Long holidays are always relaxing, and for me the New Year recess was a blessing. Not because I could take a break from work, but because I was finally able to take time away from the most exhausting part of my daily routine _ hailing a taxi.
Every evening, I rely on the taxi service to pick up my kid from the nursery and to go home. It's a rare and lucky day if I can find a cabbie who agrees to stop en route and wait for me briefly, sparing me the trouble of looking for another taxi. Most of the time the cabby simply shakes their head, with excuses including the distance being too far, or the tanks are nearly empty, or they can't return their vehicle to the garage in time.
I put up with this experience for the whole of last year. I can count on my fingers the number of times I was accepted by the first taxi I flagged, despite the relatively short distance between the nursery and my house (the fare is usually 50 to 60 baht). There is even a shortcut, via sois, if the main road is clogged with traffic.
Most days we have to flag five, six or even seven taxis before we can get into one, and one day we were rejected by 11 cabbies before one agreed to take us. Repeatedly turned down, it got to a stage where my two-year-old daughter asked, "Will this taxi go with us?", every time she saw one coming in our direction.
I have no idea why the cabbies shake their heads when I tell them the destination. Is it to do with distance? Too far? No, it can't be. Perhaps it isn't far enough to be sufficiently rewarding? Or is it traffic congestion? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. And there's a shortcut.
And there are those rainy days. Many others who have endured the experience of waiting for a taxi in Bangkok may have the same feelings of frustration.
It's hard enough trying to get one when it's not raining, so imagine how difficult can it get on those unfortunate days when it is wet.
I once spent two hours standing just waiting to get into a taxi.
One day, the owner of a frame shop in the neighbourhood, having watched us waiting for so long, took sympathy and offered a chair to sit on. I was carrying two bags, my daughter's. I said thank you and politely declined her offer, but told myself that if I had to buy a mirror or get pictures framed some day, I would definitely call on that shop.
Of course there are a few lucky days when we're accepted by the first taxi we flag, but that's down to the fact that there's a rare breed of drivers with principles who would never turn down a passenger unless their cab was really low on fuel. They believe those who turn down passengers shouldn't be driving taxis in the first place, and I couldn't agree more.
As the experience of being turned down by taxis becomes more common, it is not surprising thousands of daily commuters have jumped on the government's first-car scheme.
They're happy to be in debt for half a decade in return for a more pleasant way to get to work and move around town.
Well, what will happen if everyone gets fed up with taxis end up buying themselves a car? Driving around Bangkok is not as easy as being a passenger. Any increase in the number of vehicles will only aggravate traffic congestion on Bangkok's already chaotic roads.
As the New Year holidays are over, so is my break from the daily grind of having to find a taxi to get to work. In other words, normal services have resumed. Flagging one the other day my daughter proclaimed hilariously: "Mummy, let's guess what colour of taxi will pick us up today?" Then she answered it herself, "It's going to be either green, blue or pink."
There was one day we were turned down by six cabs, which prompted my little angel to ask why wouldn't they take us where we want to go. Not willing to over-complicate the issue for a curious two-year-old, I simply said: "Because they're bad." When the next cab agreed to take us, my daughter said, as I opened the door with her in my arms: "This one must be good." And my irritation briefly gave way to a pleasant feeling.
Sasiwimon Boonruang writes about IT for Life.
About the author
- Writer: Sasiwimon Boonruang
Position: Life Writer