I was on the bicycle going to Sentosa for a meeting. Which is close, I am not really fit. I turn on to Kerry Road, go 40 meters, suddenly the front tyre goes flat. Suddenly! A hiss, and as fast as you can say ffffft, it is deflated.
Dilemma. Do I push the bicycle on to the meeting, and maybe make it on time, and then push all the way home? Or do I push home, get in something faster, zoom back to the meeting, be a little late (but I have a good excuse), and then the bicycle is already home to be fixed later? Yeah, take the easy way. Push home.
As I walk up the cycle path on West, a guy on a bicycle calls to me. “I can fix it.” But I have no money. So I tell him, “No thanks, I have no money.” “No problem,” he says, “will do it anyways.”
I have seen him before; he fixes punctures on the side of the road. He has all his ‘fixit’ kit on the back of his bike. Pump and all. And I have seen this routine before. We all have. Promises to do thing for free, to get the job, but when the job is done, out come the whine. “Just need money to get home/buy food/children’s education/sustain peace process in the middle east”. The story. And since they have already done something, you are obligated. If you do not remunerate, you are a…
And I really have no money. Nothing in the wallet, not even $1. But I am not pushing fast, and I stop, and I show him no money, and make protest I cannot pay, and plead my case before it all goes wrong.
“No problem,” he says, and kit is off the back of his bike and out, my bike is down and tube out of tyre, and work progressing before I can stop it. He is a ‘professional’. Pumps tyre and finds hole. Roughs the area with a hacksaw blade. Cuts patch from old tube with scissors. Bit of glue from tube of contact adhesive. All the kit he has. All the tools he has. It IS impressive. Lets it dry a bit. Sticks the patch on, tube back in, tyre pumped (good pressure), and it holds! Wheel back on bike. I am able to go.
But I have to protest again, “I have no money.” “Not a problem, maybe sometime you do me a favour.” And he is about to be off, with no whine, no change of mind to “just need…”. He has done a favour, and that is his reward. I am dumbstruck. I at least find out his name. “Michael.” Well, that is a good name! And he lives near me. And his wife worked for the Chinese, and he used to be a driver, but quit to do his own business, and he works there (points) most days, and he is a real live person with a soul. (And a good name!)
Just when you have all the answers – people are scum. Never turn your back on anyone. You are going to be disappointed. It isn’t going to work. They will break it. They may say that, but mean something else. Talk is cheap. And all the rest.
Then, along comes Michael, and destroys everything. All you ‘knew’. All the foundation of life. The basis for understanding. Your method of getting by. How the world works. Your Weltanschauung (your worldview). All destroyed.
Weeks later, the tyre still holds air. Thanks Michael.