Stories From My E-hailing Rides

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I’ve been driving as an e-hailing driver for close to three years. I’ve seen a million faces, and had my own share of uncomfortable confrontations with passengers (though none too serious).

Over the years, I’ve collected a library of interesting, real-life anecdotes. Here are some of the best ones.

*Name, location and other identifiers have been replaced.

1) The two reluctant businessmen, conned in Malaysia and going for their last hurrah

I received a request to pick up a rider from Kampung Pandan. I arrived at an Arabic-looking restaurant, and a guard walked towards me. He told me the customer I was supposed to pick up wanted to be sent to another location as well.

This doesn’t look good already.

After calculating the fares (off record), two foreigners jumped in the car. They had opposing traits – one was polite, and the other was rude.

The polite one greeted me (let’s call him A), while the rude one, (let’s call him B) didn’t. B instead asked me, loudly, to put the air-conditioner on full blast.

To me, if one has manners, then it’s natural to assume they have common sense. Also, as a driver, I wouldn’t mind going the extra mile for friendly passengers. However, be rude to me, and I won’t cater to any extra demands.

I’ll mention at the end of this story why this point is relevant to this article.

Back to the story – these two gentlemen proceed to discuss strategies for their next business meeting. B led the conversation and asked A, “Who can be trusted?”

To which A switfly answered, “I trust nobody here.”

They then recalled of the time they were both duped by a local conman. They initially intended to secure contracts from a local department. This process required the presence of a Malaysian citizen.

They did manage to find a local partner, but he ended up disappearing without a trace. The man had absconded with his commission.

A and B didn’t mention how much they lost exactly, but A told B, if this next meeting didn’t work out, or if they got scammed again, he would head back to America and not waste anymore time in Malaysia.

After dropping B off, I had a casual conversation with A, who was heading to the added location. Usually I won’t entertain off-record requests, but since he was well mannered to me, I obliged (as long as I was compensated fairly, of course.)

I continued sending A off to his new venue and to my surprise, he tipped me.

Remember when I mentioned about customers being friendly and having good common sense? While first impression might not always be accurate, it’s a pretty good gauge of a person’s character. I, for one, am glad my judgement worked to my benefit this time around.

2) A former spa centre owner talking about her jobless husband

As a driver, you’ll occasionally get very friendly passengers. Achala is one of them.

We made small talk, and she asked me questions like whether I was a full-time or part-time driver, how long have I been driving for, and many other topics as well. But one topic left a lasting impression on me.

Before she worked as an employee, she owned a spa center with another business partner. She shared with me how spa centers aren’t as profitable as people think.

This is because spa centers have to pay a lot of protection money to “blue-shirt” thugs, which can run into thousands of ringgit easily.

Furthermore, there’s a high turnaround of employees as rival centers tend to steal existing staffs. Hiring new labor is both financially and physically taxing, and Achala couldn’t keep it up. It didn’t help when Achala’s partner siphoned money away either.

Eventually she gave up. She decided to walk away from owning a spa center and went back to a regular 9-5 job. She earned less money, but gained peace of mind. I asked her what her husband thought of this move.

She gave a rather surprising answer. Apparently, her husband doesn’t know! When I asked why, she told me that he’s only interested in her money since he’s jobless and couldn’t care less where the money came from.

In fact, Achala casually mentioned that she suspects that her husband sleeps around. It made me think that such relationships where a wife turns a blind eye to her husband’s infidelity are more prevalent in our society than we’d like to mention.

3) A retired businessman, who lost his investor’s investment due to a freak accident

I picked up KC, a man who looked like he was in his 60s. He looked pleasant, and we chatted a bit before he opened up.

His story may resonate with some Malaysians – he made money, lost it, made money again, and is now at a crossroads. He told me, when he was in his 30s, he was a successful contractor for food and beverage companies, earning many big contracts.

However, the economic crisis struck in the late 90s, which left him and many other Malaysians in dire financial straits.

After many years, toiling, working hard and building up savings, he managed to start another business venture, which has been going on for the past two years. He even has a big investor, Mark, a Malaysian based in Australia.

Life was starting to look good.

In fact, when Mark’s son was getting married in Malaysia, KC couldn’t be happier. He was hoping that Mark and his family would prolong their stay in Malaysia, which would be a boost to his business.

Unfortunately, Mark’s daughter drowned in a waterfall a few days before his brother’s wedding. The irony was that she was a swimmer during her school days. I was tempted to ask how did could she have possibly drowned, but thought it was a sensitive topic.

Due to the tragedy, Mark decided to cut off his ties to Malaysia. This meant that he also quit being an investor to KC’s business.

In fact, Mark didn’t even care about his initial investments. He just told KC to accept his investment as a gift, and for KC to carry on his business on his own. Today, KC is still looking for a new investor and bootstrapping to sustain his business.

You can also read about 5 things you didn’t know about being an E-hailing Driver.

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