31.7.07

The roadside routine

There's a certain imperiousness with which I stick out my hand to hail a cab. It's not so much a "You, cab, come here now!" as an expression of my own (misplaced?) sense of purpose: "I've got shit to do, and I need to do it, and I need a cab NOW."

Sometimes the gesture mellows into a wide-winged flap, executed with all the slow desperation of one who knows the empty cab is going to pass me by because, it would seem, he has better things to do than to pick up a live fare. So the unabahsed sweep of my arm is a defiant challenge: "You can't possibly miss seeing this outrageous move, so don't come and act blur" --- which it will do anyway, and drive on by obliviously.

In Singapore, you don't often hear the New York cab-call whistle, or see the swaggering New York hail. The latter is a gesture that's grown magnified with frequent repetition in the movies, almost to the point where it's a heil gesture rather than a mere hail. Most cab-getting motions I've seen here aren't quite so drastic. As for the whistle, I wonder if it's because men who whistle in public seem capable only of hitting the notes that squel "wolf-whistle" and therefore can't fathom using their lip-blowing skillz for anything else.

Of course, none of these gestures --- aye, even the New York heil, I'd wager --- are guaranteed methods of landing a cab in Singapore. After all, what good is a flapping arm against the power of the pre-late-night-surcharge dearth of cabs, or an individual cab driver's insistence that he has to go to Hougang when I want to go to Holland?

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