Taxi drivers - crystal balls for your future as a Singaporean?

Posted: November 10, 2009 by fievel in Labels: , ,

I get a lot of opportunities to interact with taxi drivers because my company sponsors my cab rides due to the odd hours. I'm sure most Singapore-netizens are aware of the taxi driver blog by Dr Cai Ming Jie...well I am not as entertained by my encounters with cabbies as he is with passengers, but I'd just like to share a bit of an epiphany I had derived from my daily brief meetings with them.

While I find that the garden varieties of cabbies typically fall into the happy, angry or bo-chup categories, there are some stark commonalities that link them all.

First of which - they drive so damn aggressively. Why do you think they do so? Were they all ah-bengs who used to sport a souped-up mitsubishi lancer/honda civic in the 80s and now only get to express their fast-and-furious ambitions through their toyota crowns and hyundai sonatas? Nope. I think that it is because they, just like the Singaporean pedestrian whose walking speed is crowned world's number 1 [see link], are under a lot of pressure in the Singapore way of life. They are driving this crazy because life as a taxi driver in Singapore is getting harder and harder. According to them, the authorities have indiscriminately released too many cabs onto the market, scouring the roads for business at such cut-throat manners that they have to be absolutely the fastest and quickest to bring home enough bacon.

Second, their number 1 concern in life, aside from bashing the PAP government, is to find money. I am not a complete idealist nor a pragmatist, but I think it's a sad depiction of life when everything that occupies one's mind 24/7 is money. Every so often, they'll ask, "Oh you work here as a so-and-so? I heard so-and-so can earn a lot of money? Good hor? How much bonus can you get?" It's just our culture, I hear some of you say. Yes and no. Yes we do have a culture whereby asking about the price tag of a recent holiday or a newly acquired car is the social norm, but we do have the general understanding that it is not so great to ask about one's salary. The question, however, often leaves the lips of the questioning party with the thought that if there is another job out there that he or she can have for this much more money, then "I also want!", to hell with social niceties. Such is the dire need for more money in Singapore that not many of us, cab drivers or not, can say money is only the second factor in our career choice. If you still don't buy my story, just observe the long lines we have at the TOTO and 4D lottery booths e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y. This is not the case in other developed nations. If you are brushing aside my case-in-point because you are thinking "of course money is the number 1 factor what!", then I'm afraid you have been so indoctrinated in the Singapore system that it might be tough to ever get you to see it from a perspective outside of the little red box.

Third and last, many of them had a higher-social-class job prior to becoming a taxi driver. Don't come after me with your steely knives just yet. It is the politically incorrect truth and I am but saying it out loud.
On occasions when I feel conversational enough, I'll speak with them enough to find out that they used to be engineers, engineering sales executives, production managers and so on, before something untoward inadvertently happpens to their careers and they were "too old" to turn things around, and with mortgage payments and a family to feed, they got ushered by our Singapore system into becoming a cab driver.

Could this be you in the future? Ask yourselves now. Don't hide behind your educational certificates or your current career status and think it will never happen to you. Trust me, due to our small geographical size, structural unemployment is a very strong likelihood in your next 20 - 30 years. Remember your spanking new 30 year mortgage? Do you have a kid to support? There you have it. The recipe for becoming a cab driver one fine day.

Could things be different in Singapore? Well, I honestly don't know. But if the past 20 years is any guide, this current brand of leadership thinking will never lead us down a better path. Never.


  1. Anonymous says:

    "Don't hide behind your educational certificates or your current career status and think it will never happen to you."

    Unless you are part of the PAP cabinet or a former army general, in which case, you have a nice pension.

  1. Fievel says:

    I liken our taxi uncles to "Boxer" in the animal farm...worked to the end of his days then sent to the horse-slaughterer