18 June 2009

Teksi to the dark side 2/2

Top five excuses/scams:
  • "Jam": One word says it all; KLians smile knowingly at this popular excuse, you will here this especially at rush hours when not seldomly, taxi drivers serially refuse to go anywhere that involves being stuck in a jam. They might go but insist on a flat price to "compensate".
  • "Two people, double price" - Whatever!
  • "If you ORDER taxi, double price" (it's only + RM 2)
  • "Luggage extra" (yes and no, usually only for anything that goes in the trunk)
  • "Come back empty" - Duh! That's part of the job description, it's called risk. Especially ridiculous when you go from Chinatown to my office which is a five minute ride (!) but they prefer to stay in their lair for the chance of grabbing one of the many tourists there.
  • "Two people, double price"
Lessons learned:
  • Dress local, don't look to rich, disguise any shopping bags in your handbag.
  • Don't speak any other language than Malay before they put on the meter. Speaking Mandarin to a Chinese driver is a great plus, of course.
  • Find out where the start (and stop!) button on the meter is - just in case!
  • If you fly to KL, pick a flight that arrives well before midnight, ideally during the day to avoid paying the (legal?) + 50% at night and being stranded with limited choice of drivers.
  • It's ok to bully first, be polite later to show you're not "soft".

Also interesting is the racialisation of some drivers: "I'm from Pakistan, I am honest person, I don't rip people off, ok!!! Indian drivers, if they say 'use meter', you be careful, they push button behind wheel or on side of door and meter go UP! Malay driver - ok, Chinese driver - always use meter. One time, woman from Saudi, I was driving her home. She say, 'I make police report, you charge too much!' - but I use meter lah! She from Saudi, live in condo - 'no money'?! Cannot (meaning "impossible" in Minglish)! And she make police report!", one driver exclaimed offended in his honour in an explaining way. After a misunderstanding between him and us. "I know a lot of bad taxi driver in KL. I teach you, ok, so you not ripped off!" And he taught us. "See, we talk and talk and now meter go UP!" LOL But at least he did explain how the system works, how much is charged when and why and made sure he counted change visibly and that I understood how night rate is calulated before I paid.

Also common is the type who does not know his own city. OK, there are so many highways so badly planned that even locals sometimes take the wrong exit or get lost - or are so relieved they finally found the right way that they actually drive against a one-way street (yes, I've experienced that on a lift home)! :P Usually you can remedy it by an absolutely dangerous U-turn which involves driving backwards on a street or even against the direction on a highway so as not to have to drive in long circles and intricate knots again. Also road planning is so bad that legal options are just plain inconvenient, in fact it is an open invitation for offending traffic regulations.

*sigh* Oh KL... you never know what you get when you step out in the morning. You might get lost or do some sightseeing - all that before work!

One day, Julie and I were on our way from Chinatown to work and ended up somewhere entirely else (somewhere near Bangsar, I think). It's like getting into a cab in Picadilly to go to Holborn and suddenly finding yourself en route to Waterloo Bridge. I start doing my usual rant about taxi drivers (I just love to make them uncomfortable) in the back to make sure I won't pay a penny for this ride and that we're already late for work and talk loudly about the police. We decide to tell the poor guy to stop and we will take another taxi back (other road direction shockingly jammed of course...). Luckily, we are approaching a red light and by coincidence a police car overtakes us and stops at the crossing. The driver lets us out and desperately says "I won't charge you, I won't charge you, I won't charge you!", clearly afraid of getting involved with the police. I wonder if he ever found the way back (my theory is that he's not from KL and new and that the taxi belongs to his friend)... By another stroke of luck, another cab driver is right behind us and he perfectly knew where the office was, in fact it turned out he had a friend who was applying at our office and so actually knew a lot about the organisation. Before we knew it, he asked, "Do you think he has a chance?", "How long do you think until he gets a decision?" and so on. He really wanted to help his friend and clearly had great respect for the organisation. Luckily, he had understanding that every case is different and he probably also guessed that we cannot give out any kind of information. This did not stop him however, of trying to leave the best impression he possibly could on behalf of his friend and I assume, countryman. He took a secret shortcut and gave us an enthusiastic free insider tour of the less-known sights along the way, such as the WWII cemetery with the unnamed graves of soldiers who parachuted (?!) in the Asian-Pacific war (honouringly given an inconspicious small patch of polluted grass at the back of a highway bridge), the Japanese cemetery right opposite (neat!) and the huge Chinese cemetery nearby, offering bits of cultural and historical information here and there. The difference to the first driver was just bizarre! :D

Yet another failed trip to work involved a meeting with the royal family!
Ian, a colleague and condo-complex neighbour of mine who was sharing a ride with me to work and I suddenly found ourselves in front of the gate of the Royal Palace, mute horse-guard included. I was thinking, "Wow, that reminds me of Buckingham Palace" except the latter is not directly placed on a highway - what a random place for a palace - or a highway, depending on how you look at it. Of course if you get out of the palace driveway, you'd have to drive 90 degrees (!) across a busy highway because leaving the palace, you are actually already on the highway exit - the one that leads out of town (to PJ!). We take a cross-country hike up the hill. I can't believe we're actually walking ON THE SIDE OF A HIGHWAY. Unmistakeably KL! On the way to the office, we are sharply piped to a halt by a guard - and the royal motorcade rushes by! The black polished car has shaded windows of course and instead of a number plate has a completely yellow plate with the royal crest on it.

Another happy ending in the morning!

0 courageous comments!: