Saturday, February 28, 2009

Accident: 80-Plus Uncle Tumbles Down Escalator

It was not a pretty sight. Coming from lunch and walking back to our client's office, we only saw it by chance. We were one floor below the ground at the Raffles MRT Station near the exit —just past Polar Puff & Cakes and a few steps away from the ladies' room where they usually distribute copies of the free newspaper— when we heard a shriek followed by a series of thumps. We turned our heads to the direction of the sound to see a man rolling down the escalator, one steel step at a time. There was a slight pause as he tried to break his fall, but in a fraction of a second, he was tumbling down again.

I raced to climb the steps but a gentleman beat me to it and was able to stop uncle from falling down further. Thanks to the quick thinking of another individual, one I never saw, the escalator came to a halt after that person pressed the stop button. Immediately, the lady who was originally ahead of uncle came rushing down towards him. A second individual, a young man, followed her. Meanwhile, the gentleman who got to uncle first was trying to help him up his feet. All these happened very quickly.

"No, no, no!" was all I could say. I was concerned that uncle might have broken his back or something and it might not be wise to force him up. I am reminded of Rescue 911's advice: Do not move an injured person unless there is imminent danger. I was relieved when the gentleman stopped after a few futile attempts. The victim, uncle, was visibly shaken but conscious and managed to answer when asked if he was alright.

"I want to go up," he said, shifting his eyes to where he would have already been had he not fallen.

Uncle had red marks on his arms and a bit of blood was coming out from his head. The same lady who came rushing down earlier brought out a tissue from her bag and placed it over the wound on uncle's head. The young man who had followed her took out his phone and held it in front of him.

"Don't take photo, call for help!" The lady exclaimed.

"I'm not taking photo; I'm calling for help," the young man replied.

And so he did. The first MRT staff, a lady, came in a little over a minute. Another MRT staff, a man this time, joined him shortly.

"Age 80 and above..." were the only words I could make out of what he said into his radio. He then had to direct an absent-minded man who was making his way up the escalator to the stairs on the right.

A few minutes later he was joined by a third MRT staff, also male. No sooner did he arrive when a lady staff came next, this time bringing along with her a wheelchair and a first aid kit.

With no time to spare, uncle was guided down the escalator as he limped one steel step at a time until he reached the bottom of the steps and finally sat on the wheelchair. No stretcher. No carry. Judgment call made. The physical assessment must have been too quick for me not to see. Maybe the look on uncle's face said he didn't have a broken back. I make no judgment. I only note down my observations. Besides, I have to trust them — I'm sure the members of the MRT staff are well-trained to handle these types of emergencies. At least uncle didn't look to be in too much pain as he was being guided towards the wheel chair.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Singapore — Still A Fine City?

Whenever friends see pictures I've taken of different places in Singapore, one of their usual comments goes something like "Hey, it's really clean".

These friends have never been to Singapore and live in countries such as the US, the UK, India, China and the Philippines. Their use of the world really shows that Singapore's reputation as a clean city precedes it. This same set of friends know what it means when people say that "Singapore is a fine city".

Now, for the benefit of those who haven't heard of this before, the word fine here is used to mean both pleasant and penalty. Singapore is a pleasant city indeed. It is also a city known for imposing huge penalties —in dollars— for minor infractions of the law. Or at least it used to be. Well, lots of friendly reminders still abound these days — in trains, buses, hawker centers and other public areas.

I've heard the story about one of the key things on how Singapore prospered in just a few decades. It is said that in the early days of his administration, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew sent a few of his officers to more advanced countries to find out what was pivotal to their progress. When the officers came back, they reported that discipline was a fundamental component. From then on, laws that strengthened discipline were enacted, imposing hefty fines and stiff punishment for violations included.

I have yet to verify the story and I have yet to read Minister Mentor Lee's biography, which is certainly on top of my list. But it's undeniable that Singapore would not be where it is today without discipline. I guess the more important question, other than if this story is true or not, is if discipline still regarded as important now as it was before?

In the papers several days ago, it was mentioned that higher fines will be imposed for littering. Just when I thought I was the only one noticing that littering is increasingly becoming rampant nowadays, the government has already started taking action. The free paper also attributes part of the littering problem to the increased number of foreigners in Singapore. It's not easy to prove or debunk this statement. But as far as what I've observed, both foreigners and locals are litterbugs, only that I see more foreigners committing the offense more than the locals.

No one has to take my word (or observations) for it. But things can go really bad when people start thinking that it's okay to litter, whether or not the surge in littering offenses is caused by the increasing number of foreigners. (Sidetrack: Imagine for a second what would happen if people started getting the idea that it's okay to flaunt overpowering body odor in public).

I don't even have to go very far to be confronted by the problem. Some of my neighbors get too lazy to throw their trash in the refuse chute and settle instead for leaving it on the floor, just two feet away. From my place to the nearest bus stop, the harvest of litter is sure to be bountiful. Even the bus stop has remnants of thirsty or hungry travelers, or teens who use it as a place to hangout at night.

Either gifted with a wild imagination or having watched too much of CSI, I can't help but think that if only DNA testing were simple and inexpensive, it can be used to track litter back to its owners. The same can be done to find dog owners who are too lazy to clean up after their pet's poop. Oh well, I'm sure we'll come to that in the future, even sooner than the invention of the device I have been thinking of that can be used to detect bad odor and catch its bearer.

So is Singapore still a fine city? It certainly is. For now. But it's not just up to the government to keep it that way.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Celebrating Chinese New Year On Treetops

The Chinese New Year celebrations are one of the most colorful events in Singapore. More than just a display of fireworks or the cacophony of pyrotechnics, it's a celebration of the year that has come to pass and the ushering in of the new one, characterized by family reunions and gathering of friends.

In our case, the idea of us getting together over the holidays was brought up by Mel, who unfortunately, wasn't able to make it on the actual day.

For those of us who did make it, we had to wake up early that Monday to be at MacRitchie Reservoir by the time it opened at 8:30. The plan was to take the 5 km hike to the HSBC Treetop Walk, enjoy the crossing of the 250 m-long hanging bridge, find a nice spot to hold a picnic and be well on our way home by noon.

We decided to meet at the Newton MRT station after a slight change of plans. We were about 30 minutes late and having taken the liberty of bringing food, we used the preparation as our alibi. It was partially true, for we had to give it ample time to cool down before packing, lest we risked it being spoiled.

From Newton we took a bus to our destination, which we knew be nine stops away but opted to take the pragmatic approach by simply asking the bus captain to let us off at the correct stop. Uncle driver was happy to oblige. He got thank yous, happy new years and big smiles from all of us.

Breakfast consisted of Gardenia bread, Doritos and ponkan, which we greedily consumed just as we began our trek. I guess the scarcity of our supplies added flavor to our food. At least we made sure we brought enough liquids.

We saw a lot of other people along the way — fellow hikers and joggers, men and women, young and old, locals and foreigners.

My six year-old cousin came with us, complaining from time to time and expressing his desire to go home instead. Bribing him with Doritos worked only in the beginning. Well, he certainly wasn't the youngest, for we came across several other boys and girls. There was the toddler who was being pushed in his stroller by his jogging dad, who also managed to keep a conversation with his buddy. I could see that at that speed — good enough to make 5 km in under 45 minutes — the boy was enjoying his ride.

With several trails of different lengths to choose from, the MacRitchie Reservoir must be a haven for running enthusiasts, who were certainly in abundance that day. The foot paths are never even, sometimes going up, sometimes going down. The canopy provided a comfortable and constant shade, so the heat of the sun was not much of a concern. I'm sure to be back to run in preparation for my goal of hitting 21 km by the end of 2009.

Getting lost is not a concern. Apart from the numerous people you encounter, there are several signs along the way, indicating which way to go. The signs don't tell you just that though, they also indicate distance, which allows you to measure how much you've covered and how much more you need to go. For us, there were always two ways of interpreting the distance, which depended on whether the person speaking was tired or not. Good thing most of us would say "Hey we've covered X kilometers, only Y more to go!", instead of "Oh boy, we've been walking for several minutes now and we've only gone that far!?!?"

We decided to talk a 5-minute break when we reached the Terap Hut. Recharging with the isotonic drinks we brought and resting our tired legs even just for a bit seemed like a good idea. Indeed it was — there was a renewed sense of exhilaration afterward. We were also very near our destination after all.

The call of nature came as a price to pay for those who enjoyed too much liquids during our brief respite. Good thing the ranger's station was just nearby.

But before that, getting a glimpse of the Singapore Island Country Club was inevitable. There were lots of signs warning the general public not to cross the boundary or risk getting hit by golf balls. Just recently I've read in the papers about people getting into an accident, somewhat pointing a finger to the Country Club. If those people couldn't read, maybe the club could put up visual signs depicting what would happen to them if they choose to cross the line. ;)

With its toilets, benches and drinking water, the ranger's station was certainly a good place to take a break. That is, if your idea of taking a break doesn't include eating. Apparently, food-snatching monkeys abound here.

So after another quick rest, we resumed our quest to get the HSBC Treetop Walk. Little did we know that the last 250 meters or so were the most challenging. We should have realized earlier that the only way you get to treetops was to do some climbing.

We got there alright. And everyone agreed it was well worth it. Although we all wished we could have spent a little more time on the walk. Oh well, we can always come back some other day.

We planned to have our lunch on the Petaling Hut after crossing the treetop walk. But it was occupied when we got there. Not wanting to waste any time, we decided to eat somewhere near the ranger's station. We chose a bench under the shade of a tree.

We were able to enjoy our food for about ten minutes, before the first curious monkey saw us and made its way toward us. When it was near enough, it bared its teeth and made no effort to hide its intention.

Soon, several others joined the party, which left us hurriedly packing. What a way to conclude our Chinese New Year adventure.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

The 11 Rules To Change Our World

Here's a timely and wonderful message from Robin Sharma. Below is the entire post without any alteration, taken from his blog post ->here<-. I'm doing my part to help "circulate this list across the world via The Net within the next few hours."

1. You be the change you dream of seeing (Thanks Mahatma Gandhi). "If everyone of us would sweep their own doorstep, the whole world would be clean," observed Mother Teresa. She was right.

2. Make time every day to reconnect to your highest ideals and boldest dreams. Without hope, people perish.

3. Leave every person you meet better than you found them. Life's too short to withhold encouragement and kindness.

4. As I wrote in 'The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari", see every setback as a stepping stone and every problem as a blessing in disguise. Contrary to what critics might say, these are NOT corny aphorisms. They are timeless truths of humanity. (And critics are just people too scared to grow their dreams anyway - pay no attention to them. The world needs more people lifting people up rather than putting people down).

5. Go the extra mile in everything you do - you don't need a title to be a leader. And on your deathbed, you'll never regret expressing the best within you

6. Do what's right rather than what's easy. Being a great person isn't a popularity contest. Many of the greatest leaders were disliked because they refused to bend to the winds of public opinion. That's called Strength of Character

7. Care for your health. You elevate the world by elevating yourself and your health really matters. Why be the richest person in the graveyard?

8. Tell your kids they are geniuses - and how much you adore them. Each of us are born geniuses but lose that gift within the first 6 years of our lives as we adopt the fears and limiting beliefs of those around us. Your kids are the leaders of the future. Grow their potential. Now.

9. Learn something new every day. As you grow, you begin to see possibilities you didn't have the eyes to see before. Read from an inspiring book, listen to an audio program, visit a good blog, go to a powerful workshop or have a conversation with an elder. One idea is all it takes to transform your life.

10. Keep your life simple. Please. The secret to success and happiness is building your life around a few important things. The person who tries to do everything accomplishes nothing. As I recently mentioned on my blog, "What's the point in being busy doing the wrong things?"

11. Remember that life is a mirror and we receive what we give out. To get more joy, give more joy. To have more respect, give more respect. To realize your dreams, help others realize theirs.

P.S. I've written these lessons to help you make this year the single best year of your life yet. And to do my part to improve things. I need your help!

If you were inspired by The 11 Rules To Change Our World, you can inspire others - and do YOUR part to improve our world. My goal is to circulate this list across the world via The Net within the next few hours. TOGETHER we can touch so many people. Just circulate The 11 Rules to all those you know. Let's change the world by spreading good ideals rather than celebrating negative ones. Thank you.

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