Wealth Blog

Do you taxi share?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 October, 2013, 2:19pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 October, 2013, 2:23pm

I chuckled as 500 Herbalife health products multi-level marketing sales folks clad in tasteful green and black Lycra set off to walk round Lugard Road after their noisy team-building session by the Peak fountains last Sunday. Ludicrous planning idea of the year has to be the hotel for Lugard Road, one of Hong Kong’s favourite walks with locals and tourists. This “road” circles the Peak and is less than two metres in some places, a bit wider in others. Once the Herbalifers had set off on their yomp, all pedestrian traffic ground to a crawl. Add the two huge greyhounds and three Shar Peis in our waling party and stagnation was complete. Either the Herbalifers wanted to pose with the pooches for smartphone snaps, or they were too dog phobic to even walk past them. Frustrated joggers could not get through. Fresh-air seeking parents with whining ankle-biters and pushchairs were blocked.

Lugard Road Hotel- expect passive resistance

Fast forward to the new hotel. The nonsense plan for a hotel with no proper road access is to stagger arrival and departure times. So hotel guests will land at Chek Lap Kok at lunchtime, to be told sorry, you need to hang around a bit or go for several drinks because you can’t get to your hotel til 6pm tonight. This is genius thinking. You’ll be eating your Sunday hotel breakfast, only to be told, sorry, no toast, because the delivery van is caught up in a Fun Run round Lugard Road. But even if the crazy scheme goes ahead, as I suppose it will, being loaded with vested interests, I am optimistic. I think we could see some fun and games with walkers and the wider community walking very, very slowly. Six abreast. Or not walking at all, just stopping to chat and enjoy the views. I think we can look forward to some hotel guest road rage if this project gets off the ground.

Do you cabshare?

Meanwhile on a different, but still transport related theme, do you share cabs? I’ve tried this, with varying results. Standing in the long Central Pier 6 taxi queue, in the rain, when a cab finally comes, I usually turn and say loudly “Anyone else for Wan Chai” or wherever. Nine times out of ten this gets the same reaction as talking to a stranger in a lift. You get blank stares, or averted eyes and closed ears, as if you have made an indecent suggestion. One in ten times someone jumps thankfully out of the line and hops into the cab, with profuse thanks. The routine then is that is one of you offers to pay half, the other protests, saying they were going that way anyway, but feebly, then they accept the money with thanks. It makes abundant sense, saves money, pollution petrol and congestion.

Reluctant sharer

It’s usually Americans and Singaporeans, particularly, or interestingly, overseas Chinese, but rarely locals who seize the chance to cab share. So I was a bit non-plussed two days ago when two of us were waiting for scarce cabs on Stubbs Road at 8am. No 6 buses evaporate at that time, so when a cab miraculously came and the tall suited bloke in front got in without a backwards glance, I asked him could I share. The chance we were both going the same direction were extremely high. I thought he was going to refuse. He almost said no, than thought better of it and reluctantly slid over. I said thank you and made some pleasant comment. He tuned away from me and stared at his iPad. I got the hint and wondered did I smell bad. I asked where he was going. Without raising his eyes he snarled “IFC1 “Oh good, I said, I want Pedder Street, so that’s on the way. He ignored me. I shut up.

At Pedder Street I very deliberately extracted HK$30 - more than half the $42 on the clock - and held it in his direction. His hand stretched towards me, his fingers opened and he took the money wordlessly, without lifting his eyes from the iPad. I got out, saying "Have a Nice Day" as irritatingly as possible. I probably should have asked him for my change. Not sure what happens if that particular begrudging taxi sharer is there again next week. He was Australian, by the way. Think I’ll make sure to be there earlier and ahead in the queue in future. I got the distinct impression he would refuse if asked again. There are some singular people about.