When an old friend back home in Singapore from the UK for her regular holiday complained about how clueless Singapore’s taxi-drivers are about directions compared to those in her adopted home, I listened half-heartedly.
Yeh, I thought to myself, your place is in Keng Chin Road, not the best known place in Singapore, unlike Orchard Road or Geylang.
I was soundly punished for such mean unsympathetic thoughts this morning.
I was going to the official opening of a friend’s hard-won enterprise and would have driven direct to the venue, had it not been for the sudden and heavy downpour that refused to go away.
Being always kiasu, I decided that the venue might not have enough car park lots and so compromised by driving half-way and parking at Bugis Junction — one of yours truly’s regular haunts — and continuing my journey from there by cab.
I was fearful that there might not be taxis and so rushed anxiously towards the North Bridge Road stand outside the covered walkway that lined one side of the Intercontinental Hotel/Bugis Junction complex.
Luck was with me. Two taxis at the stand, the first a Trans Cab, the second a Premier taxi. And no competing passengers in sight.
Got into the Trans Cab and stated my destination. Deathly silence and the driver made no attempt to drive the vehicle.
“Do you know how to get to Keppel Towers?” I asked, slightly irritated.
“No,” the taxi-driver shot back.
“You better take the taxi behind,” was the reply.
I was really taken aback by this but because time was tight, I didn’t want to hang around arguing. So I got out but I gave a parting shot in Putonghua which was simply “you are ridiculous!” or “你是荒谬的”.
That seemed to startle him in return and be4 I could close the door, he asked, a little contritely: “Do you know how to get there?”
But I wasn’t going to give him a second chance for who knew what might happen once we were on our way! I slammed shut the door and went to the Premier taxi behind, got in and found a most amenable taxi uncle. He knew the way, and drove fast but safely.
Altho I’m not into talking to taxi drivers as a general rule, I felt so incensed that I had to share my shock that there are cabs on our roads driven by people who don’t know the way and make no attempt to find out.
Keppel Towers may not be as famous as Vivocity or Raffles City but it’s still a prime office landmark in the heart of the city.
What’s a taxi driver doing inside the CBD — which the Trans Cab was — and declaring that he had no idea how to get there? Shouldn’t he have a road directory at least or a number at his hirer’s office to call to give him directions?
Even in Bali which is far less developed than Singapore in all ways, the taxis I’ve taken –always Blue Bird — have drivers who have the initiative to find out from their office, when they don’t know. Some even have GPS to guide them. And the “gangs” (tiny lanes) in Bali are far more difficult to locate than any of Singapore’s roads.
Ditto for the taxi drivers I’ve come across in Shanghai. I’ve got them to locate out of the way places that they didn’t always know and yes, they found out, by calling their office or stopping by the roadside to ask passers by or even while waiting at traffic lights, the vehicle next to them.
So why are our clueless taxi drivers in Singapore not more proactive? Not hungry enough? Driving taxis as a hobby? Or simply because our Land Transport Authority is too lax with them?