Bangkok, August 19, 2017 — Day 5/365
Dear Mr. Taxi Driver,
Before getting in to today’s post, I would like to be perfectly clear — I am in a great mood, better than most days. There have been no shortage of pleasant interactions, there's a little more pep in my step than usual and for some strange reason, I managed to sleep in until 11AM. Perhaps happiness and good cheer correlate with a good night's sleep. All I know is today I woke up refreshed and ready to go. Wish I could sleep 10-12 hours regularly. Now…I have something I would like to get off my chest.
Taxi drivers in Thailand are both a blessing and a curse. Walk out to almost any street and you'll find a taxi. Fantastic. Okay, it might take a few minutes to find one that will take you where you want to go, or they might try weaseling more money out of you, but try flagging a taxi in Singapore, Macau or New York. Nowhere near as easy. In fact, it can be a huge pain in the ass, not to mention expensive.
The right taxi driver will go out of their way to help search for those hard-find destinations and make every attempt to get their fare where they want to go as safely and quickly as possible. The wrong driver will have the music up so loud it hurts your ears, have a bad attitude and purposely take the long way home or argue with you when you tell him the correct route. Worse yet, he'll treat you like a piece of crap simply because you're a foreigner. What really gets my goat is when the driver attempts to treats me like shit (attempts) because he thinks he's smarter than I am because I am a foreigner and don't know shit. Some foreigners actually speak Thai and know the lay of the land though, but pissy drivers would never know this because they’re too busy trying to convince themselves you're stupid and they are not.
When I enter a taxi my expectations are low; all they need to do is turn on the meter, keep the music to a reasonable level (or off), take me where I want to go and drive safely. Taxi drivers often present the first impression of Thailand and are in many ways ambassadors for the country, like it or not. While the majority of Thai taxi drivers are decent and hard working, all it takes is one bad apple to turn a great visit into the trip from hell. Or to prompt an expat to tell his buddies about his experience or write about it in a blog.
Once a driver attempts telling me the cost of a fare before I get in his cab instead of flipping on the meter, he is guaranteed no tip. For what it's worth, he will have also lost my respect as one of the decent ones. We all know how valuable my respect is to him.
Driving a taxi, more importantly, riding in a taxi, should be as easy as putting on a pair of underwear; just get me from point A to point B alive.
"Where would you like to go, sir?
"Okay, no problem."
Turn the meter on and then safely drive the car to where I want to go. Small talk is fine, as long as it's only for a few minutes and superficial. Start yammering on or telling me about the fantastic massage parlors you can take me to, or all your wives, and I will politely [snicker] insert my headphones and ignore you. I don't want to be best friends, I don't want to know your life story and I am not going to reveal my own. Just get me where I want to go.
Assuming we do reach my destination alive and well, you take my dough, with or without tip, preferably with a smile.
"Thank you, sir."
"Choke dee khrup."
How hard is this? If I say I know the route, you can suggest a better route, which I can then accept or deny. Remember I am paying the fare, you take the route I want you to take and if you have a problem with this, pull over and let me out.
My house is ten minutes away from The Mall Bangkapi by car. To get there, you drive straight towards Lad Prao Road, take a left, make a quick U-turn, drive straight for 30 seconds and then turn in to The Mall. Very simple. Far too many times, I have jumped into a taxi in front of my house, asked the driver to take me to The Mall Bangkapi, only to have him tell me he doesn't want to drive across the street. Time and time again taxis, including motorcycle taxis, efuse to take me because of the U-turn, or ask to drop me off next to the overpass.
Now walking up the stairs and across the street into The Mall is a breeze and far from taxing, even with my bad hip. What gets me though is cars and motorcycles were invented to do the leg work. Motorized vehicles are used to save time and energy. People pay taxis to go where they want and this is why drivers have jobs. Don’t like the job, find another. Making the U-turn means an extra ten or fifteen baht in the drivers pocket and yet it’s too much of an inconvenience. Oh well. There are some motorcycle taxis who are unlicensed and thus afraid of being stopped by the police and fined. So get licensed. End of problem. Of course, the majority of these drivers will cry poor.
“Can not. I no money.”
Damn, isn’t that what I tell my wife all the time? I can relate.
This should not be my problem, but it would be if they had an accident and I was seriously injured. Unlicensed, unregistered, unwilling and uninsuranced. This bodes well for the system, don’t you think? Better yet, this is Thailand Scott, if you don’t like it, get out. Sort of sounds likes liberals refusing to listen to logic, doesn’t it? If I disagree, does this also mean it’s okay to give me a beating?
I’m all for everyone making a fair wage, however, only if the service is comparable. If taxi driver's want Uber or Grab Taxi to fail, they should start by taking a look at WHY people prefer Uber and Grab. For the record, unless a trip is short, or the boat taxi, skytrain or subway are convenient, I always use Uber. Why? Because the last thing I need when I get into a taxi is to deal some guy who is angry that foreigners are allowed in his country. Some guy who a month ago was driving a buffalo is now giving me a bad attitude or telling me he wants 500 baht to go around the corner. This isn’t the Thailand I came to love when I first arrive here. BTW - Allow me to apologize to all the smiling, happy buffalo drivers out there.
Some drivers even have the gall to tell me they're not rich like me.
How the hell did a taxi driver get access to my bank account? If they only knew the truth! I have fifty things to be happy about in my life and money ain't one of them.
“You big money, tip for me?”
“How about ya fuck off.”
Make no mistake, I am more than willing to give a decent tip, even an excellent tip, but only if a driver is a good-hearted soul who isn’t out to cheat me. Sorry, I have boundaries.
I have many boundaries, rules, sub-rules and codes I live by. When it comes to taxis though, I have very few. Get me where I want to go safely and without a hassle. Attempts to cheat me in any fashion will be met with no tip and believe me, I have absolutely no problem being a cold-blooded prick. Sort of like when a driver in an available taxi sees a foreigner (or Thai) standing in the pouring rain with their family and waves them off.
“Can not. Too much traffic. You all wet Mr. Farang! 555.”
“Fuck you too, Mr. Taxi Driver.”