My Ride-Hailing Driver is a Better Person than I am

Automologist LING meets a ride-hailing driver determined to keep his end of the bargain. 

The ride-hailing driver that picks me up from KLIA2 is particularly chatty. He thinks that I am Vietnamese, seeing the pointy woven hat that he had helped me load into the boot along with my luggage, but it was a piece of handicraft that I had gotten on holiday. The driver, let’s call him Azlan, could have passed for being in his late forties, but he had just retired from the army, where the mandatory retirement age is 60.

“Did anyone reject your ride request before I accepted,” he asks. A curious question.

“No. Why do you ask?” I reply from the backseat.

“Because you choose to pay by card. We have to wait a week to receive the money if riders pay by card, so most drivers prefer cash,” he explains.

I am reminded how lucky I am that I do not have to live “kais pagi makan pagi, kais petang makan petang” (the English equivalent to “from hand-to-mouth”) but many of my fellow Malaysians, and apparently ride-hailing drivers, do. Azlan has been a ride-hailing driver for only a couple of months, since leaving the army.

“It’s been good so far. But I had a really bad experience within the first few days of starting,” he says. I press him to tell the story.

“The app (of a particular ride-hailing company) doesn’t show us the destination of a request before we click to accept it. I accepted a request and picked two brothers up from KLIA. They had just arrived from India and their final destination was…Penang!”

“But that’s more than a four-hour drive away!”

“I tried to convince them to cancel the request. It was already evening and I was tired after a full day of driving and I am not a young man anymore. But they insisted on going through with the ride.”

“So what did you do?”

“So I called my bini to tell her I was going to Penang instead of coming home. You can imagine her reaction (“betul ke pergi Penang?!”). By the time we reached Tapah, I told my passengers that I was too tired to carry on. We stopped at the rest stop and I asked them wake me up after 10 minutes. They waited for 20. I splashed some water on my face, had a cup of coffee, and we continued our journey. Then when we were about three quarters of the way there, one of my tyres blew out.”

“Oh no! What did you do?”

“Changed to the spare tyre and carried on. We made it to their destination early in the morning. I dropped them off, found a tyre shop, parked in front of it and slept until they opened the shutters. Then after changing the tyre, I drove back to KL.”

“I hope they compensated you well for it.”

“I did get a couple of hundred ringgit for it, but…it wasn’t worth it, to be honest.”

“I would have cancelled the booking if I were you,” I say smugly.

“Well, I had accepted the ride request. I must keep up my end of the bargain.” I am looking at his reflection in the rear view mirror as he says this, and I see the conviction on his face. You can take the man out of the army, but not the army out of the man.

We reach my home and I say “Tabik!” (I salute you!) before getting out. He laughs, but I think my ride-hailing driver inadvertently taught me something about duty and selfless service that day.

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