Singapore

TAXI TALK: This cabby's seen it all...

In his 26 years as a taxi driver, Mr Jimmy Gan has probably seen it all.

Scheming passengers who bolt upon reaching their destinations to avoid paying the fare is nothing new - he has seen many such customers.

Among his toughest customers are "young punks" who board his cab in groups of three or four and direct him to multiple stops at various ends of the island, only to run off.

He has also had his fair share of unwell passengers throwing up in his taxi.

But Mr Gan, 61, is not the one to harp on the negative.

Instead, the easy-going veteran cabby prefers to take everything in his stride.

He told The New Paper: "To tell you the truth, the bad overrides the good most of the time (in this industry). Perhaps it is my nature to forget them and not take them to heart.

"The day is still long, tomorrow will be a better day. So as far as possible, I try to make it easier on myself so that the job is less stressful.

"We give and take, we cannot take things too hard to survive in this world."

So how does he deal with difficult passengers or bad days?

Mr Gan takes coffee breaks, sometimes with his 'kakis' to recharge. TNP PHOTO: NOOR ASHIKIN ABDUL RAHMAN
"If I can sense that the passengers are (up to no good) and purposely making me drive all around the island, I will advise them to split cabs as that is more cost-effective for them. Usually, I'm pretty successful," he said.

And if passengers end up evading the fare, he let it slide.

"If it's only $10 or $20 then it's not a big bomb. Is it worth making you so unhappy? Forget it," said Mr Gan, who drives a Trans-Cab taxi.

Mr Gan, who does the early shift, became a taxi driver in 1990 after his renovation business failed.

Mr Jimmy Gan has been a taxi driver for 26 years.TNP PHOTO: NOOR ASHIKIN ABDUL RAHMAN

The sole breadwinner and father of three grown children has been with multiple taxi companies over the years, including Comfort and CityCab.

On weekdays, he usually starts at about 6.30am and ends at 5.30pm.

He might be in his 60s and has been in the trade for far longer than his younger counterparts but he is far from "jaded".

Eager to learn and improve himself, Mr Gan signed up as a driver-partner with ride-hailing service Grab in 2013.

He had initial reservations about the service but was eager to try it out for himself.

He admitted that many of his friends - both taxi drivers and non-taxi drivers alike - constantly debated the pros and cons of ride-hailing services like Grab.

"There was even quarrelling among ourselves, with some saying that it was stealing their rice bowl. I told them, 'If you can't beat them, join them. Why not?" he said.

According to Mr Gan, he has enjoyed a 15 per cent increase in income since joining Grab.

Before this, he earned anything from $20 to $100 daily.

But a steady income is little comfort for some of his cabby friends within his age group.

"Some of them are not willing to learn, some are also stubborn. But I always tell them that is they are not willing to change or upgrade, they will become obsolete one day," he said.

TIPS AND COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

1 When all the taxi drivers seem to 'change shift' all day...

"Sometimes, these drivers need to run an errand so they will switch on the 'Change Shift' sign. That is the good thing about this job, the freedom for the driver that can comes with it. But if taxi drivers do not indicate that and turn passengers away or insist that they are only going to a particular destination, then they are inviting complaints," said Mr Gan.

2 When taxi drivers drive too fast or too slow...

Inform them - it's that simple.

"I prefer passengers informing me nicely instead of just keeping quiet and then writing a negative feedback later on," he said.

3 When taxi drivers are unsure of the route...

Simply ask the passenger if they have a preferred route.

"Some taxi drivers I know, usually the newer ones, are too shy to ask in case they lose face. Even after 26 years, there are many corners of Singapore that I am unfamiliar with. We are all learning every day," said Mr Gan.

4 When passengers bring the King of Fruits into the vehicle...

Long story short - don't. It takes a long time to get rid of the smell of durians.

"We ferry passengers all day. When the smell circulates in the cab, thanks to the aircon filter, it takes two or three days before it completely disappears. When that happens, passengers might complain or send us a feedback," he said.

5 When taxi drivers seem to take the longer route...

"We typically take the fastest route to the destination so that we can pick up other passengers. More often than not, taxi drivers do not mean to take the wrong or longer route but they are unsure and are too shy to ask the passengers," said Mr Gan.

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