Mar 9, 2011

Default settings for taxi drivers

You know what I am talking about - software or even gadgets usually come with 'default settings' that should take care of most normal cases. Similarly if one were to create a default personality setting for a taxi driver, it should be that they are talkative, highly informed and opinionated. Singapore is no exception. And until now, I would have said that another default setting can be added to that list - they are anti-establishment.

Over the years I have learnt many useful life lessons and valuable tips from taxi drivers (BTW, they are addressed 'uncle' by most people, even those that are older than the driver). Pearls of wisdom that no google can uncover such as names of condos that are a favorite of Indonesian tycoons' concubines can come only from a taxi drivers' monologue. I once let a taxi driver give me a lengthy trip advise on the 'hot spots' of Batam that a single man can visit, not wanting to disappoint him by saying I am only going for the beaches. I also learnt about a seafood joint that earlier had no sign board and now has a signboard that says 'No Signboard Seafood restaurant'. May be the Japanese chain store MUJI (no brand) got their inspiration from this place..

And as a rule, they have all been anti-establishment. They just have to pass a ERP gantry - enough to start them off on a lecture on cost of living, having to pay and pay and so on...incidentally they don't pay for the ERP charges, the passenger does.

Sometimes I take taxis just to listen to the driver and pass time.

But yesterday I rode with a taxi driver who is very much pro-establishment. Again the 'trigger' was a innocent remark by myself about how development is changing the CBD making me confused about location of taxi pickup points. He said people complain about changes and high cost of living but they should think about what they were 30 years ago and how better off they are today. Change in inevitable...we just have to look at it together and not piecemeal was his point. They come as a package, the good and bad. When I talked about medical costs he had an anecdote too - about how a rich guy earning $12,000 a month refused to pay for his mother's hospital bills instead forcing his sister, who only earns $4,000 to pay for it.  Why should the state bear costs in such cases? He reeled off statistics about how Japan is worse off than Singapore because of low population growth and what will happen to them in 2050 (by which time neither myself nor him are likely to be alive). Once again, I simply listened, at times offering some debate points as sitting ducks to draw him into interesting rebuttals. I usually take the contrarian stand as it makes the conversation, if you can call it that, more fun.

So I realised, they do come in all shapes and sizes...

No comments: