As usual, the cab driver started telling me his woes even though I didn’t say anything in the cab. I’m starting to suspect I have the words “Feedback Unit” etched across my forehead, a permanent mark from my journo days.
He picked me up from my home at Bishan, and before we got out of the estate, was spilling out his frustrations in Mandarin, then Hokkien. (Another mystery why every cab driver converses with me in these two languages first, rather than English)
He said: “The streets are really quiet. You know, you are the first customer I’ve had in the past two hours. I was at Park Lane (at Selegie Road)…I drove through Balestier Road, then Toa Payoh…no customers at all. I was trying to chase a call in Toa Payoh, but then that guy cancelled. I drove here to Bishan and luckily, you called for a cab.”
“It’s getting really difficult for me to continue driving a cab. I owe the company over $600 in cab rental. There are some days I only make $20. And at home, I keep having to pay my utility bills by cash in instalments so they wouldn’t cut off the power.”
“Business is really terrible. Especially in the town area where I can drive through during peak hour without getting one customer.”
I said that’s because the cab fares during peak hours in town were really too high.
He said: “Yes, when cab fares were cheaper, getting customers wasn’t an issue.”
As we neared my office at One Marina Boulevard, I told him he could drop me off at the side road beside the building instead of doing a big U-turn at Fullerton so we could reach the official drop off point.
He sounded really worried: “That’s not allowed.”
I said: “But it’s not a main road because buses don’t ply it.”
“I disagree, I’ve had friends who were booked there…a hundred dollars and three points!. Look at this CBD, so few taxi stand for people to take a cab and for cab drivers to get business…”
I didn’t argue further, but asked him to do the big U-turn and to my gladness, there was another bunch of customers at my office who decided to take his cab.