Continuing with my trans-continental adventures…
Following train adventures parts 1 and 2, I slept through most of the long 12 hour flight from London to Singapore. (Note: I used to be one of those people who claimed that I couldn’t sleep on airplanes. In reality, it turns out that when younger I was simply never sufficiently overworked or overtired to sleep on airplanes. I believe I caught a full eight hours last night and in fact missed the distribution of Singapore immigration paperwork and had to be nudged when my vegetarian breakfast was delivered!) Once I landed in Singapore I was really hoping for an easy coast in to the finish line, a.k.a. a quick and straightforward cab ride to my final destination. That was simply not to be.
I perhaps should have seen the danger coming and asked the airport cab coordinator for someone else when the cab driver looked so long and hard at the address and map I had with full instructions on where I was going. I would have saved myself a lot of trouble if I had done so! The cabbie pulled out of the taxi stand and drove about a mile before pulling over on the side of the road, turning on the flashers and asking me if he could look at that map again. We sat there quite a while, my starting to really regret being so complacent back at the airport taxi stand, as I watched the meter tick over S$0.40. Little did I know that this was the easy part of the trip. Once the cab driver started actually driving, the experience became less and less eye-rolling amusing and more and more terrifying. And strangely unlike a typical bad taxi experience.
My previous record for fear level in a taxi was on the island of Crete when dealing with a cab driver who thought he was an Indy racer. At least he was in full control of the car and paying attention to the road. When he crossed over the center line on the road it was intentional, usually associated with cutting a curve short. Today’s driver was (a) all over the road, drifting in and out of lanes and mostly driving along the centerline between two lanes on a three lane interstate-style freeway (as my high school friends would have said, easy, Pac-man!) (b) driving at about half the speed of anyone else on the road, and (c) kept doing things that did not involve driving, including picking up some small chapstick-sized tube of something and sniffing it, and even stranger, smoothing down what little hair he had. Part (c) was bad, but the driving-down-no-lane-at-half-speed while other taxis and vehicles of all sorts were flying by was just plain strange. And oh yeah, he did not actually appear to know how to drive a stick shift and I was sure at one point he was going to kill the engine when he slowed down to less than 30 kph and did not take the thing out of fifth. Of course, he spoke very little English, I was not sure I could get across to him in any nonconfrontational way a request to stay in a single lane, and I was doubly terrified that we were going to die on the road and that he was going to drive me around in circles because he did not actually know where we were going. Finally he got into the exit lane for a road that was clearly marked on my map (yay!) and proceeded to pull over at a bus shelter, asked me for the map again, and got out of the cab and started asking people at the bus shelter if they could help him find where I was going. I was still sitting in the back of the cab at this point, watching people one-by-one shaking their heads. Finally about the fourth guy he asked appeared to give the cab driver instructions and he got back in the car to drive again. After about two blocks I saw a sign for where I was going and pointed it out to the cab driver, who started laughing and saying that the guy at the bus stop had told him it was the other way. I proceeded to get the cab driver to drive me to my destination by pointing out the signs appearing with increasing frequency and large arrows. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I got out of the cab. I know that Londoners are spoiled with cab drivers who memorize maps and take tests, but I don’t think this guy could have passed a driving test in general. I hope he gets pulled over by a police man before he does actually manage to crash and kill one of his fares.