The Talkative Taxi Driver


Many a time, you get a taxi driver in Singapore who chats (or tries to) incessantly with you on any topic under the sun.

I get such drivers often, and almost always I engage in the tit-for-tat conversation on economy, politics, business, and the world in general. One has to be quick to absorb the rather fast ramblings or thoughts coming out of the sharp-witted drivers, otherwise one would miss interesting facts or thoughts ! Once you engage in the conversation, it would continue till you alight at your destination without much of a pause, and you need to be prepared for the same ! Should you wish to be left to your own thoughts and life, then be a bit switched off and morose, and one look at your countenance and the driver would rather quickly conclude that you are not the talkative type.

I am always amazed at the kind of taxi drivers who choose (yes “choose” rather than forced) to drive taxis in Singapore. While they may not be the majority of the taxi drivers on the roads, once in a while one would encounter such folks who are kind of bored in their retired lives and have opted to drive taxis not exactly for monetary purposes but more for utilising their time in a concrete manner rather than whiling away their time.

I have had both kinds of drivers over the years – some who are forced to work for economic reasons and constantly complain about costs of living, and the other type who “choose” to work after retirement. Of course, there are other kinds of drivers who keep to themselves, but they are in minority in my experience.

From the constantly complaining drivers, you could learn a lot about the Singapore economy and the inherent costs of sustenance. One could sometimes be startled at the openness of the taxi drivers – one would expect some kind of “tight” bad mouthing rather than open airing of grievances, especially with foreigners. But then, Singapore has become an open society over the years of good economic growth and is now being challenged to get away from the recent crowning of the “most expensive city in the world” by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Everyone and sundry seem to be knowing about that report, with which the government does not seem to agree.

From the rather “learned” taxi drivers who have an optional engagement with taxi driving for leisure, one could learn how to handle life’s problems and challenges – I recently took a long ride with one such driver who has had a good living and retired couple of years ago, and after some do-nothing life, he chose to drive around people in this city. He was talkative but engaging – he outlined the issues faced by his generation and the totally different issues being faced by today’s Singapore. He had some ideas on how to rein in costs of living. He had unique insights into the way of the foreigners who live here and how the locals constantly push their own limits to survive.

From such engagements, I have become only wiser with a better perspective of life. Of course, there are many other avenues to get wiser, but this is something not to be sniffed at. Taxis are a big part of Singapore life – you just have to see the taxi queues outside almost every major mall or MRT Station, or office complex. Without taxis, this city cannot operate, and taxi drivers have unique life wisdom which they often choose to share with the unknown strangers who travel with them.

Benefit from their insights !

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
23rd March 2014

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