12 June 2011


Paul received his official ID card today, so we went against our better judgment and left the house on a Saturday. Singapore is filled with people any day of the week but on Saturdays and Sundays malls and streets are flooded with people as far as the eye can see – literally. We headed downtown to obtain Paul’s card and watched the skies turn shades of smoke and yellow as the storm rolled in. At one point, the sky was almost brown and cast a dark shadow over the city. We made it inside just before the downpour erupted. Once finished at the first location, we took a cab to Suntec City to put that ID card to good use by purchasing cell phones at the Convention Center’s PC Show. The rains poured so hard, I could not see more than a couple meters in front of the cab.

During our commute, Paul compared this rainy taxi adventure to one he recently had in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He told me that he was on his way to the airport from his hotel and he picked the Worst. Cab. Ever. The rain was steadily falling as Paul headed to the taxi stand. Once his bags were loaded and he was in the car and on his way to the airport, he noticed some rain falling inside the cab. The windows to his left and to his right were not properly sealed, so the rain seeped through. To make matters worse, one of the windshield wipers had broken off and the cabby felt no need to purchase a replacement, leaving one working wiper, which he refused to activate. At least this cab had seatbelts; they are quite uncommon in parts of Indonesia.

A few minutes into the ride, the rain outside began to pour much harder. With the rains falling at maximum speed and the driver’s view impaired, the cabby decided to turn on his one working wiper, which happened to be on the opposite side of the windshield. The left wiper splashed more water onto the right side of the windshield, directly in front of the cab driver, obviously not helping the situation. When he realized his predicament, the cab driver switched to Plan B. He continued to drive from the right side of the car (standard here in Singapore) as he leaned over to the left side of the car so that he could see out of the windshield as the sole wiper pushed the beating rain aside. Why, you ask, would he lean over to the opposite side of the car while driving in a monsoon? Because people in this area are crazy drivers. Sorry Van, I know you like to brag about the stupidity of D.C. drivers, but please, continue to read before you try to claim the title.

Riding in cars in Singapore is like driving in New Jersey on a whole other level. Cars weave in and out of lanes, some using turn signals and some not. Traffic is crowded and drivers push their way in wherever they want to be. If they are tired of waiting, drivers just flash their lights or honk their horns to warn oncoming cars that they are going anyway. Motorcyclists do not have to drive in a single lane; they are able to drive between the lanes, straight down the dotted line. If pedestrians are in the road, whether or not they are in a crosswalk, cars will most certainly run them over. I once witnessed a speeding car lay on the horn as two children were crossing in a crosswalk. The person driving did not slow down for a second; the car seemed to go faster as one parent ran to throw the children out of the way. Honking horns are just another form of communication.

In Medan, Indonesia, another one of Paul’s frequent travel destinations, the driving situation is even more absurd as compared to our experiences. While riding in a taxi, Paul saw more cars on the road than ever before. He watched in amazement as the four-lane road with two lanes in each direction quickly turned into a four-lane, one-way street. You see, in Medan, if there is no traffic coming at you, you can just move your car into the opposite lanes and continue on until you see oncoming traffic. At that point, you merge back into the originally-designated traffic lanes. Crazy, we say.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yay, I got a shoutout.