Taxi driver Nguyen Van Con has developed a new specialty–delivering babies in the back seat of his vehicle. Last week, Con, who works for Mai Linh Taxi Company in central Hoi An City, was asked to pick up two passengers at Cua Dai Wharf early in the morning.
The duo turned out to be a heavily pregnant woman and her husband who had arrived by ferry from their home on Cu Lao Cham island. They were headed for the Hoi An General Hospital on the mainland so that she could give birth.
The 33-year-old taxi driver said the woman, Pham Thi Phuong, appeared to be in a lot of pain during the trip. After a four-kilometre drive, the poor woman suddenly went into labour. There was no one around because it was still so early.
Moments of panic passed before the two men decided they had no option but to help Phuong give birth in the back seat as they closely followed instructions from the taxi operator over the radio.
After some effort, a baby girl suddenly appeared. She was wrapped up to keep her warm as the taxi driver drove the expanded family to hospital, where doctors were waiting. The infant was placed in intensive care for four days, but latest reports indicate that both mother and daughter are now in good shape.
Con joins an exclusive club of taxi drivers around the world who have delivered babies in their taxis. Being a midwife is not part of the job description, but cabbies fall into the honorary role time and time again. One could say it's one of the few factors that helps humanise an otherwise routine and sometimes thankless job.
Rise of the tattooed lout
They have started to appear around coffee shops, street stalls, karaoke clubs and bars like a sub-species of the human race. And they are easily identifiable. At least one of their arms is almost black with a mass of intricate and presumably highly expensive tattoos. Sometimes, two arms get the treatment.
Hair styles are usually designed to be different – endless variations of a mixture of short, shaved and long - often with spikes and blonde and rust-coloured tips. "Mohawk" crests are popular. Lashings of gel keep the whole mix in place.
The whole phenomenon could be passed off as a fashion trend if it wasn't for the fact that most of these tattooed young men seem to spend all their time laying around with little to do. Nothing, that is, apart from receiving or handing bundles of banknotes to vivacious young women who flit around them.
The only people to compare them with in Asia are, or were the Fei Jai, Flying Boys, of Hong Kong – small-time hoods connected to the old triad (criminal) organisations.
But don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with tattoos or weird hairdos. This writer sports an old "tat" himself. But at a time when things are not going swimmingly for the economy, it seems that those who manage to lie around most of the day are doing better than most. Is this what's known as the Black Economy? Hmmm!
Lost in communication
Last week, the management board of Tan Binh primary school in Dong Xoai town in southern Binh Phuoc Province made a decision that did not go down well with parents.
Parents dropped their children off at school as usual just to find out there were no classes that day because all teachers were attending the funeral of a colleague's husband. They were also told that classes had been rescheduled to Saturday, which is normally a day off.
As parent Nguyen Thi Hong said: "This caught us by surprise. My child had a day off and I was unprepared. I should have been at my office, but instead I had to stay at home to look after him."
School principal Tran Thi Sang said the school had asked for permission from the town's education department and got the green light. "We told the students about the change, but maybe they forgot to tell their parents," she said.