Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The real price of fuel

I'm not sure if this happens anywhere else, but in KL, you practically have to beg a cab to take you where you'd like to go.*

Patrons flag down cabs, open the door, and ask timidly if the cabbie would please take their money and take them to such-and-such a destination. It's not unusual for commuters to be rejected two or three times before they find a taxi that deigns to give them a ride.

And then there are the predators. Like the ones that wait outside big shopping malls like KLCC and ignore - yes, look the other way and ignore - local passengers and will only pick up tourists who unknowingly step into a 4-doored, air-conditioned, un-metered trap.

Hardly surprising then, that lots of people in the city prefer to walk 20 minutes to food stalls or brave a ride on dangerously overloaded buses - even at the risk of losing valuables to pick-pockets (my cellphone has made one sneaky fucker about 300 - ok, 200 - bucks).

The cabbies win though. As of last week, fuel prices have gone up 10 cents a litre and the buses have swiftly followed with a fare hike. That means between a 90 cent bus ride where you're most likely going to stand and 3.50 cab ride split four ways, even more people than before are standing under the hot sun begging cabbies to basically do their job.

Today the papers wrote of a cab driver who added his own (un-metered) fare hike in response to the fuel price increase. The passenger refused to pay the hike. The cabbie got down, dragged him from the cab, and proceeded to beat him senseless.

*Ok, I just saw the Amazing Race. It happens.

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