Sunday, April 01, 2007

I Want to be a Taxi Driver

The old Bimmer/Bummer/Beemer has been off the road for quite a while now, so we've been amassing lots of Frequent Near-Death-Experience Points in assorted taxis. Seriously, we added it up, we've been spending about dhs 1,000 a month for the privilege of booking taxis that never arrive, being driven on Sheikh Zayed Road by guys who think the stopping distance at 120 kph is half a metre and folks who got off the plane yesterday and do not know the way from anywhere to anywhere else.

Let it be said at this point that we've had lots of rides with competent drivers, and a few with outstanding ones. But you remember the scary ones, don't you.

I'm prompted to write this because our driver this morning was clearly an impatient headcase. He had been trying to overtake a particular car all the way down the dirt-track at the east side of The Gardens. I don't know why. But as we slip onto SZR, our driver hits the gas and is accelerating towards that car. They slide onto the highway at the same time, but neither can get into the second lane because of an approaching tanker. Nevertheless our driver is still accelerating. When the distance between him and the car in front is a couple of metres we scream at him to slow down. He does, but the laws of physics mean that we actually get to within less than half a metre of the car in front (and yes, the car in front was a Toyota). Our driver is seriously miffed. His manhood has been hurt. What is he supposed to do? There is tanker in next lane! Slow down, we say in unison. He really doesn't like this

I had thought of keeping a diary of all these taxi trips, just for fun or for legal purposes. Stuff like...did the taxi turn up at a reasonable time?...did the driver wear his seat belt?...did he answer his mobile phone without a hands-free?...could he actually drive safely?...did he have any kind of clue about where things are?...was the car not too smelly?... etcetera.

I know that taxi drivers get an appallingly crap deal. I mean it's worse than crap, it forces lots of them to work stupidly long hours to make their daily quota, and that endangers the lives of passengers. But I don't think that excuses them from having a few skills:

1) Being able to drive. Safely. Sensibly.
2) Being courteous to passengers.
3) Knowing the layout of the city.
4) Not having dead things rotting somewhere in the car.

Not a lot to ask - one month's training max. But I doubt that many of them get any training at all.

I reckon I could do it. But not for the money that's on offer.

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Blogger Hatem said...

I just feel sympathy with taxi drivers. As I understood from your words, you also agree that it’s not their fault, and I also believe that they don’t get any kind of trainings. One day, the driver told me that this is his first working day, and he doesn’t know anything in Dubai. I didn’t have a problem because I knew my way, but I left the taxi wishing him good luck because he will definitely meet some angry customers who will pay some extra money if he lost his way.

I honestly don’t have anything against them; whatever they do is excusable to me, as long as I am still alive :)

9:49 pm  
Blogger trailingspouse said...

I know 1,000 AED a month sounds like a lot, but when you consider what it costs to run a car (including the depreciation) it's not bad and probably cheaper than running your own vehicle.

I'm 100% with you on the issue of driving too closely. The drivers have absolutely no concept of the danger they (and I) are in. My second biggest beef though is chatting on mobiles. I now INSIST they put the damn things away or I get out. One time as I took a cab from MoE, the driver was accelerating onto SZR, still finishing his cup of tea, talking on his mobile AND driving stick shift (with his third hand)! No wonder I'm getting more white hairs by the minute.

10:11 pm  
Blogger redstar said...

Their employers share 90% of the blame, the drivers the remainder. Most of these guys are children in men's bodies in terms of their levels of education and common sense, combined with the appalling nonsense that is the Dubai driving test.

The only solution is a compensation scale where you pay based on a mix of time and distance - if this doesn't happen, dangerous driving will continue as drivers race to their destinations.

I used to report dangerous taxi driving - until a driver told me that the companies simply fine them without even explaining why they're being fined. So, they might get reported once a week for doing the same idiotic, dangerous thing, but since their employer never tells them what it is they've done wrong, they continue doing it.d

10:28 pm  
Blogger Al Ain Taxi said...

Although they're cheaper and less likely to get stuck in traffic jams, Al Ain Taxis have their fare share of problems too.

Most of them are old wrecks, I haven't seen a new taxi for a couple of years now. Secondly, the meter works on distance not time so the more KMs they can clock up in the day the better: that means driving fast.

Then there's the lane discipline. Whenever I take a taxi to Al Ain Mall the guy always sits in the central lane at the lights nearby. The turn off for the mall is on the right. So the lights change to green and the guy always cuts up people in the RH lane in order to pull into the mall. Crazy.

7:30 am  
Blogger Taunted said...

Get him to pull over to a safe place, get out, don't pay him, take his number.

That's what I do - and i give them my phone number if they ask for it too.

Works everytime - and that's just for a free ride....

6:32 pm  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

This is just another symptom of the mentality of Dubai's rulers: another few Dirhams at the expense of quality.

Singapore showed the way with taxis years ago. All Dubai had to do was copy that precedent. But that would mean 0.0001% less money for the local elite, and that would never do. So they opted instead for appalling quality, just like they do with everything else.

4:34 am  
Blogger Mme Cyn said...

Hey Tim -- I'm curious. What does Singapore do? And is there any way we can put it competitively to the Powers That Be? You know, "Singapore has the BEST taxi system in the world"? You know how our Fearless Leaders like to be the Best.

11:09 am  

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