TAXI STORIES

It was almost like in the Philippines but, in a way, it wasn’t. Getting into a cab in Manila is a test of nerves. There’s always that possibility that you’d end up with an unscrupulous driver who, at the very least, could drive you in circles and then charge you an arm and a leg for fare. The worst case scenario is you’re in for a ride with a downright bastard – you know what I mean. The most common horrific stories you hear about cab drivers are always linked to the taxi meter. One story is it’s not working – he’ll tell you the moment you get in – and he’ll try to wheedle his way, coercing you to pay a flat rate, which, if the meter was working, would cost much higher than the meter rate. Another is that the fare jumps faster than you can crack your knuckles because the taxi meter has been tampered with.

If it’s not a taxi meter story, you have tales of drivers who jump the gun, whimpering like a puppy reminding you of the tip they should be receiving. And the journey hasn’t even started. That kind of driver really gets on my nerves – and my family as well – that I end up not tipping them at all. It’s absolutely annoying to be told what to do especially when I normally tip drivers because I empathize with them given their long hours, tedious traffic jams, obnoxious passengers and the very laborious nature of driving.

My contribution to the endless woeful tales of taxi drivers is my experience with a taxi of Cipaganti (pronounced Chipaganti) taxi, one of the taxi companies in Indonesia. They have a newly opened office at Cyber Park mall in Bekasi, which also serves as the shuttle depot to Bandung. It’s easy getting one because, most of the time, a couple of vacant taxis are parked outside – its drivers waiting for passengers. I usually get into one after working out at Helios. Easy-peasy – down to the ground floor from the third, walk to the side of the building where the outdoor car park is, look for the lit taxi signs, get in and you’re home in 15 minutes (if there’s no traffic jam).

Up until now, Cipaganti, I thought, was a good alternative to the ubiquitous Blue Bird, which has been hailed as the most reliable cab company in Indonesia. A former local business associate, in fact, recommended it emphatically as the taxi to take around Indonesia because the drivers won’t gyp passengers, they know where to go (which isn’t the usual case for most non-Blue Bird cab drivers) and the vehicles are clean (the inside doesn’t reek of dirty socks or cigarette smoke) and commodious. Blue Bird drivers can rival the cab drivers of Singapore – they’re knowledgeable, neatly dressed, courteous and professional (read: they don’t hassle you with the fare).

Cipaganti could have been all that Blue Bird is and it was doing well until the driver of cab number A005 tainted its reputation. Unlike the previous drivers who asked you for the destination so that they’d know where to go, this one weighed whether he’d like to drive my destination or not. Also, compared to the previous drivers who buckled up, this one ignored the continual beeping sound of the seat belt sign, which was grating on my nerves. Worst, he ignored my gentle reminder about the seatbelt sign, uttering some lame excuse.

The clincher was when I paid my fare that added up to almost Rp16, 000 (exclusive of the mall parking of Rp2, 000).  Unlike the earlier drivers who accepted the money based on the meter and who never mentioned anything about a bare minimum fare, this one had the audacity to say that the minimum fare for a Cipaganti cab ride is Rp20,000. What minimum fare? Flag down rate for lower-tariff taxis is Rp5,000 while others start at Rp6, 000 like Cipaganti and Blue Bird. How absolutely galling! And to think that one of his colleagues put his trust in me and friend one night when it came to paying the fare. His meter wasn’t working and, recognizing us and our route, politely said that we can pay him the same amount we paid him for the last taxi ride.

That’s it for Cipaganti – I’ve scratched it off my list of taxis. From now on, it will only be Blue Bird, Express or Gamya.

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