Riding with Grab: Five Drivers You Will Meet Behind the Wheels

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Why drive a car when a car can come to you?

Whether you’re meeting a client in Bangsar or shopping at Midvalley, you can always count on Grab to take you anywhere these days.

For several years, I had the pleasure of meeting different people through this popular ride-hailing app. From chatty uncles to hardworking hustlers, you can easily identify these drivers from your favourite Grab experiences.

1. The Extrovert

When you step into the car, they radiate like the morning sun. You can tell by the way they welcome you with a smile and pleasant greeting. Their friendliness is infectious, and in their minds, they secretly go “Yes, a new person to chat with!”

There’s never a dull afternoon when you’re assigned to a chatty Grab driver. They can navigate through conversations about any topic, and through the streets of Masjid Jamek at the same time.

One time, I recognised “Ku Katakan Dengan Indah” on the radio, and the Grab driver shared his experience working with the Indonesian band, Peterpan, also known today as “Noah”

“You know what? I was one of the backstage crew for their concert a few years back. I had to stay back past midnight because they arrived late for their sound check”.

On a separate occasion, a Grab driver shared some real estate insights when we chatted about apartments.

“Cyberjaya is hot right now, but how about investing in a place in Seremban? I’m an agent, so I can give you a good rate.”

I didn’t follow up with him about the properties in Seremban, but it’s always nice to turn conversations into connections. I also had the chance to network with a freelance graphic designer during one of my Grab trips.

So, feel free to strike a conversation if you like. Extroverted drivers love good-natured banters any day.

2. The Introvert

They’re a godsend to anyone who craves for a quick nap before they reach their destination. Introverted Grab drivers are the polar opposite of a talkative one; they’re tight-lipped.

Your quiet driving experience will only be sandwiched by two lines: a greeting and goodbye. In between, they leave it to BFM 89.9 to provide insightful commentary and Spotify to play “Solitude is Bliss” by Tame Impala.

Some introverted drivers can sense the awkward silence quickly, and try their best to make the experience comfortable. Once, a driver sweetly sacrificed his favourite music in favour of my presumed choice of radio station: MY 101.8.

“It’s okay, uncle. I don’t understand Chinese.”

Their intense focus on the road is the second thing I like about introverted drivers. Not only can they swiftly alternate their focus between the LDP traffic and GPS, they can also ensure a safe journey for peak-hour traffic and beyond.

3. The Ambassador

What would Grab do without them? They’re so passionate about the ride-hailing app that they can recite every detail in their driver’s training manual. They’re so eager to share that I secretly hope they’re being paid.

Over the years, I discovered a couple of questions that will get them talking for hours:

What do you like about Grab?
Where is the farthest you’ve driven someone?
Is it difficult being a Grab driver?

They love it, and it can also turn into excellent conversation starters. You know, just to get to know them and fill up the empty void within the 15-minute ride. It’s also a treat to find out the app’s strengths and weaknesses from the driver’s perspective.

A driver once mentioned that the promo codes are great for building demand. At the same time, he also found it troublesome that toll charges aren’t automatically billed into the final payment.

Another Grab driver also shared a tip that rates are higher during rainy days. If it’s raining outside and you have time to spare, stay awhile to save yourself a few ringgits.

4. The Retired Uncle

There’s no rest for the retired. Fresh out of retirement, my experience can attest that they’re as nice as my real uncle.

Some Grab uncles work day and night for extra income, while others just want to have someone to chat with. What’s great about them is their love for storytelling, or sometimes, ranting.

While on a ride to Midvalley, I met a Grab uncle who went on and on about his life.

He shared about his previous job before retirement (he worked in an oil palm estate), his youngest son who recently graduated (with a degree in actuarial science), and his weekend plans (cheap beers with his other uncle friends).

Another Grab uncle also shared his passion for giving back to the community. He started driving Grab a few years ago to supplement his monthly donations to a neighbourhood orphanage. He even threw a warm and friendly invitation to “Come and visit me in my church!”.

Of course, you will come across Grab uncles who can give a solid two cents about the local economy, politics, and sports.

“So hard to find good badminton players these days. Chong Wei wants to retire also cannot,” or “Young people like you need to go out and vote. Don’t comment on Facebook only.”

Grab uncles are nice, and if you have the patience for long-form storytelling, they make good driving companions.

5. The Hustlers

Whenever the hustlers have time to spare, they’ll drive you anytime and anywhere. You’ll be surprised to find that they have a day job or night-shift duty too.

It’s remarkable to meet Grab drivers who also moonlight as property agents, tuition teachers, and freelancers.

While it’s inspiring to meet everyday hustlers behind the wheels, some of them became part-time Grab drivers for other reasons.

I met a fresh graduate who couldn’t secure a job with her Marketing degree, a father who was retrenched unexpectedly by his company, and a daughter who treated it as a part-time job to pay for increasing living expenses.

I can’t help but wonder the reasons that drove real people to dedicate their leisure days and weekends to become Grab drivers.

Some of them are dealing with real hardships in their lives. It’s also heart-rending to know they had no choice but to treat Grab as their secondary income to support themselves.

Whoever your driver may be, try to be kind and courteous whenever you can. For every Grab driver who did a good job, a little thank you and good rating go a long way.

Grab drivers aren’t just people who drive you around. Whether it’s an early morning drive to work or an evening ride home, they’re committed to taking you to wherever you need to be.

Part of the Grab experience is the interesting personalities you meet every day. It may be one of the closest ways to gain an authentic conversation with another fellow Malaysian.

You may be assigned to an extroverted driver or a chatty Grab uncle, but be open to getting to know them if you’re comfortable with striking conversations. Within the span of 15 minutes, you’ll be surprised by the various stories you hear on every ride.

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If Cheng Sim can have it her way, she would live in a penthouse with an imaginary cat named Genghis. Since life has a sense of humour, she resides in Subang Jaya where she deals with their infamous traffic and subpar bak kut teh instead. She doesn't wreak havoc, but she writes at chengsim.com
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