07 February 2010

KL taxi driver - a la natural - a contented man

It's pissing down with rain, a real tropical rain storm, buckets of water coming down. It's warm, this is KL (=Kuala Lumpur - Malaysians LOVE TLA's). We are undercover at a petrol station.
People on motorbikes flock to the petrol station to stay dry and wait it out.
A friend and I were on the way to KL Menara, the tall Lookout and TV communications tower overlooking the whole city.

Above: sign in a KL taxi,
kissing not allowed

The traffic is crawling along, its 5pm and rush hour.
I spot an empty cab, and we make a run for it.
The driver is smiles and beckons us in.

The car inside looks old , loved and well used like a favourite pair of shoes.
The driver smiles and nods as we give him the address of the hotel up the road.
We're happy to be out of the rain.

Traffic crawls slowly along, the windows are open and he has a cigarette, one of those nice smelling clover cigarettes.
Sitting back, making conversation, "Driving Taxis is a tough job".
"No, not hard," the driver turns his head and smiles at us.

Uh... what do I say to that ?
I had tried to sympathize and I had  I assumed every taxi driver would feel their job was hard.
"I get to travel round," he adds.
"What time did you start this morning ?"
"Six. I'm going home now, after I drop you two".
"Wow, 12 hours a day"
" I meet my friends for two hours every day for lunch, we chat and talk".
I can really see that he has a close circle of mates who all meet up together. He looks relaxed and happy - a sign of good friendships.
I remember lots of Astoria Taxi drivers in Carlton meeting at Genevie's restaurant at 11am every day. That was in the 1970's.

"Not so much money though," I persisted in pursing that track.
He didn't hear or didn't bother.

We talk about the traffic, how it's got heavy especially in the rain.
There is not frustration in his manner. 

"Your car ?" I ask him. The car looks old, but well cared for.
It does not have the slickness of a depot car. There are little nick-nacks of his everywhere, reminds me of the nick-nack's in my own office.
"Yes, my car." He smiles and nods.
"I've been driving taxis since I was a Bachelor", he tells us.
"Before you were married ?"
He nods.
"How many kids ?"

We pull up  outside the hotel.
The fare is 6.20 Malaysian Ringgit, that's  $2.30 Aussie dollars, it wasn't far.
"I give you a discount make it six Ringgits"
He smiles and and leans back.
No hurry.

I'm stunned.
This is a happy man, a contented man.
I'm used to taxi drivers trying to get every little bit extra.
I'm used to rush rush rush....
This guy is not bothered.
"Make is seven", I hand him a ten Ringgit note.
He just smiles and says something I've forgotten by now.
"Here's my card, if you need to go anywhere you can call."

I've still got his card, his name is: Badrul Hisham 019 245 8678,
yes, if I needed a driver I would call him for sure.
It wasn't a clever marketing act that he did there.
He was just being himself.
A la natural!

I wonder why I assumed that everybody was unhappy in their job or felt underpaid.
Meeting a contended man.. was such a shock.
what happened to social expectations, ambition?
How dare he just be happy where he was ?
How dare he just see the good in his situation and accept it with a smile ?
Wow... A great taxi ride.

Always look on the bright side of life http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1loyjm4SOa0

Taxi drivers the world over are an odd bunch.
Talk about taxi drivers and everyone has a story of how they got ripped off by a taxi driver,  and luckily  there are also a few  stories about how NICE a taxi driver was to them.

this was an actual  story on a recent trip.

...at age 23, I drove taxis for Astoria Taxis in Swanston Street - after my lectures at Melb Uni where I did  a Dip Ed I would walk over and see Mr Gange (the Gange family had 110 taxi licenses)
"you got a car for me Mr Gange ?"
he looked at me over his glasses.
"How long you want it for ?"
"Just tonight, bring it back in the morning."
"Check with Paul."
Mr Gange alwasy wore satin shirts, dark red, smoked like a chimney.
He had style of sorts.

I'd wander over to see crusty old Paul. Paul looked like a war veteran, with bits shot off and missing, scars and a limp.
His outward manner was rough but he was a good bloke.
He "did the cars" for the depot.

"Paul,, you got a car for me ?"
No answer just a quick wave of the hand to the corner where two ancient dilapidated, creaky old Kingswoods stood.
Bench seats, suspension like a see-saw.
This was the rock bottom of the pile.
Fair enough, I was a greenhorn, a young kid doing this part time.
I didn't want fancy cars either.
Small scratches wouldn't matter on these cars.
Its much more relaxing driving a heap. Even if I did break down a sometimes and I needed to radio the depot for a tow home.
Another car would come and get me using a tow rope.
I was a student, it was all part of the adventure.

If you have any good Taxi driver stories... send me an email.

TLA's = Three letter acromyms

'dance me to the children who are asking to be born....'  - Leonard Cohen
"Well done", he said, "it is good to stand against the darkness, yet sometimes we must even stand against the light in order to find our true selves."
              from "Shadows & Illusions  conversations with Master Serapian" Bk3 p37,
Haiko's - blogs -(o)- metaphysics  -(o)- travel -(o)- stories -(o)- travel-tips
 One often meets one's destiny while trying to avoid it. - Anon.

comments from readers

My most interesting taxi story is about a taxi I caught from La Guardia Airport in NY when I was attending Cornell U.. We had a good conversation and I think he had some connection to Colombia. I was returning from Colombia. A year or two later I came into La Guardia (now JFK?) and caught a taxi. Conversation developed and it turned out to be the same taxi I had caught before. He remembered me and I him, after we started talking about Colombia. I don´t know the odds of that happening, but JFK is one of the biggest, if not THE, airports in the world.  by JA

Aswan, Egypt, Tombs of the Nobles