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. 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" 


WTK said...

Hi James,

All the best in your upcoming cab driving. I hope to hear more of taxi-driving exploits and other daily routine from you.

Wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...


Thanks a lot for your wonderful festive greetings.

May God bless your family and you forever.


James Lim

Overcome Life said...

Wow!!! Congratulations!!! And welcome back to driving and blogging!! I'm amazed with your Corridor Garden!!! Hope you still can maintain it despite starting to work again. I'm too jobless for sometime, and live frugally, manage to live one day at a time though, happily and satisfyingly having enough and be content with what life has offered. Doing part time job a little bit, and hope to find any full time job next year. Wish me luck! Anyway, all the best and drive safely!!! Merry Christmas and have a blessed New Year 2019!!!!

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi Rima Reyka,

Nice to hear from you again too.

I wish you the best of luck in whatever you do in the coming new year especially finding happiness in living, not necessarily a ft job. Don't pay too much attention to what others think of you. Be happy with yourself.

Keep smiling...cheers!!

James Lim

Anonymous said...

Congrats! Love reading your blog. Wishing you health in 2019 and beyond.

Diary of a Singaorean Cabby said...

Hi Anon,

Thanks for your comments.

I wish you "A Merry X'mas " happy New Year" too.

James Lim