Everybody in Hong Kong has a taxi driver story. Some are weird and wonderful; others are outright horror shows. Some taxi drivers want to be your best friend, some want to take a tire iron to your head—and some maybe both. Cabbies can be loudmouths, comedians, know-it-alls or bores. They can also be perverts, drunks, creeps and vulgarians. But more than all that, more than anything else, it seems like all of them are just goddamn crazy. We read about their ills everyday. They cheat people on their fares. They charge people when returning lost property. They block up the streets with their protests about fuel prices or competition from hired vans. They pollute the air with their idling engines—and when told not to, they protest about that too. Not that they’d have a clue about any of the issues they whine about, as Regina Ip famously told them. They’re addicted to cheap booze, cigarettes and horseracing. Not to mention prostitutes and sleazy pursuits. Indeed, just months ago, tabloids were awash with rumors of a new device installed in cabs that would allow those beady eyes in the front mirror a quick wander up your skirt. But that’s just the beginning. The darkest depths of cabbie depravity and delirium made headlines in 1982. Cab driver Lam Kor-wan was arrested after strangling a number of female passengers with electrical wire, then dismembering them in his parents’ house. Police raided the latter to find Tupperware containers stuffed with sexual organs. The case was an instant hit. It shot to the forefront of the popular imagination again ten years later with the horror film “Doctor Lamb” (1992), starring Simon Yam in a role that made Travis Bickle seem like a boy scout. The following year saw Herman Yau’s “Taxi Hunter,” in which Anthony Wong played an insurance salesman who takes revenge on all the city’s reckless, abusive, overcharging cab drivers with a shotgun. His anti-hero was one we were all meant to be able to sympathize with. So how did cabbies get so crazy? Dr. Edmund Lam, of the Hong Kong Community Psychological Medicine Association, attributes “neurotic tendencies” and general “craziness” among cabbies to overwhelming stress. He gives a list of categories the latter frequently revolves around: income, health, self-image and limited social contact. Income can be incredibly unstable in the taxi-driving world. It’s contingent on uncontrollable factors like the weather and fuel prices, and some of it lost to illegal discount businesses. “Last month my cab driver patients were particularly frustrated because the rain throughout June brought business down by 20-30 percent,” says Lam. Potential accidents that injure drivers, passengers or the car also bring costly consequences. On the health front, Lam points out that driving in a car all day can give you back and neck pain. He also adds that many drivers “train themselves to hold their urine or bowel movements” for unnatural periods of time. This not only causes physical disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but neurotic obsessions with bodily functions. Alternating between day and night shifts, drivers also have irregular diets and sleeping patterns. The issue of self-image goes beyond just being talked down to by rude customers. Lam points out that many middle-aged taxi drivers may have been people in managerial positions who lost their jobs during tough times, notably the economic crisis five years ago. They have to adjust to new, harsh realities. Added to this are developments such as the MTR extensions now underway, which don’t make for very reassuring prospects. “As a result, I’ve seen some drivers suffering from serious depression disorders.” Finally, while it involves meeting countless new faces every day, taxi driving can also be an incredibly lonely job. Because they work odd hours, there’s often little sustained socializing with anybody aside from a few other cabbies. And those with families may well miss out on spending time with them on Sundays. Yet rough as all of the above are, perhaps none compare to one overriding source of frustration among taxi drivers across Hong Kong: You. You’re pushy, patronizing and overbearing. You complain he’s going too slow, or too fast. You act like the traffic’s his fault (“We’re sitting in traffic jams all day, you think we’re not pissed off too?” asks one target of abuse). You come in drunk and start screaming and singing or crying. You throw up. You pass out. You wet yourself. You leave all kinds of other icky stuff behind—including, according to one driver, your own six-year-old kid. You fight with your lover and air all your stupid soap-opera grievances, and ask him to pick sides. You fondle and slobber over each other in the backseat. If you’re Stephen Gan, you grope more than that. And at the end of it all, you have the audacity to argue about the fare. Or you run off without paying. Or even worse: Just two weeks ago, the District Court heard that two 18-year-old women took a cab from Yuen Long to Pat Heung, only to then threaten the driver with a 32cm-long kitchen knife for all his money. Yes, everybody in Hong Kong has a taxi story. And in the frenzied, frantic traffic jam of modern Hong Kong life, it seems everybody has a crazy taxi driver somewhere inside them.