President Ong TC: I got a little complacent and let down my guard …

Sometimes in life, we should not be over confidant even though we have been doing the same thing countless times. We must always be vigilant and never let our guard down. I wonder if readers still recall that controversial episode between our beloved late President Ong and the government.

[“On March 9, after Asiaweek published Ong’s interview but before my reply was published, Ong wrote to the prime minister. He said: “I got a little complacent and let down my guard. I was not quick thinking enough to brush aside his [i.e. the Asiaweek interviewer’s] questions on the presidency and allowed issues which had already been settled to re-surface…” “I regret that I have unwittingly allowed old issues to re-surface. My apologies.”

The prime minister has accepted Ong’s apology, and hopes that the subject can now be closed.]


Humans are never perfect. We do make mistakes especially if we “let down our guard!” I shall relate a true incident whilst at work which happened to me years ago.

Few years back, in broad daylight on a quiet relax afternoon, I just shut down my train at Tampines station towards east bound. I left the driving cab thinking that I had reached Pasir Ris terminal station. Passengers were still seated and looking at me with a little surprise. Usually, all the passengers would get up when train reaches terminal station. That was the first indication of something not right. When I walked a short distance within the train smiling at those passengers, all of a sudden another train on the opposite direction just whisked passed and stopped with all the doors open for alighting and boarding passengers on the west bound.

If I were at Pasir Ris terminal station, it would be impossible for another train to enter the platform on the opposite bound towards the same direction i.e. towards west bound direction. That jotted me and woke me up. I ran back to my driving cab and continued driving to the next station i.e. Pasir Ris station. Really langgar!

By then Ops Control Centre had alerted my supervisor. Nothing happened and I did my job as usual. Only myself and OCC were aware of the langgar mistake I made. I knew then that I would have lots of answering later on. As expected, I was summoned by my supervisor to explain.

When I entered my supervisor’s office after my tour of duty, the bemused supervisor just asked me, “How could it have happened? Pls explain.” He was also interested to know what triggered me to stop my train at Tampines station east bound thinking that I had reached Pasir Ris terminal station. Was I day dreaming? Was my mind somewhere else?

It was always around that time – lunch time at about noon that the cleaners; an odd Chinese couple – small size skinny old lady and a big size old man would relax and take their lunch break sitting outside the cleaner room at the tail end of Pasir Ris terminal station. From Monday to Thursday, the same scenario would appear before me when I reached Pasir Ris terminal station. Both cleaners were on good terms and were usually seen sticking together like superglue at Pasir Ris terminal station. There were permanently attached to Pasir Ris terminal station. My duty for the whole week was the same. So everyday I drove the same train at that time. It was business as usual. I would greet them by waving at them whenever I shut down the train and then proceeded to change end to the opposite side i.e. head wall to continue driving the train towards the west bound. I was on auto-pilot mode for the whole week. It was set and programmed in my mind to run that way.

On the last day i.e. Friday, the scenario was changed a little. Exactly the same set of old cleaner couple whispering in an intimate manner like lovebirds sitting outside the cleaner room at the tail end of the station. This time, it was Tamines station – not Pasir Ris station. As usual, when I saw them I just shut down the train thinking I had already reached Pasir Ris terminal station and proceeded to change end. KNN! Kena played out. Whose fault? I had let my guard down! Before that incident, I did not fully comprehend the exact meanings. After that incident, I really felt the full implications of that phrase. I now fully empathise with our dear late beloved President Ong whom is deeply missed by all Singaporeans.

Upon hearing my explanation, my supervisor didn’t know whether to reprimand me or pity me? Neverthelss, I was given a severe warning. “No more such nonsense from you. This is the first and last time!” Langgar! Really LL.

My new strategy to counter this silly mistake is to look up at the station signage whenever I reach terminal stations. I must make sure I see Pasir Ris or Joo Koon signages before I change ends. It is working so far so good for me. I do not want another similar traumatic experience.

Just in case, especially those “train spotters” like Joey Foo, Jingweii, GeSong and his gang, etc from Sg Trains looking for that lovey dovey old cleaner couple at Pasir Ris, save your efforts. I heard from another cleaner – that very short Malay lady cleaner at Pasir Ris terminal station that the old Chinese lady cleaner had a fall about 2 yrs ago and passed away due to head injury.

I understand that she was a working as a clerk in an office in her younger days. No wonder she could speak quite good English. I didn’t find out much from that short Malay lady cuz we were communicating in Malay. She didn’t really know much about the deceased Chinese lady cleaner also. As for her boyfriend, I do not know where is he? Maybe, heartbroken and left for another place cuz this place reminds him of those happy moments spent simply by sitting side by side outside the cleaner room at tail end of Pasir Ris station talking their hearts out having a mutual conversation during their lunch break.

Remember not to let your guard down. Watch what you say or do or it may haunt you forever if you are not careful.


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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16 Responses to President Ong TC: I got a little complacent and let down my guard …

  1. Ex SMRT Taxi Driver says:

    Hi Gintai,

    Good morning to you. You mentioned that you are a train officer who drive the train. May I know how you can write so well and how you find time to write and blog and surf the internet? I am curious, but if no good to explain, that ok… I used to drive a SMRT taxi, now no more (because got a permanent job). I am like “siow lang” driving taxi cant find time to surf. I involved in few minor accident, it supposed not to happened but it do. I lose more than gain. Give up man….

    Good luck to you..

    • Usually I’ll write on “Notes” when I’m free or in between breaks or on my off days sitting in a coffee shop relaxing with a beer. Sometimes, I write for the whole week posts on my off days. I scheduled them to be published in advance.
      From the “Notes”, I just copy and paste on WordPress. That’s how I do it. Thks for your compliments.

  2. Lohcifer says:

    Your post reminded me of what happened to me yesterday.
    I was in Bangkok conducting a seminar and using my MacBook for presentation. In the middle of the presentation I glanced at my MacBook and saw that the time was 12:45pm. I thought to myself “Darn! I had promised to stop at 12noon to break for lunch but I’ve overshot!” So I immediately told everyone “Lunch break!” and it was only when everyone suddenly seemed so happy that I realized I’ve forgotten that the 12:30 on my MacBook was showing Singapore time, not Thai time, which is one hour behind. I had “let my guard down” and caught in the intensity of running a seminar I had simply forgotten the time difference. Thank goodness, the participants were happy that they were let off early so that they could enjoy the buffet lunch in the hotel restaurant downstairs.

    • Lol! If I were to attend your seminar, I would not mind going off early. Must be always on your guard and safety first!

      • Lohcifer says:

        You want to go off earlier because the buffet is more interesting than my seminar is it ha ha?

        • Aiyah. Who can resist the temptation of good delicious food? I would choose food above everything else even at the expense of personal liberty. For without food, everything else doesn’t matter. Food is always my top priority the rest are secondary.

  3. Joey Foo says:

    The human brain is programmed in such a way that when you do things repetitively, it will take even the most subtle of clues. If I’m not wrong, they even put signs up at Marina Bay station to remind TOs to change ends!

  4. NUSboy says:

    True that. True that.

  5. Claudia Chia says:

    Hey, quite surprising that u didn’t write about the $3000 job offer for dishwasher by Sakae Sushi. Would like to know what’s your take on this since your posts are almost always insightful =)

  6. I’m surprised that your superiors don’t feel uncomfortable about you blogging about such things. My colleagues have expressed concern about me being too “toothful”. That’s why I’ve decided to change my online persona.

    • Toothfully,
      You are correct to say that. To say it’s “uncomfortable” is an understatement. Fact is they detest. That’s the main reason why I’ll stop altogether on first anniversary on Oct 20th. In the meantime, I’ll still langgar cuz that’s what I like to do. 做事要有头有尾吗! Exactly one year after I surfaced and then vanish into thin air is the best course of action. One day when I retire or working on my own, I’ll make a fierce comeback. We’ll touch base again. Langgar.

      • Seraphim says:

        Sad to hear that you will be ‘disappearing’ on 20 Oct. Been reading many of your articles, though I hardly comment. Anyway, bon voyage for the rest of your career.

  7. Nostalgic says:

    You maybe interested explore your fast and slow mind – Daniel Kahneman and current crop of neurobiologists have a working model to explain the fast intuitive reactions that are horribly wrong – mostly intolerance and bigoted solutions based on extrapolating past cognitive memories.

    Sad to see u stop – people are strange – if you were ” anonymous” – you would appear less threatening because u wud be less credible commenting abt yr work environs. Maybe you cud retooth into new persona but it wud be hard to mask yr personality. Thanks for the insights n occasional burst of expletives – wud hv mistaken u for a machine otherwise – hv a blessed life ahead.

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