Posted by: markashworth | July 29, 2009

Throwing Stones

I have experienced lots of insane taxi drivers but every now and then I get an intelligent driver. Sometimes they are a bit of both.

One day, after a wonderful shift of code-monkeying I left my office, at 1am, tired, drained and blurry eyed. Seeking a taxi to take me home. On flagging down the first taxi in sight, I was greeted by a taxi driver with his window wound down sprouting a grimaced face out of the window as he stretched across the front passenger seat to beckon me.

“Where you go ah?” he snapped.

“Bukit Panjang,” I replied shyly. The foreign words still not rolling off my tongue in the confident way they should.

“Buuuuuuuuuukit Pannnjang ah. Okay. You get in,” he said. I was delighted to be privileged enough to have been selected as his passenger.

So I got in the taxi and we began to talk the talk. After the usual ‘piss and moan’ about all taxi drivers’ favourite topic, ‘the economy,’ I got terribly overexcited and interrupted with:

“Yeah, and its extremely hard for fresh graduates to find a good job these days too. With no working experience they’re basically screwed.”

The key had turned, the sky darkened beneath the clouds and the dark flutter of crows’ wings severed the horizon with their cloaked feathers. The taxi driver had interrupted, as usual, with something startling:

“In Singapore ah. All the student they good. It THAT country where they no good. They go throw stone at the gahmen house.” (all ‘the government’ lives in one big house?)

“Seriously?” I asked, half heartedly.

“You wanna know why? You wanna know why they throw?” he beckoned.

“Well no actually but I’m sure you’re going to tell me anyway.” (that one is made up but I’m sure he wouldn’t have heard me anyway)

“They throw the stone because they are PAID to do it!” he yelped as if he had just let me in on the biggest secret in history. “They throw the stone because they paid by the opposition party!”

I prayed that he would just keep his hands on the wheel and stop looking round at me but he continued with his wise words:

“I TELL you ah. There no need to throw the stone at gahmen. I TELL you. If they think the gahmen no good; Then why they no just go study and become the gahmen. I TELL YOU!”

“That’s totally right,” I acknowledged in agreement.

“They should be in the school. Learn how to become better gahamen than the one oreddi in power oreddi.”

“Must become smarter! Only this way then can,” were his words of wisdom, as he continued his taxi driver monologue. “They should be in the school studying the economics. Our prime minister he economic graduate. Economic graduate can run country and become gahmen. So you how? You graduate economic?”

“Computer science,” to his dismay I replied.

“Ahh computer. I TELL you ah got good opportunity in Singapore but lot of Indian to compete.”

‘Oh God! Please let me out now!’ I thought, and today the heavens were indeed in my favour, we were home.

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Posted by: markashworth | July 26, 2009

Unknown Areas of Singapore

A list of places that I always have trouble getting to in a taxi.

10. Sims Place (Sims Drive ah? .. No. Sims PLACE.)

9. Bukit Gombak MRT. (buuukit batok MRT ah? .. no GOMBAK .. wheres that? … errr, in bukit batok 😐 )

8. Gateway Building (they always ask East or West… then drop you at the opposite)

7. Anchor Point (where? where? ahh near ee-kea building ah? then why not you say first lah.)

6. Bugis Village (ah ha.. i take you through the ERP gantry and pretend you said Bugis Junction [cackle])

5. Marina South Park. (even after I told him to take me to Marina MRT station he still refused)

4. Potong Pasir. (wah lau. soooo ulu ah!)

3. Biopolis (biopowhat??)

2. Mount Faber/Faaber/Fabber/Flibber/Flapper (read previous blog)

and…

1. Nanyang Technological University! (who’s NOT had trouble getting there?)

Posted by: markashworth | July 17, 2009

Mount Fabbbberrrrr

Three locals. Two foreigners. Together, we got inside a taxi.

“No way,” he said, “If I get caught. I’ll lose my license for sure. There’s no way I’m risking having four people on the back seat.”

Stupidly, myself and the other foreigner decided to get out and get in another taxi together. We flagged another one down in only a matter of seconds.

“Take us to Mount Faber please”

“Where?”

“Mount Faber?”

“Where’s that? I’ve never heard of it,” he said. Despite Mount Faber being a popular spot amongst both locals and tourists.

“Mount Faber? Mount Fibber? Mount Faaaaaber? Mount Fobber? Mount Fubber? Mount Fabbbberrrrrr Munt Flibber?” we tried to pronounce it in every way possible.

“Where? How to get there?” he asked again, seemingly oblivious to the place.

“We don’t know how to get there. We’re not Singaporean,” my friend replied, who was already slightly agitated.

“Hey. Its next to the World Trade Centre and the cable car station,” my colleague pointed out as he remembered.

“Ahh. World Trade Centre,” he agreed, and we finally thought we were getting somewhere.

Within five minutes the taxi driver had taken us to the World Trade Centre.

“Ok. Now Mount Faber”

Then the taxi driver got angry. “Why you tell me World Trade Centre if you don’t wanna go World Trade Centre? You ask for World Trade Centre and now we here.”

“Just look around this area” my colleague insisted. After scouring up and down the road a while, we finally saw a glimmer of hope when there was a sign for ‘Mount Faber’ which lead to a long winding hill.

“Oh. Mount Faber,” he said casually, and drove us up the hill to the pub at the top which was heaving with people from all over. My friend and I foaming at the mouths and ready to strangle him to death. Even though taxi drivers are generally not tipped in Singapore, We did have a few verbal tips of our own to give him.

Posted by: markashworth | July 14, 2009

Dirty Old Pervert Taxi Drivers

My foiled attempts to flag down a taxi numerous times, only to be snubbed by the taxi driver, got me thinking.
On some nights I have even been bypassed by a b@#$%#d taxi driver who only went and picked up a women who was standing 50 metres down the road from me.

I can only imagine that some taxi drivers have some sort of criteria for picking and choosing their passengers.

So here’s a list of the pecking order that I imagine these taxi men have. Complete with their reasoning:

10. Family of ang moh. Screw them, they’re probably only going to some hotel round the corner.

9. Single ang moh tourist. Oh crap, he’s going to confuse me with some chim English. Then again, if I don’t understand him, I can just take him to Geylang. Yeah they all love it there.

8. Single ang moh dude working in Singapore. Screw him. Coming over here taking our jobs. They’ll be driving taxis soon.

7. Bitch looking office woman in her forties. Screw her. I’m not having her bark at me for her bill being 10 cents more than last time.

6. Single Singaporean working dude. Hmm. I might not take him. Seems to have ‘kwai lan’ written all over his face.

5. Old lady with 20 bags of durians. Oh crap. What the hell? Si beh tu lan. Ah never mind. Must respect elders.

4. Single ‘ugly’ girly. Hmm. Its getting late anyway. Not much action today. Ok can can.

3. Single ‘chio’ girly with a normal skirt. Damn, I can’t see up it but I can still fantasize about getting her number.

2. Single ‘ugly’ girly with a short skirt. Ah ah face cannot make it ah but got nice short skirt I can perve at.

1. Single ‘chio’ girly with a short skirt. Corrr yeah. I bet she’s going to give me her phone number cos I’m such an attractive chi ko pek. Dirty old bastard.

Posted by: markashworth | July 13, 2009

Maggi Mee

Zzzzoom! Some ah beng flashed past in his mum’s Nissan, complete with badly arranged clip on accessories and stickers.

“Crikey. Cars are so bloody expensive in Singapore. Yet they still stick those crappy $1 ‘bad boy’ stickers on them in all the wrong places,” I commented to the driver.

“No lah. Cars not so expensive these days. Me and you can afford,” he replied back to me.

“What! Maybe I can afford to buy one but they are so expensive to keep running. Maybe I can afford one if I eat Maggi Mee every day!”

That statement struck the ultimate chord.

“Wah hah ha ha ha! Maggie MEEEEE. You ah!” bounced the words from his seat.

“Yeah! Ha ha. Maggi Mee,” I laughed back. Somehow I felt that I had not fully understood the joke though.

“Maaaaggi MEEE ah you! Ha! Ha ha ha ha ha! Wah lau. Maggi Mee you.”

This went on for a good five minutes or so.

After the joke had died down I finally started converse normally and asked him the usual questions. ‘How long have you been a taxi driver?’ ‘Are you married?’ ‘How many children do you have?’ The last of which questions was the final question of my journey. It was answered like so:

“Four daughters. Wah lau. Next month ah. My oldest one. She getting married liao. Sommore I’m paying for it,” he told me.

“Ha ha! Then you’ll be eating Maggi Mee all next month!”

Bugger. What had I done? I started it off again:

“Maaaaggi MEEE ah you! Ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!”

“Ok. Thats enough. Stop here now you nonsensical gentleman!” I demanded. Admittedly, it was not so much of a demand but a polite suggestion and we were outside my house anyway.

My best PG Wodehouse character accent sure told him though (no. none of that part is really true).

“Seven dollars sixty cents please Maggi Mee.”

“There you go,” I said whilst passing him a ten dollar note.

“Ok. There’s your change Maggi Mee. Ah you Maggi Mee ah you! Wah Lau!” he chuckled whilst holding his forehead with his left hand.

“Thankyou. Good night.”

“Goodnight Maggi MEEEE!”

Posted by: markashworth | July 11, 2009

Just Let Me Cross the Road. Will You?

Once upon a time in a not so distant past I used to walk down a large road and cross it somewhere in the middle to get to my office.
Every day, when I wanted to cross the road, I would always be greeted by an unprecedented amount of taxis slowing down. All with the misconception that I want to be picked up by them.

Why can’t they just let me cross the road in peace? This makes me start to wonder what the taxi driver is actually thinking when he does this. Is it:

“Ang moh! Ang moh! I never see before. Sure must pickup one!”

“Wah got ang moh in this dodgy area. Obvious he lost an’ looking to go back to Holland Village.”

“All ang moh is lazy. Therefore ang moh want to take taxi to the bus stop.”

“Wonder why that ang moh not in taxi! Don’t worry, I’ll get him.”

“Ah! An ang moh. Obviously he’s going to the airport. Good for me. I can earn the surcharge.” (I have actually been asked if I wanted to go to the airport when I had absolutely no baggage except my laptop with me)

“Har Har Har! *cackle* A tourist I can drive around the corner for $5 because he doesn’t know where he’s going.”

“9am. Must be time for the ang moh to go to the pub.”

and best of all..

“I’m going to slow down so that I can really annoy this ang moh who wants to cross the road. Hopefully by the time I’m done cruising past there will be a second wave of traffic coming along so he’ll need to wait another couple of minutes before crossing. *Wooo ha ha ha ha ha ha!*”

This happened only the other night, when I was at the central reservation of the road… and not only did one taxi slow down for me, but ANOTHER taxi who was directly behind him obviously thought that I didn’t like that particular brand so I’d prefer to take his instead.

It also happens every time I step out of my block, but strangely enough, they are never around when I really need them!

Posted by: markashworth | July 10, 2009

Where Do All the Immigration Offenders Go?

One night, as of many nights, I had no choice but to take a taxi home.
Forever trying to start up a conversation with a taxi driver, I was delighted that he started the conversation first.

“Where you from?” he asked.

“England. The North. Manchester,”

[No reaction. He mustn’t watch football I guess] “How long you stay in Singapore?”

“Almost three years now,” I replied.

Then he just had to ask the dreaded question…

“So you PR or not?” [damn youuuu for asking this!]

“Nope,” I grunted.

“You apply oreddi?”

“Only four times now!”

“You success or not?”

“Nope.. They never want to approve it. They never give a reason.”

“Wah lau. Ha ha ha ha! ……. Ha ha ha ha ha! ……. Ha ha ha!”

“Stop it now. Please,” I begged.

“Ha ha ha ha!” he continued. It had tickled him immensely.

“Its not that funny.”

“Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!”

Tears began to swell in my eyes. That was it. Time to defend myself…

“Actually the last rejection letter said that if I apply in one more year’s time I’ll have a good chance of being approved.”

This at least seemed to sober him up a bit.

“Actually I don’t see why they don’t approve you ah. Since you here for so long already,” he consoled me.

“I guess they just really want to test me. Most ang moh just bugger off home after a few years here anyway. So no there’s point in granting PR for them.”

“Ahh I see. So tough ah? So where you go apply ah?”

“Lavender there. The ‘ICA’ building. You know? The one that used to be ‘SIR’ but they changed the name of it.”

“Ahhhhhhh. That place ahh. I TELL you ah,” [This is always the start of an ammmazing taxi story. Stories with mysteries that are only exceeded by their dubiousness]

“Yeah?”

“I TELL you ah. You know what is underneath that place?” he asked in a sinisterly but coy manner.

“No idea. Tell me.”

“I TELL you. Do you ever see any immigration offender in Singapore?”

“Nope.”

“I TELL you. Underneath ICA building. Is a prison,” he whispered whilst scoping the road for any other traffic.

“WHAT?!”

“A prison lah! Jail! Gaol!”

“You’re joking right?”

“No lah. I tell you ah. Underneath the ICA. Its where they keep all the immigration offenders. Do you ever see them in the normal prison?”

“Well now you come to say it. Er… How do you know all this?” […and wait another second. I’ve never actually seen the ‘normal’ prison for that matter]

“I tell you a secret. My friend ah. He was there for five years.”

“Five years! You’re not joking? Where is your friend from?”

“Ah.. This I cannot tell you lah. Else you might find out who he is.” [I’m assuming he’s from some obscure country that has only had one citizen to ever step foot in Singapore]

“Fair enough.”

“Yeah! Now you know. Now you know! Get your PR soon then you wont be an offender.”

“But I have an employment pass.”

“Don’t offend ah. Then you will end up in the prison underneath the ICA.” [They just don’t hear me do they?]

Finally and thankfully. We had reached my destination.

“Er. Can I get out now? Let me out!” I asked as I moved from a whimper, to a sob to a wail.

He let me out alright. The visions of illegal immigrants being whipped in a dungeon beneath the ICA building filled my bewildered mind. I was tired and it was time for some Maggi Mee and some sleep. Before that however, I double checked my employment pass to check it was still in date.

Posted by: markashworth | July 9, 2009

The Great Mastercard Con

Paying by debit/credit card is never without its fun and anxieties in a Singapore Taxi.

On this one occasion I tried to lighten the event by mentioning that I was paying by mastercard only because I wanted to win the lucky draw prize. (which I should have won by now considering the statistics.) Here’s how it went:

“Hey, can I pay you by mastercard? Cos I want to try and win the diamond,” I asked, whilst pointing to the mastercard advert. It instantly struck a chord with him.

“This one ah! No way you can win. Its just a bullshit lah!” he exclaimed.

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. Have you actually ever heard of somebody winning it? Nooooo right? That’s why I tell you. Buuuullshit lah,”

“But I want to win the diamond,” I insisted. “Surely SOMEONE has to win?”

“Listen. Did you ever seeee anyone win a diamond yet? I TELL you. You never see people got win one.”

“But,” I whimpered. There was no doubting it. I was defeated.

“Tell you ah. Last time. The car prize. Do you see anyone driving it? No lah. Another bullshit! Then everyday everyone want to pay mastercard. Wah lau these guys ah. Heh heh heh.”

“My word!” I gasped in my pseudo-Brit-American-Singlish-Neutralised accent.

“God for my business though! [cackle] More and more people want to take a taxi and win. [more sinister cackles].”

It was time to leave before the conspiracy got deeper. He scanned my card and, for once, it all went without a glitch. Arriving home I pondered deep in thought about why don’t I just queue up at the ATM for half an hour so that I can pay for taxis with cash? Er, maybe its because I’m a foreigner and after four years I still haven’t gotten any money changed.

Posted by: markashworth | July 8, 2009

The Foreigners Keep Their Kidneys

Here’s a classic taximan tale about why you should not go and see a doctor. Even if you’re dying. Unless you are from out of town. This tale has been told to me by more than one driver; so I guess it is a common theme….

After a long day’s work and overtime, I finally flagged down a taxi in Queenstown at eleven o’clock at night.

“Where to ah? ah?” asked the taxi driver whilst bobbing up and down on his seat and frantically looking in the mirror to inspect his foreign passenger.

“Bukit Panjang”

“Ah. Buuu-kit Panjang ah? OK. We go PIE, BKE” he said

Now. I cannot stand awkward silence when in taxi. So I tried to break into some conversation.

“So. Busy night?” was my feeble attempt. Which surprisingly seemed to arouse him and spark his engine.

“Busy ah! I tell u ah. In Singapore. You gotta work work work. Else no mannie. Ah ah!” he looked in the mirror at me, eagerly seeking my nod of approval.

“Its the same everywhere isn’t it?” I asked.

“Where you from ah?”

“England. Manchester.”

“Ah. You see ah. In England, if no work then your government will PAY you to stay at home. Ah! Ah? Even you go hospital, go doctor. Then free.”

“Yeah. Its free alright. But its hardly up to any standard.” I replied.

“Ah. But you go doctor in Singapore. Then they take your kidney out.”

“What!?” I replied in a shocked state of manner.

“I tell you ah. Singaporean never got see doctor if fall sick.”

“What? Why?”

“Singaporeans only though. They never touch foreigners. So that way nobody can know. Because you England ah. If our government take your kidney, then your government will be unhappy and come after us. So foreigners safe. Except ‘Michael Faye.’ Singapore gahmen kena him.”

I was totally shocked at this and could not begin to understand how, in a country of first rate healthcare, the hospitals would have a racket on people’s kidneys.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “Come on. That’s not believable”

“I tell you ah ah. My wife’s friend. She went into the doctor clinic with flu. She’s sixty five already. They put her in hospital. Then when she went home she realised that she had no kidney.”

“You’re joking!” I exclaimed.

“No lah. I tell you ah. This one is real. You watch ah. NUH. that’s where they get their money for all their equipment. Ah! ah! Else how can they afford such good equipment? ah? ah?”

Fortunately at this point we were nearing my house. I directed him to my street and stopped a few blocks before my real apartment in the fear that he might come knocking at my house one day. I paid the lunatic and got out of the taxi.

I was pacified in the knowledge that my kidneys were safe for now. What a relief.

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