The trouble with being a Taxi Driver

ABU DHABI — Regardless of place or period, the image of taxi drivers at best has been a subject of popular ire. And the capital cabbies are no exception — victims as they are today of the hubris of the Press and the laws in force.

By A Staff Reporter

Published: Sat 6 Aug 2005, 10:20 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:11 PM

The best place to meet a large number of cabbies is during the call for the Maghrib prayers, when commuter demand peaks. However, there may be a change for the better in the wake of scathing criticism from the media against the conduct and behaviour of these men behind the wheels. The media has gone great lengths during campaigns launched by the police to promote traffic awareness and general road sense in the interest of the people at large.

“Nobody ever speaks about traffic awareness among the commuters when they hail taxis in attempts to stop them at prohibited spots. And if we do not heed the call, we stand to swallow insults in languages we do not understand,” rued Kameen Khan, a taxi driver.

Interestingly, an Arabic newspaper referred to some complaints that taxi drivers do not speak the Arabic language, as if to suggest that the beneficiaries of their wishful thinking would all be only Arabs.

A popular burden of their song is the cleanliness and hygiene elements that are admittedly low in the priorities of taxi drivers. But how could one expect the practice of such virtue among taxi drivers whose long working hours stretch to 10 or 15 hours a day, and all for favour of returns of a paltry sum to eke out a living. For sure, raising their standards of living will prompt them to think in terms of breathing cleaner air in better environs of their cabs, instead of mooting punitive measures that will cut into their very lifeline of employment.

Another driver, Ahmed, said: “The taxi are not only the source of livelihood for us, but also for local sponsors, some of whom need the money and depend on their fourwheelers. I wonder from where some newspapers get the information from; who are the people they speak to and on what have they depended to come to their conclusions has gone into the reports.”

Most commuters are thankful for the low taxi fares in Abu Dhabi compared with other emirates, especially Dubai. The costs of accommodation are extremely high in the capital city; the residents are happy that at least the transportation costs are low. Enlightened self-interest would suggest that they retain the status quo.

Majdi, an Egyptian, whose income as a salesman does not exceed Dh3,000 per month and who has no driving licence, prefers to live in Abu Dhabi to Dubai where he used to spend much of his income on transportation.

Bashar Saeed, who once lost his mobile in one of the taxis, said the incident was no reason for censuring taxi drivers, because many of his friends who has lost their mobile phones in taxis got them back from honest drivers.

He also narrated incidents of drivers who handed over to the police valuable possessions left behind by clients in their cars, for which they had received commendation certificates from the police. He, however, grimaced at the prospect of songs blaring loudly in Pushtu language, that was much to the relish of the driver and the consternation of the commuter.

Hussam Zakaria, a young Syrian, reasoned that we should not judge certain nationalities in a negative way, as would tantamount to discrimination. “Although racial groups have specific traits that mark them out, generalisation is not acceptable”.

“When I arrived here one of my friends warned me of the difficulty in dealing with taxi drivers, who happen to belong to certain nationalities, but I found out that some of them are very nice. After my working hours, I hire the taxis to reach home near a hospital and the driver would enquire with show of concern about my health. I then reply that it is just that I happen to live near the hospital”.

“Many bitter experiences have been reported by passengers with taxi drivers all over the world. Drivers in New York City are notorious for mistreating their customers. But here in the Emirates, we enjoy security that is the envy of many advanced cities where traffic rules are said to be in place.”

The introduction of new taxi cars owned by major companies to Abu Dhabi emirate does not mean that the problem should be taken to negative extremes.

Hussain, a taxi driver, in a broken language, said: “We are being pushed to leave our work and to go back home. If I could afford to buy a car, I would go back to Peshawar. Work there is available, but I don’t have enough money to go back.”

However, the glaring truth is that the rapid development witnessed by the UAE and Abu Dhabi emirate must be accompanied by development in transportation facilities. “Where is the public transportation system? Development, of course, would not imply raising fares of transport at a time when salaries are not enough to fulfil living costs?” said an Asian commuter.

“The UAE has been providing refuge to those who have no opportunity in their own countries. They come here to this safe country to make their dreams come true. Should we steal their dreams?” he wondered.

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