Monday, November 15, 2010

Life in Singapore

Taxi blues...

Ordering a taxi in Singapore is so easy because of the cab company's wonderful automated system. The system recognizes your number and offers to send a cab to your primary pick-up point (usually your home or office address). You just have to press 1 and hey presto! your cab is ordered.

Except when that automated system gets messed up. One of the hardest things for me has been trying to get the company to register my name. Pamposh would be impossible, so I shoot for Pam. But there are similar Chinese names in Singapore: Bam, Tam, Pan and Tan. For some reason, Pam is the very last choice of the operator.

What's in a name, you say - just settle for Bam or Tam or Tan. I did. But then the cabbie who was sent to pick me up would invariably look at me suspiciously and grill me about my name, phone no. and general antecedents. Not the cabbie's fault - after all you don't expect to see a big Indian woman when you've obviously been sent to pick up a petite Chinese lady. Who's this other woman trying to steal the cab?

So, I called the cab company. After several minutes of "P for Poland" etc, they finally agreed to put me down as Ms. Pam. Great! No more suspicious glances from cabbies.

This blissful state of affairs carried on for several months. Then, suddenly, for no reason I could fathom, the company started sending cabs for Mr. Ho Ming. Who is Mr. Ho Ming?? No-one knows. Boy, this one was much worse than Bam or Tam or Pan. I do NOT look like a Mr. Ho Ming!! Not ever.

In one case, I actually had to ask the cabbie to call my mobile phone (the company gives the driver the customer's number) and answer it in his presence when he rang! Only then did he grudgingly allow me to step into his cab.

So last night I called the cab company again to ask them to change their records. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I'd like you to change your records please. You seem to have someone else's name for my phone no.
Operator: You want to change your name?
Me (a bit taken aback): No, my name is still Pam. I just want you to change your records.
Operator: Ya, ya, change your name.
Me: Yes, please change my name. (This is easier, I thought.) Please change it to Pam. P for Poland...
Operator: T for Thailand...
Me (unable to stop myself): How do you get Thailand from Poland? (Then, composing myself): No, no, P for Poland...

And so it went.

Let's see what name shows up on the cab driver's screen next time. If it isn't Pam, I hope it's something fun and exotic.