One of the challenges of driving a taxi was looking for passengers. Luckily for my father, he had a regular passenger – a young lady teacher called May – who went to school daily in his taxi.
Father had a deep respect for May and addressed her as Laoshi (Teacher). My father often regretted his lack of education due to the disruption caused by the war.
Although other taxi drivers offered to fetch May to school free of charge, for some reason she chose to be a paying passenger in my father’s taxi. Back in the 1950s and 60s, all taxi drivers were males. I don’t think it was because my father’s taxi was new or that my father was particularly handsome. My father was already married with a few children then. I suppose she must have felt safe in my father’s taxi.
In those days, a taxi had to have four passengers before starting a journey. Whenever May was in my father’s taxi, my father did not have to wait long for three more passengers to show up. Invariably, they were all young men. My father wondered whether they were taking his taxi for a ride just to accompany the fair lady. He did not mind as long as they paid their fares.
After a while, romance indeed blossomed between May and one of his male passengers. My father was delighted for the young couple. Father was asked to fetch them in his taxi on their wedding day. It was one of the highlights of his career as a taxi driver.
During those days, "giving face" was a big thing, especially in the villages. So, he had no choice but to drink a glass or two. After that, he would feel a little drowsy and excuse himself. He would return to his car to rest. He was more worried about the safety of the wedding guests whom he needed to send home after the wedding dinner.
There was no penalty for drunk driving then and many folks got really drunk at some wedding dinners. I saw how some guests made a special concoction by mixing beer, whiskey, brandy, Coca-cola and 7-Up. Sadly, serious accidents were quite common among some drunken guests while on their way home after a wedding dinner. It was indeed tragic that a happy event could result in a funeral.
Three days after the said wedding, my father once again helped the newly weds to fetch a whole roast pig as a gift to the bride's family. My father was pleased to report that the ears and tail of the pig remain intact, which symbolised the purity of the bride.
True enough, they found such a girl from a poor family living in a nearby village: a fair, sweet and plump girl. Financial hardship might have been the primary reason for her to agree to such a marriage.
Although a little hair-raising for my dad, he agreed to take on the job as he had to feed a large and growing family – the ang pow from the bridegroom's family was irresistibly good.
In the morning, my father went to pick the girl up. She was dressed in a traditional Chinese wedding gown, and was accompanied by her aunt who held a cockerel in her arms, representing the "husband". There was also the usual sugar cane and a container full of peanut-sesame sweets, symbolising lots of children and grandchildren.
It seemed a little bizarre that the cockerel was making strange sounds throughout the trip, as if saying something. Perhaps it was saying "I love you" to his bride or maybe scolding my dad for his driving. The roads then were quite bumpy due to the many potholes. Fortunately, it all ended well for everyone, including the cockerel bridegroom.
After the trip, besides physical cleaning, my dad drove his taxi straight to the temple for a spiritual cleansing by the priest with some holy water.
Believe it or not, his taxi's registration number came out in the lottery draw the following week. His friends teased him, saying that he had received a “double blessing” from the bridegroom spirit.
My dad was hoping to forget about the whole incident. From then on, father would always place some pomelo leaves in his taxi. It is believed that they would drive away insects and spirits too. I saw him keeping some pomelo leaves in his pocket as well. No wonder father always had a nice refreshing aroma about him.
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