Taxi Drivers in Singapore
They deserve a little mention in my blog for the mere fact that I am dependent on them on a daily base. Although there is a very nice, well-maintained, self-conducting Metro system (MRT) and I live only one station away from my workplace in Vivo City, I hop in a cab regularly. It’s not expensive here in Singapore, and the meters have a variety of surcharges, depending on rush hour traffic or which zone you drive to, from, or into.
Taxis dominate Singapore’s traffic, and their duty is clearly designed. You can wave them down but be prepared for attitude. If you are not standing on a street curb “designated” for pickups, you are at the mercy of the driver’s choice to halt. Once you luckily waved one down, since everyone in this city depends on this cheap fare, you might be told that the direction you are going to is not convenient for the driver… Although he will not say it in such kind words. Most of the time, they simply close the window, wave you off with the same gesture that in other nations indicates “crazy,” and take off.
See, driving a personal vehicle in Singapore is a luxury; one has to pay a street usage tax implemented by the government that is variably between US $ 5’000 and 12’000. First off, you have to be given the right to own a car, drive such a vehicle, and foremost, receive a street license since the government controls the restricted access of vehicles in the tiny nation. The newer your car, the better economical your choice, the less expensive the license, for a foreigner that is… If you purchase a new car, it usually comes with a one-year street tax allowance, which the following year can be US$ 8’000, way more than the yearly mortgage you owe the bank; it is better at this point to trade your car in for a new one, attached with a new license… Hence, you see lots of new cars on the road, and Singapore has become known in the used car market outside its borders for bargain deals.
It brings me back to the taxis (older cars), which could be more economical but still dominate the streets. Once you are inside and have explained where to go in English, the driver will roll into the left lane, a busy transportation route and a computer voice might invite you to put on your seat belt on the back seat. Hey, safety first. Next is the odor of some stinky socks that will incubate your nose; understand this is a comforting and typical car odor consistent with Pandan Leaf oil. Very unpleasant to me. Most drivers chauffer in their retirement age to survive the economic pressures and top-up on the meager government support; wait till they give you some ramble about their lives and how easy we (in the back seats) have it. I have had taxi captains driving in the middle of the lanes and causing other vehicles to dangerously swerve away from us while complaining about the youth not upholding Chinese traditions. But most all of them have one ugly practice in common: they love to drive in third gear. And this is precisely why I am committed to writing this in my blog. As a person who has been driving the car since I was 14 (in Switzerland, we drive tractors for the farmland) and owned my car since I was 16, living the last 15 years in Los Angeles, I have become an expert in driving proficiently and safely. But the sound of a tortured motor grinding in third gear while tucking away in rush hour traffic is annoying. I have sat in the back and watched in sheer amazement when drivers shift from first to fourth! Geared in third, awaiting the traffic light turning green when trying to power the motor to a stand-still and even more astonishing when such a vehicle jokingly takes off with a heartbreaking whining noise from the engine, seemingly unconcerned by the face in the back mirror starring at me. The Taxi mechanics of Singapore must wonder? Or maybe they are so intone with the fact the gears are gone on taxis on such a regular basis that they think that is the part that needs to be replaced more than the air in tires should be checked… That dangerous reality is more worthy than another blog, especially during the rainy season. I’ve skated on the freeway home from the airport in third gear, realizing this is the most dangerous part of my journey.
I’m off to work, catching a cab!