My Singapore taxi and skyline ride adventure
Okay, so maybe I’m reading too much into this incident but I just wanted to share an experience from yesterday.
I was assigned to cover the Far East Movement gig at Wave House in Sentosa Island by my boss back in KL so I took a cab to the venue. I have not been back to Sentosa since I was a kid, and the taxi driver didn’t know the direction well. So as we paid the entry fee to get onto the island, we asked the lady over the counter for directions. She were pretty vague but it was better than nothing.
Over 20 minutes later, we were still driving around the island (we probably covered the whole place!), and we could still not find it. We stopped to ask another taxi driver who directed us back to one of the spots we went to. We went back there and still couldn’t find it, so I got out of the car, and went to ask the folks behind the counter at the Skylie and Luge Ride place for directions.
They directed me back to where the other taxi driver who gave us directions was. I don’t know if it was the look on my face, or my blond hair, but the guy took pity on me and said, “Tell you what, I’ll open the gates here for you. People usually have to pay but I’ll let you go through”.
I was taken aback. The stereotype of Singaporeans is that they are rigid, by the book kind of people (and God knows I’ve met a few of them since I’ve been here). But I took up his offer anyway.
Then I went back to the taxi driver and told him it’s the wrong place, but he could stop me here anyway. And then I was shocked again – he apologised profusely (like so many times!) and then ever offered me a discount. I have personally never encountered much problems with taxi drivers in Singapore but my friends here have complained a lot about them. Still, I did not expect him to be so apologetic.
I’m not sure why, but I’ve not stopped thinking about the two of them ever since last night. As part of our fellowship programme (I’m in Singapore for the Asia Journalism Fellowship by the way, an initiative of the Temasek Foundation and Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information at NTU), our programme direct (and veteran journalist) P N Balji told us that this year, he had arranged for us to meet people who were not, “typically Singaporean”.
We’ve met a few, and I’ve enjoyed those sessions, but I think it’s really different when you encounter them by accident. It makes the experience, I suppose, much more pleasant and memorable.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that all Singaporeans are heartless robots (ahem) but hey, let’s be totally honest (and politically incorrect) here … stereotypes do have some basis to them. I think what is important is that we aren’t close minded to see that there are more facets to people than just what has been labelled on to them.
For me, yesterday’s experience was a reminder of this.
Of course, the fact that I didn’t know what counter I was going up to asking for directions made it more memorable. When the guy opened the gate and walked me down to the Skyline, I panicked (but had to act cool).
I didn’t know it was a ride and, er, I have a fear of heights. 😐
p/s I hope I won’t get the Skyline guy in trouble with this post. Mr Nice Guy’s boss, if you’re reading this, he did a good thing, yeah? Tx.
11.49pm Singapore time (+* GMT)