Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Gathering of Ex-Colleaques After 20 Years.

"James, long time no see, I thought you.......", Kevin Lok remarked facetiously as I sat down beside him in Teochew Huat Kee Restaurant at 74 Amoy Street, around noon yesterday. His funny bones and warm smiles had not left him inspite of the passing years.

Yes, indeed it has been a long time. The last time I saw Kevin Lok was 20 longs years ago when we were colleagues working in MMG Dammam, Saudi Arabia. He’s a joker and a born organizer and in fact, he and Ronald Gan were the ones who gathered our 8 ex-colleagues together that afternoon to have a reunion lunch on Hari Raya Puasa holiday.

To my surprise, Kevin Lok, Ronald Gan, Kong Chee, Robin Lim, Andrew Chan (VP) and BT Kwek had arrived earlier than me and were already seated at a round table towards the end of the restaurant. Two faces were new to me. Andrew Chan (my ex-boss) quickly introduced them to me as Mr. Francis Lee (Owner of Teochew Huat Kee Restaurant) and Mr. Edmund. Both worked in Dammam before me.

I began to wonder. How did Ronald and Kevin managed to maintain a contact list of all my beloved ex-colleagues after all these years?. Cell phones were uncommon then. The most each has was a house line,
office number or pager. But Ronald and Kevin have them all!. I salute them and is grateful for their marvelous initiative in organizing the gathering.

Well, Kevin never have my cell phone number but he intelligently notified me of the reunion lunch in one of my post, after Desmond Gan saw me in a recent The New Paper article. That was how I got invited....through my blog.

Unfortunately, not every one of my ex-colleague were present. Mr. Robert Phua, at 60+ is wheelchair bounded with a medical condition. Mr. Charles Teo, my roommate had flown off the radar, (disappeared like MH370), Desmond Gan (Ronald Gan's brother) was busy and so were Peter Lim and Koh Kok Chwee.

I was 48 when I worked in Damamm. Back then, all my ex-colleagues were young bachelors in their late twenties. They nicknamed me SC (Senior Citizen) as I was the oldest and a married person. Even my boss, Mr. Andrew Chan was two years younger than me at 46.

Seeing the subtle facial changes in each of us after 20 years was overwhelming like looking at our childhood photographs. Undoubtedly, all of us have naturally grown much older and heavier.

Today, my ex-colleagues are in middle-age, while I'm an old man. Ronald dyed his white hair and Robin Lim has receding hairline. BT Kwek, Kevin Lok and Kong Chee have lost their smooth and youthful skin. Only our voices never changed. If the lights in the restaurant were switch-off to create total darkness, we would know who were talking, like we were chatting while having our meal in our common dining hall in Dammam 20 years ago. Each voice has an unmistakable personality and we know whom it belongs to till today.

About half an hours later, Andrew Chan commanded our attention by welcoming us all to the gathering and thanked the organizers sincerely. Perhaps we had all forgotten our hunger in the excitement of catching up old time with one another.
Over a selection of exquisite and delicious Teochew cuisine, specially prepared by Mr. Francis Lee, together with Chinese tea and beer, we chatted and rebuild bridges disconnected by time. And we also merrily reminisced those good old days spent working in a foreign land. I was busily snapping away pictures so those precious moments were not lost among the dust of passing time.

I'm never comfortable speaking to an audience, even when the audiences were friends, but that afternoon, after walloping couple of beer, I courageously suggested that everyone briefly share what happened after Dammam 20 years ago and also an unforgettable experience while working there. In this way, we update our profile instantly for the group and heaven forbids, NOT for purposes of comparing our fortunes. I thought of asking them to "ke-chiew" (raise hand) in agreement but I knew none would do that. Singaporean are generally shy and conservative in a gathering. So, I started as the first speaker since I initiated the idea.

I briefly related that after Damman, I tagged along with a friend, who was the boss of a public listed company here, in whatever he threw at me. With his help, I made a small fortune. A few years later, I ventured into sanitary steel pipe and fitting business in Philippine with a Singaporean friend. Sadly, I lost my investment completely within 5 years. Thereafter, I became a taxi driver at late 50 till today.

My most unforgettable experience in Damman was eating luncheon and pork meat in cans disguised as vegetable salad through the Saudi custom. The stickers of the pork meat cans were replaced with new stickers that stated vegetables salad were inside the cans. Each meal of forbidden pork was incredibly delicious and an unforgettable experience. Like the saying goes, "Forbidden fruits always tastes better".

Next to speak was Kong Chee. He's now with MOE after a few years lecturing and doing consulting work in the educational circuit .

Robin Lim has the most interesting and dramatic career change after Dammam. Trained in the accounting and financial discipline, he switched to work a few years in senior positions with SCDF, fighting fire and then switched to providing security services with two of the biggest security firms in Singapore till today.

Ronald Gan now runs his own million dollar business providing sales and services in the aerospace industry. He's a born salesperson and has found the love of his passion in sales.

BT Kwek never change his career path. After leaving the procurement department in Dammam, he continued his purchasing career with the biggest American engineering and construction company in Singapore.

Kevin Lok straddled into various fields and now works for a big HR firm. 

Andrew Chan (VP) left Dammam recently and is now retired. But with his extensive knowledge, experience and "guanxi" in the corporate world, stretching from Middle East to China, this wonderful and energetic man of 64 is not going to waste his time playing golf or watching TV. I think he has many plans up his sleeves.

The hero of the afternoon no doubt belong to Mr. Francis Lee, the owner of Huat Kee Restaurant. Tall, balded, and corpulent, he looks every inch a successful business man and an executive chef. Twenty plus years ago, Francis Tan went to work in Dammam as a cook. After his return to Singapore, he ventureed into food business and later set up Huat Kee Restaurant at 74 Amoy St. Today, apart from his restaurant business, he is also a leading OEM producer and supplier of package Shark Fin, Abalone and other exquisite ready-to-eat products. He's now a multi-millionaire and an inspiration to many. The afternoon lunch was on him.
4 hours after the pleasurable gathering started, we had to say goodbye to each other.

Someone suggested that we should dine once or twice a year and perhaps with our families as well. When we meet again (Inshala..God Willing in Arabic), Mr. Francis Lee shall be our guest.

In our entire life, we made many friends. They come and go for various reasons. Life goes on. I hope the seeds of our comradeship planted in Dammam will burgeon into enduring friendship with more socializing and get together. And the beauty thereof shall not wither away indifferently.

Matching Quote:

"Blessed is the man who walked not in the counsel of the evil
nor the way of the sinners
nor sit in the seat of the scornful.
But shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bring
forth his fruit in his season,
His leaf also shall not wither,
and whatsoever he does shall prosper"

P/S: The man with his wife was an Ex-SIA Station Manager in Dammam.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Cabby Bloggers - Gintai & I.

Our Photo in The New Paper on 13th July 2014

As we were both not driving, yesterday I met up with my taxi buddy, Alan Tang (Gintai) somewhere in Bugis area for some drinks and a chat, from about 5.30pm to 9pm.

We catch-up over four big bottles of Carlsberg and had a simple dinner together. Since I live in the wild wild West and he's from the carefree laid-back East, we decided to meet half-way in town, Bugis.

Alan had to buy me drinks cuz he lost to me in the recent World Cup soccer bet. Amazingly, our bets were sealed before the start of the World Cup tournament and both of us were spot-on in picking the finalists. I followed Andy’s father by betting on Germany whilst Alan on Argentina.

Even though I’ve known Alan for about 3 years, we only met on few occasions. Yesterday was the 4th time we met over the 3-year period. We got to know each other thru blogging and keep in touch over the internet via Facebook or email. We follow each other’s blog and sometimes we exchange comments on our own respective blogs. 

Each time we met, we got to know each other better. Maybe with more drinks, I became more open and loosen up. I started to relate some of my personal past stories, like how I had to struggle in the beginning when I started driving taxi due to my lack of familiarity of local roads. Though I live in Singapore all my life, yet I'm still not so familiar with all our roads when I started driving taxi. I just can’t imagine those new citizens driving taxi on our public roads not facing any problem at all.

Anyway, I also related how I ever worked in Saudi Arabia’s 2nd largest city, Dammam in the late1990s after my retrenchment before taking up taxi driving. At 48, I left my family with young children to work there. Even though the pay was about 4 to 5 times of an average worker here, I dearly missed my family and the lifestyle here. Everything was paid for by the largest petrochemical engineering and construction company in S.Arabia, where I was employed as a procurement supervisor. I was given free lodging, company car and even a local cook was deployed there for us. I was part of a group of locals (FT) working for the MNC in Saudi Arabia.

After our story ( Cabby Bloggers ) was published in The New Paper, one in the group of Singaporeans working then with me in Saudi Arabia contacted me on my blog. Soon, I will have a gathering of all my ex-colleagues, all of whom I have lost contact for almost 20 years, to reminisce those good old days spent working in a foreign land.

I was in jovial mood cuz I just came back from a short holiday trip in Bangkok. All of a sudden, I remarked that one of us should blog about our recent story in The New Paper. Alan was not keen and mentioned I could blog about it if I wanted to. I told Alan that I was in fact waiting for him to blog about it. He replied that there is nothing to blog about.

“Come on, we need to capture that memorable moment in our blogs just to keep a record lah!” I appealed to him.

"No," Alan replied adamantly.

I then flipped out a 50 cents coin and suggested that we toss the coin to decide who is doing the blogging. Again, he lost in the flip of the coin. He seems like a hopeless born loser with no luck and I'm a lucky gambler.

Alan pondered on how to go about blogging on that story where we appeared together in The New Paper story published on 13th July 2014 – about 10 days ago? I suggested he could blog at whatever angle or style he fancy so long as he blogs about it and I, with his permission will reproduce it in my blog.

Well, actually Alan was ever approached by few reporters for interview before The New Paper initiative. He did not bother to accede to their requests. He was also invited by think tanks and other organizations via email to participate but he ignored them totally.

If not for me, Alan would not have agreed to that New Paper interview. I was approached by the lady reporter from The New Paper and recommended that Alan should also be interviewed together with me. Alan reluctantly agreed to my idea as he didn’t want to disappoint me. What a friend, Alan! I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I would have also declined the interview if Alan had not accepted my request to come along with me.

Finally, we met somewhere in Bugis area and Arab street near to the Sultan Gate for the interview and photo shoot. We spent about two and half hours over the session. The reporter was a nice little lady pursuing a degree in a local university. The Malay photographer was also very professional and friendly taking so many shots of us in different locations with many poses. The interview was conducted in the middle of June but only got published on 13th July 2014.

Of course, I was delighted when the story got published and especially with a photo of us together – that’s the main satisfaction. As taxi drivers and bloggers, we have got lots of things in common to share. We admire each other’s strengths and limitations as fellow bloggers. In a way, we synergise each other in our different life perspectives as we observe and comment on things happening around us.

In a way, I compelled Alan to blog about The New Paper write-up on us. Maybe, I felt that the photograph of us appearing together in The New Paper cemented our friendship that blossomed in the cyber world. It had to be archived here for eternity.

Thank you, Alan Tang for being a friend. It’s my honor and privilege to have you as a friend. May The Force Be With You!

Read Alan Tang's Blog - "Gintai" Here!

                       The New Paper Reporter and Photographer.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Mr. Zubir Said = Our National Anthem

Mr. Zubir Said (Died 1987-aged 80)

An uncle of my wife was a taxi driver for more than thirty years and died at 86 recently. When I first met him about two year ago at a wedding dinner, I was greatly impressed with his storytelling skill.

Old but lively as he was, he hypnotized me with his amazing anecdotes and stories of local celebrities he met during his long taxi driving career. He had a favorite celebrity and this was how he met him many years ago.

Early one evening in July, 1983, he was cruising down Scotts Road looking for a fare. A doorman from Asia Hotel hailed him and directed him into the driveway of the hotel. Waiting at the entrance was an elderly Malay couple.

The gentleman was rather frail and was assisted into his cab by the doorman. Their destination was Bedok. He was happy to meet people who were elderly but were still active and enjoying themselves. The couple were the enthusiastic conversational type and so they chatted happily on everything in Singapore. As he recalled, their conversation began on the subject of the Singapore after independence in 1965.

"What had changed after 20 years of independence?" the driver asked.

"Now, we have a national anthem and I wrote it" the old man replied proudly in English with a distinct Malay accent .

He was fascinated and delighted to learn that none other than Mr. Zubir Said ( (Link) was his passenger that night and this led to a brief conversation about the song and about his career.

Briefly, Mr. Zubir Said was a self-taught musician and worked as a songwriter for Cathay Keris Film Production for 12 years. In 1958, City Council approached him to compose a song for the city to be titled "Majulah Singapura", which was a motto to be displayed in the Victoria Theatre after its renovation.

When Singapore attained self government in 1959, the Government felt that a national anthem was needed to unite the different races in Singapore. It decided that the City Council's song, which was already popular, would serve this purpose. After Singapore's full independence from Malaysia on 9 August 1965, "Majulah Singapura" was formally adopted as the Republic's national anthem.

In a 1984 oral history interview, to sum up his philosophy when composing the anthem, Zubir cited the Malay proverb "Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung" ("You should hold up the sky of the land where you live").

When they arrived at Bedok, he got out of the cab and came around to help the frail 80 plus Mr. Said out. He hold Mr. Said's hand and hoisted him up so he could get his legs into the proper exiting position. And the thought occurred to him that he had held the hand which had written our National Anthem - a song that is so much a part of our culture, heritage and something which Singaporean are always proud of. He felt it was an honor, really.

Yes, indeed a rare honor. Each time when I hear our National Anthem it reminds me of Mr. Zubir Said. If he is alive, he would be 107 years old today.

In his pioneering days, Mr. Zubir Said did not have an illustrious music career nor was he ever wealthy in his lifetime. He came to Singapore in 1928 at the age of 21, from the highland of W.Sumatra. He struggled to make a living as a local Malay musician, bandleader and part-time photographer. With natural musical talent and some luck, he eventually became a conductor and a songwriter for Shaw Brothers theater. Only in 1957, some 30 years later, did he received his first public recognition when his songs were performed at the Victoria Theaters. He never receive a Cultural Medallion but had a road named after him.

Pioneers of Singapore like Zubir Said, C.K. Tang, Tan Tock Seng, Tan Kah Kee and many others, are men who braved the rugged journey across the plains, mountains and seas, embody the spirit and soul of our country in our early days. They overcame the obstacles of the times to carve out a future and a country from an unyielding environment. It is that pioneer spirit we honor today in celebration of Mr. Zubir Said's birthday. I believe many young Singaporean don't even know who composed our National Anthem, not to mention the name, Mr. Zubir Said.

People should take pride and preserves the memories of the past today, so that they can keep alive the spirit and hope for tomorrow. Whether they pulled a bullock cart in Chinatown, carried night-soil buckets, bricks at building sites or simply walks and sells wares along streets, these pioneers came with a determination and a fighting spirit which stirs admiration in the hearts of all who are familiar with their trek. . . .

I think we should set aside "A Pioneer Day", not now, maybe 20 years down the road, to remember the sacrifices of those men and women who boldly came with just a dream and spirit, to open up this country that we enjoyed it so much today. We cannot thank them enough for their efforts.

I wonder whether our young Singaporean today has the pioneering spirit of our fore-fathers of yester-years?. Nevertheless, I hope the pioneering spirit is still present and will continue with us all in many generations to come.

"Young men and young women, "mai-kaisi, mai-kiasu", be brave, break into new frontiers and draw new boundaries".
                      Singing Our National Anthem at Hong Lim Park
Source : Wikipedia - Zubir Said.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Driving Mrs. Ex-Singaporean.

Actress Lee Lihua in the sixties,

On a thundery wet Wednesday morning, I saw an old Chinese lady with an open umbrella standing conspicuously near Hazel Park condominium along Bukit Panjand Road, looking like she wanted a cab. She did not raise her hand up as I slowly approached her. 

At that moment, my instant dilemma was whether to stop or not to stop. If I stop and it turns out she don't need me, I feel like an idiot. But if I don't stop and then another cab behind me stopped and nab her, I would be cursing myself for not stopping for her. So what should I do?

I stopped anyway.

She hesitated momentarily. Then she got in. I was elated because my taxi driving experience and instincts were validated. I knew she wanted a cab though she didn't hail me. The elation of getting her to take my cab was like winning a single number in a roulette wheel at a casino.

"Aunty, where would you like to go?" I asked in Mandarin after she was comfortably seated.

She kept quiet briefly and then "Where are we, Sir?" she asked like she just woke up from a dream. But then she continued immediately "Please drive slowly in this a miserable wet morning, Sir. I'm not in a rush ".

Her spoken English was perfect with a strong American accent. I was bestirred and impressed. Never in my driving career did I ever had an elderly Chinese lady passenger who pronounced each word in perfection with a resonance voice. Undoubtedly, she is educated and probably lived in a western country for a long period of time. 

She was about my age but has a full bloom of neatly permed charcoal black hair, like Mrs Margaret Thatcher, whereas mine is receding. Her Chinese cheongsam dress with short slit fits her slim body beautifully, unlike that rude and awful Chinese lady at MP Kumar's CPF dialogue.

"Sure, Madame. I'll drive slowly and carefully but first, you need to tell me your drop off point". I asked politely, reminding myself to speak in understandable English, not Singlish.

"Just keep driving towards the city. I haven't decide where to drop. Maybe you can help me to decide."  She asked with a broad smile.

I was only too happy to oblige.

"What do you've in mind," I replied quickly.

"Well, I'm thinking of whether to visit The National Library or attend the Parliamentary session at Parliament House", she answered.

I was slightly taken aback by her interest in our politics.

"Why are you interested in our politics. Are you a Singaporean.? I asked tongue in cheek.

She was not offended at my directness. Instead she surprisingly went on to tell me a bit about her background after she correctly guessed that I'm an educated person and not "run of the mill" taxi drivers like those immigrants in her place of abode - New York.

This is her story:-

She was born in Singapore and migrated to USA after her marriage to a white American at age 35. Before that, she taught English in a secondary school after graduating with a degree in journalism. She grew up in Bukit Panjang village and that explains her presence at that place then.

In USA, she worked as journalist till her retirement about ten years ago. She holds dual citizenship of Singapore and America but plans to renounce her Singapore citizenship soon so that she can withdraw her CPF monies. She visits her Singaporean relatives and friends regularly and is specially fond of Bukit Panjang village for nostalgic reasons. 

She has written many articles about Singapore social and political transformation in the last 50 years for American readers and had kept abreast of Singapore current affairs.

"If you've never been to Parliament House, may I suggest you attend the Parliamentary session," I proposed after knowing her brief background.

She paused and then said these all in one breath:

"Singaporean loves to complain and gripes about the country. They complain about foreigners taking away jobs, lack of freedom, high cost of living, pressurizing education, overcrowded MRT system, overpaid ministers, CPF etc…

Singaporean are really DAMN LUCKY and should be grateful to PAP that worships meritocracy, self-reliance, integrity,  transparency, accountability, incorruptibility and efficiency in governance. This is one of the easiest places in the world to become a millionaire like becoming a Minister or follow the footsteps of multi-millionaires like Sim Wong Hoo, Ron Sim, Olivia Lum, Dr. Susan Ong etc....

You've the lowest income tax rates in the world and no capital gains or estate duty tax. You can walk the perfectly clean streets at 3am without fear of being mugged, shot and killed. Only foreigners appreciates these beauties of Singapore and one day they might become the owner as they are more appreciative and deserving.....I believe....."

"Madame, sorry to interrupt you. We're now in the city area. Have you made up your mind where you want to stop," I asked in an apologetic tone.

"Ok, lets go to The National Library," she said, seemingly unhappy with my sudden interruption and unresponsiveness to her speech during the whole journey.

Frankly, though her voice was delightful, I was getting annoyed with her one sided compliments of our system. I wanted to offer my alternative views but then I was worried that we might end up with unpleasant arguments. Customers are always right and a as service provider, we must always remember to uphold our company good image and not get into unnecessary arguments with our passengers. So, I remained silent and concentrated on my driving on a wet morning.

Apparently, she had benefited from our system like many of our elites but probably forgotten about those who has seeps through the cracks.

She gave me $20 for a $15 fare. I thanked her, cleared my ears and drove on to hunt for my next passenger on a wet Wednesday morning.
Angry Singaporean.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Ingenious Ploy of Taxi Fare Cheats

"Deal with me if you want to cheat"

All the bars in the city had closed. It was 4am on a Monday morning. Only a few drunks and stragglers were on the streets. Even to get them was difficult as so few were left and many empty cabs were competing to nab them.

I was wondering whether to head home or made a last cruise around Chinatown. Then, out of nowhere, a young Chinese couple stumbled in front of my cab at a traffic light. They hailed and I happily waved them to get in. I felt lucky to finally have passengers after half an hour of cruising around.

The couple appeared inebriated and were wobbling and hugging each other in tight embrace like trying to help each other from falling over and laughing. And as soon as they landed themselves on to the back seat, they continued laughing and singing loudly like they were still in a karaoke pub. They smacked of alcohol.

"Where to?" I asked, interrupting their duffing.

"Ang Mo Kio Ave 10."  the young woman replied, giggling.

I punched the meter and speed off.

My radio was softly broadcasting the BBC news.

"Uncle, Can you put on some Chinese music?" the guy asked politely.

"Yeah, sure", I answered, tuning the radio to one of MediaCorp's Class 933.

The SHE's "Nothing Ever Change" filled the cab.

"Wow, this song ab-so-lute-ly rocks!" slurred the girl. "Thanks, Uncle."

"Welcome" I replied tiredly, as I was in no mood to socialize with a couple of "duffers" at that hour.

Soon, the two in the back were onto other things and seemed to be "smoothing" each other.

Ten minutes went by and suddenly, there was stirring in the back seat.

"Hey!" the girl shouted. "That F@#$%g hurt!"

"Ah, c'mon," the guy said.

"No," she continued. "That really hurt."

"Look, I was just trying to have a little fun," he countered.

"Get your dirty hands off me."

"Hey, what's the problem?"

"You're a pig, you know that?" she screamed.

"What the hell do you know?," he shouted back.

"A lot more than you think, you pig !" she bombarded him with her waspish tongue.

"Uncle, is she crazy?" the guy tapped my shoulder, wanting me to join their "conjugal strife".

"Leave me out of this", I told him peevishly, wishing then I had quit for the night.

"Yeah, pig, leave him out of it!"

Then, I could hear the tones of a cellphone being dialed.

"I'm calling your wife up right now," she said. "I'm going tell her all about her f*** pig of a husband."

"F@#$%" he said, reaching across the seat to grab the phone back.

Then, I could feel the phone fly past my ear. It hit the front windshield with a heavy smack!

Immediately, I pulled the car over. We were at AMK Ave. 10. I picked up the cellphone, held it in front of the guy, and then the girl quickly grabbed it, opened the door and dashed out.

"Crazy bitch," he said, as she crossed the street and disappears behind a tree.

"Sorry, Uncle, I got to get her. She is drunk. Wait here and we'll be right back, honest." the guy pleaded.

"OK", I said, shaking my head. "But before that, can you pay the taxi fare first" I demanded.

"Uncle, I'll be back in a minute, Don't worry. I "soon-pa" (swear)". he reassured me.

With that swearing, he took off swiftly and soon disappeared into nowhere.

While waiting on tenterhooks, I cursed myself for not getting him to leave something valuable behind or detained him from leaving.

Sad to say, with a boney frame of mine and being physically infirm, I was not in a favorable position to make any demand, detain or chase after him. Sure enough, three, five, ten, then fifteen minutes passed and there was no sign of them. They were gone.

It drawn on me that I've been hooked and calling 999 would be a waste of time, I reckoned.

This was a set-up from the start. All the laughing, screaming and the drama was a ingenious ploy to cheat the fare, an elaborate charade to cheat a dumb old cabby. And I fell for it.

Probably, the next night they'll come up with a different routine, maybe one of them would pretends to be sick and needs to run into 7Eleven for panadol or cigarettes. Who knows?

On hindsight, I should have "locked" the doors to prevent sudden escape of this sort but on the other hand, if I had locked the doors and if a desperate robber panicked with locked doors, he might slit my throat to ensure a smooth escape.

In the end, only the $20 fare was gone with the wind as I sadly drifted home like a falling leaf in a thunder storm. I am still alive today to live another day.

In reality, I think there is no fool proof way to avert a plotted robbery or fare cheats. As I value my life more than the fungible money, I'll let them cheat my fare or rob me of the meager monies I had with me.

I praise the "Lord" if they leave me in one piece to earn my living the next day.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Humor - A Quick Post for Your Amusement.

How Old Did You Say You Are? Nineteen - Girl - An' I'm Man Enough For You!

Below is a true happening in Singapore.

"A taxi driver is going to be charged in court today for taking a female passenger on an impromptu date without her consent instead of taking her home.

The 42 year old female passenger had caught a taxi in the wee hours of Monday morning from a nightclub. 

During the ride, the taxi driver in his 30s chatted to her the whole way and while driving down the CTE, he suggested that they go for a drink together, revealing that he had some alcohol in his cab.

Despite her refusal, the cab driver took her to Yishun Dam where they both got out of the cab and took 2 beers from the car and sat down together by the dam. 

The woman did not openly object to the cab driver's advances as she was scared that he might harm her given their remote location but she texted her friends for help. 

She continued to play along until the cab driver put his arm on her shoulder and pulled her face toward him. At this point she used her hand to push him away and insisted on being taken home. 

She later made a police report about the incident and the cab driver is to be charged today in court."

Let me tell you a similar encounter I had. Believe me or not, up to you!

Picked up a 40+ years old lady along Geylang Rd after midnight. She sat beside me and on the way, wanted to stop a while to have beer at Bedok Reservoir. 

She promised to tip me for the detour and extra time with her. That night, my taking was bad. So I sat with her on a bench while she slowly had her bottle of Tiger. 

Suddenly, she hugged me and sobbed. She then tighten her grip and sobbed louder. OMG!. she must be nuts! I pushed her away and called 999. They came, took her particulars and left after I was paid the metered fare, without the promised tip.

Now, should I file a police complaint that she "cheated my feeling" for an impromptu date without my consent? 

You decide for me. 

If she was Lisa Taylor, I know what would be my easy decision. I might end-up owning a fleet of taxis....LOL!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

You Don't Need to be More Rich to Enjoy Life.

Something to share from an unknown author:


Once a fisherman was sitting near seashore, under the shadow of a tree smoking his pipe.

Suddenly a rich businessman passing by approached him and enquired as to why he was sitting under a tree smoking and not working.

To this the poor fisherman replied that he had caught enough fishes for the day.

Hearing this the rich man got angry and said: Why don’t you catch more fishes instead of sitting in shadow wasting your time?

Fisherman asked: What would I do by catching more fishes?

Businessman: You could catch more fishes, sell them and earn more money, and buy a bigger boat.

Fisherman: What would I do then?

Businessman: You could go fishing in deep waters and catch even more fishes and earn even more money.

Fisherman: What would I do then?

Businessman: You could buy many boats and employ many people to work for you and earn even more money.

Fisherman: What would I do then?

Businessman: You could become a rich businessman like me.

Fisherman: What would I do then?

Businessman: You could then enjoy your life peacefully.

Fisherman: Isn’t that what I am doing now?

Moral – You don’t need to wait for tomorrow to be happy and enjoy your life. You don’t even need to be more rich, more powerful to enjoy life. 

LIFE is at this moment, enjoy it fully.

As some great men have said “My riches consist not in extent of my possessions but in the fewness of my wants”.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

2014 World Cup - Brazil

Four years ago, I wondered whether I would be still around today to witness the apocalypse that is about to unfold in exactly four days time..on June 12, the World Cup in Brazil. Thanks God, I'm lucky to be still here at 67, ready to relish the most Beautiful Game in the world. Not sure about next four years (2018 in Russia). Who cares. “The most important thing is to enjoy your life now—to be happy—it's all that matters.”-- Audrey Hepburn

Football bugs is in the air. Someone said that zombies will roam large part of the planet, in Singapore and other countries in football-crazy, sleep-deprived Asia. Yes, millions of zombies will certainly roam in Brazil and her economy would probably hibernate with no one working for a month. But in Singapore, where costs of living is the most expensive in the world, common folks cannot afford not to work, except those wealthy few from PAP camps. Imagine, an hour of my PM's work is my month driving income. I'm not envious of his pay because I know each of us has different commercial value. I'm just highlighting the horrendous income gap in this country. I hope they can take my jibs in their stride.

Seriously, most of the football action will happen at unfriendly timing after midnight and therefore, most working Singaporean sadly had to sleep to recharge their energy for slogging the next day. To add salt to the wounds, someone complained at TRS website (Link) that PA (Peoples Association) will not provide free screening of the World Cup matches in Opposition wards (eg. Eunos CC). Only a few fanatical football fans, residing in PAP wards and juggling between sleep and work or totally skip work for a month could soak up in the excitement of the matches. Of course, they can also watch TV in the comfort of their home through expensive paid channels.

Fortunately, I'm the privileged few who is self-employed and decided to tighten my belt and endure my hunger for the joy of watching TV in PAP's community clubs for the next 30 days. Coincidentally, my seven years old Toyota Crown taxi is due for scrap this month and this gave me another good excuse for not working. However, I promised my grumpy wife that I'll get a new cab to drive after the World Cup, least she chase me out of our flat for having free meals at her expenses.

By the way, most of my taxi buddies are not as crazy about football as me. A local adage says that "when you have three Chinese together, they will gamble. If three Indian, they will talk about forming a trade union. If three Malays, they talk about fishing". So, my taxi buddies and I, being pioneer generation Chinese will nimbly take up wagers during the World Cup with Singapore Pool or among ourselves in small amount of $20 - $50 for the fun of it.

Honestly, most elderly Chinese born in the forties has gambling genes in our blood. I remember as a young boy I play cards with my parents, siblings, relatives and friends using my Chinese New Year "ang-pao" money. In adulthood, I played mahjong, 4D, Toto, visit Genting Highland and cruise ships casinos (no horse betting). Inevitably, I landed as an impecunious taxi driver, sigh! Now. I almost never gamble except an occasional wager on Toto and 4D. But the World Cup play tricks with my brain and the urge to wager is like the urge to light up a cigarette after giving up smoking for a month. If you're a smoker, you'll understand what I meant.

From my many years of waging at World Cup, I notice that most punters never win except the "House" (Singapore Pool). The reason why House always win is simple.They win solely on house edge.

Every bet you make has a certain probability of winning or losing. If you bet on the flip of a coin, the probability of heads or tails is 50-50. This would be an even money bet. If you bet a dollar on Brazil and was paid a dollar when you won, you would be paid TRUE ODDS. However if the bookie or Singapore Pool only paid you 95 cents every time you won instead of a dollar the House edge would be 2.5%. Simply put, The house edge is the difference between the true odds and the odds that the House pays you when you win.

Apart from the above money odds, in football betting, a stronger team like Brazil usually gives handicap like "half-ball, One-ball or more"  to a weaker team like Algeria.  In football betting fraternity, they call this the "Asian Odds", which is unlike the European Odds.

In Asian Odds, if you bet on Brazil and you give a handicap of say "One-ball" to Algeria, it means that before kick-off, the score is already "Brazil 0 - 1 Algeria" i.e. Algeria leading by One Goal. If the game finally ended in "Brazil 0 - 0 Algeria", those who bet on Brazil lost and Algeria won because the betting score of "Brazil 0 - 1 Algeria" is the effective score for bettors. In this example, those who bet on Algeria "eat one-ball". So, when you bet on football, you either "give or eat balls". During World Cup season, you heard and wonder why the uncles in coffee shops are eating "half-balls" like there is a shortage of fish-ball at the fish market. But now you know the reason for this frenzy of fish-balls.

Frankly, I don't lose money anymore on World Cup betting. Instead, I always win, albeit in small amount of a few hundred dollars. Why and How? Well, After years of losing hard earned money as a punter, now I don't bet. Instead, I take the position of the "House". I let others do the betting. Most punters think they have the knowledge through research or "lobang" (tips) that would make the difference to make a win. In the end, they had big holes in their pockets. I just enjoy the football action on TV and make some small money to pay for my lost of  driving income.

You see, if an octopus in a German zoo could picked winners more accurately than most expert pundits during the last World Cup, why should I be an idiot like them. I'm sure more animals will be coming out of their pens, cage and tanks to humiliate humans over the next 30 days, as the apocalypse hits full swing. Maybe the parrot at "Kwan-Inn Temple" along Waterloo Street" is the new feather soothsayer of this World Cup.

Ok, I know who will NOT win this World Cup. England, Japan, S. Korean will not win. The winner this time will either be Germany or Argentina. Don't believe my prediction. Want to bet? Bet with me.

Oh! no, please don't take my invitation to bet with me seriously. I'm just joking because in Singapore, all forms of gambling are illegal unless one bets with Singapore Pools, Singapore Turf Club, jackpot rooms in licensed social clubhouses and at the casinos. Charity draws licensed by the Police are also legal. If convicted for illegal betting, offenders may be fined up to S$5,000, jailed up to six months, or both. S$5,000 is not a "derisory" amount for common folks.

In short, like many of their policies (ERP, COE, Levies etc..), this "G" knows how to make easy money with the "House edge" and encourages you to gamble ONLY with them! They say it's for your own good because if you gamble through bookies instead of them, you might get involved with criminal activities, like loan sharking, money laundering and fraud. LOL!

                Germany - Football Champion of the World - 2014

"Don't Cry...Argentina".

Waiting for Alan's 2 bottles of Carlsberg!

Final Score : Germany 1 - 0 Argentina....In Extra-Time.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Small Unanswered Injusties in Life

Our life is full of small unanswered injustices.

One day, your young son came home from school and complained that his classmate scolded him with vulgarities. It’s not right, you know, but you also know it’s not worth the trouble of going back to the school to get even with his classmate through his discipline teacher. So you forget about it. 

Or you are looking over your monthly "overtime" pay slip and realized you have not being paid the correct amount of overtime. But the difference is merely an hour, which is about $15. “Shit”, you mutter to yourself and momentarily consider charging into the HR office. But then you think of the hassle that would be and you forget about it. 

Or as a cabby, you saw your passenger, who had earlier booked your cab, dishonored their "call-booking" commitment and hopped into another empty cab ahead of you and left. You had probably driven with extra effort to meet your promised arrival time and ignored "flagging" passengers on the way. Then on arrival, you saw your half portion of roasted Peking Duck flying off with the wind. I can imagine the injustice you felt in that repugnant situation. You must have thought of calling the passengers and lash them with all the "vulgarities" you had mastered since young. But then, you thought of LTA's "warning letter" and realized it was not worth it. So you forgot about it.

Or you are walking on a crowded side walk, when someone bumps into you and knocks you off balance for a moment. But instead of apologizing to you, he looks contemptuously into your eyes like about to say..."Get the fuck out of my way, asshole."   

Or this? You are waiting in line at the Singapore Pool's booth and someone much bigger than you blatantly cuts right in front of you. You think of saying something to the guy but he looks like a gangster with tattoos on his arms, so you just bite your tongue and remains silent and forgets about it. 

In both cases. you suppressed your urge to react. You're not a coward but is worried that you might get injured, killed or arrested in a fight. All for what? .....Nothing!!. So, you soothe your anger and tell yourself....... "Someday that guy will meet "someone - the right guy" -who will teach him a lesson or two" The someone is not you, so you forgets about it.

And so the list of small unanswered injustices goes on and on. It gets to the point that we just accept it as a fact of life and take it easy. But deep down in our heart, we patiently and secretly hope those "bad guys" will get their comeuppance --from "the right guy"--someday.

Now, I would like to share with you an anecdote I wrote about 25 months ago, about how a "bad guy" met the "right guy".

I happened to pick this "right guy" one night at a bar along Geylang Road. The first thing I noticed about him was his physical attributes. He was about 40 plus, 6 feet tall, heavy built with muscular arms. He looks like an ex-military man with crew cut hair and had an Eurasian look.

After rushing into my cab, he suddenly shouted through the window, "F@#$%  BASTARD! DAMN F@#$%  BASTARD!"

"What's the matter?" I asked.

His answer shocked me. "I hope I didn't kill him."

"What happened?" I asked again.


"What happened??" I asked in desperation for more details.

"I think I killed him," he blurted out as he covered his face in his hands. "Oh, God, I hope I didn't kill him."

His emotions were like the waves of an ocean - a minute up in anger- the next minute down in grief. It took me quite a while to figure out what had happened in the bar.

He'd been sitting alone at a bar counter, having a couple of drinks and enjoying the sentimental music. Then three rowdy Chinese guys entered the bar and sat in a row beside him. One of these guys decided to have some fun at my passenger's expense. He began dissing at him while his buddies laughed. My passenger was understandably infuriated and it led to a brawl in no time.

Powerful blows and kicks were exchanged aggressively. It ended with the rude guy collapsing on the floor from a chop to his neck, which may have crushed his windpipe. He gasped desperately for air before slumping over in a moribund condition.. 

My passenger ran out of the bar to the street looking for a taxi. My cab became his getaway car. Those "bad guys" had finally met "the right guy" who happens to be an ex-military man who knew martial arts and was in no mood to take crap from some punk. They had met the "right guy" who taught them a lesson they will never forget for a long time.

When we arrived at his destination, I advised him not to talk to anyone else about this incident other than a priest. Not to let his feelings of guilt put him into a jail. Till today, I heard nothing more about the incident.

Interestingly, I felt no fear in being alone with him in my cab although he was a "fugitive killer". He wasn't my wrong guy. I usually don't meet wrong guy because I don't go around intentionally provoking or insulting strangers.

I know justice will prevail. It may not be swift but it will surely come. After all, sow an action, reap a habit, sow a habit, reap a character, sow a character and reap destiny. Have faith.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

A Short Break to Penang and Hatyai.

To get away from the drudgery of work behind the wheel, six taxi buddies and I took a 5 days break in Penang and Hatyai, last week.

My last visit to Penang was about 20 years ago and Hatyai, 15 years. Among my buddies on this trip, four had almost similar intervals like me and two of them have never visited these two cities.

The number of days and costs were major factors in deciding where to take our break. As you probably know, taxi drivers have to pay rental even when they're not driving and these "self-paid  leave" become part of our holiday costs. sigh.

With a small budget of $500, we decided to fly to Penang with a $100 two way ticket and chartered  a van at $45 per person from Penang to Hatyai and back. With $100 for hotel at twin sharing for 4 nights, each of us were left with about $255 to spend on food, shopping and fun.

The first thought that most Singaporeans have on visiting Penang is more likely the island’s famed hawker food than its tourist attractions.

On our first night in Penang, we stayed at Hotel Sentral Georgetown and walked across a street onto the famous MacAlister Street of Penang to savour their outstanding culinary of hawker food like chay kwai teow, Hokkien mee, prawn noodle, assam laksa, rojak, oyster omelet, cendol, etc...etc.. With seven staving adults, we were able to order and gorge small potion of about fifteen varieties of Penang most famous hawker food there. Total cost MR300 (S$120) with soft drinks thrown in.

After dinner, we ambled across the street a modern open-air stage infront of our hotel to have our beer and enjoyed young and attractive Chinese singers performing Mandarin and Hokkien pop songs. For audience with cash to spare, they would buy garland of flowers costing MR50 a piece to please their favorite singers. We just enjoyed our beer and the show till midnight. 

At 7am the next day, we left in our chartered 11 seats van for a smooth and pleasant four hours drive to Hatyai, with an half hour break along the journey for breakfast. Without prior hotel booking, we purchased our hotel rooms through a hotel booking agency in Hatyai city at 40% discounted price. I now realize we could get a room cheaper than an hotel agent in Hatyai through an advance internet booking at Agoda.com. We stayed at Sakura Grandview Hatyai for S$45 a night.

After a quick check-in, we hurried to have a cheap but delicious buffet lunch at nearby Lee Garden Hotel. As senior citizens, we were given ten percent discount for our meal. Each paid S$5. While walloping our food, we heard that a nearby central police building has been attacked with grenades by Southern Thailand separatists. The police building was engulfed in flame but nobody was injured. We were not perturbed and finished our lunch leisurely, though some buddies received frantic phone calls from their family members checking on their well being.

In the evening, we had a simple Thai dinner and later stomped into a "karaok lounge" in our hotel. With each of us having a seductive female companion pampering us, we finished two bottles of 12 years Chivas Regal (bought at Changi Airport) before midnight. We sung, danced and gentlemanly "misbehaved" like we were young yesterday and there was no tomorrow. After the partying, my buddy, Johnny and I retired to our shared room. Some had to buy an extra room for the night.

Unsurprisingly, the younger ones in our group were spell bounded by the sleaze and glitz of Hatyai city lights and busted their wallets soon enough. They cried for emergency loans the next morning.
Nowadays, my asset is used mainly to drain my bodily fluid, though I did enjoyed the invigorating Thai massages.

On the third day of our holiday, we received the sad news of one of our buddy passing away. He was 52 years old and died the previous night around midnight of a sudden heart attack while ferrying a passenger along PIE.

After leaving his/her fare on the back seat, the nonchalant passenger fled without calling for help. Many motorists, including countless taxi drivers must have noticed the stranded taxi at the shoulder of the expressway and they, like the unconcern passenger, did not stop to check out whether the driver needs help. How about the EMAS (Expressway Monitoring Advisory System) vehicles and highway police patrol cars?. Were they all asleep in the wee hours of the morning? Our buddy's death was discovered 4 hours later after a close buddy checked with COMFORT for his location and went to search for him when he failed to turn up at his usual taxi handover point.

Away from the depressing reality and morbid subject of death, I spend the rest of the morning in a kind of daze. I keep thinking about those lines: "Get busy living, or get busy driving and dying and while we are alive, do we know how to live?. In the end, I think "it matters not how long we live, but how well with whatever we have".

The day was uneventful and we spent it visiting three famous Thai temples, having seafood at Songkhla, massages and shopping at ubiquitous malls and street stalls. The subject of our buddy's death was never mentioned again during the remaining days of our holiday. We did almost the same thing on the last day in Hatyai, eating, shopping and relaxing with facial and body massages. What else could elderly people with shallow pockets like us do?

On the final day of our trip, we left Hatyai hotel at the break of dawn around 5am in our chartered van directly to Penang airport. Initially, we were worried that our chartered van might not turn up as promised and soon discovered our worries were unfounded as Penang van drivers are honorable people. We rewarded him with handsome tips as we are drivers too.

Immigration clearance at Penang airport was efficient and once inside the TigerAirways plane, all my buddies were snoring away. I guess they need to catch up some lost sleep and energy so that they can start their night shift driving the same evening. I took that day off.

It was a great holiday and nice break. Hope to do it again next year to another cheap place.