Man's grit to become taxi driver inspires 3 readers who offer to pay deposit

61-year-old's grit inspires 3 readers, who offer to pay his taxi deposit

Newly qualified cabby Shi Zhaolin has revealed to The Straits Times why he was so determined to land the job - after 79 failed attempts to pass the tests.

The 61-year-old, who made headlines this week after finally qualifying for his vocational licence on his 80th try, was desperate to escape a succession of odd jobs and wanted to be able to support his family.

Three Straits Times readers have since stepped forward to offer to pay the cab deposit for the married father of two, after reading his inspiring story.

Obtaining the licence will give Mr Shi a chance to gain financial freedom. Having a vehicle will also be useful when he takes his 101-year-old mother for medical check-ups.

He said in Mandarin: "She cannot walk so we have to take taxis, and the fares come up to $20 to $30 each time.

"I can also take my daughter to the school where she teaches, so she won't have to worry about missing buses and being late."

Mr Shi's 29-year-old daughter has been the family's main breadwinner. His wife stays at home in Bukit Panjang to care for his mother.

After his air-conditioner servicing company shut down two years ago, Mr Shi was unable to find employment because of his age and did odd jobs to get by, such as fixing air-cons and unclogging drains.

He decided to take the tests to become a cabby, but his poor command of English made it hard for him to tell the multiple- choice options apart, even after doing them repeatedly.

"The questions knew me well, but I did not know them at all."

Questions ranged from whether a cabby can legally stop, wait or park on double yellow lines, to the different fines for traffic offences.

Singapore Taxi Academy data shows that eight out of 10 applicants passed at the first attempt over the last two months. Mr Shi took six months and said he spent more than $1,000.

"It has been very hard on my wife who gave me money from her savings to do this," he said. "I didn't want to disappoint my family. I have to work, I cannot keep relying on others. I hope I can inspire others to persevere."

He already seems to have done that.

Corporate trainer Jimmy Pang, 44, was one of the three readers who offered to put down the $1,000 deposit for his cab.

"I totally admire his never- give-up attitude, even at his age," said Mr Pang. "We can all learn from it."

Another, Mr William Goh, 68, empathised with Mr Shi as he had taken three attempts to pass his exams to become a property agent five years ago.

Mr Shi, who hopes to get a Comfort cab, said: "I am grateful that there are good-hearted people out there. But ultimately you must work hard and earn money, not rely on others."

oliviaho@sph.com.sg