The taxi blogger
Uncle Frank takes to the Net and blogs about his experiences as a taxi driver.
BY: Joanne Tok
Sixty-eight-year-old Yap Eng Huat (left), fondly known as Uncle Frank, leads an active blogger life. On his site, he regularly shares his experiences as a Singapore taxi driver, which he has been doing since 1997. And thanks to his laptop, he now blogs anywhere, anytime, and is enjoying every moment doing it.
This father of two as well as grandfather of two shares with Agelessonline about why one shouldn’t fear computers and some tips for those who want to blog but don’t know how to get started:
It’s interesting how you have started blogging about your experiences since 2008. Can you tell us how challenging it was to pick up blogging?
It was by chance that I got started. I bought a secondhand computer for S$200 in 2007 and was learning how to surf the Net with it. Given my occupation as a taxi driver, I managed to find many taxi bloggers overseas, such as in New York, Australia, etc. It came to me as a surprise that even though there are 20,000 odd taxi drivers in Singapore, there are no taxi bloggers at all! My daughter then started to encourage me and helped me set up a blog. With her help, I decided to give it a shot, and here I am!
As you would know, not a lot of seniors in Singapore use Facebook or blog. If so, how did you overcome that? Any tips for beginners?
Ah, it is expected that not a lot of seniors use the computer. There is always the fear of computer keyboards, the fear of typing the wrong things on the keyboard and something bad might happen. It is something foreign to our generation. I got started because my granddaughter and grandson are always on Facebook and I wanted to catch up and find out what they are up to.
What I would advise is, find someone to teach you. It is the easiest way to allay your fears of not knowing how to use it. Find someone whom they know who would go through with them the steps to surfing the Net. It is easy to get lost after reading so many things so find someone who is computer-literate to guide them. As most of us are experiential learners, after a few times, you will start enjoying it. The easiest way to start a blog is to go to Blogspot – it’s pretty straightforward.
Also, do take note that it is important to be good in grammar and to be creative. You need to be able to express what you want to write or explain so your readers can understand. If one is not good in English, it is very difficult to pick up blogging.
Can you share how a typical day for you is like? Is it troublesome for you to find time to blog? How often do you blog?
I drive typically six to seven hours a day, starting my shift at 5.30pm. I usually wake up at 3pm and kick-start my day with a cup of coffee. Then I will enrich myself with what’s happening by reading the news online and share on my Facebook page if there’s anything interesting. Next, I go through my e-mails, personal Facebook newsfeed, my page, and finally my blog.
I try to update my blog very regularly. If there’s something to write about, I get onto it immediately. If there’s no inspiration and it’s time to drive off, then I go off for work first and continue when I get back at night. I will always need to find a magic word or a key word to spark me off and then I just carry on typing, and the story will just unfold.
There are a lot of stories every day. When passengers know that I’m a taxi blogger, they start talking to me like they’ve known me for very long. I tell all my passengers that I’m a taxi blogger and in fact, I print out my own ‘namecards’, which are just pieces of printed papers actually, that lists my blog address. People like to see their stories in public and I often get asked if I will write about them. Of course, I will only write if it’s interesting. If I’m just fetching someone from point A to point B and indicating the cab fare required for that, then no one will read.
My memory fails me sometimes, because I am getting old. Writing stories often require a lot of details and I have to be creative and imaginative as well. Sometimes I will forget some details and take some time to recall again before I publish my post. I’ve recently signed up for a contract with StarHub and got a free Asus laptop that I carry with me. You can see me blogging almost anywhere, even at coffee shops sometimes if the inspiration strikes. I can’t exactly give an estimate of how often I blog, as I usually require materials and inspiration before I write.
It’s also interesting how my blog contents got picked up by a Timeout editor, whom conducted an interview with me earlier this year. In fact, this is the fifth interview I’m having already. Now, I’m a monthly columnist for Timeout Singapore, contributing interesting happenings and stories in Singapore. I always hear complaints about how there is no time or no choice. To me, there is always time. You manage your own time, and there’s always a choice. If you’re working long hours, you can choose to change your job. It’s always a fear of change within us that stops us from taking action. It’s all in the mind. So, is it troublesome for me to find time? Not at all.
What is the most memorable blog entry and why?
It has to be this passenger whom I picked up near Orchard Towers. A lady, in her 30s boarded the front seat and told me she was headed for Hazel Park. After that, she just lay down on my lap, with her head facing my tummy! I was shocked and didn’t know whether to drive her home quickly or to go to the nearest police station in case anything happens. You can imagine why it’s memorable.
You can read more about it over here: http://askunclefrank.blogspot.sg/2012/02/shocking-and-unbelievable.html.
In one of your blog entries, you mentioned that these days, passengers are too connected to their phones that they are no longer aware of their surroundings. Is it a characteristic that is particular to any age group? What advice would you give?
It is usually the younger group. They often board the cab, tell me the address and then return to talk on the phone throughout the journey. It can be from Orchard all the way to Pasir Ris sometimes. I don’t mean to eavesdrop, most of the time it’s gossip, talking about other people that last them through the phone call. Either that, or they’re playing games on the phone.
It’s very dangerous not to pay attention especially when you take a cab at night. The taxi driver may be half asleep, bypass your place and you won’t even know. When you’re too engrossed in the game or conversation, you don’t care where you’re going. Leave the phone call or game to another time, be more aware when you’re in a cab.
Cab drivers are often known as being resourceful. Can you share with us what are some of the best food places that you’ve come across?
It depends on your preference. For instance, you would probably tell tourists to visit Newton Circus to experience local food; and I may not like chicken rice as much as you do. So it’s often hard to say which is the best. Taking our local Char Kway Teow, I would probably recommend four places. First would be Telok Blangah Food Centre, where they give a lot of cockles. Maxwell Food Centre and Zion Road are good too. And Bendemeer Market at Lorong 29 serves a rather special Char Kway Teow with ikan bilis.
How does your family feel about your local hero/blogger status?
They are extremely supportive. They even remind me sometimes when they don’t see very frequent updates on my blog.
How do you choose the topics to blog on?
As long as it’s interesting and it’s something that I think my readers would like, then I blog about it. It’s usually on what happens during driving.
Can you share three things that you would like Singapore to be?
Hmm … this is an intriguing question. I find that Singapore is very peaceful. We are lucky because we do not have natural disasters and terrorist attacks (with strict precautions like Holland Village having barricades at 7pm). In Singapore, I find there is mostly crimes of passion, personal issues which nobody can do anything about it. The unexpected and unpredictable happens in life.
Perhaps, one thing would be the younger ones are more self-centred now. They tend to keep to themselves, and are more concerned about their personal quality of life. Like I see a lot of the younger generation working to have their own HDB flat, and having only one child. They tend to care more within their own small family circle. It’s nothing wrong, as it is part of how our society has evolved over the years. It would be good to remind them of how the past is like and also not to forget about their elders.
What are your upcoming plans?
Oh, I am very excited to share about this! In fact, this is why I haven’t been blogging for the past week. I have just discovered something called the Kangen Water, as I bumped into an old friend of mine. As we started chatting, I mentioned that I have been experiencing excruciating pain on my right upper arm every time I hold up my cup of coffee. She then introduced me to this water and started pouring it for me to try. I was skeptical initially but when I went back after my shift, I was surprised that I felt no pain at all! It was so amazing that I had to find out more about it and eventually bought the machine that costs me about S$5,000.
Right now, I’m telling everyone I meet about this Kangen Water – I call it the good water or the healing water. As it’s alkaline in nature; it has healing properties that’s good for many diseases. For people with dialysis, diabetes, blemishes and even cancer! It has been proven that cancer cells do not thrive in alkaline conditions. My car boot is now filled with bottles of water as I give it out for people to try. I’m not selling it, as I want to help as many people as I can. I’ve blogged about it too at http://askunclefrank.blogspot.sg/2012/08/the-power-of-kangen-water.html.