etc. That will be another blog another time. Suffice to say here that it’s not easy being a taxi hirer. Like any other professions, there are issues and problems beneath the seemingly calm exterior. In short, there is no perfect job devoid of its inherent imperfections. Different strokes for different folks!

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