Living without a car and with a young child not yet old enough to venture out for the day without our stroller, I tend to take a lot of cabs. It’s just easier.
Taking 5-14 cabs a week means I have met quite the variety of cab drivers. The lost ones who have no idea where they’re going (even with a GPS inches from their face which they also don’t know how to program). The ones who haven’t bathed in a week or two (or who bathe, but have a broken air con in the cab, creating a mobile sweat lodge). The ones who opine about everything under the sun. The ones who like to tell me I live on “busybody road” (yup, that’s the Hokkien dialect translation of my road name).
Yesterday, I had the batshit crazy driver.
I had dropped into Bake-it-Yourself, which is (to the best of my knowledge) the only store in Singapore to sell the wilton cake pans/tips/food dyes/accessories, candy making materials, ready-made fondant, etc. Considering that we have three birthdays in 3 weeks (more or less), they know me by sight now. I was there to pick up a few last minute things needed to prepare for Elanor’s birthday party this weekend, and was heading home.
Feeling grateful to get a cab just as raindrops began to fall, I slid into the backseat. Once the driver knew where we were going, the ride passed in silence.
“They came into my house, into my room and stole my phone,” the driver spits out as we stop at a random red light about halfway home.
I look around the cab, trying to figure out if (a) he’s talking to me, (b) if I’m being accused of stealing his phone, or (c) if he’s talking on a new phone to a friend. He’s talking to me.
“That’s terrible?” I venture
“They stole my phone. I have a number that ends in 3 now. People who have numbers that end in 3 are thieves.”
I evaluate the sky and my chances of finding another cab if I ask him to pull over and let me out. It’s not raining THAT hard. On the other hand, three-five more minutes and I’m home. The sky is pretty gray…and I’ve been caught in sudden downpours on many an occasion.
“The police won’t even take your report if your number ends in 3. They all have numbers that end in 7. They only listen to people whose numbers end in 7.”
I decide this is not the time to volunteer that my cell number ends in a 7.
“They came into my home and stole my phone!” He hits the wheel for emphasis.
I can’t help but notice he has a red cell phone next to his gear shift.
“My number ended in 5!!! I had (unintelligible).”
We’re in the middle of a four lane road, moments from home. I pray for green lights, but am thrown forward when the driver hits the brakes and the light turns red. Damn.
“3. People who have number end in 3 are scapegoats. People hate them. They’re thieves. They steal your money, steal your life,” he rants.
I wonder if he said life or wife. I wonder if a dude whose cell number ended in 3 had an affair with his wife and he’s now a deeply bitter man.
“They made my hand bleed…you see?” he holds up a hand that has no visible scars.
I assure him that I see it. I wonder if they’ll ever find my body.
The car leaps forward.
“Uncle?” I try to tell him he’s in the wrong lane and that we’re getting close to home.
“My hand! They came into my house!”
“Uncle! Can you…”
“3! I had 5!!”
“Can you let me off just ahead behind that van?” We are across the street from my condo. Getting dropped off at home involves going up and doing a u-turn and I’m beginning to be a bit afraid and desperate to be out of this cab.
We pull up and his entire demeanor changes. “You’re getting lunch?” (I live across from a row of restaurants).
“Um, I live nearby. Thank you, Uncle. Keep the change.”
“You forgot!” He gestures towards my umbrella.
I gingerly pick it up and make my escape.
There are times when the exorbitant fees Singapore imposes on car owners don’t sound so bad.