Sunday, 24 February 2019

Camera In Cabs...Good or Bad?


When you drive a cab, you never know who will show up as your next rider.  It’s like running a hawker food stall. A customer appears in front of you, places the order, sometimes you chat with him/her for a while, then he/she exits and the next one appears in a minute or from the "Q".  It’s quite a fascinating human setting, especially in a busy city like Singapore where influential-executives frequently moves around conveniently in cabs.

Recently, I  picked up a forty-something years old passenger at LTA in Sin Ming Drive. My immediate thought was this guy could be an officer at LTA considering the meticulous way he was attired, with long sleeve white shirt, dark pants, and spectacle.

Along the ride, he made a perplexing statement to me and this statement, considering who he was, has kept me thinking about its meaning ever since.

This story is currently one of the most viral stories in social media, the press and radio talk shows. I’ve never written about it until now. And I do so now because I have got the privilege of hearing the view of the third party, who has the authority to press charges in a court of law against the other parties involved. I feel a need to share this information.

I guess by now you would know that I'm referring to the Facebook video of the "Go-Jek driver's dispute with a female rider who accuses him of kidnapping her".


My passenger was an Indian man who I estimated to be in his ‘40s.  I remember thinking that when I was a young man in the sixties, all important people in the Government services are either Indian or Malays especially in the Police Force. I had great respect and fear them because they were the law in the turbulent sixties in Singapore.

Honestly, I don’t recall how I got into a conversation with him, but somehow the following commentary emerged: he told me he is one of the investigating officers in the case and may charge the driver.

Knowing that I had a rare opportunity here, I tried to make the most of it in the limited time we would be together.  I know I asked him several questions which he was glad to answer, but there is only one thing I specifically remember asking his opinion about, something I’d already had some attention on for a few years. As a matter of fact, I've written a blog post on it " In-Camera - Good or Bad"

And that was this:  "Why is LTA reluctant to allow installation and full recording of video facing inward inside cabs".

It seemed to me that people are now very concerned about invasion of privacy than before. You see articles in the papers, magazines or hear people talking about it often.

When I was growing up in the late ‘50s and throughout the ‘60s, we were worried about our next meal or where to get a proper job. Who cares about who is looking at what or what was going around us.  I don’t know when this change occurred, but I supposed it was a gradual thing that may have started when people get more comfortable with a filled stomach — I don’t know.

I remember one specific incident which occurred during my secondary school days that was a pure invasion of a person's privacy. A pretty classmate whom I had a liking left her dairy on her chair after school. I took the liberty to read her diary and secretly returned to her desk without her knowledge.
That was bad but no harm was done to her. Her ignorance was bliss.

So I brought this up with my Indian passenger.  I asked him if cameras are allowed to record a person collecting his mails at a letterbox, traveling in a bus, trains, crossing traffic junctions, inside a bank, Government offices and in fact in most common areas, why NOT inside a cab?. Why the space inside a cab is different?  Are people in general only concerned about the invasion of privacy inside a cab and not at other places?

He thought about it for a moment and then he added this comment, and these were his exact words:

“When a person pays for the bills, they felt an entitlement. As a regulator, we look at it from all perspectives and comes to compromising solution for all”

I don’t remember if I asked him what he meant by that.  I don’t think I did, actually, maybe because we were at the end of the ride.

Anyway, what have I got to say about the episode of the Go-Jek driver and rider?.

Both parties made forgivable mistakes. Therefore, I avoid passing judgments.

Latest Update on 6th June 2019.

SINGAPORE — The results of an online poll by national feedback and engagement unit REACH will be taken into consideration when authorities review regulations on In-Vehicle Recording Devices (IVRDs) in the coming months.
In a Facebook post on Thursday (6 June), Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary noted that REACH’s poll found that about two out of three respondents (64 per cent) supported the use of IVRDs to protect the interests of drivers and commuters.
The poll surveyed 1,000 Singapore residents aged 15 and above from 15 to 22 March.
“Most respondents felt that IVRDs can help protect both drivers and commuters,” added Dr Puthucheary. “Among respondents who supported the use of IVRDs, majority also felt that IVRDs should have both video and audio recordings to help with enforcement against inappropriate or violent behaviour.”
In a media release on the same day, REACH said that 89 per cent of the respondents in the online poll felt that IVRDs can help protect drivers or commuters from inappropriate or violent behaviour.

Info: REACH
Info: REACH

Currently, taxis, private-hire cars and limousines can install IVRDs to protect the interests of drivers and commuters, provided they meet Land Transport Authority (LTA) guidelines. These devices are to be installed only at LTA-authorised installation centres.
Las month, LTA announced its new guidelines on IVRD installation, in a bid to tackle fare evasion and abuse of drivers.
Under the new rules, the IVRDs can only capture video footage without audio, so passengers' conversations are not recorded.
The guidelines will kick in on 22 June.

More UPDATES>>>

SINGAPORE: Public service vehicles like taxis and private-hire cars can have inward-facing in-vehicle recording devices from Jun 22 after a new set of guidelines laid out by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) comes into effect.
In a news release on Tuesday (May 22), LTA said that these guidelines aim to "protect commuter safety" and also protect the driver from cases of fare evasion.
However, these devices cannot record audio so that commuters' conversations are not recorded, said LTA.

 
Installations of inward-facing in-vehicle recording devices must be done at LTA-authorised installation centres, said the transport authority. These centres have to adhere to key requirements prescribed by LTA.
These include:
  • Installing the devices in a way that prevents unauthorised access to the stored data
  • The devices must be in a fixed position and cannot be rotated
  • Footage captured by the devices must clearly indicate a date and time stamp, as well as the vehicle’s licence plate number to facilitate investigations in the event of misuse of the footage
Vehicle owners must also carry out periodic checks to ensure that the devices have not been tampered with. They must also obtain the written permission of the Registrar before installing the cameras.
LTA also added that while the footage can be accessed by government agencies and LTA-authorised data controllers for investigations, stringent guidelines will be put in place to ensure that only authorised personnel have access to the footage.
If drivers are found not following these guidelines, they may face a fine up to S$1,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or both upon conviction.
Subsequent offenders may face a fine up to S$2,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both upon conviction.
For taxi and private hire car drivers, they may also receive 21 demerit points. Private hire bus drivers may have their vocational licenses revoked entirely. 

Friday, 15 February 2019

Go-Jek And Grab...A Private Hire Driver.


In mid-January 2019, I stopped driving SMRT Taxishare and switched to a Private Hire Vehicle Driver (PHVD) with Grab and Go-Jek.

Why?.....Because the rental of an SMRT TaxiShare for 9 hours is $85, whereas a private hire car is only $55 for 24 hours...a $30 difference per day.

I don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that I can save and earn an extra thousand a month driving a private car and at the same time be able to drive the rented car up to Malaysia.

However, with TaxiShare, I can choose as and when I would like to drive and pay only for the rented hours. But as a PHVD with a rented car that has a monthly contract, I've to fork out daily rental regardless of whether I drive or not like a Taxi Hirer.

In Singapore, if you hold a Taxi Vocational Licence, you are allowed to drive either a private hire car or a taxi with some minor restrictions. The major restriction is a private driver cannot pick up street passengers or enter taxi stands. Other than this major restriction, the playing field is even.

So happily, I registered with Grab and Go-Jek, two major ride-sharing platforms. Uber had left Singapore.

The conversion from a GrabTaxi to GrabCar driver was smooth and easy. It was completed within a day at Grab office. But the road to becoming a Go-Jek driver was onerous with countless delays.

Frankly, either I was extremely unlucky or Go-Jek IT team was hopelessly incompetent that caused the needless delays.

On 16th Jan.2019, I personally submitted all the required documents to join Gojek as a driver partner in their office at Midview.

I was attended by an exemplary lady (Miss Joo) who reviewed my documents thoroughly and loaded onto their “boarding” system successfully.

Then the wait for approval and activation began………………….

After four (4) days, I contacted Miss Jo, who was helpful to provide me with a contact number, for follow-up on the status of my application.

I was not surprised that my application was on the waiting list as the volume of applicants was large.

Miss Jo pleasantly assured me that the “higher-up” in the IT team had been notified to keep an eye of my application. She had no control over my application after submission and did not try to weasel away her responsibility.

Days went by with no approval nor activation of my application. 

Meanwhile, Go-Jek incentives for drivers had been drastically reduced from $140 for 18 trips to just $50 for the same amount of trips.

Anyway, I incessantly pestered Miss Jo for an answer. Without fail, she handled my frustration professionally. Hence, I kept my cool with no complaint.

But, after the fourteen days of waiting, with no activation, I lost my patience and wrote an email to their management to rant my grievances. 

I had no complaint on missing “the boat of Go-Jek generous incentives” but was greatly disappointed with Go-Jek team of amateurish IT technicians who couldn't get a job done promptly.

Honestly, my initial enthusiasm for joining Go-Jek was lost.

Most new applicants to join Go-Jek gets their approval on the spot if they registered in their office with a prior appointment date in their office. For my case, it took nearly a month.

To rub salt on my wound, after two days of driving with Go-Jek, I could not withdraw my earning from Go-Jek. I had to drop into their office to submit fresh bank statement to validate my banking account. 

Again, it took nearly a week before I could get my hand on the cash that I work so hard for it. 

Apart from these initial disappointments with Go-Jek, the more important realization was that I could not earn a decent income for 9 hours of driving as a private car driver.

Please let me explain.

I rented a car (Toyota Altis 1.6) from MPV Company at $55 per day. The petrol consumption of this car was $0.15 per kilometer (10.7km/Ltr) and Go-Jek/Grab cuts a 20% commission from my fare collections. So, if I drive 9 hours and collected $200, my nett earning is only.....$75.00 (without
Go-Jek/Grab incentives)

Collection of Fares..............$200.00
Less Rental..........................$ 55.00
Less Fuel (200km).............. $ 30.00
Less Commission.................$ 40.00
Nett Income (9hrs)...............$75.00
or $8.30 per hour of driving, without incentives.

Honestly, the problem of my low income is not the rented car or Go-Jek/Grab systems but my inability to achieve the incentives due to my age.

To earn more, I've to accomplish the periodic and ever-changing incentives that Go-Jek/Grab dangles by driving long hours, make more trips and at the same time, meeting the minimum performance of 85% acceptance rate (below 15% cancellation of jobs). If a driver cancels one job, he has to do about 7 trips to compensate for the one job cancellation. To me the incentives are therefore not easily achievable. 

Generally speaking, the job of driving a private car with Go-Jek/Grab is suitable for those who own their car and drives to earn extra cash or use the car to run personal errands like housewives and retirees. Also, young drivers who have lots of energy and stamina to hit the incentives with a minimum of 12 hours driving would earn a reasonable income. 

I think I would eventually settled to be a relief taxi driver like I did for the last 10 years.

Below is a quick comparison of my income between being a relief taxi driver and a private hire car for driving 9 hours.

Collection of Fares..............$180.00
Less Rental..........................$ 50.00
Less Fuel (200km).............. $ 20.00
No Commission...................$ 00.00
Nett Income (9hrs)...............$110.00
or $11.23 per hour of driving without incentives.

In conclusion, if I want to earn slightly more and get a day or two off without having to worry about paying daily car rental, then palpably I have to become a normal relief taxi driver again.


Saturday, 12 January 2019

A Beautiful Myanmar Girl And A Gay Guy.



It was yet another slow day in the first week of January and I had just started my morning shift when I was flagged down by a twenty something girl in front of a condo at Cashew Estate.

She was accompanied by an old man who looks much older than me in a wheelchair. So I popped the trunk and got out to help with the wheelchair.

The girl tried to dump the old man into the back seat as I loaded the wheelchair. Somehow, the old man had difficulties landing properly and I tried to help.

"It's ok, I can do it myself" mumbled the girl softly.

She sounded foreign and had two yellowish-white paste on her cheeks. She must be from Myanmar as it's a Burmese traditional custom for girls to apply the cosmetic paste on their cheeks to protect the skin from the sun and for beauty purposes.

"Where to, Madam", I asked expecting her to say the nearest hospital.

"Sentosa Casino". she replied casually.

Hah?  Why would an old man who looks like someone with dementia and in a wheelchair would wants to visit the casino at that early morning.

Maybe he's out to the casino to chase his children back home or maybe he enjoys gambling his saving before his days are up.

Whatever reason was none of my business.

After a while, I tried to make conversation with the girl.

"Hi,  Are you from Myanmar" I asked cordially.

She replied in halting English, "Yes, How did you know?

I said, "Your two patches on your face are tell tale signs. If you remove them, you look like a local Chinese girl with clear skin and beautiful eyes".

She shyly replied. "Thank you".

All these while, the old man sat motionlessly with blank eyes staring at the ceiling.

"Do you know the "ET of Myanmar", a very famous fortune teller" I asked after a short pause.

"Yes, I heard of her". she replied.

"I met her and had my fortune read. I also wrote about her in my blog". I said. (Link)

"Really. amazing" she exclaimed softly.

I couldn't control a burning question and asked "Why are you going to the casino at this early hour".

"Oh, my father runs a business there and I'm bringing my Ah Kong there to visit him" she replied nonchalantly in clear English.

All along, I thought the girl was a poor Myanmar maid working in rich Singapore like thousands of her race.

The English idiom " don't judge a book by its cover" is shockingly apt and put me to shame with my prejudice thoughts.

After I dropped them, I joined the "Q" inside the casino taxi rank.

It was a quiet Saturday morning and the ten taxis ahead of me was hardly moving.

I got out to stretch a bit.

A man came out from the taxi just ahead of me.

Shockingly, it was William Tan, my long time taxi buddy who used to drive the night shift.

"Hi, Bro....shock to see you here!". I screamed.

"Oh, my hirer's younger brother passed away and I had to drive the full shift". he explained.

"You mean, Peter Lim. He's about fifty, right. Why?". I asked in disbelief and was flummoxed into a split second silence.

I knew Peter since his youthful days as we were neighbors in the same village. He was a bachelor and a bit effeminate by nature.

"Don't tell others. He's gay and died of HIV". William said without batting an eye.

I don't know why, but it never occurred to me that Peter might be guy.

I heard that he likes women dress with its elaborate designs and secretly wears them behind close doors.

Occasionally, he was caught with with traces of lipstick and nail polish on his lips and fingers.

Women's clothing notwithstanding, I didn't think Peter was gay as he never made advances to anyone of his male friends I know or me.

Maybe he did with some strangers. That I'll never know.

Statistically, 80% of HIV diagnoses in New Zealand are among gay and bi-gay guys.

So, am I prejudiced against gay guys if I say they are more likely to die of HIV?

Whatever, Rest In Peace, My Friend!

Sunday, 6 January 2019

First Day Driving After A Long Break


I must confess that on 2nd January 2019, as I walked towards the car park to start my first taxi shift after a sixteen months break, I was edgy and excited like a rookie on the first day at work.

Every instruments in the taxi seem intimidating, the taxi fare meter, MDT, Grab & SMRT driver application.

Even starting the taxi takes a bit of time to rationalize how to do it as new technologies has revolutionize every operation from manual to digital technology.

I used SMRT Taxishare application on my smartphone to unlock and lock the taxi door instead of a conventional key and token.

I believe you know that we don't need a taxi driver to drive a cab nowadays. In fact, driver-less taxi is now available in Singapore. (Link)

Anyway, on my first day at work, I was hoping to start the day off on the lucky mode with no traffic summons, accidents free and meeting friendly customers. Unfortunately, some unanticipated issues spoiled my day. SMRT taxi's MDT is the spoiler.


Before, I touch on my of my first day and subsequent days of grievances, please let me briefly explain what's a MDT.

MDT (Mobile Data Terminal) is a computerized device used in public transit like taxis, buses, police cars, trucking fleet, to communicate with central dispatch office. It has a screen with keyboard to view and key-in information. In taxis, we can use it to view our day's earning, details of each trip and also set "BUSY", "Change Shift", "TAXI", "HIRED" at roof top lamp.

Now, when I key-in my ID and PIN onto the MDT to activate my account, it rejected my details and said "I'm not allowed to drive this taxi".

Calmly, I called up the SMRT hotline to report the issue and drove the taxi for the rest of the day with a non-working MDT.

Shockingly, the same and other MDT related problems persisted in the next four days with no solution in sight till now.

In 4 days (from 2/1 to 5/1), I drove 4 different SMRT Taxishare taxis.

Out of thes 4 taxis, 3 had MDT faults. This is ridiculous to say the least.

It seems that frequent SMRT Train breakdown and faults are spreading to SMRT's Taxis Link

In desperation, I emailed SMRT and highlighted my grief in SMRT Facebook Group.

1). To: SMRT HQ dated 4/1/2019

I would like to use this email to report the frequent breakdown of SMRT Taxi's MDT recently.

I started driving SMRT Taxishare two days ago on 2/1/2019 driving SHB545P.

At the beginning of my trip I could not login to my MDT because a message said " I cannot drive this taxi" or words to the effect.

A verbal report of my problem was immediately relied to a Mrs Maria and Mr. Ghouse at SMRT TaxiShare hotline.

As I had abundant of petrol in my taxi, I continued to drive till the end of my shift without cancellation but my advance booking of the same taxi for the next day was cancelled and a refund was affected in the same afternoon.

I proceeded to book another taxi for the next day after receiving the refund.

On the next day (3/1/2019), I drove another taxi SHC4693M and I had NO problem logging in to the MDT.

But today, when I started to drive a new taxi SHB1770Z, I encountered the same problem like the former SHB545P taxi. 

I could not login to may MDT because I'm not allowed to drive this taxi".

It seems like some taxi MDT cannot recognize my ID and Pin.

Your IT department is aware of this recurring problem because according to Mr. Ghouse, other drivers also had the same trouble. Why your IT has not solved the hitch yet and it's causing many drivers a lot of unnecessary inconveniences.

I hope whoever read this email would follow-up with the relevant people in your big organization to resolve this issue as I do not wish to face the same MDT login problem when I drive another taxi (SHB545P) on this coming Monday 7/1/2019.

If nothing is done and the problem still persists, I'll follow-up with your top management and resign from SMRT TaxiShare.

Anyway your rental is not cheap at about $81.00 for 9 hrs. (7am to 4pm Tuesday).

A simple acknowledgement of this email is much appreciated.

P/S. No acknowledgement was ever received.

2). To : SMRT Facebook Group dated 5/1/2019 

Today I drove another taxi (SHC4778C) and luckily I could login to the MDT without a hitch but after it run for 3 hours, the MDT hung. 

Tried resetting by pressing the tiny button behind the MDT many times, but the MDT continued in "Hung Mode". What can I do?, Nothing...Just be calm like someone here advised and continued to drive till end of trip.

Its sickening to drive with a faulty MDT. Why?. 

One problem is I can't set "Busy" and only have green "TAXI" shown at roof top. 

With a permanent Green “TAXI” showing at my roof top, some nasty people pointed their middle fingers at me when I moved off to a Grab booking job without picking them. Some even hid my taxi and shouted vulgarities at me.

Why do I have to suffer such abuses through no fault of mine but the faults of incompetent SMRT maintenance and IT teams that failed to provide an efficient system?

Needless to say, I had reported the issue at the end of my trip.


In 4 days, I drove 4 different taxis and 3 of these taxi had MDT problem. i.e. 75% of faulty MDT. 

This is ridiculous to say the least".

It seems SMRT Train frequent breakdowns and faults are spreading to SMRT Taxis.  Link

Anyway, SMRT Taxishare rental is NOT cheap at $81.00 for 9 hours.

In Sept 2017, the rental was only $67.20 for also 9 hours.

In 1.5 years, rental had gone up by 20%. This increase is mainly due to a compulsory car washing of $3.60/day and an optional insurance purchase of $7.20 for 9 hours ($0.80/hr).

For a normal relief taxi driver of most taxi companies, the rental for 12 hours is usually below $60.00.

Why pay an extra $20.00 a day?. Time to jump ship?

Not for me yet . I'm just 4 days into my new adventure with SMRT.

In an optimistic mood and enjoying this music video, I hope to see a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow....Cheers!!


Monday, 24 December 2018

Back to Work - Driving a Cab Again


2018 is coming to an end soon.

It's pretty scary to know how quickly time flies. 

The last time I wrote a post about my cab driving was in September 2017 - sixteen months ago. Wow...how time flies.

Some of my friends and readers have asked, " Are you all right".

"Are you still driving a cab?" they quickly added.

Well, I owe it to my concerned friends and readers to give an explanation and an update.

I stopped taxi driving in September last year because I felt my eyesight was not at its best.

Additionally, my taxi vocational license would expire three months later in December 2017, unless I validate it after passing a stringent medical examination conducted by a medical doctor and an occupational therapist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

In Singapore, a taxi driver can drive a cab till 75 years old but he/she must be certified medically fit upon reaching 70, 73 and 74 years old.

Last year, when I approached 70 years old, I had this lingering fear that I would fail my medical examination due to poor eyesight and was reluctance to waste my examination fee of $200.00.

My two adult children encouraged me to take a break and enjoy my retirement days in my twilight years.

Sadly, as most Singaporean would empathize, we live in the most expensive country in the world and costs of living is increasing relentlessly.

Our Government offers little help to the elderly poor and we had been indoctrinated since young to be self-reliance. They run this country like a corporation with policies that ensure the bottom line is always black and is absolutely adverse to social welfarism. 

Retirement is not a vocabulary in most working Singaporean dictionary unless you have a silver spoon.  

Somehow, I felt a compelling need to elaborate on this subject of Singapore elderly having to work to the grave and herein quote the following passages from a TOC's article: Singaporean - Speak Up. 

"Certainly, hardworking Singaporean do not expect an "free lunches" as they have already known that this PAP government doesn't give free stuff. So, many are prepared to work. 

However, the human body isn't made to last and when one gets old, his mind may be willing but his body will not. 

And indeed, many foreigners who visited Singapore for the first time would inevitably be shock to see many Singaporean elderly still working in their 70s or even 80s with hands and legs shaking collecting trolleys at airport, collecting cardboards from roadsides, collecting dishes at hawker centres, guarding condos or driving taxis 

In other words, Singaporeans literally have to work till they drop dead, even when their body is not willing. Elite civil servants, multi-million dollars PAP's MP and Minsters of course has no such problems since they are filthy rich with million dollar salary." 

Nonetheless, in my forty years of working life, I've never been out of work for more than six months. So with my children reassuring words to take my life easy and the circumstances then, I decided to take that dreadful plunge into a new world called retirement world. 

Since September 201, I've not work in any gainful jobs except for two days as a temporary delivery driver of moon-cakes for Hyatt Hotel and another two days in a tissue paper supplier. 

A common job option for people of my age is to become a security officer. One month into my retirement, I graduated with a license as a Security Officer but I never enter the trade. Why?. The twelve hours shift work is chilling and boring although the pay is reasonably good. Maybe I'll take up this job after 75 years old. 

Meanwhile, I ponder at other job options. 

"Hey, if you retire, how are you going to manage your daily expenses and time?". 

"Do you have a retirement plan?". 

Firstly and unfortunately, I've no much saving and no retirement plan but I'll simply manage my daily expenses carefully in this manner.

With a monthly few hundreds dollars from my CPF Life annuity and my two children allowances to me, I'll ensure that my expenses is within my budget of close to a thousand dollars.

To economize, I avoid hawker foods and cook most of my meals at home with portions for two days consumption. At "Giant SuperStore" I scavenge for "reduced to clear" stuff that are reasonably fresh and cheap. For example, a 2 kilograms duck would cost $6.00 and could provide 4 meals.

Generally, I spent about thirty percent of my money on food and the remaining seventy percent on utilities bills, conveyance charges, Medisafe contribution (compulsory for taxi drivers), phone, broadband and transport. At the end of a month, I usually end up with no saving. 

Surprisingly, I managed to give up smoking and saved $350 a month. This is a fifty years indulgence I had to drop out of financial necessity. 

How did I managed to quit smoking?. Honestly, It was extremely difficult in the beginning but the $350 saving was the strongest motivation. When my resolve weaken, I peeped at my "quitting jar" of saving. It has been two years since I quit smoking.

I buy only what I need and not what I want. With discipline, I can live frugally within my means. But I pray to God to let my old body stays strong and healthy to avoid astronomical medical bills. 

Now, with concerns of daily expenses out of the way, my greater predicament is how to spend my time meaningfully and joyfully at retirement. 

Beside an ascetic lifestyle, I believe if someone is cooped up at home with nothing to do, sooner than later, his/her mind will goes blank, bored and seriously depressed. 

I cringed at this eventuality. Therefore, I ventured into these home activities to keep myself physically and mentally occupied. 

- I started a corridor garden - Link : Gardening At Retirement.
My Corridor Garden of 150 plants
- Because of my poor eyesight, I do not read as much as I would like to. Instead, I spent about three hours at my computer reading newsletters, social media, forums, FB, and watching movies. 

- Leaning how to cook on YouTube. 

- Doing housekeeping and minor house improvements. 

- Sleeping a lot. Three hours afternoon nap and eight hours at night. I'm blessed with an ability to fall asleep easily at night in spite of having a long afternoon nap. Most elderly folks have difficulty in sleeping well, not me. 

 Aimlessly window shopping in malls. Hardly exercise and no socializing with friends. 

After sixteen months of mostly idling my time away with no income, it slowly drawn on me that these humdrum activities has to stop.

To me, retirement was no fun as I've to live from hand to mouth. 

There was always a little voice in the back of my head telling me  "you'll never be happy without work...get back to work driving a cab".

Two months ago, on a beautiful Sunday morning, I decided to walk into my neighborhood clinic to undergo a full medical examination as a first step to validate my taxi vocational licence. 

Michelle Obama's voice " Do not be afraid to Fail " rung in my ears as I entered the clinic. (watch YouTube video)
The young doctor has an angelic face with a benign smile. I explained the background and purpose of my visit and he was all ears to my causes. 

On the medical report which I've to submit to L.T.A. to renew my vocational licence, he wrote that I've green and red color deficiencies but I could clearly differential between red and green traffic lights. He certified me physically and mentally fit to drive vocationally. 

At the beginning of this month, I passed my occupational therapy examination at Tan Tock Seng Hospital albeit two tries at circuit driving. 

With these two critical huddles cleared, I validated my taxi vocational licence a week ago at LTA. My next medical examination will be in year 2020.

I'm now ready to get back to work - driving a cab again but at a leisurely pace with double extra care behind the stirring wheel. Even if I don't actually drive instantly, I can use my 
license as a back-up in case I'm dead broke.

I plan to join "SMRT Taxishare" that provides flexible rental scheme of minimum three hours rental per day at about $9.50 per hour. This scheme is most suitable for old man like me who drives few hours a day without being tired down with a permanent hire contract.  

Hopefully, when I start driving, I can maintain an active life for a few more years and do a bit more blogging of my exploits.

Now, having read what I've written, do you know the reasons why I'm getting back to work at ripe age of 72?.

Allow me to answer this question briefly and candidly in a few sentences, but you might want to read another of my blog posting written five and a half years ago on the same subject at "Why are you driving at 73?"

Briefly, my reasons are:-

- "Money Not Enough" to retire comfortably in this expensive country.

- Boredom quickly creeps in after initial "euphoria" of retirement and I lack ability to sustain interest in whatever I do in the long haul.

- Hate socializing and dubious companionship. Most so-called friends are at work, busy or uninterested to mingle. By nature, I appreciate solitude along with serenity in contemplation with a handful friends.  

In conclusion, back to work driving a cab again is the best choice in my dilemma.

Since now is Christmas eve, may I use this opportunity to wish you a "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" 



Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Story Time : A Story of Four Citizens.



Story Time...a story of four citizens.

1. Ah Kow from Penang is a Malaysian. He came to work in Singapore and became a permanent resident. After working in Singapore for decades and throwing away his PR permanently,  he collected his CPF SAVINGS and returned to Penang to retire comfortably in a bungalow with a Mercedes car.

2. Li Ning is a student from China who is sponsored by the Singapore Government to study in Singapore. From secondary school to the university, she received a living allowance and free education. After graduation, the Singapore government hired her and asked her to become a citizen. She refused, continued to work for five years, and then returned to China to find a higher-paying job (because of the sponsorship of Singapore, the English-speaking person was collecting her CPF savings).

3. John is a New Zealand (New Zealand) citizen. He was hired as an English teacher and obtained permanent residency three months later. He worked for ten years, collected his CPF SAVINGS and went home to buy a cottage and a Volvo car like the Malaysian guy.

4. Toh Kia keng is a Singapore citizen and a technician. He was laid off because the boss hired cheaper foreign talent. Then he became a taxi driver and found that he could not renew the taxi license unless he paid his Medisave. When he was 55, he found that he could not withdraw his CPF savings as he is forced to set aside most of his CPF money in a retirement fund. When he reached 65, he found that CPF Board used the fund (actually his own money) to pay him about $500 monthly for his living expenses. Then they told him that he had to pay medical insurance from November 1 this year or be put in prison.

Which government can treat its citizens like a digit in a corporation in these unethical, immoral, illegal and abnormal ways? Who allowed them to do these evil acts? You, the Citizen of Singapore.


Saturday, 4 August 2018

In My Twilight Years.

My Twilight Years
I’m now 73 but still young compared to Dr. Mahathir who is 93 and running Malaysia as the oldest Prime Minister in the world. But on second thought, it was only yesterday when I was 23.

You know. . . time has a way of moving swiftly and catching you unaware of the passing years.

It seems just yesterday I was young 23, and embarking on my new life. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. 

I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams. But, here it is... the twilight of my life and it catches me by surprise... How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go?

I wonder if 50 years ago, at 23 when I first started working, what dreams I had for myself. At 23, I was strong, full of energy, with nothing but time and my imagination standing between me and the future.

I took night-classes hoping to qualify for university, wanted to travel the world as a sailor, or start my own business. Perhaps I figured working was a part-time endeavor, something to tide me over and help my mum. Perhaps I looked at all the other middle-aged men struggling at the desk or behind steering wheels and told myself, "I'll never let myself turn into that, God forbid!". 

Then I met a girl, got married, had one kid, then another, and suddenly all those doors closed. I had responsibilities, bills to pay, obligations to keep. All my dreams evaporated like my breath on a cold morning. And years later I looked in the mirror one morning. I saw my face staring back with the greying temples and the thinning hair and the dark circles my his eyes and I asked himself, "OMG, where did the last forty-five years went?"

Life can take a sudden turn and we've no control over it no matter how we monitor our health and safety. We all have only one shot at life and nobody knows when it will end. So, before it's too late, let's take stock of our life now. 

Unfortunately, for poorer Singaporean like taxi drivers, there's no much stock to talk about, when faced with escalating costs of living, scarcity of suitable jobs, no welfare, no money. 

To me, life was then a daily struggle to place three meals on the table, paying household & medical bills and keeping the roof above our head.

I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like. 

But, now here it is...my friends are retired and getting grey... they move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better and some in worse shape than me...but, I see the great change... Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant..but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we'd be.

Each day now, I find that just trying to squat and bending is tough.! And taking a nap is not a luxury anymore..it's mandatory, because if I don't on my own free will, I just fall asleep everywhere I sit!

And so...now I enter into this new season of my life..my twilight years, unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did!

But, at least I know, that though the winter has come, and I'm not sure how long it will last... this I know, that when it's over on this earth...it's NOT over. A new adventure will begin somewhere. I don't know and I don't care!

Yes, I have regrets, many. There are things I wish I hadn't done...things I should have done, and done it in any way but indeed, there are many things I'm happy to have done. It's all in a lifetime.

So, if you're not in your winter yet...let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it timely and NOW! Don't put things off too long!

Life goes by quickly. So, do what you can today, NOW! as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not! 

You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life...so, live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember...and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!

"Life" is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one.

REMEMBER:....

"It is health that is the real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver."

LASTLY, consider the followings:

Today is the oldest you've ever been, yet the youngest you'll ever be, so - Enjoy This Day While It Lasts.

~Your kids are becoming you......

~Going out is good. Coming home is better!

~You forget names... But it's OK because other people forgot they even knew you!!!

~You realize you're never going to be really good at anything.... 

~The things you used to care to do, you no longer care to do, but you really do care that you don't care to do them anymore.

~You sleep better on a lounge chair with the TV blaring than in bed. It's called "pre-sleep".

~You miss the days when everything worked with just an "ON" and "OFF" switch..

~You tend to use more 4 letter words ... "what?"..." when?"... "what?"  "where?"

~Now that you can afford expensive jewelry - it's not safe to wear it anywhere.

~You notice everything they sell in stores is "sleeveless!?"

~What used to be freckles are now liver spots.

~Everybody whispers.

~You have 3 sizes of clothes in your closet.... 2 of which you will never wear.

~Empathy is few as we struggle with the fear of getting old but in the end we shall find peace and even a kind of happiness in caring.

~But Old is good in some things: Old Songs, Old movies and best of all..OLD FRIENDS!! 

It's not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of winter yours is or is going to be. Enjoy life before winter or enjoy the winter.

Enjoy your life while you can.

- Do not wait until you cannot even walk just to be sorry and regret.

-As long as you are able, visit places you wish to visit.

-When there is an opportunity, get together with old friends.
  The gathering is not just about eating.
  It’s just that there is no much time left.

-Money kept in the banks may not be really yours.
 When it’s time to spend, just spend.
 Treat yourself well as you are getting old.

-When you feel like eating, just eat.
  Eat often and more healthy food.
  Eat less often of unhealthy food but do not abstain from it totally.

-Treat sickness with optimism whether you are rich or poor.
  Everyone has to go through birth, aging, sickness, and death.
  Do not be afraid.
  Let the doctor handles your body.
  Let God handles your life.

-Our kids will make their own fortune.
  
-Look after four treasures.
  
  1ST, Your body.
  
  2ND. Your retirement fund.
  
  3TH. Your old companion, spouse.

   4TH. Your old friends.












Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Lunar New Year of the Dog - 2018


Soon after Christmas 2017, came New Year 2018 and now, Chinese Lunar New Year is just two days away.

Wow!, three festivals in two months. It must be a hectic month for both cabbies and revellers.

I'm not driving anymore but my buddy told me that JustGrab jobs were plentiful, with thousands of shoppers thronging the ubiquitous shopping malls and everywhere in Singapore. However, he lamented that it could have been better for him if not for the recent UberFlash that competed directly with JustGrab.

His JustGrab's booking had dropped a bit recently but he was not short of customers. But for how long? He hopes the status quo would not change too drastically but stabilises at an equivalence between Grab and Uber.

Now, how do I celebrate Chinese New Year?.

Briefly, like most Chinese Singaporean of my age, CNY to me is like an ordinary day. The halcyon days of joyful excitement, fun and frolic in celebrating CNY had long dissipated.

To me, it's now more a financial burden than anything else. Giving "any pow" (red envelopes filled with money) to unmarried juniors, buying goodies, decorative materials, new clothing and food for feasting, drill a big hole in my pocket. But I still pour money generously to prepare a lavish reunion dinner for my family on New Year Eve. 

I consider it's the most important event of the year, similar to a Christmas dinner.

Usually, my family will have a seafood steam-boat dinner with the more expensive items like abalone, lobster, oyster, scallops, crab and pomfret fish. If leftover of wine from last year feasting is available, I'll have a few glass of it with my grown up children and wife.


Before the big day, I cleaned up my flat, sweeping away all ill fortune and decorated it with red couplets in the popular theme of prosperity and happiness.

On the first day of CNY, I would visit my mother-in-law and close friends, followed by rounds of mahjong games with my taxi buddies till daybreak.

With both parents gone and being the eldest of 8 siblings, my siblings with spouses and offsprings would visit me on the second day of CNY. Though we hardly see each other on the other 365 days, they would surely pay me a visit on this day without fail.  This tradition of home visitings has been going on in our family for the last 30 years.

Like my reunion dinner, I splurge a sumptuous lunch and dinner for them. My sixty plus relatives would spend the whole day in my apartment, often creating a "ruckus", eating, KTV singing, watching movies and gambling. 

The joy in seeing my extended family tightly knit together and growing are worth more than the money I splurged for this occasion.

This visiting ritual is part of the Chinese culture similar to Malays and Indian culture. It's important to pass this tradition down to each generation and not to put it on the burner. 

Another Chinese tradition that should be promoted is the "Ching Ming" festival, (Remembrance of Ancestor Day), a day when the living pays their respect to the dead ancestors. It's an extension of the CNY visiting, albeit visiting the dead.

The only activity that I missed about CNY of today is the playing with firecrackers. 

As a teenager, I play the cheaper type of firecrackers that are bonded in a long roll with 2 or more extending out at each level.

I remember dislodging a single piece from the string and placing it under an open condensed milk tin. With one hand pressing hard on one ear and the other hand igniting the firecracker with a lighted joss stick timidly, the thrill and trepidation of a sudden explosion were beyond description. Upon exploding, the tin would fly high into the sky like a space capsule and falls back, crushing like a fallen.......tin.

As a naughty kid, I would indiscriminately throw a lighted firecracker at unsuspecting siblings or friends and ran away laughing at their fright.

Nowadays, I hear only fake noises of firecrackers from recordings and see dummy crackers serving as doorway decorations. These come nothing close to the real ones.

Firecrackers were banned in Singapore in 1967, due to many fire and fatal accidents. The joy that comes from playing with it was then gone forever and I felt privileged to have enjoyed the cheap thrills of good old days.

Nonetheless, some loving parents bring their family to neighbouring regions like Batam (Indonesia) and Johore (W.Malaysia) that allows playing of firecrackers to enjoy the thrills of a traditional CNY activity.

May I use this opportunity to wish all my Chinese readers,

"A Happy, Healthy and Prosperpous 
Lunar New Year of the Dog -  2018"