Interesting Journey

6:01 PM Shanky 2 Comments

The real driver

On my first visit to Bangkok, I met with a 50 year old taxi driver who claimed to be an ex-Muay Thai boxer. I have my own reservations about how much I should believe him. But this is not about his integrity or even ethics. He was a friendly taxi driver I hailed to take me to Mo Chit BTS station (commonly known as Mo Chit 2) from Mo Chit bus terminal. He was chatting away from the beginning in his broken English like many other taxi drivers. I usually feel sad for old men to go work in jobs like these, I don’t know why. I want them to sit back in a rocking chair and while their time away adoring their grand children. Working as a taxi driver or a table cleaner in a restaurant where grumpy jackass customers scold you or scowl at you is not how I like the elders to spend their old age. Especially the nice ones must be endowed with a beach bungalow where they can sip on some lemon ice tea, listen to Bob Marley or some music like that and just stare at the horizon. Whatever I may wish for them, the reality is that this gentleman is still working in one of the ugliest professions where every driver is abused by the commuters for cheating them. This thought of compassion (I don’t know how else to put this feeling) made me listen to him rather than just ask him to shut up!

He started with his work profile and started asking about what I do etc. Apparently he was a chauffeur for wealthy financial services managers in Bangkok. His previous employers were working in Standard Chartered and Deutsch bank and both were farangs (read: Expats/foreigners). He has also travelled the world as a boxer including a trip to Pakistan, he claimed. Then he said he does not smoke or drink but admitted he has a sweet tooth and even showed me the assortment of sweet buns and cookies he had stashed away in the glove compartment. I was smiling all the while, nodding at the right places and even acted surprised when he showed me the cookies. That was the least I could do for this jolly old man; give some time and attention during the travel. But all the travel guides that I had read and all the advise that I had listened to, from colleagues, pointed to one rule - always be wary of people who are friendlier than required. But that day I was to learn that there are exceptions to every rule!

He was fascinated that I work in Ang Thong province and told me his native is in that province as well. Apparently he is fed up with Bangkok and wanted to move closer home. The fast life and the traffic is not what he can take at this stage in life. I can completely understand what he meant though the language he spoke was not spot-on. This is when he asked me if I had a car in Ang Thong. I told him that I was new (and immediately regretted it . I had made a mistake; now he will take me via a longer route and ask more money!) and that I cannot afford one now. He then said something that really moved me, "Sir whenever you buy car please call me. I am a good driver! I no drink. I no smoke. Give little money. I want to go country side. Bangkok - too much traffic, not good." His voice radiated sincerity and earnestness which made me feel sad. I told him I will be buying a car sometime in my life. This somehow brightened him up. He then gave me his number and took mine as well and said, "Please call me sir. I good driver" Pangs of guilt immediately started pricking me. I know I am going to be here for 3 months only and I have kindled a ray of hope in this poor fellow. A hope that I know will be put off sooner than later. I felt really bad for doing this to the guy. 

While we were crawling through the Bangkok traffic he was repeating his plea to employ him as my driver. He did not have a resume or talk about his achievements but just the way he was persistent about his ability to drive well and the sincerity with which he said those words will make anyone give him a job. And I knew I won’t be able to live with the guilt that I gave him hope and then crushed it. I have done that enough number of times in my life to many people who I know, I loved and have regretted later for giving them the hope. So, I gathered some courage and told him that I am not here for long and that I will be leaving. I guess he wanted the job very badly, even this admittance did not deter him. He then asked me "When you come back?" I replied that I might not come back at all but still he persisted "OK. U come back and buy car. Then call me sir. I good driver" I said "Ok, I will" He then said "Thank you sir, Mr. San" (I had shortened my name for him so that he can say it easily)

Finally the taxi reached the station gates and it was time to pay up. Panic struck again inside me and I was thinking he will demand more money now. According to the rule he was too earnest and more than friendly, so he must fleece me. Half expecting him to raise the fare, I gave him the fare that the meter showed. He took the money and said "Thank you sir. Thank you Mr. San. You call me, OK." Another pang and I feel a heavy stomach, dry throat and awe at the optimism this old man was showing. Like they say, the journey is more important than the destination. A petty commute from bus station to BTS station and this will definitely be in my memory forever. I sincerely pray that the guy get a better job than this and live his life in peace. Amen!

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  1. Definitely interesting.. Had a similar experience when I was a day scholar, except that the guy was drunk and causing a ruckus in the bus..

  2. Nicely written! :)


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