To you, he may be just a regular Grab driver you hailed on the Grab mobile app. But to him, you’re more than just a passenger. You’re his friend, confidante, therapist and more.

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Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush from Pexels

Let’s face it. Being a passenger in a car with anyone who doesn’t talk to you is one of the most boring moments of your life. If it’s someone you know, you probably have what I’d call as ‘companionable silence’. You don’t have to talk (much or at all) yet you feel quite content staring out the window instead.

But if you’re a passenger in a cab, you may want to open your mouth and say something. The driver may be a stranger but if your ride back home is a long one, made worse by frequent traffic congestion, you might want to rethink your companionship strategy.

Then again, how often do you use Grab or Uber to get around anyway? Are you the type to hail a cab for the longest journey ever or just to get around the corner?

Whatever it is, how you make up for the time spent sitting next to (or behind) the person whom you’ve paid to ferry you from Point A to Point B is crucial.

I’d strike up a conversation with the dear fellow. But I’d see what sort of person my driver is before talking to him or her. If s/he can only converse in any language other than English, then I’ll spend the rest of my journey resting my eyes.

The Silent Drivers

I’ve had Grab drivers who didn’t talk much. I can tell when someone doesn’t feel like talking or doesn’t want to talk because his ability to speak English is not as good as the next person. If that’s the case, then yes, I’ll be resting my eyes instead.

Although, in my experience as a Grab passenger, I’ve had more male drivers than female drivers, and the male drivers are friendlier and more open to conversations than female drivers.

The Chatty Cathy’s

I’ve also had Grab drivers who won’t stop talking. Some drivers have so much on their minds that they just want to share everything with you; anything and everything under the sky and within the four doors of the vehicle.

But there are the few who’d come up with the most unusual topics of conversation. I say ‘unusual’ because they will turn you into their therapists.

How to Get Your Job Back

One Grab driver had issues with his ex boss and he made haste to resign and leave the company, and then turned to Grab driving because he wasn’t getting any income. As I was currently employed, he sought my advice on how to make peace with his ex boss because he wanted the job back. Not that I had any great advice to give him as I (myself) was going through a rough patch trying to work well with my own boss.

Needless to say, I just told him that compromising is important. Not all bosses head out to torture their employees, and if you think about it, bosses are humans too. They feel the aches and pains of overwhelming stress and pressure. They, too, will stumble and fall at some point. Only the very few can keep it together and not take it out on other people.

I really hope he got his job back.

How to Salvage Your Relationship

But there was one Grab driver, not much older than I am (I’m in my early thirties, by the way), and he was in a really sticky situation. All sorts of scenarios ran through my mind. Was he having problems with his family? Or his job, maybe? Or just the way he felt about being in a country with an ever-increasing cost of living but salaries that remained stagnant?

What he said made me cringe, I’ll be honest with you, because I don’t dole out that kind of advice. He was having relationship problems with a girl and wanted my advice on how to please her.

Me: “Spend time with her, listen to her, be nice to her, her family and friends, and to animals…”
Him: “No, no,” he said. “Nothing of that sort.”

And then it dawned on me that he wanted advice on how to make a woman happy … in bed. Rest assured, he didn’t try any funny tricks with me.

Thankfully, my ride that day was short and the topic hadn’t reared its lustful head until a few minutes away from my destination. I did, however, suggest that he sit down and talk to his partner. Find out what she likes and what she doesn’t like. Find out what tickles her fancy and ticks her off. The keyword here is communication. The same solution as the Grab driver who hastily left his job because of a miscommunication with his ex boss.

I do hope his relationship survived.

The Best of the Rest

Don’t get me wrong, though. There are the decent drivers, and then there are the really amazing ones. I hailed a driver yesterday, a Malay man in his late forties to early fifties. He was retrenched from his job as a factory foreman. He turned to Grab driving for a living. He drove slowly but surely, as if to ensure I was comfortable and not hanging on for dear life. He was a soft-spoken man. He had a great sense of humour. He did not deserve to have a life like this.

Then again, none of us deserve such an unhappy ending. I know how difficult driving for Grab can be. It’s not profitable for the driver and not a pleasant one either. Everyday, you spend hours stuck in massive traffic congestions just to get your passenger from one place to another. Some days, traffic is fine but your passengers are not. You get the horrid ones who are pissed at you for arriving late, not caring that you were stuck in traffic trying to get to them in the first place! You get prank calls and fake hails. You get people who hail you only to cancel their bookings upon your arrival.

I get that. I really do. As he had been one of the few perfect drivers I’ve ever hailed, upon dropping me off at my destination, I gave him a couple of extra ringgit on top of the fare. I told him to drive to the nearest mamak restaurant and have a teh tarik on me. His smile was the biggest and most genuine one I’ve seen all day.

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