Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In defense of taxi drivers.

I took taxis often and I am generally happy with them. They are in a way your private chauffer that enable you to leave your car at home and sleep through the traffic jam or long boring journey to or from KLIA. Of course I never rode in a Brabus or a Rolls Royce, my standard can’t be much of a benchmark. Still the taxis are to me just fine.

I love to talk to them. What their previous work was, the kind of income they are making and the general chat about family, how many kids or wives and all those nonsense. I always believe that if we treat a person with kindness, talk to them as friends would, the response would be reciprocal. You would be surprised at the information and entertainment quality of these chats. I find it even fair and at times necessary to tip them a little. After all that’s what we do at the hotels and restaurants. After all, in our students days we used to work part times in restaurants and those tips were greatly valued. It was never the amount but the appreciation that matters.

This morning [31.3.09] on radio, three deejays were discussing newspaper report of Malaysian taxi-service. Utusan Malaysia even front-paged ‘Khidmat Teksi Teruk.’ So they exchanged opinion. The lady deejay excitedly related her bad experience over 2-ringgit extra than normal 6-ringgit meter charge, and the gentlemen deejay came with great idea of proposing a GPS based tracking and metering system. He even expounded on, ‘No GPS no taxi!’

The tone of their talk, insinuating that taxi drivers are rotten, manipulative, breed, pissed me off. Granted not all are angels but they deserve some humane respect at the least.

I wanted to call and give them a piece of my mind but I am just not into the talk show thing. So I write.

One. The extra 2-ringgit charge could be due to several factors. In cities, the distance back and forth from two points may not be the same due to actual distance traveled. The road going and back may not be exactly the same. At the current rate of RM2 for the first kilometer and RM1 for subsequent 1.5 kilometer, the variation of RM2 is only for an additional 3 kilometer. With KL road network, that is only the length of getting pass the traffic light and back. The time of the day when there are traffic jam or slow down due to heavy traffic may incur extra time charge. To accuse the cabby for overcharging without giving a full fact and to lash out at the poor soul is simply unfair.

Two. To propose a GPS based metering system is a brilliant idea that can only come from a company out to bring the proposal to the government to make into law. Like the flashing light on speeding buses law. Come on. We already had too much regulation that was ill-thought and benefited only certain well-related companies. Please don’t promote another one because the cost will eventually end up hurting the consumers pocket without improving the system. In Seoul, all the taxis use GPS navigation but from my personal experience, they hardly know how to use them and we still can’t get to where we want to go. I don’t see our cabbies a better lot from them either.

The deejays may be part of the society intellectuals with no time and tolerance for the less fortunate and the bit of chaos and imperfection in the society. But it helps if they could ponder.

Taxi drivers are ordinary Malaysians who largely came from the lower income bracket of the society, from Government pensioners, ex policemen and soldiers; people who lead a proverbial ‘kais pagi makan pagi’ kind of living. They had to work doubly or even three times harder than most of us 8-hours a day workers without any benefit of EPF or SOCSO to bridge them in time of difficulty. The exorbitant daily rentals they had to pay the taxi companies, fuel, services and maintenance takes most of their earning away leaving little for children and family at home. See any rich taxi drivers? My point exactly.

If we, or if the deejays wants so much to champion a cause, like to address the issue of taxi service, try looking into their plight. Try highlighting the few who own hundreds of taxi permits, see how they live and compare with the real taxi drivers life. Do some arithmetic. See how far a taxi driver has to travel daily to just meet the rental. Maybe some intellectual in universities can research their life. And maybe some politicians can start championing their cause.

I can bet the radio deejays will chicken from talking about such subject.

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