Saturday, June 6, 2009

Malaysian Cabbies: Part 1



As someone who depends on public transportation to get around, I have taken my fair share of cabs. And let me tell you that getting into a cab in this country and particularly in KL as this is where most of my experiences have occurred, is sort of a gamble because you literally don't know what you're getting into. Ok let me elaborate, after a decade of hopping in and out of cabs, I have narrowed the 9 different types of cab drivers one might encounter when taking a cab. To be fair to the nice cabbies who are out there to make an honest living, I shall start of with the positive stereotypes first.

1. 'The nice uncle'
Usually Malay or Chinese who are very fatherly (sometimes they speak of their kids, but since they are nice I don't quite mind the chatter). Even if they are not familiar with the place you want to go to, they will make a genuine effort to find it without loosing their temper and being rude or charging extra fair. As you get off they say 'thank you' and urge you to take care of yourself as KL is such a dangerous place.

2. 'The professional'
Either young adults or those in their forties who speak good English and are polite. These people sometimes have day jobs or have quit some other white-collar occupation to drive cabs. They don't engage you in conversation except to ask details on how to get to your destination and they do not overcharge you.

3. 'The non-stop talker'
Aiyooh these types though harmless enough are a veritable pain in the butt! On and on they would go about some issue they are obviously dissatisfied with. Usually its about politics, how they hate some ministers, how unfair seat allocations is in local universities, sometimes its about passengers they have taken. Although I am no talker myself, I don't mind cab drivers airing their grouses somewhat, but seriously when you go on and one ranting non-stop throughout the whole journey, it literally makes me want to jump out of the window! These lot on the whole are either super disgruntled or total arm-chair critics lah.

4. 'The racist/cultural idiot'
What amazes me is that these type of cabbies are actually oblivious to the fact that they are being racist, seeing it instead as being friendly. In one incident in particular that occured in Johor Baharu several years ago, a Chinese cabbie greeted me as Meenachi as soon as I got into his cab, It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that Meenachi was the name of a Hindu goddess and not a name that you just called any Indian girl when you do not know her real name. But well I decided to let it pass. But the fellow did not stop there, he started to talk to me in Malay and kept imitating how Indians talk. He also kept shaking his head like a broken doll and injecting what he thought was Tamil words into the conversation. I decided that enough was enough and asked why he was shaking his head in that manner because it looked quite ridiculous. Appearing utterly baffled by the fact that I was pissed off, he said:"Uh tapi orang India selalu cakap macam ini apa....uh jangan marah adik." Well at this point I was beyond pissed off, so gave him a piece of my mind. In short I told him that he was very, very rude to speak to a passenger in that manner and that his whole conduct reeked of racism despite his apparent friendliness. He kept apologising profusely but well the damage had already been done.

5. 'The gatal one'
These types will usually tell you how pretty you are, will want to know if you're of mixed blood, how old you are, are you married or have a boyfriend, what you would look for in a boyfriend or future life partner. Once on a workday morning a couple of years ago when I was a court reporter, I hailed a cab to go to the Bangsar LRT, as I was getting off, the cabby asked me where I was off to, I said the courts, and he was like: "Pakai baju sexy macam ini nak pergi mahkamah ke? jangan bohonglah.." What a jerk right? what gives a cab driver the right to comment on a passenger's attire? is this attitude unique to Malaysian cab drivers or perhaps its just the sort of attitude you get in the third world. It's the divine right of male cab drivers to hit on their female passengers, it's perfectly okay, nothing to make a huff about. Because if you want to report people like this, who do you go to? the cab companies? considering the way these companies are run, some of them even close shop overnight, nobody is going to do anything about this kind of behaviour. So even now as I write, these gatal cabbies are getting away with this unprofessional attitude. What a cool job man, you get to drive a cab and hit on your female passengers!

6. 'The patronising uncle'
All that I have encountered thus far are Indian. In once incident the cabby was driving past a temple, he made a gesture of prayer and then asked me If I was Indian to which I said yes, then he wanted to know why I did not put up my hands and pray when passing the temple. When I replied that there really was no reason at all why I did not do it, and I did not see why I should, Mr preachy uncle went on and on about how it was the duty of every Indian to put up their hands and salute god when passing a temple. In another incident that happened to my sister, the old Indian uncle cab driver gave her a lecture about not wearing a pottu (All the way from Bangsar to Puchong he rattled on about the pottu issue). How proffesional is that? try doing that while driving a cab in some first world country and you will so be out of a job.

7. 'Mr Nosey'
He thinks passengers are obliged to tell him their life stories. He will want to know how old you are, where you are from, where do you work, where you studied, how many siblings do you have, how old are your parents, do they work and on and on throughout the whole bloody journey. Truly our Malaysian cabbies are a very kepoh lot.

8. 'The criminals'
Have not met them, for if I have, I might not be sitting here in one piece writing this post. Just gives me the creeps thinking about it! But there are so many of them out there that it makes me wonder what kind of enforcement do we have to prevent people like this from preying on unsuspecting victims who depend on public transportation to get from point A to B. These types rape or rob or do both. Mostly they rape and might rob as an after thought. Literally every year in this country from 4 to 5 years back, we have had a case of a serial cab rapist. All these cases have been in KL to date. And these are only the cases that have been reported. Considering it is so easy to get a cab licence and go around raping women, there are definitely many more serial cab rapists out there. Despite the severe sentences meted out by the courts on convicted cab rapists, new cases continue to surface. Which points to the fact that the harsh sentences meted out have not served as a deterrent. Basically its this, if you are a serial rapists sort, the best way to prey on as many women as possible it to drive a cab. Why? because enforcement is so, so poor.

9. 'The meter evaders'
They don't get the concept of a taxi meter. Some will say their meter is spoilt and charge you a much higher amount than necessary. The other sort will insist on some exorbitant amount like double or triple the fare to go to a certain place even before you get into the cab. Sometimes when people are desperate enough they will just agree and pay the exorbitant amount. Its daylight robbery really. These sort of cab drivers usually work in groups, and can be found in certain spots like at the Kelana LRT station, outside Sunway Pyramid and Puduraya to name a few. Believe it or not the other day, a cab driver at Puduraya asked me for a fare of RM50 to go to Kelana Jaya! As I said, these sort of cabbies work in groups and usually hang out at a particular area, they get very hostile if another cab driver comes to their turf to pick up passengers and use the meter. They will shout at him and sometimes threatens to take out a parang or iron rod from their booth! What are the authorities doing? once again its poor enforcement to the fore.

Those of us who take cabs are not rich, we are just ordinary folk going out there to make a living. If indeed we were rich we would be going about in chauffeur driven cars, not waiting in the sweltering heat to hail cabs, taking a chance and putting our lives at risk. It's a real shame that our government has such a "tidak apa" attitude towards this issue. Even the blogs and articles in foreign publications have unanimously said it: Our cabbies are one of the worst in the world. It's a national shame for a country that prides itself on being a tourist haven.

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