IT is a lazy Sunday afternoon. While browsing, i acme across this blog. Wow! A taxi driver with a PhD. I began reading his entries. Cool. But what really caught my attention is this. Well, being Filipino, this makes me proud. I wish would be able to ride his cab.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
April 30, 2009. Thursday: For sentimental reasons
As usual, after the evening peak hours ended at 8pm, commuters who had shunned away from taking taxis in the past three hours because of the 35% surcharge started to flock at various taxi stands in the central areas. Today, this temporary surge in demand for taxis seemed to be particularly palpable, maybe because it was a holiday eve.
I drove by the Outram Park MRT station shortly after 8 and saw a very long queue, at least 20 or so people, waiting at the taxi stand. I knew they would have to wait there for quite a while, since that was probably the least favored place for most taxi drivers to pick up passengers at this time of the day.
I, however, stopped at the head of the queue without a second thought.
A young Asian man boarded my taxi and told me to go to the airport. “Please take the quickest way, uncle.” He said. “I am really, really late.” Though he was trying his best to look calm and collected, his voice was tense, anxious, weary, and relieved, all at once.
He was dressed neatly, in what could be referred to as “smart casual”: A short sleeved shirt and a pair of cotton trousers. He carried with him a midsized suitcase which he had graciously declined to put in the trunk. Overall, he projected an aura of maturity and composure, although I was certain that he was no older than 30.
“What time is your flight?” I asked, as I was driving towards ECP.
“Nine o’clock. Do you think we can make it? It’s ten past eight now.” The anxiety in his tone was easily detectable.
“Should be able to, if there is no jam on the highway.” I answered, knowing that it didn’t help him very much.
He then told me that he was from Philippines and was on his way flying back to Manila. He said he had waited at the taxi stand for more than half an hour. “I saw many taxis passing by and all of them carried no passengers. Why they don’t want to stop for us?” He asked, apparently more out of annoyance than curiosity.
“It is because that taxi stand is too close to CBD, the Central Business District.” I answered as matter-of-factly as I could. “They drive five more seconds, they will be inside CBD, where they will get extra three dollars, as the CBD surcharge, from the passengers.”
“It’s very nice of you, uncle, to stop there.” He said gratefully. I could tell.
We soon found out, however, that our wish for a smooth ride on the highway was too far-fetched. Soon after we got on ECP from the Keppel road, the traffic started to halt. In five minutes, we moved a distance that was shorter than if we had walked. No, shorter than if we had crawled.
The situation, as grave as it looked, was pushing the young man to the edge.
“How long you think this jam will last, uncle?” He asked, agitatedly.
Just then, I saw the electronic message board. The digital letters spelt, “MASSIVE JAM TILL MARINE PARADE”. And he saw that, too.
“Marine Parade is too far away.” I said to him. “This is not gonna work. We need to change plan.”
I told him that our only hope would be to take KPE, which was not far ahead, and get to the airport by PIE, provided there is no congestion over there, of course. He said he would leave it to me to decide.
As I moved with much difficulty, and some ungraciousness, to the extreme left lane, I found that the flow of traffic was better there, because some of the cars on this lane were exiting to KPE. It didn’t take us long to reach the entrance of the KPE tunnel.
Luckily, I made a right decision. The traffic on KPE and PIE was indeed much lighter. I drove as fast as I could and arrived at the airport some 20 minutes before nine.
“Thank you, uncle. I owe you.” He said to me as he handed me the fare, after we stopped at the departure hall of T1.
“No, you don’t.” I replied. “And if you really feel thankful, thank your fellow countryman.”
“Okay.” He flickered a glance of confusion at me. But he had no time, and no mood, to fancy my riddle. He took his suitcase and rushed into the building.
I was smiling as I drove away. I felt really good, though I didn’t have a chance to tell him the reason that I stopped to pick him up at that taxi stand. It is not because I am particularly a nice guy. I always stop at that taxi stand, whenever I pass by there. It holds a special place in my heart. It is the location where I served my very first customer on my very first day of becoming a taxi driver two months ago. He was very nice to me even after I made a mistake and took a wrong way.
And he happened to be a Filipino, too.