S'pore's most chio cabby?

S'pore's most chio cabby?
PHOTO: SHIN MIN

Unsure of the roads, unable to speak English well and anxious about her own safety.

That was how Madam Annie Lim started her first day of work as a taxi driver three months ago.

But she did it anyway because with tight finances and two sons to support, she knew she had to make it work.

After all, if her three brothers and three brothers-in-law could be taxi drivers, why not her?

Madam Lim, 41, might have been on the roads for only three months but she has already been noticed.

Last week, one of her passengers started a thread on online forum Hardwarezone, naming Madam Lim as the "most chio (Hokkien for beautiful) cab driver" in Singapore.

Madam Lim, who works for ComfortDelGro, brushed it off but that post went viral and she was featured in several newspapers last week.

She said 25 men have since asked for her phone number.

"I am flattered and honoured that a passenger would call me that but I don't dare or claim to be," she told The New Paper last Thursday, adding that she has grown more confident on the job.

She is even considering working more than her current three days a week, even though the job can sometimes get tricky.

Last year, she divorced her husband after they separated for three years. She now lives with her two sons, aged 13 and 18, in a four-room HDB flat in Bukit Panjang.

INSUFFICIENT

Madam Lim, who dropped out after primary school, used to be an odd-job labourer but she said she did not make enough to support her family.

After some consideration, she signed up to be a part-time taxi driver last year. She attained her driving licence about 20 years ago.

She admitted that not all of her brothers were supportive.

"Some of them were worried about my safety on the road and of male passengers trying to take advantage of me," she said.

She still could not speak a shred of English then and enrolled in a four-month language course which she said she was a struggle.

"There were lessons and tests. I had to force myself to memorise words so that I could pass the course. Thankfully I did," she said.

Madam Lim said her first day as a taxi driver, which was in April, was nerve-racking as she was unfamiliar with most roads outside the western part of Singapore.

So she relied heavily on her Global Positioning System (GPS) and would pick up only passengers who had made bookings.

She would also call her second brother whenever she was unsure of which route to take.

"He was always there to advise and guide me. He really helped me out," she said.

She would also politely ask her passengers if they preferred a certain route to their destinations.

"Most have been very friendly and understanding. There are, of course, some bad eggs but they're a minority," she said.

Madam Lim works three days a week, about 12 hours per shift, starting 6am. Her part-time taxi stint earns her about $1,200 a month.

Her working arrangement enables her to spend time with her sons in the evenings, when she would usually take them out to dinner.

Three months on, her knowledge of the roads has improved.

She also said that her family members have been very supportive of her new career.

As for her sons, she hopes they will study hard and not end up like her.

"For now, everything is going well. Maybe I might even work more days or do this for the long haul," she said.

HIGHS AND LOWS OF BEING A LADY CABBY

1 Best thing about the job.

The hours are flexible, which means I get to spend time with my children in the evenings.

It also does not require much technical expertise - a relief since I don't have much qualifications.

2 Biggest worry about the job.

That I may get into an accident. If something like that happens, who will look after my children?

Every time I think about that, it's like a reminder to myself to stay safe on the roads.

3 Worst passenger encountered.

I picked up a man from Paya Lebar. He wanted to go to Changi. I set my GPS and drove.

Midway, he started screaming that I took the wrong route. At a traffic light, he ran out and tried to board another taxi but the driver refused to take him, so he came back to mine.

When we reached the destination, he just threw the $15 fare at me and left.

4 Indecent propositions.

Thankfully, none. But there were a few who would sit in the front passenger seat and keep staring at me during the ride.

One repeatedly pestered me for my phone number. I eventually gave it to him but I blocked his number the moment he alighted.

5 Advice to other cabbies.

Keep calm and don't talk much to passengers unless you can tell they are genuinely friendly.

If they're aggressive, just be polite and apologise. At the end of the day, your safety is your top priority.


This article was first published on July 15, 2015.
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