Sunday, July 17, 2011

A tale in a taxi makes me happy

Today on sunday, Sunday, July 17, 2011, Page 11, Column, Speakeasy
Source Website:
Alywin Chew, Assistant sports editor,, 04:45 AM Jul 17, 2011

PHOTO: A tale in a taxi makes me happy
Today on sunday, Sunday, July 17, 2011, Page 11, Column

I love taking taxis.

That may sound like an odd thing to say here in Singapore, considering the amount of rage and exasperation expressed over the matter of cabs. People often complain about how dangerously cabbies drive, how they conveniently disappear before midnight and how utterly uncouth (dreadful) they can be.

Add the fact that it's mostly faster and more economical to use the MRT than travel in a taxi via the heart of our glorious transport system - the CTE, or what I prefer to call the Congested Traffic Expressway.

You probably think I'm mad, which I slightly agree with, but I take taxis because I love a good story.

PHOTO: Seasonal Upper Lake - an archaeological expedition

I'm sure everyone has had their fair share of taxi driver stories, and while one may not think much of it, every cab ride to me is like an archaeological expedition. It's an adventure during which I might fortuitously unearth a rare gem of a story.

All these tales that the drivers share take me to a spatial dimension unfathomable to my caffeine-laced brain. I play out every story in my head like the B-roll of an indie film and I live these parallel lives vicariously, even if it's only for 20 minutes.

All right, perhaps I am mad. But it is kind of emancipating when these encounters make me go: "Wow, geez, there are some weirdos out there!"

I once had a pianist drive me home. Yes, a freaking pianist. He was, allegedly, looking for a new hotel to ply his trade at.

PHOTO: Taxi driver stories

He told me that he started playing the piano when he was little, had performed at important events before and was basically on the verge of certain stardom within the music circle. But cruel fate played him the puppet - he found himself pulling gigs in hotel lounges.

So there he was, playing his heart out to strangers who were more interested in alcoholic foreplay than his tunes. His unrecognised passion was making him sick to the guts but he hung on, and kudos to him.

As I paid the fare, I wished him luck.

Maybe the man was bananas. But his story inevitably led me to think about priorities. Passion or pragmatism? I guess we all need to strike a balance.

PHOTO: A Tale of Two Cities
It was the best of times... Taxi Shelters

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Another notable driver, a middle-aged man full of angst, waited for my wife to alight before launching into a tirade about how all women are evil parasites out to suck men dry of their soul and money.

He hadn't spoken to his own wife in years and he reiterated too many times that the wife must never know my bank account details. "Never open a joint account together! If not you're finished!" were his parting words to me. Thankfully, his prophecy hasn't manifested.

Then there was the driver who believed he was the God of Gamblers. He graciously shared with me the sure-fire equation to use when betting 4D. I don't quite remember what the tips were because I, not being good at math, never did understand what he was rambling about.

But I do remember vividly that he spoke with an arrogance which both amused and annoyed me.

"Young man, let me ask you a question," he said. "What do you find in a library?"

PHOTO: The Unicab EV Could be New York’s Taxi of Tomorrow
by Ariel Schwartz, 06/01/10

I paused. I knew the answer couldn't be as simple as "smoking hot librarians", so I decided to go with a more intangible answer. I reckoned I'd not be modest with a douche like him.

"Knowledge," I replied.

The man went silent and his smugness disappeared. "Wow. You're the first person to get the answer correct," he eventually let on.

He didn't say another word for the rest of the journey. I guess I ruined his show.

The one character I probably will never forget has to be the driver who figured he'd teach me how to impregnate my wife.

PHOTO: The Unicab EV Could be New York’s Taxi of Tomorrow
by Ariel Schwartz, 06/01/10

At the time, I'd chuckled nervously and pretended to be busy with my mobile phone. I understand there's apparently a phone function that allows one to call himself but unfortunately I hadn't learnt that brilliant evasive skill.

With a serious tone, he began his lecture with: "Brother, let me share with you, man to man, nothing to be shy about ..."

He then went on to explain in great detail how I needed to perform "the deed" at the right time of the month, the most ideal position, and how the woman should not clean up thereafter. No kidding, Sherlock.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What amazed me was that he spoke with such conviction, as if it was his calling in life to ensure that every man knew how to propagate the species on our vile, dying planet.

So, what else can I say?

I love taking taxis.
By Alywin Chew, Assistant sports editor,, 04:45 AM Jul 17, 2011