Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Highway Lesson

Son No. 1, Julian, had taken over the wheel from me after three hours on the road. Singing along with the radio, he was unperturbed by the bumper-to-bumper crawl on the North-South Expressway yesterday evening. Neither was he attracted to follow the cars that whizzed by us on the emergency lane.

I observed from the back seat, how calm and patient he was. He had resigned to the fact that it would be a long haul as the hourly traffic report on radio had repeatedly stated that traffic was slow moving from Tapah to Rawang on this evening of third day of Chinese New Year, the last day of the Chinese New Year public holiday.

My thoughts then raced back to many, many Chinese New Year ago when I did not have the luxury then to have Julian as a substitute driver. He was not even in his teens and of legal age to be at the wheel.

Impatient to get home to Penang for Chinese New Year, I broke the law. I got on to the emergency lane and beamed with pride and a sense of achievement as I whizzed by many cars. Something made me look at the rear mirror. A white Proton was tailgating me. The driver was breathing down my neck, coming too close for comfort.

The next thing I saw was a swirl of blue light. It's police car! I've had it. It's gonna be an expensive Chinese New Year trip. What a bad start for Chinese New Year!

I pulled aside, got out of the car, red-faced. The drivers and passengers of that cars that whizzed by me now would be wearing that serve you right grin. The driver of the police car walked up to me. He was alone. But there was something about him. He had that look of authority, that of a senior police officer.

In hushed tones, barely audible above the din of traffic, he spoke to me. I strained my ears and made out his question of what would I do if my loved ones were up ahead needing medical attention and I was the one obstructing the way by driving on the emergency lane.

Here I was ready to take the rap and accept the traffic summons but instead he dealt a blow that knocked the wind out of me! He followed up the knock-out blow with again something unexpected. Expressing understanding of my eagerness to be home for Chinese New Year, he said he would let me off! Just remember the question, drive your family home safely and have a Happy Chinese New Year... were his parting words.

Shocked and stunned, I got back into the car and related to wife and Son No. 1 the lesson that I had on the emergency lane. The police officer with his wisdom had taught me and my family an invaluable lesson. The uncharacteristic admonishment has left an imprint in all of us that the emergency lane is for EMERGENCIES.

I am glad for that lesson and for that teacher who skilfully taught that lesson that Julian in his young age then still remember and will remember for life.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

The RM5 Lesson

He took out his thin, worn wallet. And all he had in it were just a few one ringgit notes. Five to be exact. RM5, that's all. Was that to last him for the day, the next few days or...

No, it can't be that RM5 was all he had! Have you not heard of the ATM?

But what if that was all that he had? How could one survive with just RM5 even for one day in Kuala Lumpur?

That could be the stark reality. It hit me. There could be people like this slim security guard who just does not have enough. No wonder he was earlier reluctant to help me break my RM10 for me to give him RM5 to pay the car wash boy, who comes by the building and washes whatever cars and moves on.

The security guard, whom I always notice to wear a smile, was now embarassed for baring all just to help me. He cast his eyes on the ground after he handed me the RM5 change for my RM10.

As I drove off, the sight of near empty wallet replayed over and over again in my mind. In between thoughts of "count your blessings" and "how unfortunate" were flashes of the past when I too experiend times when the pay cheque could not last a month. Those were the days when they were always still so many days before month end.

Those days have not revisted me since then until that day of the RM5 lesson in life. It was a reminder of the harsh realities, of the need for prudence in spending, of the unfortunate, of how generosity is the antidote for greed and all kinds of cravings. It taught me a lot... and this time, the teacher was a security guard.