Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Working Hard After 65 Years Old?

A "sole proprietor" at "The Thief Market" selling his wares.

This Monday, 12/08/2013, was the start of a new working week after a long weekend of five continuous holidays in Singapore. Taxi commuters were scare then. Monday nights had always been customarily slow nights for taxi drivers, nothing was moving. The phone booking was quiet and the taxi stands everywhere were full of idle cabs. Some drivers cruise the streets downtown hoping to catch a fare, others give up and call it an early night and many resign themselves to the situation. They park on a stand and wait. To relieve the boredom, they pull out a newspaper or book, talk on the phone, get out and chat with the other drivers, eat, sleep... anything.

What the hell was going on? Hardly anyone was taking a cab. Had the long holidays bankrupted everyone so much so that no one can afford taxis anymore? Has everybody spontaneously decided to lose weight and get in shape by walking everywhere? Or was it because of the long holiday where everybody is out stations? But for those willing to pay for a cab, they were not short of taxis and waiting time was a breeze.

It was a miserable night for most cabbies, no doubt. I've read my cell phone messages twice, something I've never done, ever. But I'm not perturbed because I know that commuters need time to adjust to the new working week and will come back.

Perhaps sensing my conviction, a current booking came in around midnight to pick someone at Admore Park. The final destination was the airport. It was my first booking for the night and a good one to the airport. I was absolutely delighted and rushed to the pickup point within minutes.

As I rolled into the lobby, there was a middle-aged white man in full suit, standing on the sidewalk holding a couple of overstuffed suitcases. He had a look of a successful business man. I loaded his stuffs into the trunk. He opened the door, pushed his stuff over, then heaved himself into the taxi. I punched the meter and off we went.

"How are we doing this evening?" said the grizzled man in a voice that could fill an auditorium. It was a curious change in protocol, as I usually do the greeting.

"Fine, Sir" I said.

"Busy, tonight?" he continued in a clarion call.

"Not really. In fact, it's been pretty slow". I replied in a sullen voice.

"Well, maybe I'll change your luck for you," he said in guffaw.

"I'd appreciate that, Sir. Hope it goes both ways." I answered as intelligently as I could.

The quirky man was an over enthusiastic conversationalist and soon ventured into my personal territory, asking my about my former jobs, family, friends, hobbies etc..etc... I don't usually reveal much of my personal life to anybody, much less a stranger in my cab. But he was different, especially his gregarious manner and sincerity of his voice. While I usually do the asking, I found myself doing the talking. For the rest of the journey till the airport, I told the inquisitive man a bit about my growing up, my family, about how I lost my last job and became a taxi driver.......

At the airport, as he gathered his things, he told me, "You should stop driving a taxi and get to teaching as a private tutor. Give me your phone number. I might have something to offer you"

"Thank you, Sir. I'm now in my twilight years and would like to "take it easy" for the remaining days I have left" I replied nonchalantly.

As I drove away, my head was swimming. Shouldn't I gave him my contact? Maybe he has a business proposition for me or maybe he wants me to be his secretary? I didn't know. Still don't. But it certainly got me thinking. Am I really old at 65 and should therefore, extinguish my fire of ambition? Maybe I should put on my armor and go into battle again in our cut-throat business world.?. No...no...no way!. I don't want to slog or be slaughtered at 65, if I can avoid it.

I'm not very poor, nor rich. Healthy but feeble. I'm lucky to be able to still drive a cab to pay for my many essential bills in this expensive country. My retirement is still a dream. I've to be self-reliant as there is no social safety nets here. My children, relatives and friends have their own loads of problems to take care. I must not burden them. So, I try my best to earn and live within my means. Now, I'm happy with what I have and that's good enough for me. But one day, in the not too distant future, I'll grow dreadfully old, weak and unable to work. Who will give me a helping hand? I dread the dawn of that day.

Presently, my deepest sympathy goes to those impoverished elderly folks who are incapacitated and had to depend on the miserable government handouts to survive. Is ameliorating the cost of living of the elderly poor, wrong and ruinous on our Government's coffer? Will helping the truly poor elderly results in massive taxation and overloading the system, reducing the incentives to work and to save and care for one’s family?.

I say no, no...no. This Government's policy on welfarism needs a paradigm shift, soon, from one of penurious assistance to a more altruistic support for the elderly destitute. Is a shelter, two meals, and medical care for the elderly poor asking too much of the Government or is this Government still adamant on passing this integral responsibility to the private sector or are their mindset still stuck in the LKY's era?.

With our rapid ageing population, the state must bear bigger portion of funds for all aspects of assistance to the deserving elderly poor. I hope our PM's National Day Rally speech this coming Sunday, Aug 18 will not be a standard mantra like before and a great disappointment for the elderly poor and Singaporean in general.   

When I was young, my parents told me that I should slog when I am young and reap the fruits at retirement. But now, where is my fruits and retirement? I think my fruits are kept in lock in CPF, so how to have retirement?

Now, coming back to that gentleman who took my cab to the airport earlier. I think he wants me to be his private chauffeur?. I'll never know. So be it. 

After deducting all costs, I earned about $50 for the night and it was more than I could ask for on a miserable Monday night. I'm happy like these two wealthy gentlemen here. 
A Happy Father And Son in Singapore

13 comments:

Kaffein said...

Fantastic piece, really touched the heart of many Singaporeans. Not many can smile and laugh like the father and son though. For them, they are very well-covered to last through the twilight years plus generations to come. With pension too should anything happen to them.

Lim James said...

Hi, Kaffein.

Thanks for your compliment.

What they have, they can't bring it along to their graves. History will judge them unforgivably.

Anonymous said...

Who says our G is stingy on welfare ?

Incidentally that two wealthy gentlemen including their loyal dogs are still depending on the G's generous welfare, courtesy of their own written laws.

Lim James said...

When you've absolute power, you have absolute freedom to write laws to suit your purposes. This is how dictators rule their country. Is S'pore any different? Yes, We, the citizens of Singapore, have the power the vote out the Government that fails to serve the basic needs of it's people. Vote wisely in 2016!

Lim James said...

My post was featured in TR Emeritus and a reader posted this comment on their site. I would to share his comments with you here:

Quote:

From : BT

I would like to congratulate James, his narrative is candid and his writing is smooth, and his vocabulary delightfully varied. It is a first class dish with much to chew and ponder. And I thank TRE for featuring him here.

I am of course a regular at TRE, this political Michelin star Restaurant, its menu is delectable, moreover I am sick of the hospital food from MSM. They take the taste and vitamins out of the food through excessive sanitary habits.

So, James is 65 years old. And this intelligent man is a taxi driver. It makes me think that as our population ages, and with people like James, perhaps we should not have such a gloom and doom scenario. I think people like James would always find a way to make the best of life. And that this social DNA of perseverance will strengthen us, as our young learn from people like James.

Notwithstanding that, it is unconscionable, that our old has no free medical care, that they have to fight for jobs against younger FTs, that they even need to organize themselves to sneak into Malaysia to get their medicine cheaper.

For those who keep calling criticisms of LKY ingrates, what do you call this treatment of our old folks? Is this a country that glorifies youth for the elites to suck, and then discard them as cardboard when they are old? Is that the reason why more and more infrastructures are made to entice a young global workforce, like Hansel & Gretel being drawn to the Candy House?

This concept of continuous replacement of productive workers is not a new concept. The call centres have done it for the longest time. The Indians and Filipinos with their young populations are especially vulnerable. It is a sinister but profitable HR practice that guarantees no job security but keep wages low.

Most developed countries with a better social compact between employers, employees and unions and NGOs would expose such practices. And Singapore with a Union leader that somehow finds it funny to take free toothpicks, is especially vulnerable to such tactics. Our unions are weak. The importation of HR executives, which is one of the first cultural baggage that foreign firms bring to Singapore, have practiced patronage, discrimination and an unbalance power relations between workers and companies.

MOM Minister Tan talks about a Singapore core. A Singapore core must also mean certain values. And if they keep giving in to foreign practices that are not aligned to what our society desire such as fairness and non discriminatory practices, it is all rather mute. And one of the discrimination, is age discrimination. Because in their own countries, it is easy to suckle the youths and unburden the old. I hope MOM will indeed enforce the code of conduct with a healthy legal force behind it.

Meanwhile, a high five to people like James. He reminds me of this simple but powerful quote: ‘And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?’

Anonymous said...

An awesome, articulate reflection of the less fortunate and discriminated Singaporeans.





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Anonymous said...

Dear James, I will sure come back to your blog. Thanks for your sharing.

Jason Bourne said...

I enjoy reading your post. keep it up and wish you have a great day Mr.James

Gintai_昇泰 said...

Really good article!

yograj barpaga said...

Online games are played largely these days. What could be the reason behind this rapid increase in online gamers?

newbie cabbie said...

Fantastic blog, James. Your writing is as smooth as silk. Maybe the ang moh guy was serious when he said he should stop driving a cab and become a private tutor. You could do well as a creative writing tutor.

Will come back here for more :)

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