Monday, June 22, 2009

This is a story of a cab driver

It was just a normal Monday morning. You know, those Monday morning with loads of Monday Blues in the air, as usual.

Still yet to recover from the weekend laziness and with summer approaching, I have decided to spend it like a real banker and took a cab to work.

Taking a cab in Hong Kong is quite challenging at times. Putting the craziness of Hong Kong traffics aside, you have loads of impatient and outspoken (some says 'rude') taxi drivers around. It's quite a traumatic experience for me to take cab to work as the distance between the place I live and the place I work is relatively, short. (a good 20 minutes walk to be exact)
And of course, working in central, a.k.a the business district of Hong Kong, you can imagine how bad the traffic will be during rush hour.

Usually, after I tell the driver where I want to go, the atmosphere will suddenly become eeriely silent… you can sense the unhappiness, disgruntlement and the swearing in the driver's mind (sometime you can hear them outloud too…). Throughout the whole journey, the cab driver will show how unhappy he is by driving like mad or just cursing along the way.

Once, a cab driver told me " you know, actually, we don't really like to go there at this hour. It's easy for you because you just hop off and go to work, but we will be stuck in a jam for like, 15-20 minutes?" I was like "oh, I see…" and kept quiet after that.

It's actually quite funny that I, as a passenger, supposingly the "customer", should be the one who's complaining about his/her services but in reality, I'm getting all sort of lectures. Guess the customer is always right doesn't really apply to cabbing.

Anyhow. Back to the normal Monday morning story.

I flagged down a cab, hopped on it. And then the nice old man greeted me "Good morning".
I was like, nice guy, well, not for long, bet he will be super pi$$ed after I told him where I am heading to.

"Central, please." I said. Then he replied "Ok!" with a happy tone.

After the first turning, he asked "So which way do you like to go? Up Hollywood road or the other side?"

Then I replied, and we started chatting. To my surprise, this cab driver's english is very good.

"Sir, I have to say that you speak pretty good English." I said.

"Me? Oh no. I stopped schooling since I was 11 or 12 years old. I could hardly write either Chinese or English, but I can recognise these words. That's Restaurant, that word is Old, that one means Tunnel, that one is Bridge and that one is Connaught Place." He said.

"Wow, that's impressive. I thought you came back from Canada or U.S., as your English is very good, and it doesn't have the typical Hong Kong slang in it!"

"Thanks for your compliment. My lawyer friend even once said that I speak better English than his staff! Haha, I bet that's definitely an overstatement. I was working at this garment factory as an apprentice after I left school when I was 11 or 12 years old. Then I went to night school for 2 hours per day after work at 6pm."

Then he continued, "work finished at 6pm, then I have to cook for all the seniors, and I will go to school at around 7pm after dinner was served. I usually went back at around 9pm to eat my dinner, then cleaned up the place, cleared out the rubbish etc.. When it's all done, usually it's about midnight already."

"Wow, then bet you don't have any time for revision or to do homework."

He said, "Ya, I don't. I told my teacher that I would never be able to do any homework so I got the exemption (how nice…I think). I still recall the only time I could do my revision was in the morning, before work started. I read my notes at the walkway most of the time. That's how I learned my English."

I said," That's very hardworking of you! It must be very tough to work whole day and to study at the same time!"

He smiled, then he continued,"When it comes to study, I will not be shy and I always asked all sort of questions. Throughout these years, I just keep on speaking my broken English to people, and I guess, that's how it got improved over the years."

When it's about to reach my office, he said "Two of my sons are University graduates. I'm so proud of them."

I gave him the money and said "Bet you are."

He smiled, gave me the change, and said to me, in English, "nice knowing you, have a nice day!"

Nice day indeed. Perfect way to start my day. Ganbatte yo!

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