Daunting would not be appropriate word to qualify my efforts to secure a taxi that night. Either the taxis went by without stopping or the call center ops took rather longer to answer my call. The call got going on and on and then after a series of punching buttons in all possible combinations either padded with # or padded with * when I had to reveal my age, sex, marital orientation, telephone number, hand phone number, monthers’ maiden name, father’s child hood name, my first love’s second name, my third love’s first name and a series of name games later, I was directed to a human operator that spoke in such an accented tone that I forgot whether I was in Singapore or in China or some where in the middle of Timbuktoo.
“For security reasons, could you tell me your mother’s maiden name?”, she asked.
Not any more I thought. Need to tell the MP to pass a law asking the girls in the country not to have a maiden name at all.
Having answered that question, I was waiting for my next salvo from her. She said, ” So how can I help you today, Sir?”. Was that not a taxi company ? I was set into thinking thus.
“No, I was looking for a taxi. So just thought I could call this number”, I stammered.
“Well, you are right, we are the local taxi company lah, what can I do for you?”, she said.
Now that I have known that this was a taxi company, what could they do for me other than sending a taxi ? I wondered.
“Hello, are you still there?”, she cajoled on the phone.
I mumbled some answer trying to find out if I had called the correct number.
“So, are you booking for a taxi ?”, she asked. Would anybody phone up a taxi company to order a pizza ? I wondered.
“Oh yes, I want a taxi. I am in the taxi stand at Clementi mall. Could you please hurry up ?”, I asked.
“Oh yes, I will look out for taxis in the area. Please hold on for a moment”, she murmured and then there was this music ” Waiting for the next one…” by probably Elvis Presly or some unknown Taiwanese band.
A good five minutes and a couple of curses later, the phone lady came on line and uttered a taxi number that would be arriving at precisely five minutes from then but I would need to tolerate some traffic related hold-ups.
I thanked her profusely for having been my saviour and started my wait.
Many taxis flashed “On Call” status and slowed down but none were the one that I was waiting for.
A good twenty minutes and many further curses and many curious on-lookers later, I gathered strength and called the same company for status.
“Hello Sir” was followed by the name, age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation and Mother’s maiden name exercise and then there was this question,” So what can i do for you today Sir?”, she cooed.
So much anger had welled up in me that I began to fumble for words to answer her. I mustered enough courage and attempted feebly,” I had booked a taxi, but..”.
“So, you want a taxi, am I right?”, she asked and asked my location details.
Tried to stop her in vain and let her go on and on. Later she realized that I was not answering her questions and said,” Sir, are you on the line still ?”
“Yes very much. How can I not be ?”, I fumed.
“Thank you sir, please let know your location details Sir”, she cooed.
“Ma’am”, I began as soft as a man could be at times such as this, ” I had booked a taxi and am waiting ..”.
She never allowed me to finish and continued, “So you want to connect to the lost and found department, right?”, she exclaimed.
Then I lost my cool, or so I thought. My moment had come.
“I had booked a taxi and am waiting for that for the past half an hour at Clementi”, I shouted at the top of my voice.
“Oh yes, so are you the customer who had booked from Clementi ? The taxi driver is waiting for you for thirty minutes in the taxi stand at Clementi Stadium. His number is …”.
“Ma’am, I had booked from Clementi mall’s Taxi Stand. Please ask him to come there”, I shouted at the top of my voice. She asked me to hold on while the IVR system reminded that my was important to the taxi company and that the operator would get in touch with me in s “short while”.
“So, Mister, you call taxi already and waiting ah ?”, the elder gentlemen standing beside me inquired.
“Yes Sir, for thirty minutes”, I answered cutting off the telephone lady.
“So, you call from Clementi mall taxi stand already ah ?”, he gently inquired.
“Yes Sir, this taxi company has goofed up and have sent the taxi to the Clementi Stadium”, I replied in a baritone voice.
“Ok lah, you stand at stadium end of Clementi mall and call taxi and say Clementi mall stand. How taxi come already ?”, he inquired pityingly.
I realized something was amiss and saw myself standing at the Stadium end of the mall. But no taxi was to be seen for miles.
“But no taxi here either”, I retorted.
“No lah, one taxi driver waiting here for twenty minutes and you talking on the phone and the taxi man left to the Clementi mall taxi stand after speaking on the phone”, he said.
“Oh okay, Week-end you see. A whole week of terrible work and so …”, I stuttered and tried to cover up like Renuka Chaudhuri on NDTV when a new Congress scam breaks out.
“No problem lah, night time you see. People become foolish already”. So saying he walked away suddenly to turn back and ask,” So, want to go where already?”
I said where I wanted to go and he brightened up.
“Ok lah, come on in, I am a taxi driver already”, he said cheerfully.
Got into the contraption ( a.k.a. Toyota Crown ) called taxi and settled down in the backseat. After driving for about five minutes, the elderly gentleman said,” So can you come to the front, can?”
Got down, climbed up and settled in the front seat. Then he said, ” Ok lah, growing old already. So not seeing clear. Night time you see. So look at the road, ok can ?”
I realized why the elderly taxi driver asked me to occupy the front seat. He was peering so close to the front glass that his nose tip was about to pierce through it.
All my prospective insurance agents flashed in front of me like the stock market ticker, laughing their hearts out, with a sign board each saying ,” See I told you so. You never know”.
The very fact that I have written to you on this is reason enough for you to believe that I am alive and kicking and not travelling in a taxi at all from then on.