Sunday 11 December 2011

How taxis are turning us into zombies after midnight

A zombie apocalypse in Singapore? At least, that was how my wife described it.

It happened on the night of Nov 11 - yes, 11.11.11. Oooh, spooky.

It was past midnight (which technically made it Nov 12, but let’s not pick nits).

She had just left the Red Dot Design Museum (formerly the Traffic Police building) on Maxwell Road with my teenage son and was unsuccessfully looking for a taxi to take them home.

As she wrote in her blog:
“We walked further away from the museum...Then we came to a road where there were lots of taxis with the green light on. We were so happy and so were the groups of people with us.

“And the stupidest thing happened. NONE of the freaking taxis would stop.

“They just zoomed past us and after a while, I realised that the taxis were just going round and round, not picking up passengers. I could recognise some of the taxis."

Frustrated, she complained on her blog: “There ought to be a law against taxis not picking up passengers, Mr Transport Minister! Like caning or something.”

Her ordeal continued:
“So we walked once more. The streets were really deserted save for us, the walkers.

“It was like a scene from the TV show The Walking Dead. The taxis were the humans running away from us.”

How’s that for a twist? My wife and son were the zombies! Along with all the other people who couldn't get a taxi. (M Night Shyamalan must be so jealous.)

If only I could be there with a shotgun and put them out of their misery. Don’t worry, I know to aim for the head.

They would probably thank me for it. Anything is better than the existential frustration of yet another empty taxi going past you as if you weren’t even there despite your frantic waving.

Because of how late it was, my wife and son didn’t have the option of taking the bus or the MRT. She tried using her mobile phone to book a cab but couldn’t get through.

The prospect of spending the night sleeping in the streets like a homeless person loomed larger with each passing cab.

How did a supposedly First World country with a “world-class” public transport system come to this?

And now ComfortDelGro is raising its taxi fares?

It’s enough to turn you into Quan Yifeng.

Last month, the TV host pleaded guilty to “committing mischief” last year in a dispute with a taxi driver where she pulled out the taxi fare meter and spilled water on the receipt printer

Who knew she was pre-emptively acting out against the taxi fare hike for the rest of us?

Quan Yifeng, folk hero … or martyr?

The thing is, no matter how angry you get at the cabbies for not picking you up during the zombie apocalypse, when one finally does, you’re just so grateful to him for saving your life.

After an hour of wandering the streets like the undead, my wife and son eventually found a taxi to take them home because the driver was changing shift and heading in the direction that they wanted to go.

In the cab, the driver explained matter-of-factly to my wife that it’s almost impossible to flag down a taxi after midnight in the area because the cabbies are waiting for bookings.

That was when my wife bit a chunk out of his neck and turned the cabbie into The Driving Dead.

Nah, I’m kidding. My wife just protested feebly and the driver just shrugged.

“It’s like that one,” he said.

Where was Quan Yifeng when you needed her?

- Published in The New Paper, 11 December 2011

Dear Mr. Ong,

I read your article.

Sincerely I wish there is a printing error on what you wrote "Frustrated, she complained on her blog, 'There ought to be a law against taxis not picking up passengers, Mr Transport Minister! Like CANING or something.'"

To cane a taxi driver for not picking up passenger? If your wife's wish really come true, I wonder who dare to be a taxi driver.

By then, what complaint will your wife make again? Mr Transport Minister, make all male Singaporean to join Taxi companies after they complete their National Service?

Why can't she just use her handphone and on call for a taxi? It's just $2.50 or more (could be more), isn't this what we call we pay more for better service? [SM: Actually, I did mention in the article that my wife tried to call for a cab, but couldn't get through.]

It is not easy being a taxi driver now, high rental, expensive petrol, road traffic condition and the worst, facing our very educated and love complaints Singaporeans.

Not all taxi drivers are bad, just as not all Singaporean love complaints. I just wish we can really understand them more and knowing their difficulties in making a living.

Give them some breathing space, tell your wife I tell her this.



I believe that Mrs Ong did not mean that seriously. However, she does bring up a valid point.

I will bet that a lot of us have experienced that taxi blissfully whisking by even though it is unoccupied despite every futile attempt to flag it down.

It is very frustrating and I sometimes think that the taxi driver did it on purpose.

I have sat in taxis that drops me off at a condo I live in where the taxi driver blatantly tells me he doesn't want to pick up any more passengers and promptly turns on his "on call" sign as he pulls up in front of the taxi queue to drop me off.

I can tell you that he had definitely had not responded to a call. And it was way after the usual taxi shift change time.

More stringent measures must be taken against such taxi drivers. Just suspend their taxi driver license for one week and if they continue to be recalcitrant - a 2-week suspension on the second occurrence. On a third occurrence - remove his license permanently.