“My ride is here!”

“Wow! A Civic…nice!” I walked towards the car and to look like a seasoned car-sharing customer I went straight to the front passenger door, only to find that it was locked! The Civic was heavily tinted, but I can still see the driver gesturing at me to sit at the back. “Is this guy serious?” Usually, they’d ask us to sit in front.

I got in, lo and behold…a lady driver! And she’s cute too. I already knew beforehand that Tan was her name from my booking app. But who would’ve guessed that it was Miss Tan and not Mr. Tan?

A minute later I decided to chat up with her.

“You know this is my first time with a lady driver.” That didn’t come up right.

“Thank you, mister…but I’m not the only one lah.” She looked at me in the rearview mirror, maybe wanted to be sure I’m not one of those perverts again.

“How long have you been…err…” I stuttered. I didn’t know how to describe her job.

“How long have I been Ubering you mean?”

Ubering. That’s a cool term for a taxi driver I thought.

“About 12 weeks.” She replied in ‘weeks’. Men drivers would have converted ‘weeks’ into ‘months’ or even ‘years’ to impress curious passenger like me.

“What did you do before…umm…Ubering?”

“I used to own a boutique…right….over…there. Can you see that 7-Eleven store? My shop is right above it.” She pointed her finger to a row of shop lots across the street but then a truck drove past her car and blocked my view. I decided to agree with her anyway.

“You’re doing two jobs in a row? That’s amazing!”

“No, no, no! I’ve sold that shop already. Business was so bad last year I had to sell everything. After 12 years doing a very successful business I thought I’ve gone thru all the challenges already…but…”

She became quite emotional with her strained voice and distant stares as if trying to recall the terrible episodes of her life.

I wanted to relate to her experience. “I just came back from this shopping mall and saw many shops closed down for good. I guess our economy is still in limbo.”

“You’re right mister. And we can’t trust the media or our politician anymore. They have different agendas.”

“So how’s Ubering been treating you?” She giggled at my question and I find it quite adorable.

“I’m doing ok, enough to pay the bills, but not enough to save. These weekly petrol hikes are hurting our profits, and maintenance are not cheap either…but one thing I like is the freedom it gave me. I can just turn off the phone whenever I don’t feel like driving hahaha!”

“And I assume you don’t drive after dark?”

“Because I’m a woman? No-lah, it depends. If I’ve reached my daily sales target I will call it a day sooner, but I’d normally continue driving until midnight, usually after dinner with my husband.”

She’s married. Bummer.

“Wow, ‘terer’lah you miss! But have you ever been harassed by your passengers?”

“Never. Ubering is actually pretty safe for lady drivers. A few will try to flirt with their dirty jokes, but I don’t think they will dare go any further. We have GPS you know. And I have my little mace ready just in case.”

We’ve finally reached my house. I took my wallet out. My total fare was RM5.75 so I gave her six ringgit. I refused to take the change she gave me and decided to throw her one last question.

“So how long will you continue to drive?” I waited for her answer as I open the door.

“I don’t know. Until we get a new PM? Hahaha!” The lovely lady bid me adieu and her silver Civic drove off.

Good answer Miss Tan.