Early morning runs and the hypocrisy of taxi drivers

Instead of going to bed on time, I stayed up late watching rubbish on the internet, which meant when the alarm went at 6:30 I snoozed it, and struggled to be out of the door before 7:30. Still, I got a taxi easily enough and got to MacRitchie Reservoir super quick, and super cheaply: usually I seem to get charged 12 or 15 dollars, whereas this time it was only 8.

Today my plan was to take things steady: instead of overcooking it at the start and dying later on, I’d try to stick to five minute kilometres throughout. This can be a hard discipline to stick to at MacRitchie, with all those rolling hills that encourage you to go out too fast.

I closed in on a guy I’d seen in the car park at about two k, and as I got in range to pass him he suddenly sped up. In past times I’d have tried to take him, but I focussed on going steady, and at the three k mark he turned off and headed back to the start on the 5k loop, so it would have been a futile waste of my energy to chase him down.

I chugged on, and although I faltered at the climb away from the golf course, I only lost half a minute there and about fifteen seconds on the next kilometre: in the end, I was just three seconds off my personal best, which had been set in better conditions (cooler weather, a less crowded trail, more sleep). Getting consistent through each kilometre is probably a better way of improving than just trying to go as fast as possible down some of the hills to make up for slow patches elsewhere.

Afterwards, I walked down to the cafe, had a banana and then started out on my walk to the nearest MRT station. But then I saw a taxi idling in the car park, and figured I might as well get home a bit quicker in order to see wife and child.

It was a red taxi; I seem to have issues with red taxis. Two days ago one went straight through a red light in front of me; as soon as I got in this one he told me he was only taking cash, not cards, which wasn’t a major issue as I had about fifteen dollars left, but it was the wrong foot to get off on. It started to get worse when he didn’t seem to have heard of Chinatown. Still, I was happy to have got a taxi, rather than endure an hour’s bus ride home.

I began to notice that he was taking a very circuitous route back to Chinatown. As in, miles out of the way. He muttered something about how greedy the government was and I made a non-committal noise, when I should have mentioned something about the greed of taking a needlessly long route to rack up the fare.

We stopped at some roadworks. The traffic was directed from three lanes down to one; two thirds of the road had fresh tarmac laid on it, with a roller being prepped to flatten everything into place. A workman, swathed in clothes to protect from the sun, was pointing the way for cars to drive on the part of the road that hadn’t just been resurfaced.

So my taxi driver swerved right and went straight over the new tarmac at speed, producing a terrible racket as he sprayed chips of gravel at the workers and the underside of the taxi. (I guess he wasn’t much concerned about the latter, because there aren’t many Chinese guys in Singapore called Mohammed, unless this guy was wearing a special disguise to ensure he didn’t resemble the photo on the windshield of the licensed driver.)

Then, and only then, he started on a harangue about how there were too many roadworks in Singapore. If you’re going to protest the roadworks, I don’t think the right approach is a one-man drive through gravel spray of the poor sods slaving in the sun. But this was swiftly followed by a lament that life is hard for taxi drivers, banned from certain roads (the one he indicated, the quicker route home, was filled with taxis, which demonstrates great chutzpah – or poor vision – on his part) and then a complaint against foreigners.

Firstly, those Indians and Chinese, coming over and driving taxis when they don’t know where things are or how to drive properly. (I guess it takes years of experience to drive the wrong way through a freshly-surfaced road, or to double the length of the drive from MacRitchie to Chinatown.)

Then the European who did a magic trick and conned him out of a fifty dollar bill for a fare. I’m not defending David Copperfield or Siegfried And Roy, but your job as a taxi driver is partly to pay attention to the cash, and if you’re letting fifty dollar bills vanish to some European’s prestidigitation, maybe your other observational skills aren’t up to snuff either.

As usual, I don’t protest while in the taxi; it’s all very well to try to have a reasonable exchange of views with a bigot with a chip on his shoulder, but not while he’s in control of the ton of steel you’re travelling in.

So I waited until he let me out in Chinatown, and gave him a dollar as a tip, because that’s what we overly-deferential British types do.

I suppose I had some sort of revenge by leaving a seat soaked in MacRitchie sweat when I got out of the vehicle, but that was going to be a hardship for the next passenger, not the driver, unless he drives from the backseat occasionally. Oh, how this cycle of suffering and vebom must continue…

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