I had serious issue trying to grab a cab at Boat quay after drinks with Terence. We were both heading opposite directions and so we effectively had to hail 2 cabs after 11pm.
While both of us were standing by the roadside trying to flag for one, after close to 30mins, I was also trying to call the taxi line. Nothing annoys me more immensely than listening to the "waiting music" while my prepaid card $$$ is ticking away by the minute. Yes, my heart is feeling the pinch, frustration building and wishing for cinderalla's fairygod mother delivering a personal pumpkin coach to me.
As I scanned around, i saw several white Mercs cab, gathered at one spot with the taxi drivers grouping together chatting. I signed to Terence and motioned to him, "couldnt we get those cabs? are they on call?" He laughed at my "ignorance" and told me that those cabs are not on meter. Apparently, I am suppose to "negotiate" a price to hail these cabs. I was totally shocked, not to mention flabberghasted that such a rogue tactic still occur in singapore!
"Are you sure?" I pressed on, still seemingly unconvinced. Terence told me to watch. True enough in less than 5 mins, I saw a bunch of caucasians spoke to one driver and they took off. I wasnt sure what the deal was since I was too far away but those taxi drivers obviously saw us trying to hail a cab and didnt bother to offer their service to me, left me suspecting much truth was in my fren's word.
After 10mins, I still couldnt get an "available" taxi via the phone. A red car drove up to me at the curb, wound down his window and asked me. "Do you want a cab? My passenger no show. Book already never come. You want? But you have to pay the booking fee."
I was stunned. Is this blackmail? He lost a client and even though I was ready "demand", I had to pay for the booking fee because he sense i was in need. My fren told me to board the cab because it will be difficult to get one. I asked what about him, and he assured me he will be fine. So after much internal struggle, I boarded the cab alittle unwillingly yet with relief that "the long wait" was over.
Before the cab drove off, the cab driver asked me where my fren was going. "Yishun" i replied. The cab driver "nicely" asked if my fren want to share the cab since he could go via SLE to Yishun from where i was as my concerned driver shared that "cabs will be difficult" at this hour.
I called Terence but luck was with him and he boarded another cab.
While i was reliving the "moment" of being extorted, the cab driver asked me where I was from. I told him I was Singaporean and he exclaimed "surprised" as i didnt sound like a local, or rather I didnt have the Singlish accent. He started complaining to me about living standards in Singapore, how tough it is to live here. After 15mins of being involuntary submerged into his bitching and complaing, I had had enough. I started my verbal "retaliation", which was to shoot his points down, one by one.
He told me he wanted to move to Shanghai. He keep praising the virtues "The Motherland" and how he never want to return to singapore as it "is such a hard life". I rolled my eyes in disgust.
I told him that in my experience "living standards in China is not comparable to Singapore and things isnt exactly that cheap if you want the same sort of quality as per singapore. Not to mention pollution and constant food contamination by unethical businessmen." You live with concerns for your health under the grey skies. Then my driver decided he wanted to go to HK and be taxi driver there, which again i shot down his notions that life is much better there.
My cab driver was obviously not convinced. He belittled me and said "How much would you know? You look so young. Just finish school?" I told him "Uncle, I cannot speak for other countries but I lived in HK and travelled to Shanghai ALOT, so i know what I am talking about. And i am NOT young and I have worked for about a decade. Medical and dental is expensive in HK. Employee insurance also sucks big time and coverage is bare minimal. Housing and rental is expensive and food is not cheap either, which then depends on if you are in HK or kowloon side."
Then my cab driver starts to say how about Taiwan. Taiwan is better he claimed.
Thankfully i reached my destination and I give up. If he has a fixed notion so be it. Its not my fight to begin with.
That night, I didnt know what bugs me more. The fact that I was being "blackmailed" $4, or the fact that I am losing "touch" with the ground perception of life in my own country.