I hailed a SMRT cab to head out after what I considered to be a pretty crappy day, and the uncle I got had his shift change sign on which typically annoys me even on a regular day since I always get rejected by shift changing drivers. Surprisingly, this time I got lucky and he agreed to take me, though I got in feeling apprehensive about everything in general.
I got into the cab, and the first thing he did was notice I was wearing workout gear and said “uncle is very happy to see you take care of yourself”, after which he handed me two sweets and a chocolate coated wafer biscuit (the kind you ate a lot of as a kid). This took me completely aback, given that no taxi driver has ever offered food to me before, and all I could think about was how my parents told me not to take sweets from strangers, which added to my apprehension. He gave me another first in all the taxi rides of my life when he started handing me several laminated sheets of newspaper reports and certificates on how he’s received awards from the LTA for his service as a taxi driver. I read them out of politeness at first, but as he was describing each one to me, my desire to read transformed into that of genuine interest. While I would usually chalk all this talking up to massive bragging, I realised that this wasn’t it – he genuinely loved what he did and wanted to share that joy with me, someone he’s never met before.
The laminated sheets he handed to me then moved from newspaper reports and certificates to old photographs. This was where he started talking about his family – how he had a difficult time many years ago after his wife left, but how he got through it and most importantly how proud he was of his two grown-up daughters, who are studying hard in poly/uni and going to be independent soon. It was also at this moment that he turned up the radio, which was playing one of those 80s love ballads, and he started singing along in this soft but sure sentimental tone. Before I got off the cab, he told this: these songs are the soundtracks of the moments where I should be with loved ones on a stormy night, singing along to drown out the sound of the raindrops.
After getting off, I reflected and thought – how ungrateful I must be compared to this uncle, when I complain about my life, whether about finals or just being under the weather, when there are people out there who would give anything to have the opportunities so many of us are blessed with. I also realised that I’m guilty of probably pushing away everyday reminders to be thankful, just because I’m too caught up with myself or I’m too judgmental to see them. It shouldn’t take a stranger that I may never see again to remind me that every moment is a gift, but I’m glad that I had those unexpected 15 minutes to bring me back to that humbling, simple reality.