Sunday 30 March 2014

Dear Jack Neo, you don't wanna mess with this frogman

I have a favourite T-shirt.

One reason it’s my favourite is that it was given to me many years ago by a friend who has since passed away.

Another reason is that I think the shirt shows off my body really well.

It has something to do with the cut and the way the fabric hugs my figure just right.

Despite its age, the shirt is still in pretty good condition because I don’t wear it very often even though it’s my favourite T-shirt.

One reason I don’t wear it very often is that the shirt has the words “naval diver” on the back.

In front of the navy blue tee is the logo of the Naval Diving Unit (NDU) of the Singapore navy.

The late friend who gave me the shirt was a naval diver.

I, on the other hand, have never been a naval diver. So for me to wear the shirt is a bit like false advertising.

It’s like imposters wearing Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts even though they're not Hard Rock Cafes. They’re human beings.

To make me feel less like a fraud whenever I wear my NDU shirt, I convince myself that no one could ever mistake me for a naval diver.

For one thing, naval divers are very tanned. I, on the other hand, have the pallor of a navel gazer.

Another justification for me wearing the shirt is that for a few weeks during my national service, I was actually part of NDU as an underwater medical orderly trainee in Sembawang Camp.

I even took what was then called the Underwater Diving Course, swimming around in the yucky water near Sembawang Shipyard.

And I have the diver's badge to prove it – although the one I have now was bought from Beach Road to replace the original which I accidentally chipped.

But while I did some diving (and skiving) in the navy, vocationally speaking, I’m no naval diver.

If only I can find a T-shirt with the words “naval skiver” on the back.

Still, some of my closest friends from NS were naval divers and my affinity for NDU remains.

So I had mixed feelings when it was reported last week that local film-maker, Cultural Medallion recipient and adulterer Jack Neo’s next movie will be a “spin-off” of his highly profitable Ah Boys To Men movies called Ah Boys To Frogmen, about naval divers, to be released next Chinese New Year.

But judging by Facebook comments I have read, I know of at least one former frogman whose feelings aren’t so mixed – he outright hates the idea.

He is my NS friend, Patrick, who was a full-time naval diver for seven years.

Here’s a sampling of his online rant:
“Now we’re well and truly being farqed over – again!

“They did it once in the 80s and we’re bending over again for this idiot to make money and attract more wannabes.”

He is referring to the Channel 8 drama called Navy Series which aired in 1990 and starred Zoe Tay.

As for the new movie, Neo reportedly said the navy is not financially backing the film, but will “provide support”.

Pat’s tirade continued:
“I cannot express enough Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese swear words at my disappointment with this arrangement to collaborate on this misadventure…

“We’ll end up looking like Ah Kwa Peng like the rest of his shitty movies.

“This arsehole has no clue as to what directing a movie requires.

“We watch his shit only because it’s made in Singapore and he has always disappointed on every occasion.”

Clearly, my friend is no fan of Neo’s film oeuvre, but I still couldn’t understand why Pat was so dead set against the movie.

He explained:
“Remember back in our day how little we had to work with but still accomplished the mission?

“Our mindset cannot be expressed by some toyboy actors over a weekend of pretend training.”

Pat was apparently so incensed that he even messaged Neo directly on Facebook:
“Stay away from NDU!

“We’d rather remain ‘the silent professionals’...

“We’ve worked too damn hard to earn our status for you to stuff it up.

“You cannot imagine what we’ve endured physically and mentally to earn the privilege to wear a piece of steel on our chest.

“You really want it, then you go through the whole course first YOURSELF!”

Yeah, 54-year-old Neo in a wetsuit. I don’t think anyone wants to see that.

The message continued:
“I’m an old-school NDU diver from the days before NSF divers came through and even did a small part in the original series with Zoe.

“What a waste of our time.

“So STAY AWAY FROM NDU. We’re not here for you to make money and mockery of.”

Neo hasn’t responded to Pat’s message and Pat doesn’t expect him to.

But I should warn Neo that Pat is into martial arts and has a scary fascination with big knives.

I must remember never to let Pat catch me wearing the shirt.

- Published in The New Paper, 30 March 2014

Hi Mr SM Ong,

I am a Full Fledged Naval Diver myself and I like to express my views.

I do not wish to see this movie happen at all, reason being is that we naval divers are the elites. We do not wish our tactics and specialties be exposed to the public and our beloved unit to be revealed.

Every Singaporean knows Jack Neo and his movies and his long ago alter ego Liang Por Por. Naval divers do not want their image to be tarnished with jokes and the life of Singaporean men.

This is the reason why other countries do not respect us and is mocking at Singapore defence forces when your own people do such things.

You dun see US make fun at the Seals and British dun make a joke of the SAS. In fact, they glorified them and recognised their work and effort through very well directed movies and real life stories.

Mr SM Ong, I am not requesting you to stop the production of this movie but just hope the message to get through to stop making army movies and make a mockery of SAF Defense Forces.

PS: My Naval Instructor is also Patrick, not sure if you are talking about the same one...

Thanks & Regards

Dear Ong,

I'm sure by now you've recieved other emails from former Frogmen to voice their objections.

Anyone who have seen "Ah Boy to Men" & "Ah Boy to Men II" will know the kind of damage done to our SAF. Just go to (rating is only 3/ 10) & you will know.

I was surprised the Ministry's approval, if there's any, of Jack Neo's planning of making "Ah Boys to Frogmen".

If our former CO, Col Lau Bok Thiam (he is a Ranger trained CO), is still in command, I'm sure he will be the very first to strongly object Neo's production.

NDU is the pride of RSN. When I joined the unit in the early 90's, our batch were taught to have pride & we should be proud of being hand picked by the unit to have the opportunity to be a part of NDU.

This is simply because enlistments were only once a year with less than 200 recruits, with a passing rate of only 30%.

Starting from day one of enlistment, we were trained to be the toughest in the Navy. We were trained to risk our lives first in beach clearance during war time before the main fleet to land on enemies beaches.

Ask anyone who had gone through the Professional Diving Course, the only thing they look forward throughout the 6 months course will only be the last week of the course.

It will be a week of very physical & mental training together with sleepless nights ranging from 3 to 5 days & nights, which we call Hell Week.

Why is this so because we will only earn our badge after going through Hell Week. The only worthy opponents in all Frogmen's mind are the Commandos.

To wrap up my short letter, NDU is no joke to anyone to fool around. Please advise Jack Neo & his crew to go through the full 6 months of hell, like what we've gone through before he decides whether to make a mokery out of NDU.

Thank you.
Ho Y C (7th batch)

UPDATE: NDU veteran Bob Chia Ngee Huat has posted this in the Naval Diving Unit Facebook group:

I appreciate very much that a few Old boys of NDU are dead set against the making of another movie on Naval Divers. They loved this image so much and are jealously protecting it.

But I thought that the previous production was a success drawing a viewership of 1.6 million every night? It was free publicity for us and until now, isn't a lot of you kept saying that that show was one of your most memorable one.

I was one of them who was appointed by Col (Retd) Lau Bock Thiam to assist in whatever is required by the then SBC crew.

I remembered that during the opening scene, a bomb was discovered by a construction excavator... it was supposed to be a Japanese Bomb but left on our display was a Mk 82 bomb. So conveniently and without knowledge, the camera crew begin taking it away as a prop. I soon realised that the Mk 82, although looks nice but inappropriate. It's because the Mk 82 was made during the Vietnam war.

Even then after the show was telecast, many of my senior Warrant Officers from the Army took me to task asking me if there was a female doctor in the Navy at that time...(now we have one) and other minor pointers like a certain bus that does not ply the route.

This high expectation will always be there. Lets give ourselves a second chance.

Jack could called the movie "Ah Boys to Men 3" we still will want to scold him now for not naming the show "Ah Boys to frogmen"

Lets give the younger generation a chance to quantum leap we cannot be left stagnant.

EARLIER: Remembering my first drowned body job

UPDATE: The movie trailer

UPDATE UPDATE: What Patrick thinks of the movie after it was released

Sunday 23 March 2014

I could've been like a Miss Singapore finalist (not winner)

Not long ago, I was taking the MRT and the guy sitting next to me fell asleep.

As he leaned on me, I took a picture with my iPhone and posted it on Instagram and Facebook.

My caption:
“Providing a shoulder for a sleeping fellow passenger on the train of life. #singaporean”
I thought I was being so whimsical.

But when my wife saw it, she scolded me like hell. “How could you do that? It’s not nice,” she said.

Huh? What did I do wrong?

So I took a picture of the guy without his knowledge. Shrug.

A stranger falling asleep on you is something that happens to everyone who takes the train.

My wife has fallen asleep on the MRT many times. What if someone had taken a picture of her... oh, I see her problem.

It’s a privacy issue then, but I still didn’t see what the big deal was. I see people posting pictures of strangers doing funny things all the time.

My wife realised I didn’t know something about the picture I had posted. She told me to look at the picture again carefully. But I still couldn’t see it.

“He’s drooling,” she said.

I looked at the picture again and now saw a string of saliva hanging from the corner of the guy’s mouth.

Oh, why didn’t I see that earlier? That just made it a more interesting picture.

All the more reason I should’ve shared it. I still couldn’t see what my wife was so upset about.

She said that people might think I was making fun of the guy’s drooling and that just made me look like an “a-hole” (to use the self-censored term radio DJ Joe Augustin used last week to describe a blind woman).

Or at least a bigger “a-hole” than I already resembled.

My wife asked: “What if the guy found out about the photo?”

Yeah, right. That was about as likely as the MRT never getting disrupted again.

There was no way the guy in the picture would come to know about the picture.

That must be what Miss Jesslyn Tan thought too when she posted a picture of another man sleeping on the train two Saturdays ago.

Apparently referring to a hole in the shirt the man was wearing, Miss Tan captioned her photo: “Holey moley. Sibei trendy worzxxz.”

Unfortunately for her, the man in her picture did come to know about the picture. He told The New Paper in Mandarin: “I just don’t understand why a small hole on my shirt made people laugh so much.”

Okay, a few things.

Wouldn’t a better caption be “Holey shirt!”?

Actually, I’m not even sure if I can see the hole in his shirt in the picture. It could be just a shadow, which would kind of negate the whole point of the post.

If I were Miss Tan, I would’ve commented on how the man didn’t look elderly enough to be sitting in the reserved seat.

And he certainly didn’t look pregnant.

Also, what does “worzxxz” mean? Is it a mistyped word or another one of those Internet abbreviations none of us are hip enough to understand?

Regardless, Miss Tan’s Facebook post went viral after someone claiming to be the man’s daughter criticised Miss Tan for “laughing at others”.

The “daughter” wrote: “Not everyone is as lucky as you, making money off looks. We do not have the money to buy fancy clothes.”

But the man told TNP later that he is neither rich nor poor and the reason he doesn’t replace his holey shirts is that new shirts will get holes anyway due to the nature of his job.

Nonetheless, he is so embarrassed by all the publicity that he reportedly wants to quit his job at the Teochew porridge stall.

The irony is that if the “daughter” hadn’t criticised Miss Tan’s post, the photo probably wouldn’t have gone viral and there would’ve been no publicity to be embarrassed by.

Talk about misery city.

After getting flamed, Miss Tan has since removed the post and apologised, but others continued to pile on, making fun of her looks and calling her the next Anton Casey.

Mr Casey should have such great legs.

Miss Tan has been vilified as another rich person looking down on the poor, but I would like to point out that she was taking the MRT (assuming that she took the picture of the holey shirt man herself).

Perhaps her Ferrari was in the shop, but I suspect that being a mere former Miss Singapore Universe finalist like Miss Tan is a long way from being a former Miss Singapore Universe winner like Mr Casey’s wife, Bernice Wong.

I may have never been in a swimsuit competition, but I could’ve been cyber-lynched like Miss Tan because of my own picture of a sleeping man on the MRT posted on Facebook.

I hate it when my wife is right.

Luckily for me, my sleeping guy didn’t have a holey shirt.

So what’s a little drool?

I hope he doesn’t have a “daughter”.

My wife is making me delete the photo.

- Published in The New Paper, 23 March 2014

Saturday 22 March 2014

Charcoal burger: Once you go black...

A burger as big as my head? Not quite.

But I was still very intrigued by Burger King's new Charcoal Black burger. I have never seen anything like it.

It's quite perverse actually. Who would think that calling a burger "charcoal" would be an appetising way to market a burger?

Besides barbeque, "charcoal" makes me think of the pills you take for diarrhea. Again, not the image you want when you're selling food.

I guess that's why Burger King is emphasising the word "black" in the ads.

I think the only other black food I've eaten is squid ink pasta and I never want to eat that again.

But a black burger is so crazy stupid cool that, of course, I had to try it.

I went for the beef and... it's really not bad.

The black bamboo charcoal bun does taste a little different. It's drier than regular buns but in a good way.

And yes, it does taste a bit like charcoal, but the overwhelming flavour is the turkey bacon and sweet honey mustard sauce.

I applaud Burger King for attempting something new and different in Singapore. Maybe the black burger was meant as a promotional tie-in with the movie 12 Years A Slave until someone came to his or her senses.

Too bad Black History Month was last month.

Sunday 16 March 2014

Naked man on a train: Samuel L. Jackson's next movie?

Three months ago, a man boarded the MRT train with a samurai sword. On Thursday, it was a man with a different kind of pointy object.

The MRT has rules for passengers. Some rules we are familiar with, like no eating and drinking on the train.

But some rules we were made aware of only in January, thanks to a Straits Times report about the Land Transport Authority (LTA) reviewing the rules.

These rules include a maximum penalty of a $500 fine for “entering or remaining in train when it is full”.

This rule is broken by practically every rush-hour train commuter every day. So we should be grateful to LTA for closing one eye and not fining us all these years.

LTA later explained that this rule is to provide “for an authorised person to direct passengers not to board a train if he determines that it is not safe for it to carry more people, and penalises non-compliance”.

So why am I bringing this up now, two months after the fact?

Because last week, a man took off all his clothes on the train and reportedly “performed a lewd act”, bringing a whole new meaning to “playing Flappy Bird”.

Like US singer Miley Cyrus in her revealing music video, he came in like a wrecking ball.

I’m curious to know, what is the maximum penalty for that, according MRT rules?

SMRT said that the man boarded the train on Thursday evening at Bukit Buttock – sorry, I mean Bukit Batok.

A witness said the man started stripping as the train passed Assmiralty station – sorry, I mean Admiralty station. I just can’t seem to get the image of the naked man on the train out of my mind.

Hey, that could be Samuel L. Jackson’s next movie, Naked Man On A Train.

“I have had it with this mother-fuckin’ naked man on this mother-fuckin’ train!”

Unfortunately, the star of Snakes On A Plane wasn’t on the North-South Line that Thursday evening.

This could be the only time Singaporeans wished the PSI was higher so that the haze could obscure the sight of the nude dude.

Most of the passengers understandably moved away from him.

What is perhaps less understandable is, why didn’t all the passengers move away from him?

Would I have moved away from the naked man?

I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

Wait. That came out wrong.

I wouldn’t move away because I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was afraid of a naked man, including the naked man.

Showing fear would only embolden him.

Not that he needed much emboldening to perform the aforementioned lewd act. He then lay down in front of the train door when the train pulled into Sembawank station – sorry, I mean Sembawang.

We should be thankful that he didn’t sit on any of the train seats because any seat he sat on would’ve become very reserved and possibly very sticky.

You may ask, why didn’t anyone try to restrain the man?

Answer: Because no one wanted to touch him.

One of the passengers finally couldn’t take it any more and pressed the emergency communication button to inform SMRT staff of the nudity in their midst.

What do you say in a situation like this?

Perhaps “I have had it with this mother-fuckin’ naked man on this mother-fuckin’ train”?

SMRT staff members eventually boarded the train at Khatib and dragged the man out.

So they had to touch him. That’s what they’re paid for. And clearly, they’re not paid enough.

Surprisingly, this incident didn’t seem to cause any train delay.

If it did, would SMRT have tweeted “[NSL] Estimate 5 mins additional travel time from #BukitBatok towards #Khatib due to naked man fault”?

The man has since been arrested by police for committing an obscene act. Anyone found guilty of indecent behaviour in a public place can be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for up to a month.

I suppose under MRT rules, the man can be considered to be causing “a nuisance or annoyance to other passengers”, which carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine.

In light of this incident, I suggest that in addition to the “no smoking”, “no eating and drinking”, “no flammable goods” and “no durians” signs on the trains, LTA should also put up “no Flappy Birds” signs.

I also hope that the train that the naked man was on has been properly disinfected.

Or just throw the whole damn train away.

LTA can fine us to pay for a new one.

- Published in The New Paper, 16 March 2014

Hi Mr. S M Ong,

I read with amusement your very interesting topic.

Since we are on this subject could you write in TNP to suggest that all train & bus commuters carry rubber bands.

That The Transport Minister appeal to Parliament to approve this bill :- use rubber bands to Aim & Shoot any flappy bird playing on the flappy BIRD before informing the authorities.

This rule must also apply to woman who flap their boobs or walk around naked!


Cheers & thanks,

Thursday 13 March 2014

A tribute to 30 years of Mi Goreng

I don't think people appreciate how revolutionary it truly was.

There was a time when instant noodles (or 'Maggi mee') meant only noodles with soup.

Sure, it's fast to cook – but not very good to eat. The soup is always too hot and the taste is pretty bland.

Then along came Indomie Mi Goreng – instant noodles without soup. What a concept!

My life would never be the same again.

I don't have to burn my mouth on the hot soup anymore. I don't have to wait for the soup to cool down.

And it actually tastes pretty good. The provided chilli powder makes it less bland.

The only caveat is that after eating the noodles, I would be thirsty for the rest of the week no matter how much water I drink.

The MSG can be a little overpowering if you use all the seasoning powder and soy sauce which come with the noodle. But if you don't use them all, it may not taste as good.

I used to enjoy my Mi Goreng with a can of spiced pork cubes and a hard-boiled egg that I would cook together the noodles. But then later, they doubled the price of spiced pork cubes. And so I stopped. Bastards!

Although it's called "Mi Goreng", it bears little resemblance to the mee goreng Singaporeans are familiar with. It may be that "Mi Goreng" is the Indonesian version of mee goreng.

It actually has its own Wikipedia page.

There have been imitators, other instant noodles without soup, but the original Indomie Mi Goreng is still the best. (The special 30th-anniversary five-pack is now selling at NTUC FairPrice for only $1.80 – down from the usual $2.40 – until next Wednesday. Don't miss out on the celebration.)

I rank it as the most life-changing food-related invention of the last century along with the microwave oven and 3-in-1 coffee.

Happy 30th anniversary, Mi Goreng!

Sunday 9 March 2014

World’s most expensive city? Don’t shy – own it!

The news was so big that even Stephen Colbert reported it.

On his US TV show The Colbert Report on Comedy Central last Tuesday, Colbert said: “Singapore is now the world’s most expensive place to live. For the world’s cheapest place, check your clothing label.”

I checked my clothing label. It said: “Made in China.”

But according to the 2014 Worldwide Cost of Living survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the world’s cheapest place to live is actually Mumbai, India.

So Colbert was wrong. That’s the misleading Western media for ya.

Or perhaps I’m taking a programme that’s on a TV channel called Comedy Central a little too seriously.

There are quite a number of international surveys like this with Singapore being ranked somewhere that pop up regularly throughout the year.

Last week, Singapore was ranked the second safest out of 99 countries, according to the US-based World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 2014. We were beaten by Finland, of all places.

My daughter is still upset by a survey two months ago that ranked Singapore as the No. 1 place in the world where you can find the best schools and the happiest kids.

The survey was by another organisation I have never heard of, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The daughter, who is in Secondary 3, was not happy that the survey said she was happy.

“Do I look happy?” she demanded to know. “Who did they ask to take the survey? They should have asked me!”

And it’s not just kids whose happiness was being ranked. In 2012, a Gallup survey said Singaporeans have the lowest positive emotions worldwide. In other words, we are the unhappiest people on the planet.

Then in 2013, the United Nations-sponsored World Happiness Report 2013 ranked Singapore as only 30th happiest globally, but it was good enough to make us the happiest country in Asia.

Then in January, another survey, called the World of Work Report by recruiting firm Randstad Group, said that Singapore workers are the unhappiest in Asia.

Unhappiest, happiest, unhappiest – I suspect if there’s a survey for the most bipolar country in the world, we would top that as well.

Personally, I always look forward to the results of the Durex survey to learn how much sex I am having – I mean, Singaporeans are having compared to the rest of the world.

But the EIU survey, which ranks Singapore as the world’s most expensive city, is getting more attention than most other surveys.

Even Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam addressed it in Parliament last week.

He said that surveys like the one done by EIU are “basically aimed at comparing cost of living for expatriates in different cities or countries” and “measuring something quite different from the cost of living for an ordinary local in different cities around the world”.

I know how expensive things are in Singapore. I live here.

I still can’t get over having to pay more than $2 for a can of spiced pork cubes. I remember when a can used to cost just $1.15 only a few years ago. That’s like a 100 per cent price hike.

I still love spiced pork cubes, but they’re now a luxury, like caviar and cable TV.

But what bothers me even more than the rising cost of living is this AFP headline for a report on Mr Tharman’s speech: “Singapore downplays ‘world’s most expensive city’ tag.

Another headline I’m not happy about: “‘World’s most expensive city’ not happy to top the list.

The smug tone of these headlines rankles me so much that I say instead of being embarrassed by the “most expensive” title, we should own it and rub it back in their faces.

We beat Tokyo, Paris, London and New York, man! That’s no small potatoes.

Look at it another away. You know how unhappy many Singaporeans are that we have so many foreigners here?

Just two days ago in Parliament, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that more than 50 firms have hired disproportionately more foreign executives than they should.

With Singapore now being the most expensive city to live in, fewer foreigners will want to come and work here. The EIU ranking may be a blessing in disguise.

And if that doesn’t scare foreigners away, we still have the haze.

And the dry spell. And the heat. And the increasingly frequent train delays.

And the threat that Ris Low’s movie will eventually be released, like the Kraken.

If only we could also make Singapore a little less safe...

That would be priceless.

- Published in The New Paper, 9 March 2014

EARLIER: I’m not so positive these surveys are reliable

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Soap & glory: I went swimming yesterday and...

When I go to the gym or swimming pool, I don't usually bring my own soap or shampoo.

This is because from experience, I know that people tend to leave behind some soap and shampoo in the public shower. I would find them and use them on myself.

Don't "eeeee" me.

It's not like I'm recycling gutter oil for cooking.

With Singapore becoming the most expensive city in the world, I'm just trying to save money where I can.

Since it didn't rain yesterday (again), I decided to go swimming at the wonderful Choa Chu Kang swimming complex, which has a water slide, a wave pool and even a spa pool. All for $1.50 on a weekday.

In the past, I'm grateful just to find any near-empty bottle or packet of body wash or shampoo I could salvage in the shower after my swim.

But yesterday, I hit the jackpot.

Someone left behind a whole bar of soap!

Sure, it was slightly used, but since it's soap, I assume it's clean.

I couldn't believe my luck. This has never happened to me in over three decades of using public showers.

It was like Christmas, Chinese New Year and my birthday all rolled into one.

When I showered, I had never enjoyed soaping myself as much as I did yesterday.

I may be a cheapskate, but at least I'd be a clean cheapskate.

If only I had found some shampoo as well.

Sunday 2 March 2014

So was it a service disruption or just slow trains?

There’s an old saying by Confucius:
“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”
I’ve read that on a signboard at the Tanjong Pagar MRT station.

SMRT apparently took what Confucius said to heart after yet another train service disruption between the Yew Tee and Kranji stations on the North-South Line on Monday – except the company denied it was a service disruption.

To quote SMRT:
“There was no service disruption although trains ran at a slower speed.”

The negative response on SMRT Facebook page was almost immediate and some of it was kind of hilarious.
“This is like saying that there was no flooding, only ‘ponding’.”

“Good thing Pinocchio is not working for you. His nose would be longer than all your train tracks combined.”

“Eh SMRT, your CEO should have his pay delayed for a few months. After all, it's slow but not a disruption.”

Wait, do these Facebook comments count as cyber-bullying? A new anti-harassment law will be introduced in Parliament tomorrow. And none too soon.

If anyone needs protection from cyber-bullies, it’s the SMRT Facebook page. You can see more abuse here than in a Pasir Ris army camp.

Even an innocuous picture of a guide dog posted by SMRT last month drew such critical comments as “Can this adorable dog squeeze into our over-crowded train?” and “The dog is 100 times more reliable than the train.”

SMRT just can’t catch a break.

Last week was a particularly bad one for SMRT and commuters with train delays on Monday (as mentioned), Tuesday (between Ang Mo Kio and Marina Bay on the North-South Line) and Thursday (between Paya Lebar and Dhoby Ghaut on the Circle Line).

Ironically, just five days before the Monday incident, The Straits Times reported:
“SMRT will continue to do 'everything possible' to improve the reliability of its rail network, said chief executive Desmond Kuek, giving his strongest comments yet on minimising train delays.”
Laugh until cry.

So was the Monday train delay a service disruption or just the trains running at a slower speed?

I wasn’t there – but my son was. I asked him what happened.

That morning at around 6:40, my son went to the Yew Tee MRT station to take the train to Yishun, which is six stations away. He is a first-year junior college student at a school there.

Everything seemed normal. The station was no more crowded than usual and my son didn’t have to wait long for the train.

The first sign that something was wrong was when the train arrived and didn’t stop where it was supposed to.

The train doors didn’t align with the platform screen doors. So the doors couldn’t open.

It took a while for the train to move to the correct position, and even then, the doors didn’t open right away.

But they eventually did for my son and other passengers to board the train.

Then the doors took longer than usual to close before the train finally moved off.

Everything seemed fine after that... until the train stopped unexpectedly not far from the Yew Tee station.

After a while, the train started moving again, then stopped again. And so on and so on.

At 7:08, the train was still starting and stopping somewhere between the Yew Tee and Kranji MRT stations. Yishun was still six stations away.

That was when my son messaged his teacher that he was going to be late. He was supposed to be in school by 7:30.

I asked him if he was upset about being late, but he seemed rather zen about it. He said he just read the book he had with him, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

I’ve bought the Oscar-winning 1975 movie on Blu-Ray and hope to watch it with him after he finishes the book.

I asked my son if the other passengers appeared upset. He said they just looked at their phones and appeared “indifferent”, an indication of how commuters were resigned to train delays by now.

Indeed, less than two months ago, a train stopped on the same 4km stretch of tracks between Yew Tee and Kranji, and passengers had to get off and walk on the elevated tracks.

At least my son didn’t have to do that – although if he had walked on the tracks, he might have reached his school earlier.

Maybe to SMRT, it’s not a service disruption until someone walks on the tracks.

According to my son, the train took about half an hour to get from Yew Tee to Kranji. It usually takes only 7 minutes.

After Kranji, the train travelled at normal speed, but due to the delay, the stations were now very crowded. Free buses were made available at certain stations.

At 7:23, SMRT tweeted:
[NSL]UPDATE: Estimate 20 mins additional travelling time from #JurongEast to #Kranji towards MarinaBay due to track fault.

My son said he was about 30 minutes late for school.

Luckily for him, he didn’t have an exam that morning, unlike some Republic Polytechnic students who couldn’t sit for their paper because they were delayed by the train service disruption – I mean, the trains running at a slower speed.

Confucius said it doesn’t matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop, but what if you go slowly, stop, go slowly, stop, go slowly, stop, go slowly…

It’s enough to make one go cuckoo.

- Published in The New Paper, 2 March 2014

Hallo Mr SM Ong

Enjoyed your Sunday piece
551 479 - that's Confucius life-span
I took A-level history and somehow, that has remained with me
When phone numbers had just 6 digits and local calls were free, I used to dial 551 479 (which rang) and asked for Confucius

Back to you(r piece)
I know the poster you mentioned
Years back, I sent a picture of it to TNP click
I said I 'hoped that wasn't going to be SMRT's new operating policy'

TNP didn't publish it

Remember how we used to say signing on with the army made the officers career soldiers?
Not anymore, it seems the average lifespan of the top brass is 2 years
Deduct 6 months for honeymoon period
6 for ROD (ORD) mood
And it's just one year

Same as the span of Ops Ready guys now

Take care