Taxiing to takeoff

Late tonight I’ve got a flight from Singapore to London, and because everyone knows it’s not good to mix alcohol with air travel, I started drinking about 3pm.

This was partly to recover my wits, after one of those terrifying Singaporean taxi rides, the kind where your driver seems too angry to remember how to drive. I’m not quite sure what set Taxi Uncle off. It may have been asking to go to Sampan Lane, which made him identify us as Americans, using our slang. I didn’t know that “sampan” was some sort of North American neologism, and even if it was, that was still the address we wanted to go to. It wasn’t as if we had demanded a ride to Racial Epithet Town.

When my wife had tried to pacify him by explaining she was Canadian, he got onto the favourite topic of everyone we meet: how much were we paying for our flat. I think this is because we’re expatriates and by law have to be paid a sum so high your ears would bleed just thinking about it. Well, a law that the taxi drivers have imagined. When we moved to Singapore, we looked for somewhere cheap to live, and although the taxi driver scolded us for living in the centre of town, when we could pay just $700 elsewhere, it wasn’t clear where we’d live, or if $700 would pay for more than a makeshift awning on somebody’s balcony. Singapore isn’t exactly renowned for cheap living space.

Finally, he drove us as fast as he could around the expressway, and almost into the back of a traffic jam as fast as he could, which enraged him further (why can’t customers want to go somewhere convenient for their drivers?) although his fury was intense enough to rob him of the power of speech. All he could manage for the rest of the journey was a series of crumpled grunts and mutters, while my wife held my hand in a white knuckled grip. As we arrived at our friends’ place, we were half out of our minds with fear.

Luckily, we had beer.

Unluckily, we only had two bottles of delicious Hitachino Nest (one wheat, one sweet stout) which meant after a short time we started on the Wychwood Ginger Beer, which was utterly disgusting. I like ginger, I like beer, and Hitachino have brewed a delicious ginger beer that tastes like liquid crystallised ginger, so it’s clearly possible to combine the two. Wychwood’s attempt is just a gassy, oversweet mess that we couldn’t finish, even when we were already alcoholically lubricated.

So, half cut, we left our friends’ place, after playing with their dog, playing several games of Blokus (without getting in an abject rage) and a few hands of Cards Against Humanity. Our taxi driver on the way home was a cheerful fella, and so I felt calm and relaxed, until it was time to bid my wife farewell for a week and have a man with a trembly foot take me out to Changi to catch my flight.

It’s over a year since I was last in London and I don’t really understand what it’s like. I have a feeling I’ll need to take a London taxi at some point and that may prove an interesting contrast to the Asian adventures we’ve had today.

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