With all that’s being said about Singapore’s transport system today, our roads and train stations may be the last places you would expect to find any kindness and graciousness.
At today’s Transport Gold Award, an annual award ceremony held by the Singapore Kindness Movement and its partners, we’re reminded that come rain or shine, there are many transport service staff who go beyond the demands of duty with acts of extraordinary kindness.
The Pride speaks to two transport heroes who move hearts whilst moving people.
The taxi booking that changed a teenager’s life
Mr. Tan You Tse is a gruff 62-year-old man of few words. When you ask him a question, you will either get a grunt of acknowledgement or a short answer that’s 10 syllables shy of a sentence fragment.
Are you surprised to receive the Transport Gold Award?
“Normal, lah,” he replies.
However, his taciturn exterior hides a kind heart that bleeds easily for the old, the ill and those who suffer. When he met 13-year-old Jay, who is wheelchair-bound due to cerebral palsy, Mr. Tan immediately agreed to become his regular taxi driver, fetching him to and from his secondary school every day.
“I see him so difficult, so I just fetch him. Whatever you can help, you help, that’s my thinking,” he explained.
Three years later, Mr. Tan is still fetching Jay to and from school everyday. Every morning at seven, he takes Jay from his home to St Hilda’s Secondary School where he is now a Secondary Three student. Every afternoon, he hurries back from other customers so he can pick Jay up as soon as class ends. In addition to these sacrifices, Mr. Tan even buys food for Jay when he tires of the usual canteen fare.
“I sometimes buy chicken wing or drinks for him,” he said with a laugh. “ I pity him because he study until three o’clock.”
In the time they have spent together on these daily trips, Mr. Tan has also become something of a mentor and counsellor for the teenage boy. When they first met, Jay’s mood was often sad and downcast so Mr. Tan constantly motivates him during their daily journeys.
“I show him pictures of people without arms or legs playing ping pong or painting,” he said. “I say to him – if they can do it, why you cannot?”
Thanks to Mr. Tan’s cheerleading, Jay is now in much better spirits. Not only is he exercising to keep fit, the two even make weekend trips to Vivocity so that Jay can pursue his newfound passion for Pokemon Go.
“I don’t even know what is there to catch at Vivo!” Mr Tan said.
Has Mr. Tan ever considered the financial burden of forgoing other jobs in order to help Jay every day?
“Never. Never consider,” he replied.
Although he is getting on in years, our cabby hero thinks little about money. Not only does he not mind paying out of pocket for the occasional chicken wing, he also often waives the taxi fare for those in need – be they old folks who can’t walk or the sick passengers who are visiting the hospital for treatment.
“My mother got diabetes, so I know the expenses are no joke” he said. “So I say, nevermind the petrol or the booking fee, I’ll handle it.”
As for Jay, he can look forward to another year of Mr. Tan’s daily company because the cabbie has committed to another year of service with ComfortDelgro. After all, the family has come to rely on him and Mr. Tan does not want to let them down.
“As long as I’m still driving, I’ll fetch him,” he concluded with a smile.
Going ten extra miles for the elderly in need
In February, SMRT senior assistant station manager Amran bin Abdul was making his usual rounds around Jurong East MRT interchange when he spotted a frail old man struggling to make his way through the station with his cane.
After approaching the elderly man, who was named Mr. Ho, 50-year-old Amran learned that he was heading to church alone, without the usual support from his wife.
“I was very touched, so I asked if he needed help.” Amran said.
Mr. Ho politely accepted this offer of assistance, but he could not remember the address of his church, only that it was in Pasir Panjang and next to a Esso petrol station. After informing his station manager, Amran immediately brought out a wheelchair and brought him to the bus interchange, where Mr. Ho could catch the bus no. 143 to Pasir Panjang.
By itself, this would have been a good deed to write home about, but Amran did not simply wave goodbye to Mr. Ho as he boarded the bus.
“He didn’t know where to drop and he couldn’t stand up from the wheelchair,” Amran said.
Fortunately, it was not yet peak hour at Jurong East and the other station managers could handle their duties, so Amran made a judgment call to accompany Mr. Ho to his church, despite not knowing its address.
“Usually, we will help them to the station boundaries, but I decided to follow him to the doorsteps of the church,” Amran elaborated.
Along the way, he used his phone to figure out the correct church. The journey took around half an hour before the pair alighted, only to be faced with another obstacle – the church was located atop a hill.
Amran pushed Mr. Ho up the steep slope to his parish before they were spotted by Joyce Kwok, the church member who took over from the exhausted Amran.
“I was wondering how to get back to Jurong East,” Amran mused. Luckily, it seems that one good deed leads to another and Amran got a lift back to Jurong East courtesy of the pastor.
“It was Joyce from the church who wrote to SMRT. Usually, I just take a picture to show my daughters to motivate them,” said Amran, trying to downplay the extraordinary kindness of his deed.
Although this seems like an extraordinary act of kindness for the rest of us, such incidents are apparently quite common at the crowded Jurong East MRT station, where Amran regularly shepherds old folks who pass through his station – whether they are lost or simply weak of body.
Amran recounted with a laugh: “Sometimes elderly folks are quite sensitive. One time, there was this old lady who whacked me for calling her ma’am. Don’t call me ma’am, she screamed at me!”
Despite some challenging passengers and their demands, Amran chooses to think positively by putting himself in the passenger’s shoes. No matter how tired he is, he tries to be calm and maintain good customer relations.
“I want them to feel safe in our hands, and I want to show my family that they have a good and loving father,” he said.
Transport Gold Award is jointly held by Singapore Kindness Movement and the Land Transport Authority and the public transport companies and associations. A total of 446 transport staff were recognised for their exemplary service today (Oct 31).