Tragedy At Budget Terminal

A Tragedy At Budget Terminal

Ah Lam is my taxi buddy. He is a slim, soft speaking man of few words and seldom open his mouth unless spoken to. He is 57 years old and lives with his wife and two grown up children at Tampines St 32.. He has been a taxi driver for almost 15 years and never had any trouble with his passengers. He always try his best to accommodate his passengers demands and had a clean driving record. Unfortunately, this morning, he had an encounter with a violent passenger that resulted in a tragic lose of a life – not his nor his passenger but a innocent third party’s life.

This is what actually happened on that fateful morning, as he related to me over the phone a short while ago.

At around 5am this morning, Ah Lam picked up this 30-something China national at Still Road to the Budget Terminal at Singapore Changi Airport. He looked like an ordinary guy on his way home to China after slotting his life here. He talked happily about his work experience here and was looking forward to his impending holiday back home.

He sat beside Ah Lam and did not smelt of liquor. He was a perfect passenger until they were about a kilometer to the airport. He suddenly became “crazy” and accused Ah Lam of “stealing” his things. Though Ah Lam explained to him politely that was impossible as they were always side by side the whole trip, he turned violent and punched Ah Lam a few times at his neck and left ear. Ah Lam was terrified and activated his “emergency button” inside the taxi before stopping and getting out of his taxi just outside the SATS In-flight Catering Center 1. This China guy got out of the taxi too and confronted Ah Lam to return the “stolen” stuffs. Not happy with Ah Lam’s denial, he kicked him at his groin and Ah Lam fell to the ground. He wanted to continue his attacks but was stopped immediately by a few airport workers who were at the scence. Luckily for Ah Lam, those workers were there waiting for transport to bring them home after their night shift. Without their intervention, Ah Lam could have been grievously hurt.

Like a person possessed by “spirit”, the China national shockingly hijacked the taxi and speed away towards the airport terminal. Ah Lam was left on the ground, stunned and speechless. He deeply regretted that he forgot to remove the taxi ignition key when he abandoned his taxi. He was probably dazed from the assaulted to his head and did not have the presence of mind to do that sensible thing. I must remember never to leave my cab without my ignition key. It could save a life.!

It was reported in all the major news media that shortly after driving off the taxi towards the direction of the airport terminal, the Chinese national hit a cleaner on duty along the driveway and killed him instantly. He also crashed the taxi into the glass slide door next to the fast food restaurant “McDonald” and damaged a traffic light. The taxi is a big, 2,300cc Hyandai Sonota, with automatic transmission and it’s not easy to handle, especially for someone who had never driven an automatic transmission car.

Police have arrested the Chinese national, who was detained by passerby as he tried to run away after the accident. He will probably be charged with manslaughter and spent many years behind bar. The dead man is Mr. Chandra Mogan, a Malaysian, living in Johor with a wife and 4 small children aged between 3 months and 10 years old.  Sigh..sigh…My deepest condolences to this poor, poor  family. I pray the family would get some compensation from the company he worked for.

As for my buddy, Ah Lam. He suffered some minor injuries and was given out-patient treatment at Changi Hospital. At the moment, he has nothing to worry but must be prepared for many visits to the various police stations and his company to assist in their investigation into the incident. He must also attend court hearings and trials at later dates. He had to do all these at his own expenses, without reimbursements, whatsoever. He’ll gets nothing in return for all his “troubles”, except a pleasant thought that he’s still alive today. This is the reality of a taxi driver’s job.

As cabby, we either take the frequent complaints, harassments, insults, abuses and perils of the job in our stride, or quit to become security guards or cleaners. At our advance age, it’s extremely difficult to find another suitable job in Singapore, especially when our floodgate is wide open for cheap foreign workers to compete with us in all sectors of our economy, except vocational taxi driving. But for how long will the protection of this vocation continue, nobody knows. Sooner or later, indigenous Singapore taxi drivers will end up like bus drivers, their job taken over by foreigners. So, in the meantime, we should be grateful that we still have a job, albeit “precarious and stressful”.

The badly damaged taxi at the airport terminal.

A ChannelNewsAsia video link. (Here)

P/S :
1. This afternoon, Channel News Asia reported that the China national has been charged with voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery and will probably be sentenced to between 5 to 20 years and with at least 12 strokes of the cane. The charges were read out to the suspect this morning at his hospital bed. He is lucky to escape a manslaughter charge with entail a life imprisonment.
2. For visitors who want to help the victim’s family, please follow this Link (Here)

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A Moderate Muslim

A Moderate Muslim

Young Mr. Othman Wok  at right of LKY

“Boon Tong Kee”‘s chicken rice is famous in Singapore but I’ve never had it till last night at River Valley Road. A chicken drum stick, bowl of rice, cup of barely water and a small pack of moist tissue paper costed me $11. Wow!! It was the most expensive chicken rice I ever had but their chilli sauce was delicious. The same set would cost about $5 at a typical hawker stall elsewhere, without the frills. Well, this post is not about food but about a Muslim family I picked just outside the shop where I had my meal.

The couple, with a stroller and a four years child was flagging desperately at passing cabs but none stop for them. I understood why no cab would pick them because it was about 10 minutes before midnight and the spot was outside CBD, without the “extra” $3 surcharge. A few minutes more, the midnight surcharge of 50% more on the meter fare would also kicked in. Sensing their desperation for a cab, I approached them to offer my cab, though I was mid-way through my after-meal puff. They were absolutely delighted and we set off to West Coast Road.

The man was a conversationalist and sat beside me. Soon he asked what was my meal. I told him that I had the most expensive and famous chicken rice in town. In the same breath, I asked him whether he had taken that dish before and he replied that he cannot take non-halal food as he’s a Muslim. But a moment later, the man whispered into my ear to reveal a shocking fact that he something do venture into the “forbidden foods” and prefer “ah kuah” (transsexuals). His wife was resting with closed eyes at the back. He had been in Singapore for the last 5 years running his own business.

Now what was interesting about this guy was that he mentioned that he was originally from Turkey. I know that Turkey is a Muslim country so right away the idea that a Muslim man with “sinful indulgence” struck me as fascinating. I had already gained his confidence by my “kind” offer of my cab earlier, so we could speak frankly. And we did.

He told me that he was, in fact, a Muslim, but (obviously) a moderate one. And this led to a discussion of which Muslim countries in the world would tolerate the presence of transsexuals. He said only in his own country, Lebanon, and Indonesia could such a thing be found. Morocco, he said, was liberal but not that liberal. Everywhere else – Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc, etc – forget about it. He went on to say that Turkey was by far the most moderate Muslim country in the world and that is why it is one of America’s most important allies. An interesting thought.

With so much attention in the news these days about fanatical Muslims it was encouraging to me to meet someone who can consider himself to be of that religion but not feel compelled by it. Obviously this was a person who thinks for himself. In his own way, a breath of fresh air, in my opinion.

His last words to me was “I love my religion and would die for It”. He is a good Muslim, albeit a moderate one and has my highest respect.

Can’t Get A Cab?

Can’t Get A Cab!

Yesterday, the obsequious Straits Time published an interesting article on the difficulties of getting a cab in Singapore. They offered 4 reasons why you couldn’t get a cab when you need one and also offered dubious solutions to solve the problems. I would like to give my take from a cabby’s perspective.
From the onset, I would like to say that as a cabby, “I’ll do the impossible at once but miracle takes a bit longer” and at the same time, I wonder why our brilliant, million dollar Transport Minister is not able to solve all the problems, since he is a crop of the PAP’s best mind.

Now, lets get back to the Straits Times article. It says: 

1. Vehicle available but driver may not be.

The Problem:

Have to wait 15 minutes for a cab during peak hours, Sunday morning (no peak hour) also have to wait. Not enough cab, lah!. Want more cabs on the road!!.
The Reason:
Present fleet of 27,000 taxis are under-utilised. 30% of taxis are single shift driver and some drivers stop driving once they hit their take home target income. While others use their taxi as their personal car. So, not all taxis are on the road every minute!.
The Solution:
Get all the 27,000 taxis on the road all the time. If not all, at least more! LTA is thinking of mandating that every taxi must clock a minimum mileage a day and each company must have a certain percentage of its fleet on the road every day!

My Take:

Conversely, get everyone to be on the road and take taxi all the time. If not all, at least more!. Impossible, right?. Why?. Because not everyone needs to commute all the time. Similarly, not all taxi drivers want to ply the road all the time. They naturally “rush-around” the road when human traffic is heavy during peak hours and “go slow” when human traffic thinned.

By the way, on a normal 12 hours night shift, my busy time is only between 5pm to 10pm (4 hours). After this peak period, there are more tigers (taxis) than wild boars (passengers) and I had to compete with my “taxi buddies” to nap them or cruise around empty, searching for passengers. Very often, I had to queue at taxi ranks or airport for long period, waiting for the few passengers available. My “profitable” period is, therefore, only 33% of a normal 12 hours shift. Who can help me when passengers are scare and I could not cover my fuel and rental for the day or make only $50 for a tedious 10 hours work?.

When LTA says they want to compel taxi driver to clock a minimum mileage, they must be “talking cock”. Can they effectively enforce their mandate or is it the right thing to do?. NEA do not compel a hawker stall to stay open when there are no customers around. NEA also do not insists that a percentage of a canteen stalls must be open every day. Don’t forget that Singapore is a capitalist mixed economy with an open business environment and free market. Unless, the government takes over the running of the taxi business, they will find it extremely difficult to regulate independent business operators like taxi drivers or hawkers.

Now, if we’re willing to queue at a popular hawker stall during lunch hours for the food we like, what’s the fuss about waiting 15 minutes for a cab during peak hour?. If you don’t like waiting, go over to the next stall for the food you dislike. Likewise, take the MRT or bus or better, drive your own car.

Don’t want to wait for taxis? Simple!. You can privately arrange with a taxi driver to pick you up at certain time and place and pay him handsomely, like $50 per trip. You’ll have a private chauffeur at your disposal. 

 

2.  Cabbies earn more from call booking.

The Problem:
Why cabbies don’t stop but cruise around to wait for a call booking. Also they disappear before surcharge hours and gather at lucrative locations.

The Reason:

Taxi can’t stop at certain designated roads inside CBD or near a bus stop as mandated by LTA. It’s natural for taxi drivers to try and maximise their earning through booking fees and surcharges. They are discouraged from picking passengers with no surcharges. All these is because of the present fare structure.

The Solution:

Dismantle all surcharges and implement a high flag down fee instead. Taxi fare should be raised to a point where people can get a cab without difficulty.

My Take:

Don’t raise taxi fare any more. Half of taxi commuters will be gone if fares are increased further and I’ll be jobless. Instead, expand the CBD zone to cover a much wider area. Many complaints of difficulties in getting a cab are those commuters at the fringes of CBD which has no $3 surcharge. Relocating the EPR gantries is costly. Instead, install sign boards stating the applicable $3 surcharges at taxi stands at fringe of CBD, like those at the EXPO at Changi South. Also, install “Start of Taxi Surcharge” at main roads leading to the expanded CBD., like start of North Bridge Road, Jalan Besar, Newton Road, Orchard Road, Beach Road, etc……Many hotel guests within the expanded zone would be greatly relieved. 

3. Narrow window for handover.

The Problem:

It’s very hard to hail a taxi around 4pm to 5pm because taxi drivers are changing shift.

The Reason:
An estimated 70% of cabs have two drivers a day, each working 12 hours per shift and splitting the rental50/50. They normally change shift between 4pm to 5pm or at mutually agreed time between the drivers.

The Solution:

1. Stagger the timing to change shift
2. Taxi company to co-ordinate the shift change time.
3. Impose a surcharge between 4pm to 6pm to get more drivers to work at this time.
4. Change shift only after 24 hours.
5. Encourage driver to change shift in CBD.

My Take.

Again, above are all unworkable solutions, simply because taxi drivers are independent operators, not like factories workers who can be easily regulated. Drivers change shift based on mutually agreed timing and nobody can regulate that. So, taxi commuters should be made aware of this arrangement and avoid taking a cab at the changing shift hours. Nobody can stop the horrible jam at the Woodland causeway except avoiding it. If you still want a cab and not willing to wait, call your private taxi chauffeur!.

4. Calls go through but no taxis in the areas.

The Problem:
No cabs available for booking after a successful phone call.

The Reason:
Drivers are simply not in the area! In the morning, drivers transport passengers from the heartland to the city or industrial estates and continue to search for fares around these vicinities. So, in the heartland, cabs become scare. Some drivers are apprehensive of taking call booking because they sometime have their call booking cancelled or “No-Show” (no passenger) upon reaching the destination or passengers making multiple bookings, resulting in several taxis arriving at the same location.

The Solution:
The Government intends to tighten service standards for taxi call booking during peak hours from Oct. 1. Taxi drivers must accept 92% of all call bookings and must arrives punctually at destinations.

My Take:
Aiyoh! , these are the typical thinking of those highly paid top civil servants at Government ministries.They implement policies at the top pyramid of their office without a feel of the ground. My company cannot compel me to accept call bookings. At present, if I reject 3 offers of call booking, I’m suspended for 1 hour of call booking offers. After the 1 hour of suspension, my system gets back to normal. If they extend the suspension to 10 hours, it’s fine with me because I don’t depend on call booking for my “extra” income. If my taxi buddies does the same like me, there will be fewer taxis available for call booking. So, who can regulate an independent operator in business effectively?. None.!

Basically, taxi drivers are not beholden to their company. If I don’t lease my cab from SMRT, I can always lease from Comfort or Transcab or five other taxi operators. As a business enterprise, taxi operators do all they can to get as many taxis leased-out as possible to collect rentals instead of having them in their garages as dead assets, incurring taxes. As long as rentals are collected, they don’t care about demand in ridership, mileage clocked by each taxi nor how the taxi drivers survive. This is the reality of of Singapore’s taxi industry today.

Maybe, Mr. Tan Kin Leng’s interactive bidding system might work. (Here) It matches demand and taxi supply with “real time” booking fees. If a customer needs a cab urgently, he can offers a higher booking fee than the fixed fee, like the COE bidding system. In our society, you cannot expect to have the cake and eat it. 

The best solution to all taxi woes is to get a taxi driver as your taxi chauffeur.

Good Morning, Sir. I’m your taxi chauffeur!

Politics In My Cab

Politics in My Cab

 

“Our Model Worker. He’ll works till his last breath & leaves his CPF to his children “ “Good.
Well done!!”.!

The most interesting thing that happened last night was my encounter with an old scruffy and impecunious Chinese man I picked up in Chinatown. The interesting part was his endless rhetoric about this government and got me to start “Politics In My Cab”.

As a preface to my label of “Politics in My Cab”, I would say that passengers seldom initiate nor engage the driver in feverish exchanges about social and political issues of the day. It’s usually the taxi drivers who has a tendency to air their grouses to their passengers, treating them like ombudsman. And often they dispense unsolicited political opinions like seasoned politicians. I dare say that taxi drivers rhetoric are usually from “hear-say” and perpetually anti-PAP. I know because I’ve many taxi buddies and I take cab too.

Am I like one of them who obstinately take a single stand of “anti” everything and a cantankerous? Yes and No!. Yes, I’ll become polemical when tourists attribute Singapore’s achievement solely to LKY’s contributions and No, when the same tourist attacks the negative mindset of Singapore’s workforce. What I’m trying to say is that Singapore’s success is not due solely to a single person, but also to a small team of equally intelligent and dedicated men, like Dr. Toh Chin Chye, Goh Keng Swee, etc. More importantly, the early hard working people of Singapore were the fuel that drove the engine of success, not the engineers alone. But the enterprising and “dare-to-do”spirit of the yesterday workforce is now replaced by the “kia-see“(fear of dying) and “kiasu” (fair of losing) of today’s pathetic workers, who relish in their comfort zone. The latter represents about 60% of the people of Singapore. One day, they might become “kai-see” (deserve to die) and “kai-su” (deserve to loss).

Now, coming back to the old man I picked at Chinatown. Though he was shabby dressed in un-ironed shirt and pant, he has an intellectual look, with thick rim spectacle and neatly combed dark hair, like Mr Chai Thye Poh (Here) and “Here” .

This is his dialogue with me.

He started off by saying loudly,

“I hate LKY and his PAP”

“Why?”

“I hate LKY because of his cruel acts when he became the PM of Singapore in the early sixties. He was like an elected “dictator”, who incarcerated all his political opponents into jails for decades, claiming they were all violent communist revolutionary and a threat to national security”.

“The end justifies the means, Right?. 

“Right my foot!. Till today, this government had not come out with any proof whatsoever to confirm beyond any reasonable doubts that those detained under the obnoxious ISA were truthfully communist revolutionary. They were never put on trail. The opacity of the detention haunt the public till this day.”

“They were nipped in the buds before they could blossom, Right”?

Right. They were a threat to LKY’s ambitions as PM then. Like dictators the world over, LKY “killed” them off to protect his rule and his subsequent “dynasty”.

“No, what LKY did was for the good of Singapore. Right?

“Shit! You still don’t get me. If LKY had allowed his opponents to survive and flourish then, he would not have been a PM for 30 years. He would not have a free hand to rule Singapore like a dictator. The only difference between him and President Marcos, is that he did not stashed his money in Europe, which is something he could easily do. His son would not be PM today and his daughter-in-law, a CEO in Temasek”.
He would probably be a retired Senior Queen’s Council”.

“But, without him, Singapore would have been be a poorer place, Right?’

“Maybe. Nobody knows. We can only conjecture”.

“Now, what you don’t like about PAP?

“There are so many things I hate about PAP. Basically, you’ve to “Pay And Pay” until you drop dead. Even when you’re dead, you (your surviving relatives, actually) had to pay the mortuary before they can collect your dead body. They give you something with a right hand and take it back with the left hand. Another thing I hate about PAP is………..”

“Hey! we’re at your drop off point”.

P.S. The changing fortunes of LKY (Here)
And (Here) Awesome!!

Humor – Man & Animals

Humor – Man & Animals

I got this amusing story from http://www.TaxiUncle.com (Here) and I hope you find it amusing too.

“God created the donkey and said to him, “You will work unceasingly from sunrise to sunset, carrying burdens on your back. You will eat grass, you will have no intelligence and you will live 50 years. You will be a donkey. ”
The donkey answered: ” I will be a donkey, but to live 50 years is too much. Give me only 20 years.”
God granted his wish.

Then, God created the dog and tell him, “You will be a dog. “You will guard the house of man. You will be his best friend. You will eat the scraps that he gives you and you will live 25 years. You will be a dog. ”
The dog answered, “Sir, to live 25 years is too much, please give me only 10 years.”
God granted his wish.

Later on, God created the monkey and said to him, “You will be a monkey. You will swing from branch to branch doing tricks. You will be amusing and you will live 20 years. You will be a monkey.”
The monkey answered, ” Sir, to live 20 years is too much, please give me only 10 years.”
God granted his wish.

Finally, God created the man and said to him, “You will be a man, the only rational creature on the face of the earth. You will use your intelligence to become master over all animals. You will dominate the world and you will live 20 years.”

Man responded, unsatisfied, “Sir, I will be a man but to live only 20 years is very little, give the 30 years that the donkey refused, the 15 years that the dog did not want, and the 10 years the monkey refused.”
God granted his wish.

And since then, man lives 20 years as a man, he marries and then spend the next 30 years like a donkey, working and carrying all the burdens on his back.

Later, when his children are away, he lives 15 years like a dog, taking care of the house and eating whatever is given to him.

And when he is old and retired, he lives 10 years like a monkey, going from house to house, from one son or daughter to another, doing tricks to amuse his grandchildren.

gosh…

A Job at Sentosa Clove

A Job at Sentosa Clove

See, But No Touch!!

Tuesday nights are always slow night for cabbies with few customers. I decided to head up to RWS’s casino (Resort World Sentosa), to queue for an assured passenger with a $3 surcharge, instead of cruising around with only a slim hope for a fare.

On the way, a booking came in to pick someone at the exclusive Sentosa Clove. My system displayed “Mrs.Susan L……” as the customer and immediately images of the infamous Dr. Susan Lim’s bungalow flashed through my mind. For the benefit of my overseas reader, Dr. Susan Lim recently sold her bungalow at Sentosa Clove for $39 million, making a handsome profit in the millions. She also has the dubious distinction for charging the Sultan of Brunei an exorbitant $12 million for treating his dying relative. Undoubtedly, she is a smart doctor with great surgical business skills. I’m sure many officers in the upper echelon of our government held her in awe and admiration, as they would consider their million dollar salary meager in comparison with her’s. Not me.

Anyway, when I pulled into the slopping driveway of the huge mansion at the given address, I parked behind a sport car just sitting there. Shortly, a middle aged white woman stepped out of the main door. She paused, snapped her fingers, turned around and went back in. This by itself was nothing out of the ordinary, what was strange was how this lady was dressed.

This lady was wearing nothing but a tank top that was practically see through and a thong – a strip of fabric passing between her thighs and attached to a band around the waist, exposing her buttocks!. About 30 seconds later, she reappeared with a set of keys and went to the door of the sport car parked in front of me. She opened the door, pressed a button and the trunk of the sport car popped open.

So there I was sitting behind this open trunk of the sport car, knowing that this lady wearing next to nothing is going to have to bend over to get something out of the trunk of the car. With my jaw dropping to my steering and eyes popping out like goldfish, I did the only respectable thing. I reversed my cab a bit and put my high beams on so she could see what she was looking for!

She threw me a smile, bent over and rummaged around in the trunk of the car, pausing only long enough to see if I was checking her out. There she was in all her glory, bent at the hips, her buttery nether regions fully exposed for the whole world to see and she was totally fine with it.

She retrieved her purse, pulled a $50 from it and shuffled to my window. As she passed the $50 to the maid, she smiled and said to me in a breath reeked with alcohol, “Send them to…….. Goodwoood Park.  If you want to see more you can always come back after your shift is done”

I was pleasantly surprised at her sexual shenanigans and graciously reciprocated her facetious offer with a broad smile. I’m physically and financially not ready for a rendezvous with her at my age.

A second later, a Filippino maid and a very young white girl got into the back of my cab and we drove off. As we pulled out of the driveway, she stood at the back of her sport car and lifted her nearly see through tank top to expose her ample set of boobs! She must be crazy, intoxicated or bellowing for attention.

Unfortunately, to an old man like me, the images of her physical assets were like a flash in my memory, gone in a second. But, this booking job at Sentosa Clove is embedded in my memory forever.

A Fellow Blogger

A Fellow Blogger

The “Real” Ron & Monette

Wednesday night is Ladies Night, a night for ladies to enjoy free entry and/or drinks at popular clubs, bars, discos and pubs in Singapore. Gentlemen are welcome too but no freebies.

It was a good night for cabbies with lots of customers, especially after midnight. But, I wasn’t lucky to take part in trolling the large school of “fish”. Last night, I had to call it off early due to an early medical appointment the next day. I made only five trips with just enough fare collection to cover taxi rental and fuel. But I was rewarded with an interesting encounter with my same kind – a blogger and I would like to share a bit about him with you.

He boarded my cab outside Ziok – a popular disco in town. Instantly, I knew hew was a conversationalist from his friendly demeanour, especially his broad SMILE and this is what he told me about himself on our way to Woodlands. It was an unforgettable trip for me.

His name is Ron, born in Hawaii  31 years ago with Filippino ancestry. His father works New York, mother lives in Hawaii and sister study in Philippine. His last residency was in Canada where he worked as an insurance investigator before he left for Singapore two years ago. In Singapore, he works as a male nurse attached to an ambulance with Singapore Civil Defence Force. He will become an accredited doctor – a pathologist – after his internship with SCDF.  I was impressed and wished him the best of luck.

More interestingly, I learnt that he has a travel blog with a female partner (Here)http://www.fliptravels.com. I revealed mine and we agreed to visit each other’s blog asap.

This real life story might seems trivial but it has a moral lesson in it. I won’t know about Ron if not for his broad SMILE. That simple smile breaks down the barricades that separates strangers from friends.

“A SMILE costs nothing, but gives much. It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it, and none is so poor but that he can be made rich by it. A smile creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in business, and is the countersign of friendship. It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and is nature’s best antidote for trouble. Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no until it’s given away.

So, SMILE more as you journey through life.

A Video of Ron & Monette

The “Fake” Ron & Monette

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