Tissue Tissue! 3 for $1 only!


I was enjoying my ‘turtle soup’ at Jln Berseh Hawker Centre few days ago. I used to go there for my meals after loitering around Sim Lim Sq, Fu Lu Shou and Rochor Centre. I am also a regular visitor to the Waterloo Temple.

Before taking the train back, I usually end up at Jln Berseh Hawker Centre for my meal. Few days back, I was there. This time, I was disturbed by an old lady carrying a big bag of tissue paper.

The tired old lady was ambling from table to table in the hawker centre pleading with customers to buy her tissue paper. ‘Three for a dollar, pls buy lah!’ When she came to my table, I just pointed my chin to that one dollar coin on the table. I was still eating my meal with my hands on the bowl and chopsticks.

That’s the three packets of tissue bought from her.

She was so grateful and pleased with me cuz I already ‘standby’ for her to come to my table. She told me she had not eaten since morning. ‘I’m very tired,’ she mumbled. Before I could reply, she just slipped off to another table. She didn’t wait for my response. She was not expecting it. My reply to her was of no consequent. It didn’t matter at all.

After I finished my meal walking away from my table, I saw that lady still trudging from from table to table on the basement. I was on the upper floor.

Wearing two or three layers of clothing – a cotton tattered knitted overcoat with disheveled hair and a confused look. She ought to be sick or not feeling well. Who else would be wearing such thick clothing in such sweltering heat under a midday sun? After all, they say “Only mad dog and Englishman go under the midday sun!” A pitiful sight to behold.

It’s not an uncommon sight. It’s all over the place either at the MRT stations, walkways, coffee shops or hawker centers.

My pocket tissue at ‘three for a dollar’ is usually purchased from those old folks. My supply of pocket tissue came from them. Whenever they come to me I’ll buy from them. Sometimes I’ll buy double meaning $2 for 6 packets. I was surprised when I was given an extra packet! See how cute those old folks can be! Or maybe they do have feelings after all. You help them and with appreciation they reciprocate with an extra packet as token.

Yes those old folks are now neglected and left behind by our society to fend for themselves do have feelings indeed. They have spent their youth and energy helping to build this little piece of rock devoid of natural resources now end up selling tissue paper walking the streets. They have brought up a generation of citizens yet they are not rewarded nor given their dues.

Maybe it’s due to their unfilial children whom themselves can’t even make ends meet? If their children are well off earning good income, surely they won’t end up thus. For who would want their own parents to walk the streets selling tissue paper if given a choice? Not me.

I hope I will not have to sell tissue paper like those old folks when my time comes. ‘The wheel of life’ is turning so relentlessly fast that I fear when I’m old and weak and no longer able to work, do I have to sell tissue paper to buy a meal to last me a day?

Incidentally, it reminds me of an sms addressed to me from my ex-colleague Che Mat years ago before he retired as a Train Officer.

When you langgar tiang;
When sadness fills your heart &
When tears flow in your eyes,
Just let me know
Becuz I want to be there for you.
I’m selling TISSUE.

My legs are now so tired and weak.

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About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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37 Responses to Tissue Tissue! 3 for $1 only!

  1. NewBall says:

    sadly, our garmen don’t believe being a welfare state……….!! Using CPF as a tool to ensure we maintain ourselves without the State having to care for our old age….!! Without CPF, then the next available choice is as cleaner in hawker centre, selling Tissue Paper or worse street begging…!!!
    The truth is that the first 30yrs of Singapore History is Nation Building, while the rest is personal Wealth Management rolling off with HIGH Salary like our Ministers…..!!!
    How can Singapore ever achieve as a graceful society nation, when the garmen roll out disgraceful policies….???

  2. Pingback: Daily SG: 2 May 2012 « The Singapore Daily

  3. Alwi says:

    So blame who?PAP?Why stop short at that?Why not blame GOD?

    • Maybe it is due to fate lah! They will just have to resign to their fate. They are fated to live their twilight yrs like that.

  4. expensive profits says:

    Alas nobody to blame but the choices we made and being a victim of the circumstances they created – maybe some feel better after blaming somebody, was guilty previously.
    This does not detract what Gintai is saying with his heart – he is doing what he feels, my hat tip for a great gesture. Uplifting, will try to emulate this wonderful act.
    We all have a problem.
    We are all going to grow old. We are all going to DIE, poor, rich, powerful and yes, even God’s chosen.
    Humanity says we should help where able and opportunity to do so, after all, kindness and altruistic love is all that separates us from our animal genes and spirits.
    Can we just be smug and not feel or want to do something to help the our fellow travelers on this barren rock?

    • Agreed, If only everyone just buys some tissue paper from them it will be good for them. No need much just a dollar or two only. U get tissue paper in return. Its not one way ticket right?

  5. M says:

    It’s very good that you help out when you can. These seniors deserve better than this. Heartbreaking, govt should help with their finances.

  6. sgcnic says:

    Love Singapore, contribute to our home. It will help us to be self-reliant and not depend on welfare handouts. Sigh.

    • Well they are not begging. They are actually selling something to you. If u buy from them indirectly u are helping them. Thks.

  7. SG Girl says:

    I’ll usually just take one packet and pay between $2 – $5. They’re usually surprised and I’ll just say: 请你喝kopi (coffee is one me). Most of them have sadness and holpelessness in their eyes. Once, an old man told me: “Miss, you’re the first to buy from me. I’ve be standing the whole hour here, no one (that walks by) wants to buy from me”.

    I don’t know how much these old folks are suffering. They could be having some illnesses that they could work as cleaners in coffee shops or other jobs; having ill stricken children at home they need to take care off instead, etc. I couldn’t do much. I can only buy tissues from them.

    The other day, I was approached by a volunteer from WWF (World Wildlife Fund) educating me about recycling, saving the forest and animals etc. I told her I’m doing my small bit in recycling certain things. She went further stating that education starts from young so they’re begining to educate children in schools. I could contribute by donating monthly a min. of $38. I told her nicely: As an individual with limited resources (money) I would only put my money into helping needy people. WWF could go get their money from big organisations who have more than enough to contribute.

    (Side track a little): A friend of mine told me once she was approaching a woman intending to buy tissues from her. Then she heard that woman spoke with a prc accent. She then turned and walk away (no explanation needed her right?). Seriously, now they’re invading this ‘trade’ too?

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I also do not like ppl telling me how much or the min sum required to donate. I’ll just walk away if you dictate terms and conditions on donation. Why shld I subject myself to your terms and conditions when I’m giving a donation?

      PRCs are now everywhere in every trade. They have penetrated all levels of society due to our govt policy. We will have to face it whether we like it or not. I foresee more problems from opening the floodgates to in controlled immigrants. The social problems are starting to appear. It will be worst.

    • Thks SG girl. The above reply is from me. I forgot to log in.

  8. agongkia says:

    I have to admit that sometimes, I pretend not to see them .Say I kiamsiap or what doesn’t matter.
    This is because at times,I am many times poorer than some of them.
    When I left with one dollar with me,I will only think of buying ToTo instead of buying tissue..
    I always have a feeling that my S$1 dollar can turn into three million.If I can turn it into 3 million,I will use it to form an association like the olden day Begger Association(Kai Pang) specially for them.Provide them jobs,and let them live with dignity.This is many times better than seeing elderly selling tissues.
    Trust me,I mean it.But at the moment I can only day dreaming.

    • I hope u will strike toto soon so that you will donate to those poor old folks. I hope u wont forget if u really strike. Lots of ppl forgot abt their promises once they got what they want! Remember to do more good things to increase your merits for a gd karma! Cheers.

  9. auntielucia says:

    Gintai, I can vouch that the tissue sellers are everywhere. It’s so sad to see some of them sitting madly in the rain perhaps hoping to evoke more sympathy. I give $2 to everyone I buy from but I’m not as brave as you. I don’t dare to take the tissues for obvious reasons. Also, it will allow the sellers to have more stock. 🙄 But while some of them might have helped to build SG, I won’t say it’s concrete truth that all of them had been hard working, good people in their youth. One never knows — but it’s a good lesson for those who are now frittering away their $ and youth doing sweet-f-all. Some of them will have such an end for sure. 😥

    • Points taken. We may never know what they did when they were young. The tissue paper is sealed so shld be quite OK lah. Thks.

      • auntielucia says:

        Gintai, don’t want to scare you. But the plastic shielding the tissue paper has passed thru understandably unclean hands; when you peel open the plastic to reach the tissue paper you would also touch the plastic. Eeeeeeks!

        But then, I’m quite OCD when it comes to things like that. I see nicely dressed women buying from these tissue sellers and putting them without a 2nd thought into their nice expensive totes. So I guess I’m an exception!

        • expensive profits says:

          Just imagine where your money has been – Eeeeeks.

          • Yelp! Money is the most dirty! No pun intended. It’s handled by all kinds of hands when in circulation. Yet ppl still love cash esp those shops in Sim Lim Sq. Always want you to pay in cash. If u pay by nets or credit cards they will charge you extra 3% or 5%! They simply love ‘dirty’ money!

          • auntielucia says:

            How i avoid currency notes/ coins: At Sim Lim, I pay by cash cheque. At food courts, i have stored value cards which incidentally allows me to have 10% discount on meals. I’ve a standing order for new/as new as possible $2/5 notes with my bank that i pick up every few months. During CNY, I ask for new notes in excess of what family needs. I hardly use any $50. When paying cash, I try to give exact amt, so I reduce need to receive change. If luck runs out and I do have to accept change, I always have an envelope that change-giver can drop the money into. Hope this will help anyone who is slightly squeamish abt dirty money! And that’s why I always prefer to pay by credit card! 🙄

          • Interesting. Thks for the useful tips.

        • Auntie Lucie,
          Yes you got the point. But if it is not for consumption I feel it’s OK! I am always careful if it is food for consumption. Try going to some neighbouring countries where they sell cheap and delicious mouth watering cooked food to explore their kitchen or toilet you will vomit out. I like to explore the back lane of the eatery to check out. Wow! Can see maggots crawling around the fresh meat also! I really run away when I see the conditions where the food is prepared! Always check on the back premises of the seemingly nice restaurant when you go for your meal.

      • agongkia says:

        Anyone who feel money and notes are dirty can give to me.We should not be bother about what one did in their younger days just to give our Big two dollar..Being handicap is pitiful enough.Claiming items bought from mega superstore and the rich is more hygiene than item sold by common folks is simply discrimination.But the rich can afford to think and do that.Many even bring their own chopsticks to attend dinner.Sigh.

        • No discrimination lah. Just taking good care of oneself only. There are ppl sensitive to slight bacteria or germs. Their immunity not strong. Unlike us lived in the kumpung before running abt barefoot and eating things fallen on the floor where we just wiped it clean with our hand and just eat it. Nothing happened. I was bitten by mosquitoes countless times and stepped on rusted nails also nothing happened! Today the children live in the ‘air’ without touching or contact with the ground at all. That’s why they are not as strong as us kumpung bred. Got it?

  10. Calvin says:

    If only every people will rather spend $1 for these tissues for meaningful cause of helping these oldies rather than to buy buying ShittyTimes daily to be deluded.

    • I’ve stopped buying and reading Shitty Times! There are many sources of news eg Today, My Paper and the net. Yahoo news is not bad. Better use it to buy tissue! Agreed with you on this. Absolutely agreed!

    • SG Girl says:

      Yes Calvin and Gintai, I totally agree we should buy tissues from these old folks; they are making a decent living. Afterall, whatever their proceeds collected from the day maybe tightly sufficient for 2 (or 3) meals plus whoever at home. Once during lunch hour while buying tissue from this old man, I asked if he has had lunch. He said no. So on my way back after my own lunch, I bought a packet of rice+dishes for him. At times, some other people would buy lunch for him too. So I know there are still many kind souls around us despite our own difficulties.

      Another story I’ll like to share (here I go again…). Someone’s colleague used to pass by this frail and sickly old man selling tissues, on his way to work everyday. He wanted to buy from him but felt embarrassed to do so. One morning he told himself he should buy from the old man. When he was at the usual place, that old man was not there anymore. A voice in his head said: He’s gone forever…

      I don’t care whether these old folks were bad in their younger days (hence facing their retribution now) or not. I only know that they are now selling tissues to support themselves; a decent living,not begging for charity. And I with a few bucks to spare will support them. Singaporeans help Singaporeans (in every little way we can).

  11. agongkia says:

    There was once this senior salesman in Tampines neighbourhood selling tissues.
    Anyone who dun buy from him would be shown his middle finger .Of course from behind.There are also those who specially drop our cousin handicap salesmen here to sell tissue,to take advantage of them or to help them,not for me to judge .
    I also met one saleswoman in Jln Besar who left me more than ten packets on my table just for one dollar(senior one hor).I met the egoistic,generous but more genuine ….salesmen.

    Whatever the case,I am glad to see so many of you giving business to these salesmen.
    Esp.SG girl next door,honestly I haven’t got a chance to see with my eye our SG girl giving 5 dollar for a pkt of tissue.Now I know there is.

    But if we can spent millions on intergration for new citizens,and millions in just one day by just getting entertainers and char kway teow men to fly oversea just to cook Char Kway Teow for quitters and make them happy,I find hard to believe that our senior tissues salesmen cannot retire.

    • You forgot about the extra millions from $100 million to nearly $400 million spent on Children games and also the millions spent on consultants to name ‘Marina Bay’ just to name a few! There are many more cases but I better stop here just in case they throw the COC on me! This is a sad fact of life here where they have different priorities from us commoners.
      I always feel that we are so tiny only abt 700 sq m with 5 million ppl we shld know our status and position. No need to punch above our weights. What for? We just take care of ourselves and earn our living. If nobody disturbs us we just mind our own business. We can’t really compare to those giants on the world stage. Just look st the Swiss. Do they issue stmts or make so much noise? They just keep quiet. Try to touch them they will retaliate. If you don’t disturb them they just mind their own business. I really admire them.

  12. Gintai, a few months back, I sent a cheque anonymously to a certain charity with the hope that the beneficiaries could enjoy CNY. I did not leave my contact as I didn’t want any “reminders” which I often got in the past.The cheque was not cleared until someone from that charity called me up. Apparently, they’ve checked with my bank and my bank was obliged to reveal my info. The officer explained that they had to report my donation to IRAS! You see, even when you try to be generous, you raise suspicion. I think buying tissues may be a better idea.

    • Toothfully,
      I do agree with you on that. You see even here they still impose the 7% GST on charity donations. A good example is the call in donations on TV. I feel that it is not right. In Canada for example, though the GST – they call it VAT is higher than us but they don’t tax on essential items. I don’t think they tax on charity donation. The govt need to change their mindset. Not easy to change them cuz they only interested in making money irrespective of your expenditure whether it’s for luxury goods, essential goods or charity. If buy the tissue there is no such prob. The old folks benefited directly without having to go thru the maze of bureacracy.
      Toothfully, you are very kind indeed. Pls read this
      I feel that dirty or bad money could be washed clean by tears of gratitude and merit from those wretched souls! Thks for sharing with us.

  13. blurrbl0ck says:

    Reblogged this on blurrbl0ck and commented:

    There’s still another way, change government. >~<

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