|Illustration by Trịnh Lập|
By Lê Hương
In a modern world with too many pressures, people often need more tranquillity, even if it's in a short bike or car ride.
Tech-based taxi service Grab seems to understand this and has introduced a new feature, which offers a silent mode for a ride.
After booking a ride, customers receive an auto-generated message that provides an opportunity to reply “Quiet” to have a conversation-free ride.
Drivers, however, can exchange necessary information like basic greetings and check destinations with customers.
Some drivers said the new feature was a little troublesome as it would not allow drivers to turn on the radio to hear the traffic situation, especially during rush hours.
“I often follow the radio to know jam areas in rush hour,” said taxi driver Vũ Minh. “If customers also want to know, I can turn on the radio in a low voice so that it will not be too disturbing.”
Trương Hùng, another driver, said the new feature would not affect him much.
“Listening to music, to the radio, or other things may distract the driver from concentrating,” he said. “So it’s better if we do not listen to anything. I have paid attention to customers’ behaviours. If they have any actions showing their discontentment with the noise, I will turn off the radio even before the quiet mode is applied.
Some customers seem to be open to talking while others don’t.
“I think the new feature has its reasons,” he added.
However, some drivers said they felt bored if they cannot talk to customers during a long ride.
“If we can chat freely, the ride will be more interesting,” said driver Nguyễn Cung. “But we respect customers’ wishes.”
Most of the respondents support the new feature as they don’t want random questions from strange drivers.
Nguyễn Ngọc Anh, a young woman, said she would not want to chat with drivers.
“After an exhausting working day, I don’t want a talkative driver,” she said. “He will ask many questions. If I don’t reply, I may be rude. But when I answer one question, he will ask more.”
Anh said she thought the drivers wanted to show off their friendliness, so she would mark them five-star after the ride, but not many of them understood what was disturbing.
Anh said the drivers chatted on various topics: “Are you renting an apartment here to live with your parents or partner?” Are you still studying or working already? Why do you go there? Is that your boyfriend’s home?
“Some grab bike drivers don’t ask but chat about many things like what they ate that day, who they met that day, how his wife fought him the other day… then they laugh, not knowing that I don’t want to hear and just want quiet for a while,” she said.
Lê Huy Ngọc, another frequent Grab taxi user, said some drivers did not talk to him but kept calling many people while driving.
“Sometimes I had to remind him to concentrate on driving, and he may talk when we stop otherwise, it will not be safe for both of us,” Ngọc said.
He added that some drivers did not chat on the phone but turned on loud music and showed their annoyance at turning off the music.
“I think the silent mode is an expected feature so drivers and customers can be more active in communicating with one another,” Ngọc said.
"The new feature lets the drivers know who are ready to chat or just concentrate on driving," he said.
Đinh Quỳnh Phương, a regular Grab bike user, said the feature should have been introduced earlier.
“I know that many drivers need to talk to have fun, but they should be smart enough to realise who wants to chat,” she said. “I once had to listen to a talkative driver while I was tired and just wanted to put in my headphones to relax with music.”
After that ride, she could not help but mark him with a one-star review.
“I know that’s rude to him as he might not have known I did not want to be bothered,” she said. “The new mode is an angel-like message for drivers.”
Many people hold that the new feature might increase pressure on drivers. They say the silent mode is unnecessary as communicating with drivers on the way makes them more awake and comfortable while driving.
“I’m an introvert. I don’t want to talk to strangers, but I respect the drivers’ right to talk,” said Chu Quỳnh Nga.
“Drivers are also humans. They are being treated like robots: To just shut up when others press a button. We can talk some gentle words. That’s all.”
Nga said the mode showed a lack of humanity toward drivers and affected their freedoms and rights.
Lý Lâm, an elderly man, said he learnt a lot from drivers’ stories.
“My rides seem shorter and more interesting with experienced drivers.”
He said the new feature was an unnecessary redundancy.
Sociologist Hoàng Thu Hà said that we should learn about friendliness and hospitality, respect for the privacy of others, and the need to keep silent.
“A modern society needs multi-faceted respect – silent mode is boring and annoying to some while being valuable and respectful to others,” she said. VNS