It’s a bad idea to hail a taxi along the road when in suburban Singapore and ask the taxi uncle to take you to the Ascott Raffles Place.
This was what I found when I asked picky Siti to go to the main road near our home to hail a taxi and get it to turn into our driveway to pick up mum and me from our lobby where we were waiting.
Normally I would have driven everyone to the Ascott but when I was informed by the residence that there were no parking facilities en-premise, I decided a taxi would be more convenient than driving there and parking at Hong Leong Building, a street away — for convenience, read “cheaper”.
Bad decision! Doubly bad decision was not to call for a taxi.
Siti waited on that Friday afternoon (Oct 30) from just be4 2pm to way past 2.30pm; no taxi would take her, always with some excuse. I joined her and it was several minutes be4 we persuaded a taxi to turn into out drive-way and pick up mum and our luggage.
Where do you want to go? The Ascott at Raffles Place. Where’s that? At Raffles Place. Never heard of it. You must have! The hotel just won a prize! You know the old Asia Insurance Building. Never heard of it…
I thought I was in a nightmare when I suddenly hit on a bright idea. I spelt out the name of where we wanted to go.
The taxi uncle turned round to look at me scornfully.
Oh, Ascott. You say it wrong. It’s AS-CORT!
Advantage taxi uncle! It must have made your day. Silly me had pronounced it as though it’s the place for those races in the UK where the cream and curd of society turn up in hats and bowlers. I had pronounced Ascott as Ascot. Oh what a mortal sin!
All this silently within me of course as my mother hates to be caught in a row within the small confines of any place, let alone a vehicle being driven by a stranger.
Aloud I said to the taxi driver: Whatever. It’s in Raffles Place.
No, he retorted triumphantly. It’s in Finlayson Green.
All right since you know where it is, you go the way you usually go.
Mulut tak mumpus replied: There’s only one way to go! Then went into a long spiel about the route to take.
Muggins held her tongue, determined to stay silent even if I had to bite my tongue off.
It seemed ages but it couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes when we arrived at the little inset in the road and alighted to the welcome of the doorman of the Ascott.
Taxi uncle said: “Just give me $10.” Even though the meter said $10.20. OK, thanks!
Our next encounter with a taxi uncle was later that night when for reasons explained here we were heading for home again barely 7 hours after we checked in.
The hotel got the taxi for us and we quickly settled in, belted up even as a heavy drizzle threatened to turn into a storm, and we were on our way when the uncle turned back and stated, rather than asked: “To the airport!”
Startled and not sure I had heard right, I said: ‘Sorry?”
“Terminal? Not terminal. We are going home. Newton Circus.”
“Not to the airport?”
After a long day, I could be forgiven if I just tore my hair, shouted or worse — beat up the taxi uncle. But I managed to catch myself and mentally excused him. Won’t it be reasonable to assume that people checking out of the Ascott would be heading for the airport?
The next day’s taxi trip back to the Ascott saw us picking up a taxi very easily, the limousine type, some more!
But the driver looked and sounded like he’s out of a Hindi movie. He could be straight from Mumbai for all I know because he declared not to know where the As-CORT was; nor Raffles Place, nor Finlayson Green.
How did he get a driving licence for crying out loud!
Still the taxi was comfortable and the sky looked as though it would weep again. So I said with gritted politeness: All right, let me give you directions… you know Scotts Road, OK you go straight through and then….