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Diary of A Designated Driver

Diary of A Designated Driver

  • Culture
  • Life
All images by Cheryl Tang.

“So Jus, what are you doing after this? Any plans this Friday night?” my colleague, JW, says as he flops down onto the grass next to me.

“Nah man. This paintball thing is exhausting. I’m gonna head home, take a shower, and probably have an early night. You?” I reply.

“Same. I’m damn tired also. Can’t believe bossman thought this would be a good team-bonding activity. Oh, by the way, you … drove right?”

Immediately, the chatter from the rest of our colleagues dies, replaced with a rousing chorus of  “Eh, me too leh!” 

Having a car is one of life’s great pleasures. After a long day at work, driving home in the comfort and privacy of your own vehicle allows you to unwind; to decompress far away from the horde of grumpy Singaporeans packed in buses and trains. The only body odour is your own, with no one jostling with you for that extra inch of personal space.

And since I had the car, why shouldn’t my colleagues get to enjoy a slice of commuting heaven? Whenever I happened to be in JW’s position—tired and just wanting to get home as fast as possible—I always begged my friends who drove for a lift. And they never refused. I mean, was it awkward inconveniencing them? Of course. But sometimes, having to deal with the nightmare that is public transport is just too much to handle, especially after a long day. In other words, I understand. 

“Oi, you two. Get in as well!” I shout to my other eager colleagues.

Besides, it also made more financial and environmental sense for us to carpool instead of taking four individual Grabs home.

Timecheck: 6:30 PM. 

First amongst my passengers is JW, since he was the first person brave enough to ask. Then there’s our intern, Henry. Finally, there’s Shaun, because I know he spends a bomb on the three buses and one train he takes just to get to work every morning. 

Once everyone’s piled into the back of my Toyota, I fire up the engine before heading off into the sunset.

6:48 PM. Fail to plan or plan to fail?

Earlier, when sizing up the situation, I had worked out the most efficient route to getting everyone—including myself—home at a reasonable time. My first stop would be JW’s house in Clementi since he has a family dinner to rush to, and lives the closest to where we currently are (Bukit Timah). 

Henry’s flat is close to mine in Toa Payoh so he’d be my last drop off. And in between is Shaun, who calls Balestier home. If everything goes smoothly, sending them back should be quick and painless. 

Eventually, however, I realise I’ve overestimated a couple of things. The first: my ability to be accommodating after a long day. And second: how busy the roads are during rush-hour.

For the past 15 minutes, we’ve been imprisoned by a gridlock of cars that’s barely moving. We’re stuck, but JW is still pestering me to get him home as soon as possible. 

“Look, man, I would if I could,” I nearly retort. Henry, ever calm and reasonable, does his best to defuse the awkward silence.

“Chill la, JW. Just let your family know you’ll be a bit late. It’s okay one,” he says, to no one in particular.

Finally clearing the jam some 10 minutes later, our convoy of one delivers JW to his void deck. 

He alights without a word.

  

7:12 PM. Backseat Driving.

The mood in the car lightens significantly. 

But it doesn’t last. Having turned off the PIE, the nap Shaun took as soon as he got into the car abruptly ends, and the complaining begins. 

Before we began our journey, I had asked Shaun for the quickest way home, to which he told me to take the route we were currently on. But now he’s giving me a completely different set of instructions, insisting that it’s a faster way home.

UGH.

Once again, Henry is the voice of reason. 

“Dude, relax! A ‘Global Positioning System’ means there are satellites in outer space ensuring you get home fast. And Justin’s just following them. Maybe there’s another jam on that other way home?” he says. 

Shaun isn’t convinced, ignoring Henry completely. Which means there’s nothing left to do but to listen to his backseat driving.

When he’s finally satisfied we’re on the “correct” route, Shaun grunts in approval, closes his eyes, and drifts back to sleep while Henry explains why he thinks the east side of Singapore is the best place to live. 

7:49 PM Quiet please.  

Left with only me to talk to, the talkative Henry proceeds to ask for my opinion on everything from the weather to the state of YouTubers in Singapore 

I feel myself quickly getting irritated before I remember, that for all the noise coming out of his mouth, Henry is still a great guy who had earlier tried to calm everyone down. He’s not annoying, merely extroverted. 

To my exhausted brain, however, his constant conversational detours are still jarring, so I try to get him to talk about just one thing. I ask him about his time as an intern, and thankfully, this is where it gets better. 

As we cruise down the CTE, Henry’s normal happy-go-lucky temperament changes, and he begins sharing about the struggles he’s been facing at work. 

It dawns on me that we’re actually bonding. And in that moment, I remember why I even offered to send them a lift in the first place. Other than sparing them the hassle of dealing with peak-hour public transport, I wanted to talk to my colleagues outside of the confines of the office, as friends. 

Being in that enclosed space allowed for some private time and proper, substantial conversation. Before long, we arrive at Henry’s block and I bid him farewell with a genuine smile plastered on my face. Sure, there might’ve been a few challenges along the way but it was a good experience nevertheless.  

8:20 PM Enough.

By the time I finally get home, I’m completely drained, and swan-dive into the welcoming arms of my bed, skipping dinner entirely. 

5 minutes into my alone time (finally!), I feel a pocket vibrate. Whipping out my phone, I see texts from my 3 former passengers. JW apologises for the inconvenience and offers to buy me lunch the following day. Shaun admits he should’ve trusted my judgement. And Henry thanks me for having the patience to listen to him ramble on, ending his message with, “Your next morning coffee is on me.” All 3 thank me for sending them home.

Do my colleagues’ words of gratitude make me feel better? Undoubtedly. And as odd as it might sound, I’d probably do it again.

Giving your friends or colleagues a lift home is great, it’s always nice to do a good thing for someone else. But after a long day, when everyone just wants to get home as quickly as possible, everything is just one small step from spiralling out of control. 

However, all hope is not lost for those who want a bit of comfort, privacy, and luxury (sometimes, after a tough day, you deserve it) on the journey home without troubling a friend or breaking the bank on a car. 

 

Comfort is the new Commute

In recent years, Singaporeans have been jumping on the ride sharing bandwagon, where GrabShare has become the wallet-friendly way to go compared to a regular Grab ride. Instead of anticipating your “designated driver” friend’s timing and if you could sheepishly ask for a ride, the on-demand commercial service allows you stretch out in comfort with an assured seat, anytime.

And if my time with Henry is anything to go by, you might even make meaningful connections with a fellow passenger. 

All things considered, it’s a great way to get from one place to another. And it’s going to get even better with the new enhancements to their GrabShare service. Now, GrabShare users have the added option of waiting for up to 5 minutes before being allocated a ride.

While it might seem like a no-brainer to choose the option that’ll get you in a car the quickest, the 5 minutes actually save you both time and money. As you wait, GrabShare’s algorithm will take up to 5 minutes to match your rides upfront and optimise travelling routes. This allows for a more efficient and lower fare ride.  

Grab is also rolling out a new feature called “Estimated Time to Destination” where you can anticipate the estimated time you’ll reach home before booking your ride. As a result, everything is more efficient—both logistically and in terms of cost.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone, so my dear JW, Shaun, and Henry, the next time there’s an office function, please know that I would still gladly offer to send you guys home (albeit with a couple of ground rules) but I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t at least let you know Grabshare is a fantastic option.  

Also, next time you’re on a GrabShare, I would also urge you to say a friendly “Hi” to your Grab driver as he is also another dedicated Singaporean driver trying to get you home safely and comfortably. I abide by my Designated Driver playbook – Be patient (hurrah to Grab’s Estimated Time to Destination feature!). Trust the Global Positioning System. And, appreciate your Driver.

This post was sponsored by Grab.

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Author

Justin Vanderstraaten Staff writer