Retrenched PMET Singaporean forced into taxi-driving encounters FTs enjoying life in Singapore everywhere
Posted by temasektimes on June 7, 2012
As the great NTUC has recently launched its new book about taxidrivers in S’pore (called ‘Taxi tales’), I thought I might just offer some of my own insights as an ex-PMET turned cabbie on these hot issues of unemployment/underemployment causing white collar jobs to becoming scarce for S’poreans and the prevalence of fts everywhere in this tiny red dot island nation of ours.
I was retrenched 2 years ago and like many other PMETs deemed economically unviable at age of late 40s, couldn’t find any form of employment whatsoever so ended up taking the hard option of driving taxi. This was a year ago and after some hard knocks and several wake-up calls, I am now “ adjusted” to working 12 hours each day sitting behind the steering wheel when before, it was a nice cozy office and a desk! Obviously, I had also made some interesting observations and had several not-so-pleasant encounters with fts from time to time during my stint as a cabbie.
For someone who used to earn 80k per annum for a desk job now reduced to driving taxi, I cannot help but envy the good life most of the expatriates and fts enjoy whereas us locals cannot find work except drive taxis or be security guards. Why envy? Well more often than not, most white collar fts (Caucasian or otherwise) working in Singapore resides in luxurious condos as they normally secure employment terms & benefits that would include condominium type housing or a good enough paying salary to afford to rent one.
For those working in the CBD, this is almost a prerequisite for most expats since the option of living in our heartlands i.e HDB estates would be unthinkable! This is true as I once got an Aussie in my cab who came to Singapore first time for work here; he asked me about his housing options and wanted one that was affordable, so I innocuously mentioned “ HDB” or public housing! At this,, he immediately wrinkled his nose upwards in disgust as if I had mentioned some leper colony and quickly asked me to bring him to the nearest condo locations that were within the vicinity of the CBD for him to scout around. (yes, yes I know now many staying HDB bec more accepting ‘local terms’ as compared to before!)
Many a mornings is spent busily ferrying Indian & Caucasian FTs from their condos in Tanjong Rhu & Meyer Road to the CBD in their mad rush to reach their office before 9am. On one occassion, I ended up in River Valley when 3 young Pinoys boarded my taxi , all of whom were perhaps below 30 yrs old. Wow, they were staying in what looked like a sparklingly new mouth-watering condo, with monthly rental perhaps running into 5 figures a month (using my layman’s estimation). I cannot help but wonder how come even Pinoy FTs who come here to work can afford such high-end condos.
Inside the taxi, all 3 were soon chattering away about their work politics so I was quickly hearing this and that (other Pinoy colleague) got promoted to VP and already submitted resignation. More chatter ensued about “so and so also got job offers here and coming over from Philippines”, “this one and that one got headhunted for higher package”, and phrases like “recruitment exercise” and “hr interviews” were bandied about ever so much to reflect the surely red-hot job market in the CBD / Shenton Way area which start to seemingly look like a “hire fts only” club!
Oh I am sure the so-many MNCs out there in our world-class financial district do not employ frivolously and take in only those with relevant experience but I can’t help but wonder how come only fts enjoy this “privilege ” whereas us locals seems to be completely shut out from this employment landscape??? This impulse again came out of my own sheer jealousy, as after all, I do possess a Degree in economics and finance from an accredited Australian university on which I foolishly spent some 100K in the ‘80s but now having to drive taxi since no better job available (other than security guard or $5per hr car park valet, both jobs i work as when I was desperately unemployed).
Indeed, I may have previously worked in Banking & in Shenton Way & do possess an impressive array of work experience and qualifications . So What! Unfortunately for me, the “hard truth” is that any prospective employer who takes the first look at my resume and reads “50yr old Singaporean” at the start of it, will surely throw it into the scrap bin and perhaps let out a hearty laugh as if to say “who is he kidding!”. Yes, I know this because I myself had sent hundreds of job applications to such employers without a single reply, let alone any job interview being given for my wasteful efforts.
This is not to say I have anything personal against pinoys FTs per se. NO ! In fact, I find that the pinoys are always very respectful & courteous to me , addressing me as “uncle” at every turn of the conversation. I hardly get any complaints from the Pinoy fts and they remain my favourite customers since I started driving taxi. However, the same cannot be said for some fts of other nationalities whom I had occasional yet unfortunate run-ins with when driving taxi.
Here are just some exasperating examples of some of my unhappy encounters with fts:
– young aussie expat got into my cab one rainy morning, hailed me from bus-stop during morning rush hour. Bec he really took his time getting into my taxi with his just-ironed work clothes and belongings, buses and cars behind kept honking me like crazy because this young upstart angmor really moving so slowly like as if he was the Queen of England and all this while, poor me having a mild heart attack due to his nonchalance! Once inside taxi, arrogantly instructed me to go “fastest way”, where there is “no traffic jam”. What??? This is rush hour, how on earth can this poor taxiuncle know where got no traffic jam since practically everywhere traffic jams on a rainy day! We bantered on verbally in the taxi, this angmor of course in a very condescending tone while l continue belittling myself with constant salutations of “Sorry boss”, “Yes Boss” etc. In the end, he kept insisting that I go the way that will bring him to the CBD in the shortest and fastest possible route since I was “the taxidriver” and that the rest such as rush hour traffic and rain were just mere excuses that he didn’t want to listen to. So what to do?? Swallow all semblance of pride and just act subserviently & drive like a madman, weaving in and out of traffic. End of it all, only a $10 fare which included peak hr charges. So damn frustrated that I couldn’t help but to curse silently under my breath in my native Hokkien during the journey for really spoiling my mood for the entire day;
– female Indian ft staying Orchard condo made call booking after midnite one Friday. Once got on board my taxi , she noticed the taximeter and hollered that she was ‘wronged’ bec the operator didn’t explain that the starting fare would total $7.50 (i.e $3.00 starting fare + $1.50 midnight chrg + $2.50 booking fee). Despite my tedious explanations breaking down the fare to her in painstaking details, she just brushed off my explanations and surily told me off that she was “not happy” and will lodge a complaint against me for over-charging when I actually did nothing wrong whatsoever;
– took this American guy on round trip from his Orchard Rd condo to Airport and back. All fine and dandy until on the way back, he suddenly got angry and interrogated me as to why I did not take Rochor Rd and took Stamford Rd instead. Whole distance was perhaps a few hundred metres longer and was already past midnight when traffic was sparse but American guy was adamant that he was “taken for a ride” so wanted to lodge complaint. I felt miserable and even offered to refund the entire $40 fare to him but he wouldn’t budge. I literally cried that night at my miserable luck of ending up as taxidriver and facing such unkind fts who are so unforgiving;
– picked up two British fts from Orchard Towers who lashed out at me suddenly when I failed to take the shortcut from Anguila Park Rd and had taken Paterson Rd instead to get onto Orchard Boulevard, which is abt some 100m longer distance. They wanted to dock me $5 and hollered that “as taxidriver u shd know the way”! OMG, what a heinous crime I committed, but this time I didn’t not give way, told them to disembark my taxi if they were unhappy and making such a scene over a tiny human error. When I got slightly confrontational, they suddenly became more accommodating and started to just “forgive and forget”. I remained fuming mad but didn’t say anything only to curse myself for having ended up in this sad occupation!
To summarise, my point is this: On the one hand, the burgeoning numbers of well-paid fts everywhere in Singapore is certainly a great source of paying fares for us cabbies but on the other hand, I cannot help but wonder whether the fts coming here in such unstoppable numbers thru’ the open invitation of the PAP govt has left us locally born sinkies to having no chance whatsoever to compete for any white collar jobs that becomes available here in Singapore. Worse still, for an educated ex-PMETs like myself who have reach 50 yrs of age, employers will avoid people like me like the plague, even if I asked for a pittance of the salary I was drawing as a PMET during my heyday.
Also, I want to send a message to some of you rude FTs out there. Though few and far between in number, there are some of you who enjoy treating us taxidrivers like crap with your utter arrogance and crass attitude. Perhaps you had bad experience with cabbies but not all of us are alike and likewise, I know that generally , most of you expats are very pleasant and courteous fellas. However, should you had too much to drink or had a bad day at the office, pls and pretty please don’t take it out on us poor sods taxiuncles . After all, most of u are “guests” in this country , enjoying a good living here and have jobs most of us would kill for. Please remember that we Singaporeans were here first, all this beautiful infrastructures, the clean and safe streets and wonder facilities you see and enjoy everyday, it is we Singaporeans who helped build this up!
Finally, a message to our great and illustrious PAP govt! Yes, the people truly responsible for making the lives of ordinary Singaporeans so miserable that we are unable to compete for even basic jobs and unable to cope with cost of living and have totally lost all identity to the tile we hold in our pink identity cards which states that we are “Singaporeans”. Wait just 4 years later, we had enough of your incomprehensible policies and we will make our votes count!!! For most of us working folks killing ourselves to make ends meet, we truly had enough of the PAP!