Of transportation Woes

Posted By: Kimberly

I’ve complained about the local transportation sytem often enough. The buses are too slow, they come not at all, or all at once. The taxis, either hiding in some obscure place by 11.30, or flashing their on-call sign because they want to choose their customers. The MRT, often crowded but possibly the best of the lot.

But after my most recent trip up to visit the northern neighbours, I find myself feeling grateful that our transport problems are so… insignificant. I can flag down any cab without having to scrutinise their logos carefully, I can hop in and let the cabbie know where I want to go without checking the decimal points on his meter or steeling myself to rip my change from his unwilling hands at the end. I can even fall asleep on ANY public transport, knowing I will get to my destination paying the right price and safe and sound. We are lucky here.

The sight of many waiting vehicles and nary a human queue is a welcome one in Singapore, where things are often the reverse. Or, if you do see such a sight, you can rest assured that the (official) surcharge at that point must be hellacious, thus motivating people to jam the stands outside of the peak hour timings. In KL, this was common. We attributed it mostly to cars being cheaper there, but the sight nonetheless filled us not with pleasure, but dread. I am a pampered child of a country that takes it for granted that fighting for the right to an honest meter in the cab is alien and unexpected [and in these parts, sufficient grounds to call the police, taxi company and call nigh-holy levels of retribution upon the offending party]. We are blessed here, but perhaps crippled elsewhere.

It is unpleasant, to come out of a fantastic shopping experience with great service standards, and know that your road home is going to be tougher than the rest of the day combined. It is upsetting, that after a day of smiles and laughter, I must try to put up a front of unforgiving toughness to deal with the loutish touts, and perhaps inadvertently hurt the feelings of an honest worker. Someone told me, “Grow up, the world is like that.” Deep inside, I just think, I don’t want to contribute it to becoming more that way. If growing up means I have to be like that, maybe I don’t want to. Juvenile, perhaps. Idealistic, totally. Unreal, probably. But that is not who I want to be, nonetheless.

We got away, that time, by getting the help of a security guard who negotiated an honest driver for us. Such help will not always be around. If I am to grow as a traveller, then I must learn to keep a big stick in my back pocket, for the chicks that will try to walk my path with me. Even if they’re pretending to be all grown up, back up never hurts, eh?

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