Confessions of a Taxi Driver I - Death by Fried Rice
It is a rare, rare taxi driver who will refrain from speaking to me. So much so I have decided to start a Confessions of a Taxi Driver series here. The inaugural Confessions of a Taxi Driver kicks off with today's encounter because it is unusual even by my standards.
The encounter was not even in a taxi. I was sitting at a table at a hawker centre waiting patiently for my food, which was taking an inordinately long time, when the man sharing my table suddenly spoke to me.
"Wah, today very long wait hor?"
"Er ... yes. Very long."
"Wonder why leh. Normally not so long one."
Slightly worried what he was alluding to, I decided to play it safe.
"I think it could be that everyone is out doing their Chinese New Year shopping before all the shops close for a week."
"But not yet what! Why they so kiasu* - Chinese New Year also … eh, it’s in two days hor? No wonder lah!”
(* the Singaporean ambition is to be kiasu which literally means ‘afraid to lose’ - a condition that leads people, read Singaporeans, to take time off work to queue up for two days for a free donut)
By the time my food came, which was a bowl of fish noodles, he’d told me his name was Mr Tan, a taxi driver taking his lunch break. Somehow, as it always does with me, the conversation led to food and Mr Tan proceeded to regal me with many secret ways of preparing Chinese food.
One of the most interesting things he told me was about fried rice.
Apparently, when eating fried rice, one must always ... ALWAYS, Mr Tan stressed most earnestly, drink Chinese tea.
“Oh, is that because fried rice is so greasy and can be unhealthy so you need the Chinese tea to cut the grease?”
“No lah! Because of the story,” Mr Tan said inscrutably.
“Story? What story?” I gaped, all agogged.
“I tell you lah.”
“Last time hor, got this man whose wife died very young. Very sad one. Some more he got one young son. But then later he OK. He married again. And the woman also got a son. So now he has two …”
“No lah! Sons!”
“But the second son he no good. He got very bad heart …”
“Sickly?” I said commiseratingly.
“No no ... he got bad heart. He bad person …”
“Oh, OK …”
“And the mother sure love her own son more so they never treat the man’s own son very well. Every day she make fried rice (dire warning to all those one recipe cooks) but she give more to her own son. So to make the stepson full, so he don’t go and complain to his father, she made him drink a lot of water.
The neighbours see him so poor thing. So every day they make Chinese tea for him to drink. And so he become very strong and healthy even though every day he eat fried rice …”
I could not resist the urge to interject smugly.
“So, I was right then. The Chinese tea counteracted the excessive greasiness of the fried rice, which made him healthier.”
“No lah! I aledi said it because the mother bad hearted. So the gods hor, they punish her. Because her own son every day only eat the fried rice, never drink the Chinese tea. So he get more skinny. She cannot understand why! And then you know what happened?”
“No! What?” I asked wide-eyed and full of suspense. Could have been the fish noodles too …
“Yah lor! So moral of story is that you must drink Chinese tea when eating fried rice.”
“Because it helps to keep you healthy?”
“Yes, because only eat fried rice no drink tea you sure die like the bad son.”
“OK.” I nod dutifully.
“Oy, Chinese New Year you want to come my house for dinner?”
Moral of inaugural Confessions of a Taxi Driver – you don’t have to be in a taxi to get a grand ole tale. And an invitation to dinner.