Monday, 13 May 2019

Storm in a 50-cent tea cup? Confusion over May deal at NTUC Foodfare



Just half a dollar.

For the whole of this month, when you show your National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) membership card at NTUC Foodfare or Kopitiam, you can buy a cup of hot coffee or tea (or their various c, o, kosong, siew dai, ga dai, po, gau incarnation) for only 50 cents.

I believe it has something to do with May Day, celebrating workers and all that.

At least I don’t have to demean myself by wearing a Liverpool jersey to get the special price.



I was delighted to spot the “$0.50 kopi & teh” sign in my neighbourhood Foodfare coffee shop since I go there to buy a packet of teh for myself and a packet of teh-o for my wife to take home practically every morning.

It usually costs $1 for the teh and 90 cents for the teh-o, but this month, I need to pay only $1 for both. It’s like Thanos snapped half the price away.

That will save me $27.90, which I can spend on watching Avengers: Endgame in Imax 3D again with popcorn.



Or so I thought.

For the first few days of the month, I smiled like I had never smiled before at the drinks auntie as I showed her my NTUC card and paid only $1 for my daily beverages.

Then last week, things suddenly changed.

She told me she could charge me 50 cents for only one drink and I had to pay full price for the other.

Wait, what?

She explained that the rule is actually one cup per card.

So they had been doing it wrong all this time?

I asked, what if I queued up and ordered again? The auntie said, no, no, she still had to charge me full price for the second drink.

But what if I disguised myself such that she couldn’t recognise me? Josh damn it, I left my Thanos mask at home.

If I wanted to pay 50 cents for my wife’s teh-o, it seemed my only options were to go to another NTUC Foodfare or Kopitiam, or get someone else to order for me using my NTUC card (since they didn’t check who the card belonged to), or wait for the drink stall staff to change shift.

Or pay full price, which was, of course, unthinkable.

That’s like 40 cents more!

I looked around the coffee shop and considered asking a stranger to order the teh-o for me, but my skin wasn’t “gau” enough.

I was about to head home teh-o-less, but the fear of disappointing my wife made me turn around and accept the unthinkable – I would pay the full price of 90 cents for her drink.

The drinks auntie sighed when she saw me again. Half exasperated and half taking pity on me, she charged me 50 cents for the teh-o and said she wasn’t supposed to do this.

I smiled at her like I never smiled at anyone before.

Never mind the Avengers – she’s my hero.

But still confounded by the “one cup per card” rule, I looked it up online and found an April 25 Straits Times report that said:
“There is no limit to the number of cups of discounted kopi, kopi-o, kopi-c, teh, teh-o and teh-c - including sugarless varieties – customers can order in one day. They can order one discounted drink for each card presented at the counter and have to queue again to order each subsequent cup.”
Which contradicts what the drinks auntie told me.



Was my hero mistaken or should ST be prosecuted under the new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act?

But even if ST is right, it seems kind of silly to force people to queue up each time for a 50-cent beverage.

What if there’s no queue? Can I just order multiple 50-cent cups? Or must I go through the motion of ordering one at a time?

And why was it different for the first few days of the month?

It appears NTUC hasn’t quite thought this through.

Oh yah, and do I need to bring my Thanos mask?

The things I do to save 40 cents.

- Published in The New Paper, 13 May 2019


Good morning,

Thanks for the article in The New Paper this morning.

The discount is not applicable in NTUC hawker in Kampung Admiralty. I was really surprised as this location is specially opened by Mr Lee Hsien Loong. Kampung Admiralty, an integrated housing estate for senior citizens, is considered a model for future public housing.

The mixed vegetables rice prices in most NTUC food court has special concessions for senior citizens, student and NTUC union members. But it's also not applicable in Kampung Admiralty. Example: Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital food court and NTUC coffeeshop in Blk 361 Sembawang crescent.

NTUC privilege is not align and it's really confusing to consumers.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you,
Lilian


Hello S Mong

I read with amusement, your article in TNP today. I have not tried purchasing the 50 cents kopi but another deal caught my attention - free ferry ticket to batam (need to pay $20 for fees and surcharges). I am planning to make good use of it this long weekend for my family but now i am not sure if i can buy their tickets too.

Perhaps it's not about the organiser not thinking through all possibilities, but really Singaporeans are always very creative in finding loop holes or getting around the rules. You have pointed out a few in the article. Another good example is the recent HPB QR code incident. Some Singaporeans see the goodwill perks/deals as an entitlement and demanded beyond what is logical, causing happiness and ranting.

I guess if i can get discounted ferry tickets for my family, that would be great but if i can't, then at least i have some savings on my ticket.

When we show gratitude for the little things in life, we can lead happier lives.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Safety advisory sent to NUS students: Female resident was filmed in bathroom at Raffles Hall



So my daughter, a National University of Singapore student, just received another e-mail from the school:
From: Office of Campus Security
Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2019 7:13:48 PM

Dear NUS Student

Safety advisory from NUS Campus Security

This morning, the Office of Campus Security (OCS) was alerted to an incident in which a female resident was filmed in one of the bathrooms at Raffles Hall. The matter has been reported to the police and we are assisting in their investigation.

The University is providing the female student with dedicated support and assistance.

Since April, the University has been enhancing security on our campuses through the introduction of enhanced CCTV coverage, secure shower cubicles, restroom locks and increased patrols by campus security officers.

All of these measures are in the midst of being implemented at Raffles Hall, including the secure shower cubicles which will be installed in the coming weeks. One of the newly installed CCTV cameras at the hall had enabled us to capture footage of the male suspect, who has been apprehended by the police for further investigation.

Your safety is important to us. While NUS accelerates the implementation of these security enhancements, we urge all students and staff to remain vigilant, and to immediately report any suspicious activity to OCS at our 24-hour hotline: 6874 1616 and email: ocssec@nus.edu.sg.

Let's work together to keep our campuses safe for everyone.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Keith It
Director
Office of Campus Security

This is getting out of hand.


EARLIER: After Monica Baey: My daughter is in NUS, should I be worried?


Monday, 29 April 2019

After Monica Baey: My daughter is in NUS, should I be worried?




My daughter, a first-year National University of Singapore (NUS) student, once told me a joke:

What do NUS and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) students have in common?

Answer: They all applied to NUS.

I think she read it in NUSWhispers.

After last week, there is another answer: They may be secretly filmed showering on campus.

Singapore Management University doesn’t look so bad now.

Last week, besides Avengers: Endgame spoilers, all anyone could talk about was NUS student Monica Baey.

She posted an Instagram Story about catching another student filming her in the shower, which resulted in Facebook posts by two ministers and a disappointing NUS town hall meeting on Thursday.







We also learnt that 26 sexual offence cases (update: police say 25) had been brought before the NUS disciplinary board over the past three years. That works out to be approximately one sexual offence every six weeks (even if it was 25 cases over three years).

NTU: “Hold my beer.”

Also last week, two cases of an NTU student being filmed in the shower were reported within days of each other.



And all these are just incidents that have been reported. There could be more perpetrators who were not caught.

Who knew local university campuses are such popular locations for illicit amateur voyeur porn production?

I certainly didn’t read about it in the university prospectuses when my daughter and I were deciding which school to apply to after she got her A-level results last year.

There is apparently no global ranking of universities based on the number of perverts matriculating in the school.

By the way, it’s not true that matriculation causes blindness.

In any case, a bigger factor in picking a university is the school’s remoteness from civilisation, which was why NTU wasn’t our first choice.

After all, we chose NUS even though we were aware of the sexualised freshmen orientation games scandal of 2016.

That was when then Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung felt it was necessary to point out on Facebook that “pretending to ejaculate into the face of a fellow student” is a “reprehensible act that cannot be tolerated”.



I’m happy (and relieved) to report that my daughter attended an NUS freshmen orientation camp last year and did not witness anyone pretending to ejaculate into anyone’s face or she would have told me.

However, in the wake of the Monica Baey revelations, my daughter received a series of e-mails from NUS last week that were more concerning than reassuring.

The first was an April 21 e-mail from the NUS Students’ Union Exco, saying that sexual harassment “is a serious community problem” and victims should report such matters to the school. The Exco added that if victims are told not to report, they should report that too.



Later that day, the Dean of Students sent an e-mail about how NUS “does not tolerate sexual misconduct” and that a committee will be convened “to review the current student disciplinary and support frameworks”.



Then on Friday after the town hall, the Students’ Union Exco sent an e-mail to express “extreme” disappointment in how the town hall was run.



Later that day, the NUS Provost sent an e-mail regarding the town hall to “acknowledge that there was some disappointment”, which makes you wonder, if NUS couldn’t even organise a town hall competently, how is it going to do all the things it said it was going to do?

And it isn’t like the university doesn’t have enough problems. Earlier this month, it was reported that NUS and the Singapore Food Agency are investigating after two outbreaks of food poisoning on campus.



So not only does my daughter have to watch out for the perverts in NUS, she has to be careful of the food too?

Academics, schmacademics.

Just three more years to go.

Three.

Long.

Years.

I must make sure she never takes a shower in school.

- Published in The New Paper, 29 April 2019

Friday, 26 April 2019

Sent to NUS students: [NUSSU EXCO] Statement on NUS Town Hall



So my daughter, an NUS student, received another e-mail from the students' union this afternoon:



Dear Students,

NUSSU EXCO would like to thank all the students who attended and participated in the town hall organised by NUS on Thursday, 25th April 2019. While we appreciate that the University promptly responded to the students’ call for a town hall, we are extremely disappointed in the way the meeting was run.

  • We regret that the town hall was planned in a manner that did not allow for an extension. The town hall should have been the administration’s top priority in light of the various concerns raised by the students over the past week. This was also a huge letdown for students who cleared their schedules prior to finals but were unable to voice their concerns.
  • NUSSU EXCO is disheartened to observe that the panelists were unable to answer students’ questions adequately as they are not on the Review Committee and therefore could not make any commitment on their behalf.
  • Furthermore, the town hall did not meet its original intentions of sharing its investigative and disciplinary procedures and the sanctions framework for sexual misconduct.
  • Despite the aforementioned concerns, we welcome the NUS administration’s plans to establish a centralised victim support unit and improve security infrastructure in halls and residential colleges.
  • We also appreciate the University for following through on our suggestions to enforce anonymity and include counsellors on standby.
  • Moving forward, we have submitted two requests formally to the NUS President, Prof Tan Eng Chye. The first is to increase the diversity and quantity of student representation in the Review Committee. The second is to convene another town hall with members of the Review Committee on the panel as part of their report crafting methodology. This is to ensure that students can receive committal answers from individuals who have decision-making power in the committee, and that their voices are heard.
  • Last but not least, we applaud the students who mustered the courage to share with the NUS administration their experiences and feedback with the purpose of creating a safer and more empowering environment for all.
  • The notes of the town hall and the remaining unasked questions can be found at bit.ly/nustownhall2019. We have forwarded them to nuslistens@nus.edu.sg and we encourage students to submit their concerns, queries and feedback to the aforementioned email address. Students who wish to reach out to NUSSU EXCO can contact us at feedback@nussu.org.sg.

It's also posted on the NUSSU Facebook page:



Later that night, my daughter received this e-mail from the NUS Provost:

Dear Students,

Yesterday afternoon, the Office of Student Affairs and NUSSU held a town hall to discuss how we can improve campus safety and offer better support to victims of sexual misconduct. I would like to thank those who attended and contributed.

I acknowledge that there was some disappointment that the session could not be extended to allow more of you to speak. After the session, NUSSU collated the remaining questions and submitted them to nuslistens@nus.edu.sg, the e-mail address we created to hear from you directly. I assure you that your comments and questions will be carefully reviewed and considered.

The town hall is just the first step in a broad consultation with the NUS community to hear from our students, faculty and staff. We are committed to providing further opportunities for consultation and feedback in the coming weeks, including more town hall sessions.

As you may know, the NUS Board of Trustees has convened a review committee on sexual misconduct. The points raised at the town hall will be shared in full with the committee, in addition to any submissions sent to nuslistens@nus.edu.sg.

I would like to state emphatically that we take our responsibilities very seriously when it comes to protecting everyone in our community from harm. We hear your forceful voices on the need to strengthen our disciplinary framework, to improve victim care support and physical safety, and to redouble our efforts to create a culture that allows everyone to feel safe on campus.

As immediate actions, the University will:

  1. Establish a dedicated office where victims of sexual misconduct can receive specialised, professional support and care. This office will support victims from the point they make a report, and ensure privacy and sensitivity in handling their cases. It will also have counsellors to provide aftercare support and address other concerns and needs that victims may have. This office will be in place before the start of the new academic year.
  2. Accelerate the enhancement of physical security on campus, including broader CCTV coverage, more security staff and better sexual misconduct-specific training for security staff.
  3. Work with student representatives to implement heightened security and privacy tools in bathrooms in all student residences.
  4. Deliver educational seminars on respect, consent and awareness for all students, faculty and staff from the start of the new academic year.

We are committed to a transparent and consultative process, and our proposed actions will continue to be published for your feedback before they are implemented by the start of the new academic year.

Please do reach out to nuslistens@nus.edu.sg, with your suggestions and feedback.

Thank you for taking the time to voice your concerns. I assure you that we are listening.

Sincerely,
Professor Ho Teck Hua




EARLIER: Sent to NUS students: [NUSSU EXCO] Statement on Sexual Harassment in NUS


Sunday, 21 April 2019

Sent to NUS students: [NUSSU EXCO] Statement on Sexual Harassment in NUS





My daughter, an NUS student, received this e-mail this morning:

Dear Students,

NUSSU Exco expresses its condemnation of any form of sexual harassment, which is a serious community problem that everyone has a responsibility in handling. NUSSU Exco is regretful that Ms Monica Baey, and other victims of sexual harassment, have had to go through such traumatic experiences as an NUS student.

NUSSU Exco strongly encourages any victim of sexual harassment to report to NUS, and is willing to assist students in helping report such matters to NUS. Students who know of such victims are encouraged to provide social support and help them seek professional support if necessary.

Students who are told to not report such matters, or are not comfortable with approaching NUS directly, should alert and contact NUSSU Exco at feedback@nussu.org.sg. NUSSU Exco is currently in the process of clarifying who had told Ms Baey that she should not report the matter.

However, justice needs to consider both the victim and the perpetrator, and needs to be proportionate. While the discussion on the issue of sexual harassment and this particular case is important and welcome, NUSSU Exco also strongly urges fellow students to not harass Mr Nicholas Lim and his family.

NUSSU Exco notes that in this particular case, the Board had ordered the following:

  • One semesters’ suspension;
  • Ban from entering into all on-campus housing premises;
  • Mandatory counselling sessions at University Health Centre;
  • Community-based sanctions of 30 hours of supervised community service;
  • Mandatory rehabilitation and reconciliation sessions with a social worker;
  • Writing a mandatory letter of apology; and
  • Official letter of reprimand

NUSSU Exco also recognises, that as opposed to a criminal court, that rehabilitation is an extremely strong principle in how student offenders are treated in the Board of Discipline, given that NUS is an educational institution. NUSSU Exco also notes that the Board of Discipline had acted in accordance with existing precedent and due process, and respects that the decision by the Board was arrived at in good faith.

However, NUSSU Exco is in the process of considering whether for future cases, as a matter of general policy against sexual harassment, there should be heavier punishments as a matter of deterrence, and for retributive justice for victims.

Furthermore, NUSSU Exco stresses that punishment is only one aspect of how NUS should deal with sexual harassment, and that this episode highlights how NUS policy with respect to sexual harassment could be reviewed in various areas. These include:

  • Increasing awareness and education of sexual harassment on campus, as a preventive policy;
  • Improving social-psychological support for victims of sexual harassment;
  • Greater transparency and education on how sexual harassment cases are dealt with in NUS; and
  • Improving the culture of reporting sexual harassment in NUS, to create a safer environment for reporting harassment.

NUSSU Exco also stresses that all members of NUS have a role to play in creating a culture where sexual harassment is not acceptable. This is not the sole responsibility of the administration, and NUSSU Exco encourages students to play their part in ensuring that we create an empowering, safe and trusting environment for all.

NUSSU Exco recognises that NUS takes sexual harassment very seriously, and appreciates that it is continuing such a stance and policy. NUSSU Exco notes that NUS has recently conducted the following:

  • Review of the code of student conduct, with extensive revisions to the provisions on sexual misconduct; and
  • Education of campus security investigation officers and board of discipline members on how to sensitively handle sexual harassment cases.

NUSSU Exco takes issues of sexual harassment seriously, and notes that there is currently a proposal being mooted in NUSSU Council with respect to conducting a survey regarding sexual harassment in NUS.

In light of this incident, NUSSU Exco is currently conceiving an action plan to better address issues of sexual harassment. This includes the drafting of a report by NUSSU Exco on whether existing sentencing guidelines should be revised, whilst considering other processes.

NUSSU Exco will continue to work closely with NUS in making the campus a safe and secure environment for all our students. NUSSU Exco also notes that NUS President is to convene a Committee to review disciplinary and support frameworks in NUS. NUSSU Exco is confident that the Committee and the administration will continuously engage with students, to create a safer environment that everyone has confidence in.

Students who have any feedback on this matter can contact NUSSU Exco via email at feedback@nussu.org.sg. NUSSU Exco welcomes and encourages students to continue to make their views known through official channels, such that the NUS administration and NUSSU Exco can act accordingly.

It was also posted on the NUSSU Facebook page:



This follows an earlier NUS statement yesterday:



There are at least two online petitions regarding this case, We want Singapore police to reopen Monica Baey’s case! and Stiffer Punishment For Nicholas Lim Jun Kai.




EARLIER IN 2016: Minister says 'ejaculate', thanks to rapey NUS freshman orientation games

Monday, 15 April 2019

Waiting game: Buying Avengers Endgame tickets made me question the meaning of life



There comes a time for everyone when you question the point of it all.

Why are you doing this? Is this what life is about?

For me, that happened last Wednesday morning as I stared at the queue number on my computer screen, waiting to buy tickets for Avengers: Endgame on the Shaw Theatres website.



The screen said: “Your estimated wait time is: more than one hour.”

Nothing to be done.

I wanted Imax 3D tickets, which you can get only at Shaw, but like the Avengers in Infinity War, it looked like I was going to fail.

Deciding that it’s better to have non-Imax 3D tickets than no tickets at all, I tried the other cinema chains.

But I couldn’t get into the Cathay Cineplexes website because Thanos had apparently snapped its servers to oblivion too.

After a few attempts, I was relieved to be able to get good seats on the Golden Village website – until I tried to pay. My credit card payment couldn’t be processed.

GV raised my hopes only to turn them to dust like the Mad Titan. At least on the Cathay website, the death was instant. This was crueler.

It’s too much for one man.

On the other hand, what’s the good of losing heart now, that’s what I say.

As a last resort, I tried the website of We Cinemas, (a misnomer since it has just one cinema in Clementi albeit with multiple halls) and managed to book two opening-day tickets.

The seats are terrible though – three rows from the front and to the side. My neck is going to hurt after the three-hour movie.

At least whatever happens, I will be watching Avengers: Endgame on opening day, just maybe not in Imax 3D.

People ask, why must you watch the movie on the first day?

Some fans say it’s to avoid spoilers because if you see the movie before other people do, other people can’t spoil it for you and as we all know, hell is other people.

But honestly, it’s because I just can’t wait.

Like the hardy souls in the queue for A&W at Jewel Changi Airport, I would rather wait in line for hours than wait for the hype to inevitably fade when there will be no more queues.



Remember the long lines for Wendy’s in 2009 when it too returned to Singapore after a long absence like A&W?

Well, the queues for Wendy’s are gone – and so is Wendy’s. And it wasn’t even Thanos’ fault.



And even though I already got my We Cinemas tickets, ultimately, the endgame was still Imax 3D.

I could just sell my extra tickets on Carousell and maybe even make a profit.



Like the Avengers, I wasn’t giving up – yet.

But as I sat there counting down the minutes in the online queue for the Shaw website, I felt like I was watching my life tick away as well.

I wondered if it was really worth it.

Why was I doing this? Was this what life is about?

In an instant, all will vanish and we'll be alone once more in the midst of nothingness.

After three hours, the screen said: “Your estimated wait time is: less than one minute.”

Hallelujah!

More than one minute later, it said the same thing.

Fake news!

In the time it took for me to get the tickets, I could’ve watched the whole goddamned movie.

Minutes later, I was re-directed to the Avengers: Endgame ticketing page.

My patience had been rewarded! I rejoiced.

Then…

Nothing happens.

I couldn’t click on anything.

At least the Cathay website didn’t string you along for “more than an hour” before hanging. It disappointed you right away.

Shaw made sure you suffered first.

Astronomers were taking pictures of me because I was in a black hole where time had no meaning.



Like the search party for the runaway bull in Lim Chu Kang, I finally gave up.

And thus ended one of the most existentially stressful mornings of my life and I’ve flown on Scoot before.

I later bought 3D tickets from GV and this time, the payment went through. No Imax but close enough.

Anybody want two tickets to watch Avengers: Endgame at 11.05am on April 24 in Clementi?

Is $500 too much to ask?

Great seats.

- Published in The New Paper, 15 April 2019





Monday, 1 April 2019

Gojek viral video saga vol. 2: 'Don’t make your problem to be my problem!'

Last week, Gojek announced that it is improving the welfare of its Singapore drivers by introducing a benefits programme called GoalBetter, which includes fuel rebates and prolonged medical leave insurance.

Just in time too because one Gojek driver who seems to really need improved welfare is Mr Aaron Heng, the social media villain of the week.



Remember the Gojek “kidnapping” video two months ago? This is like the sequel but with new characters. So maybe it should be called a “reboot” instead?

Anyway, the premise and format is the same. The driver fears the passenger is accusing him of cheating. So to protect himself, he records a vertical video of his interaction with the passenger and it goes viral.

This could be a new TV reality anthology series called Singapore Gojek Story or The Gojek Zone. Jordan Peele could host it.



The first episode is obviously called “Is it because I’m Chinese?”

The second episode can be called “I’m not a millionaire like you”.

The stars of this episode are Mr Heng and an elderly couple he picked up.

Once again, the video starts in medias res, meaning in the middle of the story, so you’re not shown what led up to the events in the video.

It appears that when the passenger made the booking, he thought the fare was $14.10, but after getting into Mr Heng’s car, he learnt it was $21.10 on Mr Heng’s app.

So Mr Heng pulled his car over as the passenger called Gojek for clarification.

Meanwhile, Mr Heng was unhappy that he was accused of overcharging and kept interjecting while the passenger was on the phone.

The driver said: “$7 you want to make an issue? You waste my time. Eh! You’re driving Mercedes one, is it?”

The passenger replied: “That’s none of your bloody business, please.”

The word “bloody” apparently got Mr Heng even more triggered. He told the passenger: “Please talk to me with respect.”

Probably because Mr Heng picked up the couple at a country club, he said, apropos of nothing: “I’m not a millionaire like you.”

A theme emerged when he later added: “I’m driving to earn the incentive, you know that? I don’t earn $2,000 a day, you know? The incentive is only $205 for your info, you know?”

The passenger eventually agreed to pay the $21 and said he would sort it out with Gojek later. Mr Heng was not happy about that either.

He said: “You know why? Because if you sort out with Gojek, Gojek will minus out the $7 from my account. Let me put it clear to you, anything it becomes driver problem. Always driver’s problem. That is the problem.”

“Then that is something you got to sort out with Gojek,” said the passenger.

The 6-minute plus video ends after the couple manage to convince Mr Heng to continue driving.



Like the Gojek “kidnap” video, Mr Heng’s video went viral. Unlike the earlier video, which garnered much support for the driver, Mr Heng’s video did the opposite.

Someone commented on Facebook: “Evil. No good heart! After all can talk nicely n be patient to settle but not act like hooligans lah. Completely a low-class driver!”

It wouldn’t be a surprise if someone threatened to egg him.

On Saturday, Mr Heng apologised on Facebook:
Hi. I am the driver in this video. I'm drive as a Private Hire Driver to earn a honest living to provide for my family. I've tried my hands in seeking other employment opportunity but to no avail.

I want to say I've got nothing against the elderly especially the poor and the aged. In fact, I just posted a post on how an elderly offered to buy a meal for a wheelchair person and I even went up offering to pay for his meal. They were like us and one day we will be like them. That's why I believe in helping them out if I can.

Story is like this. I picked this couple from a country club to his destination. Normally I would confirm with the rider on his destination and the amount to pay and to our surprise, we found out that there was a price discrepancy. I then told the rider that it showed $21.10 on my app while he said that he has to pay $14.10 although he refused to show me his app saying $14.10 (I asked couple of times). He suddenly got irritated and asked me to alight him immediately. For his own safety, I told him it's dangerous to abruptly stop in the middle of the road like that but he went on insisting to alight him. I obliged.

I managed to find a small road to enter to stop by the side wanting to alight him and to call GoJek to ask for instructions. I openly notified the couple that I am doing a recording just in case I am accused of overcharging the couple. I cannot afford to lose this job. I've mouths to feed.

Why I behave in such a manner is because I was accused of overcharging the passenger. I did not. It is the system. And what I said in the video was to say that I am just trying to hit my incentives as the fares are already low. The pressure is immense. The terms are challenging. I'm facing a lot of stress to meet the targets.

Lastly, I want to apologise for my behaviour as shown in the video as time is precious to us as a private hirer driver. I was unnecessarily rude. I was not respectful. I did not explain myself clearly. I pray for a chance to make good.

But his apology was about as well received as a rat in a Teochew restaurant.

One person commented: “What’s the point of coming up with this sob story? You are sorry cos u got caught.”

Mr Heng’s Facebook page is no longer available.

But here’s the big twist.

On Saturday, Mr Heng also made a police report. In it, he said that he sent the video to a WhatsApp group “asking for advice” and named the people in the chat group.



He seems to be implying that someone in the group made the video public, not him. This despite him telling the passenger in the video: “I’ll make it (the video) very big. Trust me, brother.”

Gojek has since said that the company looked into the case and had resolved the matter between the driver and his passengers.

By the way, under the company’s new GoalBetter programme, drivers who use their DBS or POSB debit cards to pay for fuel will also get a $7.50 weekly rebate if they spend at least $180 a week.

That’s how you can get your $7 back right there.

- Published in The New Paper, 1 April 2019

Monday, 18 March 2019

As a Chinese who can't speak Chinese, I don't know what's Bayfront in Mandarin either

Three weeks ago, I went to a barbershop and asked for the Kim Jong Un haircut to commemorate the US-North Korea summit in Vietnam as normal people do.

The woman at the reception counter asked: “Who?”

I was shocked that she had never of the man with the most famous haircut in the world – and she worked in a barbershop.

It wasn’t like I was asking her to name her favourite Watain song. I would understand if she had never heard of the Swedish black metal band because their concert here wasn’t cancelled yet.

They weren’t in the news at the time, but Mr Kim was. You know, summit and all that. He’s easily the planet’s most famous Korean not in a K-pop band or a sex scandal.

Watain have a song called Nuclear Alchemy. The Supreme Leader has actual nuclear arms.



But in the eyes of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Watain is probably more dangerous since Mr Kim was welcomed to Singapore last June with open arms – but Watain, not so much.

“Kim Jong Un,” I repeated. “The North Korean leader?”

The woman still didn’t know what I was talking about.

So I took out my iPhone, found a picture of my man online and showed it to her.

She said “Ohhhhh” and something else in Mandarin which I presumed was Mr Kim’s name in Chinese.

I got my haircut.

This is sort of the reverse of what happened to Mr Timothy Bon last week – except I didn't shame the woman for not knowing Mr Kim's name in English.



But as someone who can't speak Mandarin very well myself, I empathise with Mr Bon. Big mood.

The 22-year-old had a rough week.

It all started last Tuesday at Jurong East MRT station when a “China lady” approached Mr Bon and asked him in Mandarin how to go to Bayfront.

Like many Singaporeans, including me, he didn’t know the Chinese names of all the MRT stations by heart.

So Mr Bon, who got a C6 for his O-level Chinese, took out his phone to Google what station the woman was referring to.

Seeing him fumbling with his device and the language, she said in Mandarin: “A Chinese person who doesn’t know how to speak Chinese, aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”

Here he was, trying to help, Mr Bon was taken aback by the sudden scorn. So he pointed her to the train heading towards Tuas Link, which is the opposite direction of Bayfront and civilisation in general.

The woman walked off without saying thanks, according to Mr Bon.

Later that day, he went on Twitter to rant about the incident because “it’s cheaper than therapy”.

Well, his tweets went “Jovina Choi during Chinese New Year” viral and were reported by Mothership, AsiaOne, Lianhe Wanbao and even China and Taiwan media.

It got so cray that on Saturday, Mr Bon went on Instagram TV to “clarify the entire situation” and “milk his 15 minutes of fame dry”.

“Guys,” he said to the camera, “I was just complaining. Stop. It’s not that big of a deal. Stop.”

In the two-part profanity-laced IGTV video, he described how on the day after the tweets, it “started spiralling out of fucking control”.

“I was on Facebook just basically replying to goddamn trolls,” he said.
“I just want to make it clear this was never meant to be an attack on China tourists because I’ve been getting so much hate over this…

“I was rude to her because she was rude to me. Was it petty? Yes. Was it what she deserved? Yes. Is it because she’s from China? No. Okay?

“I guess why Singaporeans think this is an attack on China tourists specifically is because I probably tapped into this repressed rage Singapore has as a collective towards rude China tourists.

“So they just took it and this entire thing morphed into a life of its own and it’s just so fucking messy.”
Mr Bon didn’t expect his tweets to go viral.

He said: “I thought it was going to be like a C-average tweet. I have better tweets out, but nobody fucking gets the humour. Okay, sure.”

But at least one good thing came out of it. He said he “freaked the fuck out” when big-time celebrity Hossan Leong replied to him on Twitter: “YOU ARE MY HERO! Mandarin pfft! F9 for me all the way!”

Oh. So we’re now just openly bragging about how low our O-level Chinese grades are, are we? I got B4!

We can start a Chinese Who Can’t Speak Chinese support group, or CWCSC for short.

Mr Bon also has a message for my bread and butter:
“Hi, newspapers. Thanks for using my tweet. I hope you enjoy the engagement you get on your page. I hope you enjoy your increase in readership. Let’s talk about compensation. I would like to see it.”
LMAO! Increase in readership? Compensation? That’s hilarious. Who says no one gets his humour? I get it.

He said his “endgame” was not to defeat Thanos but get a Starbucks sponsorship.



Okay, I can’t give him that, but here are the three causes he wants to plug: “Repeal 377A, fuck Islamophobia and get your damn kids vaccinated.”

You can follow his Twitter @Timothy_Bon.

How’s that for compensation?

If that’s not enough, I may be able to afford to buy him a cup of Starbucks coffee after I withdraw my money from CPF.

I’m feeling generous. How do you say “venti” in Mandarin?

- Published in The New Paper, 18 March 2019



Monday, 4 March 2019

Hair peace 2: Kim Jong Un haircut is free in Vietnam - but not Singapore



In January when it was reported that Singapore and Vietnam were shortlisted for the second US-North Korea summit, I was low-key hoping that we would get it again.

While some have complained that Singapore wasted too much money hosting the first summit last June, the historic occasion was the perfect opportunity for me to get Mr Kim Jong Un’s iconic haircut – for the second time.

The first time was in April 2016 when I was in North Korea for the Pyongyang marathon. I hadn’t cut my hair since.

So as far as I was concerned, it was $16.3 million well spent by our Government to play maître d'hôtel to President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim’s first date because I got a haircut out of it.

And if the two leaders should swing back to Singapore for a second summit, I would have an excuse to get another Kim cut since my previous Kim cut had grown out in the months since the first summit.

Also, maybe Education Minister Ong Ye Kung will get a chance to take another selfie with Mr Kim and hopefully this time, The Guardian newspaper in UK won’t identify Mr Ong as “an unknown man” in the photo.



Alas, to the disappointment of Mr Ong, myself and millions of Crazy Rich Asians fans, Mr Trump announced last month that Summit 2: Endgame would be held in Hanoi, not Singapore.

I couldn’t have been more crestfallen if I had fallen out of bed and fractured my arm. It was like I was punched in the face by an angry cyclist.

Then as if to rub it in, in honour of the second Trump-Kim summit, a Hanoi salon started offering a free Kim cut or Trump dye job to anyone who wanted one.



Except you had to be Hanoi, of course.

And I wasn’t.

But I wanted the free Kim cut.

If only Malaysia had already built its flying car for me to drive to Vietnam.



I went online and found out a return flight to Hanoi would cost at least over $200. That was a lot of money to pay for a free haircut.

Should I or shouldn’t I?

I was about to click the button to book a flight when it occurred to me that I could just get a Kim cut in Singapore for somewhat less than $200 and I wouldn’t have to apply for leave from work to travel to Hanoi.



I also didn’t want to risk deportation from Vietnam for being a Kim impersonator after the haircut. (Yes, I know I’m not fat enough. Thank you very much.)

Anyway, I can’t go to Vietnam because I have a bone spur in my right heel. Seriously, this a real thing. It’s the same as what Mr Trump got that excused him from a whole war in 1968. I’m not malingering. It hurts when I walk.



So last week, I went to the LA Barbershop in Vivocity where I got my commemorative summit Kim cut last year and asked for same. The shop charges $40.66 for a “premium cut, shampoo, scalp massage, hot towel, styling”.

My barber, Tenny, said the Kim cut is basically a half fade and tried to explain to me the difference between a half fade and a soft fade.

But I was too preoccupied wondering whether I should use the $200 I saved by not going to Hanoi to buy the McGriddles hoodie on Carousell.



I told Tenny that someone in Vietnam was cutting people’s hair like Kim Jong Un’s for free, subtly hinting that he could perhaps not charge me too. He said he never heard of such thing and took my credit card.

Well, I tried.

Perhaps I was too subtle.

But now that I’ve had the Kim cut three times, I have to admit, I’m getting a little tired of it. It does not spark joy like it used to.

If there’s a third summit, I think I’ll go for the Trump dye job instead.

- Published in The New Paper, 4 March 2019




EARLIER: How I got my commemorative summit Kim Jong Un cut in 2018

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Creature feature: My first Safari Zoo Run

I haven't been to the zoo in years and I've been looking for a new race route.

So I took part in the Safari Zoo Run 12km challenge this morning.

Flag-off was 7.10am for the second wave.



The 12km route was two loops around the zoo. My right heel hurt in the beginning due to plantar fasciitis but less so later in the run.



The runner in front was wearing a ostrich suit but didn't fully commit.



Not actual animals.



Chawang the elephant.



Miami Vice flamingos.





"Pandas" at the start of the second loop.



For the second loop, I decided take more photos of the animals since I was getting too tired to run continuously anyway.



White Lion had a big hit with When The Children Cry in the late 80s.



A hippo and a failed hipster (me).



5km to go.



Rubbernecking with the giraffe.



Crossing the zebra.



Cheetah Rivera.



4km to go.



Horny rhino.



Them again.



2km to go.



Trunkin' on.







End of second loop.



Almost there.



There.



Relive 'Safari Zoo Run'




After the race, my heel really hurt.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Dear side boob-revealing tank top woman in ATM queue at Somerset MRT station...



Dear Ashley Garcia,

Clothes maketh the man while the lack of clothes can make a woman famous.

Sometimes unintentionally.

I mean, you were just queuing for the ATM at the Somerset MRT station and minding your own business – except that you were wearing a low-cut, side boob-revealing tank top with no bra, which apparently made it everybody’s business.

Someone took pictures of you and posted them online, where they went viral and it’s easy to see why.

People get to share photos of a hot babe letting it all hang out in a public place while taking the moral stance of questioning whether it’s appropriate for the hot babe to let it all hang out in a public place.



It’s like having your tart and eating it too.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that also last week, a buaya was spotted at Lower Seletar Reservoir. (“Buaya” is Malay for crocodile and also means… maybe you can ask a Singaporean friend to explain that joke to you.)



Lianhe Wanbao even put your picture on its front page because, you know, slut-shaming is news.

At least no one is accusing you of a cover-up.

You probably beat the Hyflux CEO as the most controversial woman in Singapore last week. Congrats.

I suggest you avoid Gojek if you don’t want to get any more famous. And it’s not because you’re Chinese.

Last Tuesday, it was revealed that you’re a model from the Philippines, thanks to your Facebook post:
“Yes, this was me waiting in the ATM queue. I was not aware that somebody took a photo of me (I don’t personally know his purpose).

“I apologize if I offended any culture on this outfit, but, please understand that I do not have any obscene or malicious intention by wearing it. I am sorry if you think that this was an ‘indecent exposure’ but, it was not my intention.

“To those people who are already hitting me below the belt and criticizing me of something, I respect you. You are already telling things which are too personal that is already outside of what you see in the picture.

“I was already cyber shamed, bullied and threatened by several people because of this.

“PS. I was wearing shorts and nipple tapes during that time. Peace, mwah!”
As someone who has often been criticised for my appearance (by my own family) and cyber-shamed (for this column), I sympathise.

Singapore is so hot. You have to dress for the weather, right?

To show my support for you, I am posting photos of myself queueing for the ATM at Somerset MRT station wearing a side boob-revealing tank top with no bra.




Except I have no side boob to reveal (just the complete boob that I am and some armpit hair). So I went without nipple tape.

But I did wear shorts because I didn’t want to get arrested.

Peace and mwah back.

- Published in The New Paper, 18 February 2019



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