Fasten your seat belt
(This is the text of the speech I delivered at the Humorous Speech & evaluation contest of Bishan Toastmasters Club)
Fasten your seat belt because I am going to take you on a ride – a taxi ride.
Contest Chair, Judges, Fellow toastmasters and friends
After having lived in Singapore for more than 20 years, the person who strikes me as being the most worldly-wise and knowledgeable is our humble taxi driver.
Who else gets to meet people from all walks of life – the student, the housewife, the doctor, the engineer, the businessman or the lawyer?
Having said that, getting a cab in Singapore can be a nightmare on some days and really easy on other days.
Murphy has his own laws for taxis:
If you need a cab – you won’t get one &
If you do not need a cab – there is a queue of taxis waiting for you. You feel like a celebrity and they are all waiting to take your photographs.
If you are waiting to hire a cab and you see the signs BUSY, CHANGE SHIFT, HIRED, ON CALL etc then you better look for an alternative because that means you would have to wait for another hour
The first thing a taxi driver asks you when you enter the cab is “Which way do you want to go? CTE or PIE or SLE or AYE? It is a polite way of saying – I’m new to this job so could you please guide me?
Now, hoping that you managed to get a cab, you can come face-to-face with a host of drivers
The talkative driver
He is dying to start a conversation with you. He fires a volley of questions at you. PR of Singaporean, how many years have you been here? Is this your own house? Only 1 daughter – you should go for another one? Suddenly you forget why you are sitting in the cab and by the time you recover your senses, you have overshot your destination.
The angry driver
He sizes you up in the rear-view mirror.
Uncle – North Bridge road please you say
Taxi driver – “Ah”
“I said North bridge road”
Taxi driver “You think I cannot hear ah – I have been driving this taxi for 20 years ok.”
After that you just want to be safe rather than sorry.
The mobile phone addict
This driver needs only hand to drive his cab.
“Hello Ah-boon – I’m droping someone to Woodlands. Can we meet today.. near the Woodlands Mart – that Kopitiam.. at 5:30 pm sharp. Me – I’m fine, happy-go-lucky”
“Sir – which block did you say”
Then there was this driver who took me all the way to his home in Sengkang. He said that he knew the way to any place in Singapore only from his home. He reminded me of a PC or phone that had hung and needed to be reset.
The F1 driver
Ever since the F1 race began in Singapore a lot of drivers like to emulate their stars like Sebastian Vettel or Jensen Button. The taxi driver is no exception. As soon as you get into the cab, you better fasten your seat belt. The speed indicator alarm goes ‘peep peep peep’. He cuts across lanes like he owns the road, he does not signal and when he reaches the destination – he raises his hands in joy just like he won the F1 race
The sleepy cabbie
Once I got into this cab. The guy either went into a night club or karaoke the previous night. He was dozing away and I was trying to keep him awake. Ya – take the next right, then keep straight until you reach the car park. He would wake up and say ‘Ah Ah ok’. I was sitting on the edge of my seat throughout the journey and when I reached I said “Uncle, keep the change” and just rushed home.
The PhD cabbie
Singapore has a PhD taxi driver. Cai Mingjie has a PhD from Stamford University and also writes a blog
Some taxi drivers are very organized.. they keep their taxis spick and span, coins neatly arranged, display some souvenirs and they treat their taxis like a little home
Whatever quirks they may have, the taxi driver is the pulse of our nation. They are the people on the ground who are aware of almost everything under the sun – be it economy, politics, stocks, property, sports , his family, your family and so on.
So, the next take time you take a cab give the driver a big smile because he goes all out to make your journey comfortable and he could make your day!!