By James Wong
Whether they are hogging the road in front of you, or swerving unnervingly close to your car when you’re both straddling lanes, taxi drivers are a strange conundrum that is not easily explained.
Bad habits usually are simply just that – bad, but at many times harmless. But bad driving habits in taxi drivers are amplified many times over because they spend so many hours on the road with no true competent driver to tell them where they’ve gone wrong. So when wrongdoing festers, it mutates into something honestly ugly. That, is my theory anyway, why they have the strangest habits in the motoring world.
Today I got to see first-hand for myself what a typical taxi driver is like. I could finally see why they needed to take two lanes, why they road hog, and why they are so darn reckless. My taxi uncle was the driver equivalent of Buddha. His shiny forehead, hands which held to the steering wheel like a dainty handkerchief, ever-smiling face and laid back seating position all were tell-tale signs. I was going to experience some twisted sort of taxi nirvana. Finally, all the mysteries of taxi drivers solved.
Actually, I only solved it partially. I did find out why they take two lanes. That’s because they want to ‘stake their claim’ in two territories – the option of going forward, as well as the option to filter to the slower lane just to show that they’re considering it. It is no simplistic coincidence that they are right in the middle, purposely indecisive. They want to have everything and lose nothing – a typical Singaporean trait.
So why do they road hog? For the uncle in his retro sunglasses (therefore impeding his good vision to filter left), humble Hyundai (reduced high speed stability) and with 93.3 FM playing, 90km/h is plenty fast for him. He does not see the need for others to go any faster than that, or the hassle to change lanes for others. In other words, he’s just plain selfish, just like any human being. They are just less road aware and more self gratifying. Their satisfaction is all that matters to them. They fail to realise that the road is a public thoroughfare, not a private one.
The other mystery is the on-and-off throttle inputs, which make many a passenger dislodge their innards before the end of the journey. This I attribute to a fuel-saving measure in a bit to depress as little throttle as possible – much like running a tap on drips rather than as a flow. It doesn’t work though, I think, and taxes the automatic gearbox.
One new trait I noticed today is the dabbling of steering from left to right and back again. In a gentle swaying motion that does the car nor its passengers no good at all. This I cannot explain. This is just plain stupid. Just like putting the automatic transmission to neutral at the lights. Or braking in a series of jerks to preserve the brake pads. All stupid.
Like I said, bad habits become ingrained characteristics that don’t shed easily. Next time you see a taxi driver doing any of the above, do your nation a favour and educate them a little bit about motoring. It really helps, of course, if you ride in one to see one in action.