Blind Singapore Taxi Drivers

Taxis in Singapore are usually easy, sometimes friendly, and even inexpensive compared to many other large cities.  Tonight, the guy was a jerk and it was the first time I have experienced this in the 5 months we have lived here.  He was blind and deaf which are interesting physical traits for a taxi driver.  Let me tell a story…

The majority of the time once you hop in the cab, taxi drivers acknowledge where you are going and that’s it. There is not any idle chitchat in most cabs. When the meter starts, an automated voice reminds you to wear your seatbelt. When the ride ends, the same female voice tells you the fare and to have a nice day. With over 70,000 taxis in this City-State, which is one-third the size of Orange County in California or 3x the size of Washington D.C., that is quite a few mute taxi drivers.

But with over 2,000,000 people going to work each day, some days getting a cab can be a real challenge. This is true during rush hour and also depending on where you are, i.e. the suburbs, at the time. Luckly most take the MRT (subway) but now that we are in rainy season…

It is very hard to get a cab in the rain, like today. There are some tricks but I am not going to use this rant to explain them. I’ll write another post for that topic. I have had a half-dozen cab rides when the driver is very talkative, not mute. During the longer rides, I often ask a lot of questions about how to get a cab easier on the outskirts of town and how the taxi system works.

Usually when a cab is available, they have to take you wherever you want to go. Where this gets tricky is during shift change. In this case, they are actually not allowed to take fares but they do if the fare is going the same direction as they are at the end of the shift. They’ll ask you before they let you get in.

Tonight I was shopping for a specialized item at Sim Lim Square, near the Bugis MRT and about a 10-14 minute taxi ride from home (I was going to write ‘drive’ but I don’t want you to think we actually spent $160,000 getting a VW Jetta here, as one example). Sim Lim Square is the lower end techno-mall compared to Funan but the only one that sells the 2000-watt up-converter I need for my US Vitamix 5200 blender. After 5 months, I can finally make my own shakes and have the banana actually get mixed-in instead of the clumps I get from the locally purchased $60 blender. Since a new Vitamix is $1,000 Singapore dollars or higher, I figure the $220 for the power converter was worth the purchase.  Of course being an Ang Mo, they first told me it was $260 but I asked for the cash discount and got them down to $220. Still seems expensive but not that much more than the US prices after the conversion.


The Vitamix next to the power converter the size of a small toaster!

The Vitamix next to the power converter the size of a small toaster!

But the point of my rant was going outside to get a cab. The power converter weighs over 20 pounds and walking 4 blocks to the MRT and carrying it home did not seem like a fun option. I like working my biceps as much as the next guy but not for 30 minutes straight. As one taxi pulled up, showing available, I hopped in. The very elderly driver listened to me say my apartment location (we only have to say the name because we found out everyone in Singapore knows our building!) and then asked me to speak up. “I can’t hear,” he said. I spoke much louder and he said the same thing. This happened one more time. By now I figured he actually did not want to take me where I needed to go! This was a first. Most drivers are more than happy to go into the Central Business District (CBD) because there are always fares waiting to go from here to there or there to here. But instead of just telling me he did not want to go there, he was “deaf”.

Maybe he really was deaf but how can you pick up fares if you can’t hear? How do you know where to go? How do you know to move over for the rare police or fire engine siren? Seriously. But what sealed the deal was when I pulled out my house key (actually a proximity card) that has our building logo and name on it. “I can’t see,” he said. “I am old”.  If he had said I can’t read, that would be one thing. But he said I can’t see. Therefore I now have a blind and deaf taxi driver running around Singapore! Scary thought. By now I did not want to be in his taxi anyway – I value life.

I know Singapore needs a lot of taxis but I did not know blind drivers could take to the road. I guess Singapore is progressive when it comes to the physically challenged driver. Of course I mentioned I would report him, took a photo of the cab, and exited the vehicle.

The next cab took me without incident. Of course he was the majority that never spoke and was listening to American pop music. We notice that is a huge trend in most taxis. He did say thank you when I lef him keep more change than usual.

Now it is late and I don’t know that I’ll report the blind man tonight but I do know whom to call! And I have his plate.


Don't use this guy, he's blind!!

Don’t use this guy, he’s blind!!